Interesting ways to manage a library of sheet music
January 18, 2011 7:38 AM   Subscribe

What do you use to organize your sheet music? Are there technological alternatives?

I'm looking for ideas for storing sheet music next to a piano, in such a way that the solution is elegant and keeps the sheets (and books) intact and organized (by composer).

What we would like to avoid:

• Ugly office file cabinet
• Bookcase

A bookcase would be nice for books, but it doesn't hold up sheets of music, which invariably end up falling down, getting curved and damaged. It would also be a little more difficult to organize and quickly search by composer.

A lateral file cabinet would technically work, but we're trying to avoid having office furniture next to a grand piano. If there are nicer lateral file cabinets, we'd consider it, but we're definitely trying to avoid this.

Another thought I had that might be a lot of work, but would eliminate storage issues, is a pair of touch displays that are linked up to display entries from a database of sheet music that I have scanned in and tagged. I was thinking about a pair of iPads that are synced up, and swiping one of the screens turns pages on both. Are there any vendors that make something like this?
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Well, one traditional way to store piano music is in the piano bench/stool. I'm sure some variation on that concept must exist that would allow you to organize the music, too. I face a similar problem with guitar music, and have been unable to come up with a solution I like yet.
posted by bardophile at 7:47 AM on January 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the idea. We have a bit more music to deal with than what will fit into the bench. We have a plastic file folder, a paper storage box, and music in piles next to and on the piano itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 AM on January 18, 2011

I have a lot of choral pieces that are loose, as you describe. Scanning the pieces sounds interesting, but would force me to irrevocably damage my original sheet music to get a clean scan, and that's something I don't want.

For storage, my solution has been to buy those plastic sleeves that go in binders, and slip one piece of music into each sleeve, then sort either alphabetically, by composer, genre, or whatever. Then I store the binders on the bookshelf, helpfully labelled, and my loose sheet music doesn't get bent, torn or smushed. But choral music are little folios, and if your stuff is the old-fashioned "singles" sheet music from the '20s, those are larger than 8.5 x 11.

I not only play piano, but work on Finale as well, and often need to adapt or transcribe a piece. Having piano, bookshelf and laptop within easy reach is a handy thing for me.
posted by LN at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2011

I know you mean storage furniture, but wanted to hop in and mention that if you have a lot of 8.5x11 photocopies of sheet music, they can be kept in a presentation book like this- it allows the pages to turn easily while playing, with the photocopied pages arranged back-to-back, and the pages are much more durable than sheets in a 3-ring punched binder.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:14 AM on January 18, 2011

Also, keep your eyes peeled for an old-fashioned wooden filing cabinet. They're not cheap, but man are they gorgeous. A friend paid about $800 for a 4-drawer one a while back and it's the centrepiece of his office; it's so beautifully crafted and elegant.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:17 AM on January 18, 2011

I replaced my piano bench at home with the HOL coffee table from Ikea. The top is covered with a custom cushion with straps that wrap around to one side of the bench so it opens "hinged." The music I kept in paper magazine files, which can stand straight up in the bench. It'll fit everything and then some. It was also just the perfect height for us and it wasn't heavy.

The bench came in unpainted wood so technically you can paint it whatever you like.

I've also used magazine files for my music on the bottom of the book shelf before, which prevented them from falling down. So if you already have a bookshelf, that's also a solution.
posted by Sallysings at 8:20 AM on January 18, 2011

Depending on your taste, there may be a few options for you.

Laywers' or Barristers' Shelves might work for you, but you would still have the same problem of keeping things in binders or magazine holders. One advantage of the barrister cases is that they are standard sizes (more or less) and you can be pretty confident of what you're buying.

Chinese furniture might be an interesting option. Chinese cabinet makers are much more willing to build odd shapes and sizes of shelving, some of which might work for you. Here is an example of what I mean. You probably want to see these in person though. They tend to be very individual peices. Apothecary chests is a useful search term here.
posted by bonehead at 8:29 AM on January 18, 2011

I bought some or other better-than-just-cheap IKEA shelf system and added a lot of shelves to store my flimsy music horizontally: many shelves, small stacks. Not "next to" any instrument. I have to pick, walk over, and play.
The bigger hardcover music books are stored vertically in a regular bookcase elsewhere. Photocopies are filed per genre, and/or composer and stuffed away in a chest of drawers. Beethoven facsimiles etc. are crammed between my research things which are a huge pile of confused happiness. Vague amounts of sheet music keep floating around various horizontal spaces including floors in the whole music area of my house. It is especially handy to have some small table/shelf directly beside whatever instrument(s) for pencils, tuning utensils, small tools and single items of sheet music.

Accept a bit of confusion. It's the way of music.
posted by Namlit at 8:31 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: Technological solutions. I haven't tried any of these yet so I can't vouch for how well they work, but I'm grappling with the same "what do I do with all this sheet music" problem and plan on going digital soon.
posted by chez shoes at 9:06 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: If you really want to go the iPad route, forScore is basically a PDF reader specialized for sheet music. There's a good-sized library available for download, or you can add your own PDFs.
posted by slothdog at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are fancy sheet music cabinets out there. My clarinet teacher had an antique, glass-doored cabinet with lots of shelves. Looks much more elegant than office style ones, imo.
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: You only need one iPad and this foot pedal.

Also, if you ever downloaded and printed sheet music though Musicnotes, they have their own iPad app and let you download and use all of the music you've previously purchased.
posted by FreezBoy at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't be so quick to cross bookcases off of your list, since in my quest to go as digital as possible with my sheet music, I found that I wasn't completely willing to bin all my books, even if I did scan or get digital copies of everything.

What remained after the cull are stored on bookcases. If it fit in a letter-size sheet protector, there it went, and from there into labeled document boxes, which are also stored on said bookcases.
posted by evoque at 10:10 AM on January 18, 2011

« Older Community, comraderie, cool hats: should I join a...   |   Should I stay or should I segfault? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.