Next to our students and our leadership, our music libraries are the heart and soul of our performance groups. Great literature not only drives student practice but our rehearsals, concerts and us as educators as well. There is so much to teach through good literature that is appropriate to our group’s level. We all have purchased literature through our careers in music education that have both invigorated us and our students. We have also purchased literature that has been disappointing.
But where do you find that great literature? We rely on certain publishers, composers, our colleagues, college professors, our American Band College literature studies and reading sessions, literature we played as students through the years and so on. The internet offers many possibilities but the quality of literature site-to-site varies greatly and direct access and speed of access can be limiting and frustrating.
Two excellent online resources are the websites www.bandmusicpdf.org and www.bandmusicpdfscans.org. The first is the primary website and the second its sister site. They are a growing repository of classic, turn-of-the-previous-century band literature that is being printed to pdf form for both archival as well as wider use purposes. It is legal for them to do so as well as legal for you to print out and have your band play these pieces because they are now in the public domain by being out of copyright. Suggestions for use of this literature include using them as a historic literature reference, concert literature, a sight-reading library, a personal practice library, etc. In no way is this PDF library intended to replace the purchase of literature from our standard sources, we truly have mutually supportive roles in this wonderful thing we call performance. We must also continue to rightfully insist upon our fair share of school budget dollars for the ongoing purchase of music literature and support materials. Announcing that you have found a free source for even a portion of your literature needs is a sure way to have your budget cut by your administration.
The introduction page of the Band Music PDF Library announces that “The BandMusic PDF Library contains musical gems from the time of Gilmore, Sousa, Pryor, Liberati, Goldman and Reeves and other professional bands that were wildly popular in their day. In addition to touring the country, performing in cities and towns across America, the bands attained stardom status at fairs, centennials and exhibitions. They were some of the first to have their music widely distributed on recordings – in on the ground level of the recording industry.” I highly compliment the group of people making this literature available through these two websites. They are providing a wonderful service to the band community world-wide through their continuing efforts. You can also join their effort by contributing missing scores or parts in originals, generating scores or parts in Finale or Sibelius or in pdf format. Just contact them first so that someone else is not working on the same part as you are.
The literature available through these websites includes concert and contest marches, solos with band, serious concert literature, light/novelty pieces, collections and more. The oldest piece dates to 1800(!) then skips to the 1880s and forward. As of this writing there are over 1,100 pieces ready for download! These PDFs are from the working libraries of community and professional bands, so there is very little chaff in these collections. A cross-section of materials included are: many classic marches, several solos with band from the Sousa traveling band library (with the original solos included!), original orchestral transcriptions, light novelty pieces, etc. You can search the library by title, year, composer, arranger and more.
A wonderful and practical use of these libraries mentioned above is the fact that they are PDF files, which means that you can view the individual parts and study and practice them on-screen! I work between 15-inch and 17-inch laptops at home and have such a great time practicing right off the screen on either my primary instruments or ones I am practicing to improve on. A virtual practice library!
Included here in a linked file is an example from the library. Because so many of you are at different levels I chose a relatively easy piece to download and use. I hope it works well as an introduction to the Band PDF Library.
Spend time with the historic Band Music PDF Library, you will find it quite useful!