Why You Should Convert to Digital Flute Sheet Music, Now! (2023)

As flute players seeking to be challenged and inspired in our playing, what is our number one need?

Sheet music of course! And lots of it!

Today I reveal printed music is on the out, and why making the switch to digital sheet music is the all-in-one solution to buy, organise, preserve, customise, streamline and quickly access your entire library.

Plus I show you my exclusive research comparing four of the top online sheet music providers and unveil my favourite.

But first I want to get everyone up to speed on some digital music basics, so we’re all on the same page...

Quick Navigation

Why You Should Convert to Digital Flute Sheet Music

What is Digital Sheet Music?

How do you use Digital Sheet Music?

The problem with print....

5 big reasons why are people turning away from printed sheet music forever...

Comparing the providers...

Sheet Music Platforms

Virtual Sheet Music

Sheet Music Plus

My Final Wrap-Up...

What is Digital Sheet Music?

Digital sheet music is simply sheet music displayed in a computer-readable format. It’s not just a scan or a photo of a piece of music (although occasionally it might be). It's sheet music that’s been reproduced using music notation software that looks really neat and clean on screen.

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Often it can be instantly modified online to transpose to another key signature, to another instrument or arrangement with instant playback using midi files. Midi’s are sound files that ‘read the notes’ and play back a simple synthesised sound file to preview a piece.

How do you use it?

It’s easy!

To view your sheet music pdf electronically, the best way is using a device with a larger screen such as your computer or a tablet. You can place your tablet on your music stand just like regular music and simply swipe across with a finger to turn the page easily.

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Image source: www.musicnotes.com

Most of the sheet music platforms above have developed their own (free) apps that you can view your music in. They allow you to perform some extra features such as annotate and highlight your music, automatically turn the page, play accompaniments and backing tracks, modify playback tempo, transpose and organise your music library into folders.

The problem with print....

I'm a member of several online flute forums, and one of the questions that comes up regularly is this...

"How do you organise your sheet music?"

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People are drowning in the amount of printed sheet music they own.

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And need a better way to store it, find it and play it.

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5 big reasons why are people turning away from printed sheet music forever...

  • Your entire music library is safely stored. You’ll never lose a book or sheet again. Better still, it’s totally fire, theft, mould and vermin proof
  • Cost. Digital sheet music is simply cheaper than prints. Instead of buying larger books filled with collections of songs, you can individually choose the ones you want, and none of what you don’t
  • Save time searching for music. People with large music libraries often have to painstakingly index them by hand or individually PDF each piece in order to find them. Search through your online library for your desired piece, and you’ll find it in a matter of seconds
  • No downtime. Instantly download your music and begin practising within a minute. No need to wait for the snail mail to arrive with your book or prints
  • Rapidly expand your musical range. Digital sheet music providers offer a range far greater than any music store can. And its low cost means you can afford to build a large and varied library when you need it, not when you can afford it.

Comparing the online sheet music providers...

So here we go….

To help you make your digital sheet music choice, have a look at my quick comparison table.

Sheet Music Platforms

Music Notes

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Sheet Music Plus

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Virtual Sheet Music

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Sheet Music Direct

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The Flute Coach Rating

Visit

Visit

Visit

Size of flute library

~5,535

~32,996

~10,222

~2,819

Most featured genres

Pop

Rock

Classical

Movie/TV

Classical

Christmas

Pop

Rock

Classical

Jazz

Pop

Rock

Difficult to filter for flute only genres, but a varied range is available

Subscription Cost

$7.99/yr (MusicNotesPro)

$9.99/first yr (ProPlus) and $14.99/yr ongoing

No subscription offered

$37.75/yr or $3.15/month

$99.99/yr includes a 7 day free trial

Membership Perks

- 10% discount (Pro)

- 15% discount (ProPlus)

- PDFs included in every available key (ProPlus)

N/A

- FREE access to all VSM® High Quality sheet music (several 100 titles)

- Discounts of up to 70% (1,000s titles)

-Access to additional mp3 accompaniment tracks

- 50% discount on Piano Accompaniment Videos

50% discount on prints and digital downloads (PASS membership)

Transposition Tools

Preview Tools

- First page preview

- Audio preview

- Modify instruments/ versions

- First page preview

- Audio preview

- First page preview

- Modify instruments/ versions

- Audio preview at a range of tempi (selected)

- Modify note size (selected)

- First page preview

- Audio preview at a range of tempi (selected)

- Modify note size (selected)

File Types (not available for all titles)

PDF, interactive

PDF, interactive

PDF, interactive, midi files, videos, mp3 accompaniment tracks

PDF, Interactive, Backing tracks for selected

Search Ease

Free Stuff

- Manuscript paper to print

- Limited selection of sheet music

- Manuscript paper to print

- Very limited selection of sheet music

- Fortnightly free sheet music

- Manuscript paper to print

- Metronome

- Manuscript paper to print

- Limited selection of sheet music

Apps

Flute Library - this was the total number of articles that appeared in a search for ‘flute’. It may include duets, ensembles and concert band arrangements that contain flute parts; Featured genres - a search within ‘flute’ of the available genres with the largest catalogues

My overall favourite that struck a nice balance for flute range, cost, ease of navigation and functionality of apps wasVirtual Sheet Music.

The Favourite: Virtual Sheet Music

The Virtual Sheet Music interface does look a little dated, but it does the job well enough. With just over 10,000 "flute" titles, it has the second largest collection of the providers I compared.

Using the left hand tab, titles can be filtered down extensively by multiple categories including by skill level, type, ensemble, price, free for members category or genre.

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Clicking through the different genres available, there was a diverse selection including

  • classical (~1,300 titles)
  • jazz (~1,600 titles)
  • pop (~2,400 titles)

VSM Membership is pretty great value at $37.75 USD a year, with subsequent years membership at discounted rate.

A membership unlocks free access to thousands and thousands of titles (and it's not just flute, it's EVERY instrument).

The rest of the collection is then generously discounted at up to 70% off for members. That's the best discount offered by any of the providers I compared. You'll rarely pay more than a few dollars for a title.

VSM offers an interactive viewing format (although not for all titles) that's cool. It lets you transpose into any key in real-time, midi playback, change the playback tempo and change instrument arrangements. You can then print your customised score. Great for the multi-instrumentalists out there.

Check it out in this quick video...

Another cool feature I recently discovered is their Piano Accompaniment Videos.

For players wanting to gain confidence in playing and performing with others, these interactive videos allow you to watch the piano player while viewing your music. You can adjust the speed of the accompaniment and create practise loops.

A great tool particularly for self-taught players.

Here's a quick snapshot...

I downloaded the free app for android to my phone and unfortunately found it was quite limited in its search ability of the VSM catalogue as well as the sheet music view features. You could view your music but not make any modifications.

Their app for iOS has much better functionality.

You can annotate and highlight your music, automatically turn the page, play accompaniments and backing tracks, modify playback tempo, transpose and organise your music library into folders and sync across devices.

View a handy instructional video here (iOS) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2O14R9FeFY

Sheet Music Plus

Sheet Music Plus is a similar looking interface to VSM, but has about three times the amount of "flute" titles.

Once again you can search by skill level, type, ensemble, rating, or genre by selecting them in the left column.

But beware an important difference here.

SMP also sell and ship hard copies. So, if you’re only interested in digital music, select ‘Available Instantly’ from the left side-bar of search criteria to refine your search.

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Filtering for "flute" and "available instantly" I searched through the genres and found a large selection of

  • classical (~16,000 titles)
  • Christmas (~6,000)
  • pop (~2,000 titles)
  • movies and TV (~1,600 titles)

Sheet Music Plus also offer an interactive download format that allows playback with tempo control, transposition, melody instrument selection, adjustable note size, and more. Searching for flute within this format returned approximately 1,800 titles. Unlike VSM, I wasn't able to customise in the interactive view prior to purchase.

At the time of writing, no App was available which is a real puzzler considering the very nature of digital sheet music is grounded in convenience and accessibility.

Downloaded titles are instead stored in "My Digital Library" which is simply a repository that can be viewed once logging into your account. No subscriptions or membership discounts are offered.

This provider is more your traditional retailer with the option to download titles digitally and print at home, rather than a platform that provides true digital accessibility.

MusicNotes

I found MusicNotes to have the cleanest and most modern website design. It just felt easier to use, with less visual clutter of banner ads and sidebar images of the other providers.

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To search, within ‘flute’, 5,500 results were returned that could be filtered extensively by genre, scoring and instrument. Searches can also be made by decades, occasions and seasonal holiday, which is fun to browse.

At a glance, there were more new release pop and movie themes available than other providers, with the homepage listing quick links to the latest releases and top songs.

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Titles are classified as either "MusicNotes Edition" indicated by a green icon or "MusicNotes File" indicated by a blue icon. MusicNotes Edition titles give you full performance and recording rights, unlimited prints and the interactive digital file.

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A ProPlus Membership also includes PDFs in every available key. (It was unclear if ANY key could be selected or, only a limited selection). The discounts included in both membership levels were only modest - 10 - 15%.

(So if you're planning on downloading lots of music, VSM will probably work out as the cheaper option).

MusicNotes have an app for both iOS and Android that were rated the best of all providers. Music educators get a bonus with $1 off digital sheet music purchases in the iOS app.

The apps allow you to annotate and highlight your music in different colours and in 'layers', automatically turn the page, play accompaniments and backing tracks, modify playback tempo, transpose and organise your music into set lists.

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Image source: www.musicnotes.com

The iOS app has additional functionality allowing you to import other PDF sheet music into your library. Very handy if you've already begun digitising your collection.

More info on apps are here...

(Android) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXfuZxjd2RI

(iOS) https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/musicnotes/id924050984?mt=8

Sheet Music Direct

I personally found this website the most difficult to navigate. When searching through flute titles, I couldn't seem to add multiple search criteria together. This provider also had the smallest "flute" catalogue.

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Results of a search are in one list that can only be filtered by price, alphabetically, release date and not by more useful criteria such as genre and arrangement.

The good news was that the interactive view could be previewed prior to purchase.

Here's the transposition tool at work...

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Their PASS subscription is the most expensive of the providers I compared, at $99 USD annually.

PASS subscribers can enjoy unlimited online (view-only) access to all titles with the "PASS" icon via computer, tablet, and smartphone, across 35 instruments. This requires internet access.

If you want to download or print, you'll get 50% off.

There are two apps available for iOS only.

The SheetMusic App acts as a music viewer, score library and music store. Features include set list creation, Bluetooth playback, metronome, PDF import, variable speed playback, changing note size and instant transposition.

The PlayAlong App let's you explore thousands of interactive sheet music titles with pro-quality backing tracks with arrangements for 17 different instruments. To get started, 15 free songs are included. The app provides tools for learning, playing, recording, sharing and performing, such as

  • creating set lists
  • setting input and backing track levels and effects (reverb and delay)
  • selecting note size, transposition, system space, reverse notation
  • track levels, click track, speed and count-in.

More info here...https://www.youtube.com/user/sheetmusicdirect

One really cool new feature is that all apps of these providers are compatible with a hands-free page turner device called Airturn.

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It’s a foot pedal that connects to your device via Bluetooth, allowing you to turn pages with a press of the pedal. If you play other instruments such as guitar or piano, this one might be of interest to you too!

As a general comment, to open up even more titles to play on flute

  • select the titles from any other non-transposing C instrument (such as violin) or,
  • simply transpose from another instrument if you have the interactive format available to you. (Remember, it's only a click away). For example to transpose a clarinet part to a flute part (transpose up 2 half steps (turning a B flat instrument into a C instrument).

I hope that my research here will save YOU the time in your own search for flute sheet music. Happy hunting!

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