Learning about music on the Web: Online resources

Alexandra Janvey

When I began my research to create a music-centric resource guide at work, I was amazed at the sheer volume of Web sites that are available; music truly is a diverse field with many subfields and specialized topics. This article provides a brief overview of these abundant online resources and a basis to begin researching from a wide variety of topics in music. These sites were thoughtfully selected for various reasons, including their reliability, ease of navigation, and quality of content. All the sites on this list are also freely accessibly to everyone.

Music theory

  • Good Ear. This site is exactly what it sounds like: a straightforward, ear-training tool. There are aural exercises in identifying intervals, chords, scales, and cadences. Access: http://www.good-ear.com/.
  • Musicards. This site contains an ever-growing collection of highly customizable music theory flash cards. These online flash cards are useful for students just starting to learn key musical rudiments or those seeking a refresher. Access: http://www.musicards.net/.
  • Music Theory and History Online. Created by the England-based Dolmetsch Foundation, this is another great site on music theory. A repository for the basics of notation, meter, rhythm, chord structures, and more. Access: http://www.dolmetsch.com/theoryintro.htm.
  • MusicTheory.net. Possessing a simple design and easy navigation, this site provides numerous free tools for learning basic music theory. One of the tools on this site is the animated lessons that allow you to explore the fundamentals of music. The lessons are broken up into topics that cover everything from staff and clefs to Neapolitan chords. There are also customizable ear-training exercises to help improve musical recognition. Exercises include note, key signature, chord, interval, pitch, scale identification drills, ear-training drills, and instrument trainers. Various compositional tools on the site let you calculate notes, intervals, and chords in a specific key. There is even a staff paper generator. This site is created and maintained by Ricci Adams, a software engineer. Access: http://www.musictheory.net/.

  • Teoría—Music Theory Web. Awarded the 2006 Merlot Classic Award in music, this site is dedicated to the study and practice of music theory. There are tutorials on reading music, intervals, scales, chords, harmonic functions, and interactive exercises. This site also has a section devoted to reference, which provides definitions of commonly used musical terms. It was developed by Jose Rodriguez Alvira, professor at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, as a complement for his courses. Access: http://www.teoria.com/.


  • American Federation of Musicians (AFM). AFM is the largest organization in the world that represents the interests of professional musicians. They are committed to raising industry standards through negotiating fair agreements, protecting ownership of recorded music, and lobbying legislators. Access: http://www.afm.org/.
  • American Musicological Society (AMS). Founded in 1934, this nonprofit seeks to advance research in various fields of music as a branch of learning and scholarship. There are 3,600 individuals and 1,100 institutional subscribers from more than 40 nations that participate in the AMS. The site contains many helpful resources, including a list of graduate programs in Musicology, a collection of useful Web sites, as well as current listings of jobs, fellowships, and conferences in the field. Access: http://www.ams-net.org/.

  • Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC). ARSC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings in all genres and formats, and from all time periods. This organization is unique because it brings together both private individuals and institutional professionals; everyone with a serious interest in recorded sound is welcome. Access: http://www.arsc-audio.org/.

Search engines

  • ScorSer. This site is a search engine created for musicians, allowing them to search through hundreds of Web sites for scores, sheet music, tabs, backing tracks, audio files, lyrics, MP3s, and other information. It was created by a mathematician, programmer, and bass singer named Sergey Koroler. An important note: as this site is based in Russia, it may provide access to music covered under public domain in Russia, but may be protected by copyright laws in the United States. Access: http://www.scorser.com/.

Scores and sheet music

  • Choral Public Library. The Choral Public Library is the largest site devoted exclusively to providing free choral sheet music. Started in December 1998, the site now has more than 10,000 scores available. It is searchable by title, composer, musical period, or genre. New scores are continually being added to the site. Access: http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.
  • Digital Mozart Edition. This site makes Mozart’s various musical compositions available to the public for personal study or educational use. The digitized version includes the musical text, sheet music, and commentary. While originally in German, an English translated version of the site is available. Access: http://dme.mozarteum.at/DME/nma/start.php?l=2.
  • e-codices: Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland. The e-codices project seeks to provide access to all medieval and early modern manuscripts of Switzerland through a virtual library. The virtual library currently has 981 manuscripts from 42 different libraries available on the site and plans to keep adding more. Access: http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en#.
  • IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library. IMSLP stands for the International Music Score Library Project, which was formed by a merger of the Petrucci Music Library and International Music Database Project. The site provides access to more than 200,000 music scores from both the public domain and from composers who are willing to share their music without charge. More than 20,000 audio recordings are also available for certain titles and composers on the site. IMSLP is not only committed to providing free access to music for everyone, but also encourages the exchange of musical ideas through online forums and discussion pages for each piece. New scores and recordings are added every month. Access: http://imslp.org/wiki/Main_Page.

  • Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music. This site contains more than 47,000 pieces of sheet music registered for copyright thanks to the Library of Congress. It includes popular songs, piano music, sacred and secular choral music, solo instrumental music, method books, instructional materials, and music for bands and orchestra. Access: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/smhtml/.
  • Musopen. Musopen is a nonprofit charity that operates out of Palo Alto, California. They are focused on improving access and exposure to music by creating free resources. The site has both free sheet music and recordings available, without copyright restrictions. Access: https://musopen.org/.
  • Mutopia. A great site that offers scores of classical music. Resources include works by such composers as Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, and many others. All sheet music on this site is in the public domain and free to download, print, perform, and distribute. Some audio records are included on the site. As of this writing, there are 1,736 pieces of music available on the site and additions are continually being made. Access: http://www.mutopiaproject. org/.
  • Sheet Music Consortium. A group of libraries whose goal is to create an open collection of digitized sheet music using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. Libraries apart of the consortium include the Library of Congress, National Library of Australia, Duke University, Indiana University, John Hopkins University, UCLA, and University of Maine. The University of California-Los Angeles hosts the consortium. At the latest count, the site provides access to 22 sheet music collections and about 226,914 items. Sheet music is browsable by repository, title, composer, publisher, and date. Access: http://digital2.library.ucla.edu/sheetmusic/index.html.

Sound recordings

  • American Memory from the Library of Congress. Contains sound recordings from 25 collections at the Library of Congress. These recordings consist of American music, oral histories, and speeches. Access: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/browse/ListSome.php?format=Sound+Recording.
  • Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection. The Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection provides online access to digital audio files of cylinders in the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive at Syracuse University Library. There are more than 22,000 cylinders, 12,000 of which are unique titles in Belfer’s cylinder collection. With initial funding received from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, more than 1,400 cylinders have been digitized. The digital recordings are accessible in both MP3 and WAV file format. Digitization of this collection is ongoing and new titles will be added regularly. Access: http://library.syr.edu/splash/cylinders/.
  • Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. The University of California-Santa Barbara has made the digital audio files of about 8,000 cylinder recordings available on this Web site. The audio can be streamed within a browser or downloaded as MP3. There is also the option of listening to some of the staff’s favorite recordings through online streaming radio. The collection includes almost all types of recordings made from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This includes popular songs, vaudeville, minstrel music, comedic monologues, classical and operatic, solo instrumental recordings, bands, foreign and ethnic recordings, and speeches. These are some of the oldest recordings to have been digitally preserved, as the originals were the first commercial recordings made. Recordings were etched onto wax and transfered to metal cylinders that were the standard format before vinyl. The site also has extensive information on the history of cylinders, as well. Access: http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/.
  • Free Music Archive. An interactive library that provides high-quality, legal audio downloads from many genres. It is directed by WFMU, a New Jersey-based freeform radio station. All the audio on this site can be downloaded for free and has been cleared for certain uses (remix projects, production soundtracks, etc.) that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws. Access: http://freemusicarchive.org/.
  • Live Music Archive. The Internet Archive’s Live Music library is an audio archive of live recordings that are available royalty-free and at no cost. This collection is home to material from those artists who like the idea of noncommercial distribution. LMA has been successful because of members of online communities like etree.org, who are committed to providing public access to high quality digital recordings of performances. All records are preserved in “lossless” archival compression formats, such as Shorten or FLAC, to achieve the highest quality of preservation. Access: http://archive.org/details/etree.
  • National Jukebox. Historical recordings are made available to the public free of charge thanks to the Library of Congress and its National Jukebox site. The recordings come from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress. At its launch, the site included more than 10,000 recordings that were made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Access: http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/.
Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Janvey

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