What Is IMSLP? A Musician’s Guide to Free Sheet Music

Imagine being able to download almost any piece of music. What’s more, picture yourself learning that piece within minutes, if not seconds. All of that is possible thanks to IMSLP.

What Is IMSLP? A Musician's Guide to Free Sheet Music | Hannah B Flute

You can use the IMSLP website or app to access any piece of music for any instrument (even non-orchestral instruments). The only requirement is that it’s in the public domain. After all, living musicians need to get paid.

Speaking of musicians getting paid, this post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I’ll get a small commission at no extra charge to you. Read my full disclosure policy to learn more, and thank you for helping fund Hannah B Flute!

Anyway, onto the post…

What Is IMSLP?

IMSLP stands for International Music Score Library Project, and it’s a free website and app for sheet music in the public domain. The public domain refers to anything that is not currently under copyright protection.

Copyright lasts for 70 years after the composer/creator passes away. So most of the music you can find on IMSLP was written at least that long ago. However, some modern composers have willingly released their works, even though they could sell them.

Free sheet music

The biggest selling point for IMSLP is that it offers free sheet music. Today, musicians are busier than ever. Music students and teachers don’t always have a ton of money to spend on sheet music.

If you want to play something from the Baroque, Classical, or Romantic eras, odds are you can find it on IMSLP. While ideally, you would purchase sheet music, free sheet music has its purposes.

You can use it to sight read music before you commit to buying your own copy. That can be especially useful if you don’t have access to a well-stocked music store and therefore have to buy sheet music online.

Also, if you’re like me and use your iPad for sheet music, you can use the IMSLP app to search for and download sheet music right to your device.

Public domain

Even though it doesn’t have music that’s under copyright, there’s a surprising amount of repertoire on IMSLP. Of course, you can find standard repertoire, like Bach sonatas and Mozart concertos.

However, you can also find more obscure repertoire and music for instruments that you won’t find in the orchestra. It can be a great way to expand your musical horizons, even if you plan on buying a copy.

How to Use IMSLP

If you want to find free sheet music, you should know how to use IMSLP effectively. Whether you’re on your computer, tablet, or phone, you can go to their website.

The website has tons of features that help you find the sheet music you want. You could easily spend hours browsing on there. Even if you think you know all of the rep for your instrument, you’ll probably find something you never heard of.

Ultimate Guide to Learning Flute Online | Hannah B Flute

 

Search by…

IMSLP lets you search for sheet music in many ways. You can use the search bar to find something specific. Or you can browse for sheet music based on the following categories:

  • Composers
  • Nationality
  • Time period
  • Instrumentation/Genre

Instrumentation is a good place to start since you probably have an instrument in mind. From there, you can search for works based on their type, overall instrumentation, featured instruments, language, and period/style.

Whether you want to find a flute concerto or piccolo sonata, you can use these search features to discover new and interesting works.

Select your piece

Once you get to the category that you want, you can start looking at a few different pieces. Of course, you may already have a specific piece in mind. Still, after you have a piece or two to choose from, it’s time to download it.

If you have multiple pieces to download, consider opening each one in a separate tab. Since IMSLP does need to make some money, they require a paid membership for instant downloads. However, the free version only makes you wait about 15 seconds, so it’s not that bad.

After the piece downloads, you can look at it to see if it looks like it’s near your playing level. You can also compare different editions of the same work to determine if one is easier to read than another.

Save, print, etc.

Finally, you can choose to do whatever you want with the sheet music file. You can save it to your computer or tablet, print it off, or both. If you want to be extra safe, save the file to your device.

In case you ever lose the print copy, you will be able to print off a new one without having to find it on IMSLP and download it all over again.

If you use a tablet for sheet music, you can download the sheet music and open it in your sheet music reader of choice. Speaking of tablets, the IMSLP app is a great option if you have an iPad.

How to Use the IMSLP App

If you use an iPad, either for sheet music or in general, you should download the IMSLP app. The app makes downloading sheet music really convenient, especially because you can read it almost immediately.

However, there are a few differences between the app and the website. In some cases, you may want to use the website on your iPad and then transfer your files into the app.

App and browser similarities

The IMSLP app has a search function that you can use, but it doesn’t have as many features as the website. You can really only search by composer or piece. If you just want to browse for sheet music, the website will be easier to use.

Also, you can download and save sheet music easily within the app. The app will categorize music into folders for different composers. You can then print the sheet music, transfer it to another app, or keep it in the IMSLP app.

You’ll also have to wait about 15 seconds for downloads if you don’t pay to become a member. Still, music downloads relatively quickly after that time is up.

Sheet music reader

Another great feature of the IMSLP app is that you can use it as a sheet music reader. Whenever you download sheet music in the app, it will automatically appear in your library.

You can use a stylus to annotate the score if you need to mark in accidentals or other marks. The app also allows you to read music in portrait or landscape mode. However, it doesn’t have nearly as many features as the more popular forScore app.

Luckily, you can easily export files to your sheet music reader of choice or to the Files app.

Export to another app

As great as the IMSLP app is, there are some limitations. You can’t split pages for half-page turns, and the annotation mode is a little confusing. If you use your iPad for sheet music, you can transfer your downloads to that other app.

You can also export the sheet music as a PDF so that you can email it to yourself or someone else. If you prefer to play from a printed copy, you can print the sheet music from your iPad or a computer.

So…

IMSLP is one of the best online resources for flute students. You can do a lot with the website and the app, and you don’t have to pay anything. Want to learn more about how to use resources like IMSLP?

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