Early Romantic Guitar Sheet Music Sources
Free Download Sites of 19th Century Guitar Sheet Music
Boije Collection On-line: The Music Library of Sweden
The Boije Collection (from Carl Oscar Boije, insurance agent and amateur guitarist, 1849-1923) is an incredible resource of Acrobat PDF files of scanned original facsimiles, all free for downloading by the public. Most of the music dates from the 19th century, as well as from 1900-1915. Many hard to find, rare pieces are in the collection. This is a wealth of material, including such treasures as 9 Carcassi pieces not in REX or the USA Library of Congress, 2 de Fossa pieces not printed by Orphee Editions, many of Matiegka's best works, and of course such staples as Sor, Giuliani, Coste, and Mertz. There are plenty of solo works from well-known as well as obscure composers, solos, duets, 7-10 string works and so forth in this collection of hundreds of pieces. The pieces are indexed alphabetically by composer and it is simple to use. There are many anthology works, so the same PDF file might be listed several places.
REX On-line: The Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark:
Rischel & Birket-Smith's Collection of guitar music
Thorvald Rischel (left) and Frederik Birket-Smith (right).
This music collection came primarily from Danish engineer and guitar player Thorvald Rischel (1861-1939), where it passed to and was augmented by librarian and guitar player Frederik Birket-Smith (1880-1952). The Royal Library article titled Rischel & Birket-Smith's Collection of guitar music explains the origin of this collection. This incredible collection of music from the circle around Coste, Rung, and Degen is now one of the most important collections in existence. It is now digitized into PDF files and available to the public for free.
Accessing REX On-line:
1. Go to the URL: http://rex.kb.dk. If you are asked about a Certificate, press Yes or OK.
2. Click the English link in the upper right hand corner of the screen.
3. Enter "Rischel" in the search field.
4. Then you must refine the search in the left menu by choosing Scores.
5. If you combine Rischel with a specific composer e.g. Mertz you still have to narrow you search by selecting Digitized scores.
6. Click on View the Music. This will open the PDF file that you can save to your computer as a file, print, or read from the screen.
REX has over 3,000 Acrobat PDF files of scanned original 19th century facsimiles, all free for downloading by the public. Only the 19th century facsimiles which are public domain material are available for download; modern editions are copyrighted and thus no scanned files are available for download of modern sources. Many of the manuscripts were donated to the library by Napoleon Coste's students during the 19th century, in addition to other donors in times past.
I am grateful to the Royal Library for making these important historical documents available to the public. I have downloaded and catalouged all of the 19th century guitar scores I could find and burned the PDF's to a CD for my own use. This took many exhaustive weeks of searching, downloading, saving, database entry, and printing. I found many composers previously unknown to me. Due to the immense volume of material, it is better to search for a score of interest and download only what you need.
If you are looking for suggestions, my editor's pick of the best composers in the collection are: Aguado, Carcassi, Carulli, Coste, de Fossa, Gardana, Giuliani, Horetzky, Klinger, Legnani, LHoyer, Matiegka, Mertz, Molino, Padowetz, Paganini, Pettoletti, Regondi, Sor, Tarrega, and an anthology called "Spanische Gitarrenmusik" which contains Arcas, Broca, Vinas.
The scores available represent a sampling of what was available in those days: guitar solo, guitar duet for 2 normal guitars, guitar duet for terz guitar and normal guitar, guitar trio and quartet (very few), and very many works for guitar with other instruments: guitar and flute, guitar and violin, guitar and oboe, guitar and cello, guitar and forte-piano, guitar chamber music (guitar with 2 or more wind or string instruments), with the guitar being normal or terz guitar in many cases. It strikes me immediately that if these scores are representative of the era, then the 19th century guitarist was very much an ensemble player who commonly worked with violinists, cellists, flutists, pianists, and other guitarists. It will also become obvious that nearly all guitar composers wrote in the extended operatic fantasy form, with pot-pourris and theme-variations of operas being the majority of scores.
Because the scores are scanned 19th century originals, some scores may be faded or otherwise hard to read, and printing technology has improved, thus a good modern edition is sometimes better. However, I prefer to read from these original sources, as it is free from revisionist thinking and gives a fuller picture of the original music.
Robert Coldwell's REX Download Program
Probably the easiest way to access REX is to use Robert Coldwell's superb software application which is a time-saving easy to use front-end, which allows you to flexibility download all the scores, all for a given composer at once, or individual scores versus one at a time through REX. However, some people may prefer to go through the REX library site, so that the titles and all record information is viewable. There is a handy Excel file with the software that provides a list of the pieces and their file names. Instructions to use the software (use the latest version):
URL: Library Collections of Guitar Music
Scroll down to "The Royal Libary, Copenhagen"
Scroll down to "Rischel & Birket-Smith Collection"
Select the Windows or Mac version to download to your hard drive.
Unzip the software, and run the application.
Specify a download directory for the PDF files. The application may ask for the location of the "tool.dir" file, which is in the same directory that you unzipped to. The software shows you available, and non-available scores by composer. To pick multiple scores, hold down the Shift key to select multiple entries.
Other Free Sources
George C. Krick Collection of Guitar Music Gaylord Music Library, Washington University. There are over 250 titles. Most of the music is readily available elsewhere - for example Tarrega and Giuliani, or already present in Rex and Boije, but there were a few pieces to round out a collection such as works by Foden. Also, the scan quality is poor on many scores, but in some cases this may be the only source available.
Index to Kirck Downloadable Collection - To obtain access to PDF files, click on the entry and then select "View images of this title".
Classical Guitar Library. You can find more than 1,000 public domain free sheet music scores in PDF format. The user interface is easy to navigate, and there is a substantial amount of material, for example many opus numbers of Carulli in original editions that I had not seen elsewhere.
Free scores of 19th c. Catalan guitarists - Center of Investigation and Documentation of the Classical Guitar in Cataluña (Spain) A few free editions in Adobe Acrobat files of José Ferrer y Esteve (1835-1916), José Brocá y Codina (1805-1882), and José Viñas y Diaz (1823-1888). The web site is in Spanish, and contains free scanned scores, as well as other information. Parent site URL: Center of Investigation and Documentation of the Classical Guitar in Cataluña (Spain)
A few free editions in Postscript and Gzip format, including Leganani and Carcassi opus I have not seen elsewhere.
Meantone Guitar Studio has several late 19th century collections of American guitar editions for free download, with donations requested. In addition to the American music, one of the anthologies (Shaeffer) contained pieces by Pettoletti, Legnani, and Mertz - including one unfamiliar to me, "The Merry Wives of Windsor".
The 19th Century American Sheet Music Digitization Project links to several on-line collections of 19th century American guitar music. This is popular music, nearly all of it folk songs and easy parlor music, but it is a good idea of household American guitar music of this era. Start by searching for "guitar" - the material is vast, but I did not find any serious compositions here.
Free Lute Music
Although this web site is 19th century guitar focused, often the players of this music are also interested in the earlier works of the Baroque & Renaissance, and indeed such music sounds great on the early classical guitar / romantic guitar, due to its lute-like tambre. Also players of the terz guitar will find this music fits at original pitch, and multi-bass guitarists (e.g. 7-10 string guitars) will find a material source which uses the instrument's extended range. Besides, this free resource is so outstanding that I feel compelled to share it with the readers.
A word about the music: most of it requires some alteration to be playable on a 6-string guitar, and this gets into the realm of arranging music, and you need a basic familiarity with music theory to be successful. That said, it is very satisfying to access the source music to compare to modern editions, make your own editions, add your own fingerings, and discover new treasures.
I wound up purchasing the Django software (around $80 registered, trial version free), which translates between lute tab and notation, and allows basic notation editing like transposition and key signature cleanup. I find that Django is a bit quirky but nothing else does the job, and the main point is the thousands of Django files free on the net. You can get the Django info & free trial version from the Galactic Lute Page and also browse for a vast collection of lute music, some in notation, some in Django format. Some pieces are free. Registered users of Django can get the Django site's entire archives - here, the amount of music free to download is staggering and vast - the complete works of Dowland and nearly every lute manuscript you may have heard of - literally thousands of pieces. This is for those who are comfortable using Django to print the notation after doing the necessary transposition, which can be tricky.
The Renaissance Lute material can be for 6, 8, or 10-course lute. Dowland's material seems mostly for 8-course lute (tune 3=F#, 7=D or D# depending on the key signature, and tune 8=B and you have the exact lute tuning on an 8-string guitar). Pickering uses a 10-course lute, based on the presence of bass notes in the scores - great for 10-string guitars (usually D-C-B-A, #/flat depending on the key signature). Remember to transpose the Ren Lute material -3 in the section properties of Django: this is because the notation is at actual pitch, and the lute was tuned a third higher like a terz guitar. Also some of the music was off by a full octave; easily remedied by selecting the G8 clef. Baroque lute requires no -3 transposition, but I often raise it +2 or +3 to better use the guitar's range and put the music into a more friendly key signature. There are occasional errors in the files you download from the internet, but these were few. The ornamention can be tricky as well; the grace notes could be slurs, mordents, or trills, etc..
This is a great source of transcription material, especially for those with 7-10 string instruments. Baroque lute tuning is so different than the guitar that these are transcriptions; some of them may work as-is, some of them may require alteration to transpose, while others simply are too awkward to be effective.
Tablatures de Luth On this site are free PDF downloads of nearly the complete works of Weiss, including the major Dresden and London manuscript sources and others. Weiss composed some of the best music on par with Bach, but also composed some pieces that while well-crafted can be a bit boring, thus I found it important to play back the Django file to hear if I liked the piece before investing time to transpose, cleanup, print, and try to play the score. Also there are excellent works by Baron - very playable on 8-10 string guitars and great musically, and the "lute" works of Bach, etc.. The entire lute tab has been digitized and translated into urtext lute tablature, or standard notation. You can download your choice of the lute tablature (not of much use to the average guitarist due to the different instrument tuning), or the notation, or the Django source files (more info above). All Baroque lute.
Libraries with Facsimile Sheet Music
Library Collections of Guitar Music and Guitar Music in Libraries is a listing by Robert Coldwell of several libraries world-wide which contain collections or large amounts of guitar music. Most of them are not on-line, but if you are visiting one of these areas, you could visit the library and obtain the music directly. Please contact Robert Coldwell via these sites if you know of additional sources.
Early Romantic Guitar Sheet Music Vendors
Guitar Foundation of America Archives The GFA Archives are kept mostly in the University of Ohio, Akron. The web site details how to order from the archives. There is an incredible amount of first edition material which is completely out of print, for which facsimiles may be ordered. Some recent pieces can circulate through inter-library loan (join your local library and ask them how this works).
Berben Editions carries many works, and I found they were very helpful and easy to order (press the English flag and download the Catalog). It can take several weeks to ship from Italy to the USA, but the process went smoothly for me.
Tecla Editions Home page
Among the publications are the Complete Works for Guitar of Fernando Sor (1778-1839) and Complete Works
of Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). Within these editions are many hundreds of pieces including solos, duets,
chamber and vocal music, ranging from virtuoso to beginners. The New Complete Works of Sor for Guitar
solo and Guitar Duet is out; this is a completely new re-engraved edition, edited by the
reputable musicologist Dr. Brian Jeffery, which is expected to become the standard edition of this
composer. The Tecla catalogue also includes many works by other composers. Altogether there are about
2,000 separate compositions contained in about 300 publications. Highly recommended.
The sister site to Tecla, also run by Dr. Brian Jeffery. A significant innovation in the history of the
classical guitar can be found here: you can order material online as PDF format. This makes it possible
to distribute a wide variety of publications that could not be economically sustained in print form.
Currently, works of Sor are the primary offering, although more is coming soon.
Donald Sauter Facsimiles of Guitar music in the Library of Congress A catalog and description of the material in the USA Library of Congress. The amount of early American music is vast and yet widely overlooked. There is also a surprising number of European guitar pieces, including Carcassi, Giuliani, and Mertz. In fact, I myself purchased the European collection: just the A-N portion was as thick as 2 phone books, and direct from Donald Sauter it is a fraction of the cost of other publishers. The article's author spent years copying and cataloging TLC material. The author is very responsive to email and calls; he will copy pieces from his copies of the archive for a small fee, usually 22-50 cents per page depending on how many pieces are copied. Much material here is out of print. This is much easier than obtaining material from TLC directly.
Mel Bay Music Publishers
Mel Bay has been a leading publisher of sheet music for many instruments for over 50 years, including classical guitar. Many instructional materials
are offered. The web site allows you to browse their catalog. Also note that as of October 1997, Mel Bay is the
North American distributor for Chanterelle Verlag (see below).
Chanterelle Verlag Music Publishers
Chanterelle (Heidelberg, Germany) focuses on high-quality, authoritative guitar literature.
The "Collected Editions" are usually a composer's complete works and are often not available anywhere else.
Much of the standard literature is found here, such as the complete works of Paganini, Mertz, Coste, Aguado, Ferranti, and others.
These editions are recommended for the serious guitarist or teacher.
Distribution in the United States is now handled by Mel Bay, and is widely carried in music stores.
Scholarly guitar editions that have widened the guitar literature. Many classics can be found here, including the Regondi etudes.
Saul B. Groen Editions
In addition to music for other instruments, there is a large catalog of early 19th century guitar facsimile editions, including many hard to find works.
Tuscany Guitar Publications
Tuscany has a few publications unique to the guitar world, including Sor and Giuliani piece recently discovered, and concert works by Carcassi, Carulli, and Castellacci. A few free downloads, too.
Fine Fretted Instruments has a great deal of information on
early editions, guitar composers, and history. There are many editions for sale that I have never seen
anywhere else, including an edition with pieces by Legnani and Mertz that no other publication has in print. New music, fairly extensive and hard to find, is also available. Worth checking out.
Spanish Guitar Centre England - A good selection of music, many 19th c. composers represented.
Guitar Solo Publications US - Probably the biggest catalog of music in the US, many 19th c. composers represented. The catalog is now on-line.
Los Angeles Classical Guitars A selection of period facsimiles, not only romantic guitar but also baroque guitar, etc.
Forgotten Music for the Guitar has on-line paid downloads of American sheet music, light-weight parlor music.
Fondazione Araniti Editions Several 19th Century editions available of early Italian guitar composers (Carulli, Molino, Gragnani, Legnani, etc.) - including several rare pieces. They respond quickly to new orders, within a few hours using PayPal. In my opinion, their editions have too many page turns in bad places, and are over-fingered, but in many cases they are the only source for certain pieces.
SPES "Studio per Edizioni Scelte". A few items such as the hard to find Carulli Decacorde method.
OMI Old Manuscripts & Incunabula - Contact: Olga Immel; Telephone: (212) 758-1946; Fax: (212) 593-6186; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org New web site, and upon request they will email you the stringed instruments PDF catalog. It has a lot of lute and early music, as well as over 1,000 pages of Carulli including the Decacorde method, some LHoyer, Carcassi, etc.
UT Orpheus and (UT Orpheus English Page) - An Italian publisher with many editions not in print elsewhere, solo and ensemble especially many opus' by Legnani and a few hard to find pieces by Moretti and Nava - including the fantastic Nava "Four Seasons".
2 bis rue Saint-léger
ph. 0041 22 781 07 31
fax 0041 22 781 07 50
Johann Gaitzsch email (remove spaces first): jgaitzsch @ bluewin.ch
"Modern, critical editions of music for and with guitar, the interest beeing focused on the first half of the 19th century and on chamber music. Philomèle edits original works and contemporary transcriptions having never been re-edited. Every volume contains an introduction in English, German and Frech, and, if necessary, a revision report. Chamber music comes with a score and parts. "
"You can order directly by email and pay by cheque or by postal transfer, surface or air mail at your charge. In the US you can also order through Theodore Front Inc. or Houston Guitar Gallery."
Digital Guitar Archive - Robert Coldwell leads this project. In addition to digital indexing of available on-line sources, DGA has produced several high quality traditional sheet music books similar to Chanterelle or Tecla. The covers, notes, and engraving are high quality, with an emphasis on faithfully reproducing the original score with a new edition in order to improve legibility and correct obvious mis-prints, but still maintaining the original fingerings, dynamics, etc.. These editions are highly recommended and classify as urtext. Available books include Bobrowicz Collected Works, Mertz complete Opern Revue, the most comprehensive book on Huerta produced to date, and Foden's Grand Sonata, with more to come and a few freebies on-line.
Eufonium Publishing House (Gdynia, Poland). You can find more information about Polish composers (Horetzky, Bobrowicz, etc.) at the website.
Ediciones Eudora Publishing 19th-century solo, concertos and chamber music works, most of them unpublished until now.
Top of Page
The editor especially welcomes comments and ideas for this web site.
Please send an email to Len if you would like to contribute text, links, photos or information.
Primary Email Contact: