A Brief History of Sheet Music

Even though it may sometimes feel like it, sheet music hasn’t been around forever. It has an origin, and what we see on our stands today looks quite a bit different than what our musical ancestors read from.  For some musicians, it’s so different it isn’t even written on paper anymore.

So, Where Did Sheet Music Come From?

Delphichymn Tablet
The second Greek Delphic hymn

Musical notation, which is really what sheet music is all about, has been around since before there were sheets to write it on. Paper had not yet been created, so composers were forced to go with their only option, tablets, as early as 2,000 BC. On some dated as early as 1,250 BC, musicologists have found detailed notations for the lyre, a small harp-like instrument commonly associated with the Greeks. While this is not “sheet music” as it would be seen today, it was the beginning of the sheet music we still use today.

Who Invented Modern Sheet Music?

Long before there were sheet music readers, the Greeks developed their own form of notation. They began in the 6th Century BC and continued through the 4th Century AD. Fragments of these, as well as a few complete compositions, have survived until today. Many of their compositions were written on fragile papyrus scrolls, so musicologists assume most have been destroyed over time. However, the few that survived show us that the Greeks’ musical notation system featured symbols written over the top of text which denotes specific sounds or notes.

What About Western Manuscript Notation?

gregorian chantIn the Western world, notation began to take a more definitive shape due to the Catholic Church’s desire for uniformity.  Melodies were written down on paper so they could be shared throughout the Church and the same chants could be sung by everyone who worshiped in a Catholic parish. During the Middle Ages, there was a great deal of music ‘published’ in this manner, sometimes in bound volumes, and many of these compositions still exist today, most notably Gregorian chants.  This image shows an excerpt of the 14th-15th Century Gregorian chant composition Graduale Aboense, a Mass for the Patron Saint of Finland, Bishop Henry.

The Printing Press Modernized Music

While the monks of the Roman Catholic church wouldn’t have had any iPad sheet music apps to sing from, the invention of the printing press significantly changed the way sheet music was produced.  The first machine-printed music appeared around 1473 but it wasn’t until about 100 years later when plate engraving, the etching of an image into a piece of metal used to create many copies at once, was applied to music duplication and paved the way for composers to distribute written music to a greater number of people. Finally, composers didn’t have to write copies by hand, which meant production on a larger scale and at a lower cost. While initially reserved primarily for court composers who had the means to print music, as time went on more and more musicians were able to learn to play and perform compositions because they could afford to purchase sheet music.

Sheet Music Continues to Evolve

That brings us to the present day.  Never has performing music been more accessible.  All it takes is a quick Google search to find countless pieces of music, much of it free.  While it is certainly still possible to buy paper sheet music, the trend today is toward a digital alternative. Whether you want to better organize your sheet music library, you’re looking to make your practice time more efficient with clean and legible notations, or you’re just sick and tired of having to reach up and turn pages by hand during complex performances, MusicFolio was designed with you in mind. If you’re looking for the best sheet music app for iPad, look no further.

Add copyright free sheet music to MusicFolio in less than 30 seconds

What’s one of the best things about using a digital music folder like MusicFolio?

Free. Stuff.

The internet is full of free resources and in today’s post, we’re going to talk about one particular website and the easiest way to get it’s free sheet music onto your iPad.

Many of you are already familiar with the Petrucci Music Library, or as it is more commonly known, IMSLP.  If not, go to http://imslp.org and check it out.  This website is incredibly useful for classical musicians.  It has hundreds of thousands of pieces of music and although copyright laws vary by country, it only hosts public domain music so as long as you know the laws where you’re located, you have no risk of getting in trouble for copyright infringement.

Here’s a perfect example of its usefulness.  This past weekend I played timpani on Beethoven’s 6th Symphony.  Before the Friday dress rehearsal, rather than taking 5 or 10 minutes to dig out my old scores, I simply pulled out my iPad, opened Safari, and searched Google for “imslp Beethoven 6 timpani”.  I clicked the first result and opened a free PDF of exactly what I was looking for.  The search format I used –“imslp title instrument“– works for me nearly every time.

Then, I clicked on “More…” at the top of the PDF and chose “Import with MusicFolio”.  (Substitute whatever sheet music app you’re using, but I’d love it if you tried MusicFolio too!) My new (and free!) sheet music automatically opened in the app, prompted me put in the title, artist, and instrument, and was instantly added to my music library.


Not only did the whole process take less than 30 seconds from start to finish, but I now have the timpani part for Beethoven’s 6th on my iPad forever.  So, next time I perform it all I’ll have to do is open it on my iPad, complete with all the markings I’ve added to it.

Simple, efficient, and saves a ton of valuable time.  I highly recommend.

Download MusicFolio: https://appsto.re/us/YsG5_.i

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MusicFolio v1.1 Available Now

We’re excited to announce the latest update to MusicFolio, v1.1.  This version gets the app ready for iOS 10 and fixes various bugs that have been found since launch.

Also, we’re pleased to let you know that this update enables auto-rotate when you’re viewing your sheet music.  So, turn your iPads sideways and see your music in landscape orientation.  This is a quick and easy way to enlarge your music to make it easier to read in any situation, on any version of the iPad.  Dust off those iPad Minis!

Download now: https://appsto.re/us/YsG5_.i


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3 Ways to Make Practice Time Fun Again

keyboardPracticing.  It doesn’t matter if you’re just beginning an instrument, an experienced hobbyist, or a professional musician.  If we want to improve, we have to practice.


Practice time has never been able to shake its bad reputation: tedious, boring and unfun.  Thankfully there are some things we can do to make practicing that etude more enjoyable than it’s ever been.

Mix it up with some new music

Lucky for us, when we get bored with what we’re practicing we can always turn to the internet to help mix things up a bit.  Check out this post for tips on how to find free music for some tips on finding something else to practice.  The best part is, you won’t be paying a dime for your new music.

Start with something FUN

I like to start my practice time with 5 minutes or so of something completely unrelated to the piece(s) I need to be working on.  I usually pick something that I consider easy and that I’ve played many times before, but sometimes I’ll pick a new piece of music I’ve recently come across and haven’t gotten around to because, life.  These few minutes are a simple reminder why I love percussion and help get me excited about the other music that I need to be practicing.

Go Digital

I love technology.  So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I get really excited about practice time when I find a gadget, tool or app that I can add to my routine.  Whether it’s a tuner I can use from my smartwatch or a sheet music reader, I’ll instantly get excited about practicing when I get my hands on one and I’ll be much more willing to spend extra time in the practice booth to use it!

What do you do to get fired up about practice time?  Please share in the comments below.

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Blank Staff Paper


For those moments when you’re away from Finale and you need to quickly make note of an idea you have for your latest composition.  You never want to be without some blank staff paper.

That’s where MusicFolio steps in to make sure you’ll always have an endless supply.

  1. From your Library, tap plus (plus)in the upper right corner
  2. Tap the staff paper button (staffPaperButton)
  3. Give your blank paper a title, artist (that’s you!), and instrument
  4. After you tap the check (cameraConfirm2) your piece of blank paper will open automatically.  You can tap the plus (plusStaffPaper) button at the bottom right to add pages and start using the annotation menus.

Any pieces of staff paper you create will appear in your my music library along with the rest of your music.


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Loading Music


You’ve downloaded MusicFolio.  The sense of anticipation builds as you tap the app icon on your home screen…but quickly fizzles as the app opens and you realize none of your music is on your iPad yet. 😦

Don’t worry.  Getting music onto your iPad is easy.  MusicFolio helps you do this two different ways: using your iPad’s camera or loading a PDF file.

Load a PDF

  1. You’ll need to get that PDF onto your iPad if you haven’t done so already.  There are many ways to do this, but the most straightforward methods are to use Safari to browse to a piece of music online or email it to yourself and open the file in your mail app.  If you need help finding some music, check out this post.
  2. Next, tap on the screen and you should be greeted with a couple of options, one of which is openIn near the top of your screen
  3. When you tap openIn you’ll be shown a list of programs you can use to view your PDF.  Select ‘Copy to MusicFolio’.openIn
  4. MusicFolio will automatically open, load your music and prompt you to title your music.  Tap the checkmark (cameraConfirm2) at the top right of your screen when you’re done!

Use your iPad’s camera

  1. From the my music (myMusicToggle) screen in MusicFolio, tap the plus (plus2) button at the upper right corner
  2. Tap the camera (camera2) button
  3. Tap the shutter (cameraButtonBlack) button to snap a picture of each page of your piece of music
  4. After you’ve captured all pages, tap the checkmark at the bottom right corner
  5. Type in your title, composer or artist, and instrumentcameraImportDetails
  6. Tap cameraConfirm2 at the upper right of your screen and you’re done!


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