Music resources on the internet
for dancers and dance teachers

Midi files explained
Advantages of different formats
Searching tips
Links to free music
Midi files
Scorch files
Digital library images
Pdf files & gifs
Further information


MIDI Files
Chopin piano works - the best
Classical piano midi page
Internet renaissaince band
Midi World
The Internet piano page
Some midi Jazz standards
Marches & Pokas from Scotland - with pdf files too

Scorch files
Mfiles - a number of files by classical composers
Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag
Mozart's 'Elvira Madigan' piano concerto
Original compositions by David Rubinstein
Schubert's "March Militaire" for piano duet
Ballet des Sylphes by Berlioz

Digitized music (facsmilies)
19th Century American sheet music 
19th Century californian sheet music
American Sheet Music 1870-1885
Lester S. Levy collection of sheet music

Image files
Musica Viva
The Virtual Tunebook
Christmas song book - 100 christmas carols, with music, words and midi
The kitchen musician - lots of jigs, reels hornpipes etc. in .gif and midi format
Chopin piano music in pdf format

Information on file formats
Midinotate - converts midi files into notation, if you haven't got a sequencing program

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If you know where to look, and what to do with what you find,  the Internet offers a wealth of free music in different formats which can be either played or printed.  The major formats are:
  • MIDI 
  • Scanned sheet music - Acrobat files (.pdf), and standard image files such as gif, tiff and bitmaps 
  • Combinations of MIDI files & sheet music - Sibelius Scorch® files
  • ABC format 
To listen to these files you need access to the internet and a soundcard with speakers. Sibelius Scorch files the best files for seeing music and hearing at the same time. MIDI files imported into a notation program can be edited and printed. Gif or pdf files are simply printable image files - scans of the original composition. 

ABC format is an ingenious system, used mainly for folk tunes where only the topline is required.  This article will deal only with MIDI, scanned music and Scorch, but the ABC Homepage offers a clear and in-depth introduction to ABC if you would like to know more about it. 
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A midi file (MIDI stands for "musical instrument digital interface") is the computer version of the perforated piano roll, seen on old "player pianos".  It contains instructions to an electronic  musical instrument about when to play which notes at what speed at what volume for how long.  Most computers today have a built-in synthesizer, and this will be the "instrument" that the midi file automatically addresses when you tell it to play.
MIDI systems (i.e. a piano-type keyboard attached to a computer) are used for two main purposes:
  • to record how a musician (usually a keyboardist) played a piece of music - just as you can still hear Gershwin performing Rhapsody in Blue at a concert, because a piano roll of his performance can be replayed on a suitable instrument. These files are enjoyable to listen to, and within the limits of the piano sounds available on your sound card, quite acceptable.

  • to notate music, and then have the computer play it exactly as it is written.  This is not usually what we want to hear, but it is what we want to see, in notational terms. A midi file can be opened in a notation editor such as Cubase, Logic or Cakewalk for example, and then printed out.  With Sibelius Scorch files (you need to download a free plug in  to read them), you can see the music score as it is played, and hear it at the same time
Recording live is known as real-time input, notating is known as step-time input. 

Most sheet-music, from the simplest piano piece to the largest orchestral score, is produced by inputting musical notes into a program which can display musical notation and play back what you have written (a sort of WYSIWYH - what you see is what you hear). Some midi files on the internet contain complete orchestral works or pop songs, with large numbers of different instruments. The quality of these will never replace a "real" recording, but the print-outs from the scores can be extremely useful. 
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The chief advantage of midi files is their size - all five minutes of the final waltz from Les Sylphides, for example, is only 39k, and can be downloaded in seconds from the classical piano MIDI page.  The second advantage is that they can be imported into any notation program and edited - so if you want to cut sections out of The Nutcracker for a school performance, you import the MIDI file into your notation program, and cut away as if you were word processing. Then, of course, you can print out your own customized score. Navigating through a midi file is also fast - much faster than through a CD track, for example.

It should be noted that there are limitations to this process.  Firstly, if the MIDI file is a real-time recording of a performance, rather than the step-time inputting of a score, the score may well look a mess, and not be much use to a pianist.  Fortunately, however, you can usually find two versions of the same piece - one that you like to listen to, and one which you can print. Secondly, MIDI generated scores do not have things like phrasing marks, articulation marks, dynamics etc. written in.  This is not so terrible if the score is only needed as an aide memoire for someone who is already familiar with the music. 

Pdf files, of all the image file formats, are the best.  They download quickly, are clean, easily navigable, and since they are often scans of a score, contain much of the detail that MIDI files never show (i.e. phrasing, dynamics, articulation etc.). 

Gifs, tiffs and other image files take some time to download, and do not print as well as pdf files or computer generated midi scores,  but here the advantage is the sheer number of scores available - over 40,000 at the Library of Congress alone, and thousands of folk tunes in a number of different sites. The pianist who can harmonize a tune need never buy another songbook.

Sibelius Scorch® files are a combination of MIDI files and image files, and a new standard in internet music viewing/playing. To view Scorch files, you need a plug-in which you can download free of charge from Sibelius).  When this is installed you can see the music score and hear the music at the same time.  A cursor moves across the score, indicating which part of the music is currently playing.  You can also transpose the score - very useful for singers who need music in a different key.  Scorch files are also a developing standard in Internet music publishing - see the press release from Sibelius. In addition, Scorch music offer an opportunity for composers to publish their music with an "Internet Publisher" - either for free, or for a charge.  For successful sales, they take 50%.

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The quickest way to find a piece of music is to enter the composer or title and the type of file you want into a search engine.  For example, "Scott Joplin Scorch" will find you Scorch files of Scott Joplin music, and "Chopin piano midi" will find you midi files of Chopin piano music. If you want the score of a Chopin waltz in pdf format (the quickest and cheapest way to get a score without leaving your home or opening your wallet) type "Chopin Waltz pdf" into the search engine.  Depending on the composer, you will either have a number of sites to chose from, or find that there is no score available.

Free sheet music downloads has links to many sites with free music, many classical. Mfiles have a number of pieces in scorch, midi and gif format. Ceolas host hundreds of folk tunes in just about every format. In the sidebar are links to just a sample of what is available in each format. 

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Jonathan Still 7th September 2000