Morning Cup O' Joe

Time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted time.

High Quality Scans of Public Domain Sheet Music


I recently purchased an iPad 2, the forScore app, the AirTurn BT-105 and ATFS-1 Footswitches (for page turning)—the first big steps into digitizing my entire music library. The main problem is that almost all of my piano books are larger than my flatbed scanner can handle, so even if I had the bindings cut I still wouldn’t be able to feed the loose pages through the auto document feeder. There’s the option of having Kinkos or OfficeMax doing the scanning for me, but they charge $0.20 – 0.25 per page. A large format scanner starts at $2499.

I was lamenting to my friend, Tom, about this and brilliantly pointed out that most classical music is public domain and that somebody has to have already scanned all of the stuff and put them online. Of course, a few minutes of Googling from the both of us produced tons of sites. Thus far, the one I like the most is Cantorion.

The scans and transcriptions are high in quality, and the community seems very strong and involved. Their collections include scores for multiple instruments (and sometimes full orchestra!). So far, I’ve found PDFs of most of my collection (e.g. Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, etc.). I’m confident I won’t have any problems finding the rest.

Here are some other resources that we found that I haven’t researched but look very promising:

Thanks for the help, Tom!


June 28, 2011 - Posted by | Music | , , , , , ,


  1. Mike, thanks for aggregating these links. I reviewed the AT-104 (non-BT version) here a while ago and found it nice but needing lots of refinement, particularly in the accompanying software.

    How are you liking the BT version and those pedals? I assume you’re playing piano with this. How has it been getting used to the extra pedal work?

    Comment by Paul Schmutzler | July 4, 2011

    • Hi, Paul! There is definitely a learning curve having the extra two pedals next to the three pedals of the piano. I used it for the first time last weekend at my church. I decided to go “without a net” and used only the iPad (with no binder of music prepped like usual). The pedals worked as advertised. The main hang-ups, if any, are with the forScore app for the iPad. I wish it rendered just a *tad* bit faster, but that didn’t really hinder me too much. Again, it’s more of just practicing with it. I’m sure I’ll get to a point where I don’t think about it as much.

      One thing I’m trying to figure out right now is how to reenable the virtual keyboard in the iPad when the AT-105 is connected. Since the pedals connect as a “keyboard” the virtual keyboard just goes away. That’s fine when you have a setlist to work off of and you are just moving forward from pieces to piece, but when you’re at a party (like I was today) and you just want to search through the library, you can’t type.

      Overall I’m still very pleased at how this all worked out and have no regrets.

      Comment by Mike | July 4, 2011

  2. Good to know, Mike. I’ll have to check out the forScore app. The AT-104 used an Mac/Windows app called MusicReader. It was plain AWFUL! Does forScore require converting the files to another format, or can it simply use the PDFs?

    Comment by Paul Schmutzler | July 12, 2011

    • forScore reads PDFs. 🙂 It also has an extensive bookmarking and metadata system. I have a few compilation books scanned into single PDFs (per book). I used to extract individual songs out as separate files, but forScore’s bookmarking supports page ranges which make each song appear as a separate and searchable entity within the app. Now I just keep large PDFs in the app and bookmark like crazy. forScore can also read in bookmarks that are embedded in the PDF (but you still have to specify a page range via the app).

      Great app!

      Comment by Mike | July 15, 2011

  3. Certainly sounds like a match made in Heaven. I was told by Airturn that the MusicReader app and it’s proprietary file format was necessary for image processing (making the pages turn and render quicker.) I guess that’s one advantage it may have over forScore’s ability to just display PDFs.

    Last question: how do you feel about the iPad’s size for reading music? When I tried it out, it seemed to be a little on the small side. I’ve been hoping for someone to produce an 11-12″ tablet that is cheap for simply displaying documents and/or note taking.

    Comment by Paul Schmutzler | July 15, 2011

    • It’s definitely small. You could just put the iPad into landscape orientation to make it bigger. You’ll be viewing only a couple of staves (depending on the music itself). The page-turn will automatically “scroll down” for you. I prefer having it in portrait orientation and just seeing all the music at once.

      Comment by Mike | July 15, 2011

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: