Finding the perfect songs for auditioning can be an insanely difficult thing to do. The number of places to find sheet music can be overwhelming enough before even beginning to look at the content of a song. Here are a few tips about the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to finding good musical resources for actors.
This seems to have become the go-to site for sheet music online, and is definitely one of the most popular search results. While there are definitely pluses to having a ridiculous amount of music at your fingertips, there are some downsides to this mega music library.
-Selection is massive. If you’re looking for pop, rock, or relatively well-known musical theatre pieces, they will probably be here.
-Transposition is available on a lot of pieces here. Be sure to check before you buy if you need it in a different key!
-Limited chances to print your music. This is fairly standard, but definitely a downside from owning the piece in another format. Make sure you get the key right, or you’ll be wasting one of your chances to get the music you bought.
-Lots of accompanists really don’t like music from this site. The accompaniment can be extremely sparse, and there usually aren’t chord markings written in. You can also be totally thrown off your music when transposing, to the point that it may be impossible to play. If you’re unfamiliar with music, have someone who knows his or her stuff look over your piece to make sure it’s fit for an audition.
A lesser-known option that is fairly similar to MusicNotes. Their selection isn’t as big, but you’re sometimes able to find pieces of more obscure musical theatre and jazz here. It’s definitely worth looking at if you’re unable to find the piece somewhere else.
-Lots of musical theatre. They have a good collection here with some more rare pieces that happen to be great material
-Online Sheet Music Viewer software. This could be considered a good or a bad thing depending on what you like. You download the software to your computer where you can track the changes you make to the music. You literally have an infinite number of transposition options, which will allow you to make sure it’s a perfect fit for your voice.
-You won’t find everything here. The selection isn’t as great for pop music, and you’ll probably have to head back over to MusicNotes for certain pieces. A real problem if you were depending on the great transposition options available here.
-You have to download software. It takes up room on your computer, and requires a bit of jumping between the Internet and the program.
-Limited printing. Same case as MusicNotes, but the customer service is great about giving more chances if you mess something up.
-The transposition can get MESSY. The endless options are a blessing or a curse when people with less musical options can place music in ridiculously difficult keys, not realizing the number of changes that occurred for the pianist in making the song a vocal fit. Again, this definitely requires a musical friend to look things over. It’s easy to miss a key change in a piece that looks fine, and to end up sabotaging your own audition.
This site has anything brand new in the musical theatre world. You won’t find any of the classics here, but if you want the most modern material being written, this is definitely your place to find it. New composers, new music, and a totally new sound of musical theatre are all here for you.
-Brand new material! Most of the things you find here had a life in a cabaret somewhere or in an off-Broadway show. This means your friends, casting directors, and professors probably haven’t ever heard the piece before. It’s up to you to keep interest on you though when performing music nobody has ever heard.
-Young writers aren’t always good writers. Some music you find here will be GREAT, and possibly new go-to songs in your book, but other music will be sloppily written and often have poor lyrics. Try to look up videos of the song on YouTube to see if you can get a feel for the music before purchasing.
-Some of this music is inappropriately written, to the point that it can be dangerous to sing. The range on some of these pieces is incredibly high, written for specific professional voices that originated a role. You are responsible for your own vocal health, and need to make sure you’re singing pieces that keep your voice in a safe place.
Bonus! NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL GALLERY
This is a sight that definitely fits a specific need, but if you’re looking for old sheet music this may be the only place to find it. Located here, the New York Public Library has uploaded nearly 400 pieces of music from musicals, plays, and movies created between 1892 and 1923. They will be scans of original sheet music, so you may need to have someone with digital music software clean them up a bit if needed, but you can find some real gems here. These are the pieces nobody has ever heard by some of the great musical theatre composers in their earliest days. It’s worth the hunt if you take the time to look!