If you're majoring or minoring in music as a college flute player, congratulations! One of the most exciting things about taking flute lessons in college is the opportunity to discover, study, and perform flute music that's new to you.
However, buying flute sheet music every semester for four years can add up, and you won't always have disposable income to afford large sheet music orders every semester. It can be tempting to borrow music from friends or to hold onto copies of pieces you haven't purchased, but composers need to make money, too.
It took me several semesters to figure out the best ways for me to afford the flute sheet music I was studying, so learn from my experience and see what can work for you:
1. Interlibrary Loan System
Let's start with the free option! Did you know that every public and college library participates in what's called the "Interlibrary Loan System"? This system means that your library can request and borrow materials from other libraries for you to use. If you took some type of library or research course, then you may already know about it and how to use it.
If you have no idea that your college could even do this, it's actually really simple to use! Go to your college library's website and you can look or search for "interlibrary loan." Most college websites will have a link on their home page, or it will come up after using the search bar on the page. Then, it will walk you through the steps to see if another library has the piece you're looking for and how to request it. The college covers any fees associated with the request, and if they're able to fulfill the request they'll let you know when you can pick up the piece and how long you can borrow it for.
Once you have the piece you need, make a copy so you don't damage or mark the original material. Since you should still observe copyright laws, I recommend keeping the original until you're finished studying the piece and then destroy your copy if the piece is still under copyright.
Keep in mind: It's super important to follow the rules and deadlines for returning the piece. Some colleges will ban you from using interlibrary loan requests if you don't return it on time.
Even though IMSLP doesn't always have what you're looking for, it's always free. If you're studying a piece that is out of copyright limitations, IMSLP can be an easy way to find and download the piece you're going to study. I search "IMSLP [composer name and piece title]" and see what comes up. The results can be hit or miss - the PDF can be missing pages, sections, or it can be an edition that's difficult to read.
The downside to IMSLP is that it doesn't check or remove pieces that can infringe copyright laws. Sometimes a piece can be under copyright in one country but not another. So I would be cautious when using IMSLP and avoid printing pieces if you aren't sure they're under copyright in your home country.
3. Flute Center of New York
Many flute retailers also sell sheet music, and Flute Center of New York is one of them. They have a little bit of everything in the way of sheet music and will occasionally have sales and offer free shipping on orders over $75. They also have coupon codes, like my coupon code SIMPERMUSIC that can save you 10% on all sheet music orders (and the free shipping deal still applies).
Check out Flute Center NY's music collection or bookmark this page to use my coupon code later:
4. Flute World
In terms of diversity, Flute World probably has any flute sheet music retailer beat. If you can't find what you're looking for with Flute Center NY, hop over to Flute World. Their collection is massive and I tend to find more music by Latino composers here (which is important to me as a Latina). They also have a limited time coupon code (from this post being published) PERKMATCH that automatically applies the best influencer perk to your order.
Although the biggest selection is a major plus, the downside to Flute World sheet music orders is that you have to pay shipping on all orders (anywhere from $7.95 to $44.95) and they don't always arrive in a timely manner. My longest wait from ordering to delivery was two and a half months. So if you're looking for something with a quick turnaround, try other the other options on this post.
Final Flute Notes
It can be tempting to borrow music from friends or to hold onto copies of pieces you haven't purchased, but as a performer you want to support composers (even when you're on a budget). Explore your free options respectfully, and find the best deals when you're able to spend money on sheet music so you can study your pieces without the guilt of the price tag!
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