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Sheet music

The publication of sheet music, particularly solo piano music and songs with piano accompaniment, ukelele, banjo or guitar charts, was mostly for domestic music making at home.

However with the introduction of recorded music, initially on perforated rolls, cylinders and discs, to mass produced cds and downloadable digital files and the advent of broadcasting on radio, television and the internet has meant the public demand for published sheet music has decreased.

Sheet music, as an historic record, is able to tell us a lot. Popular genres in a particular era can illustrate the concerns of the people of the time, for example the large nuimber of patriotic songs published during World War One. Also the number of reprints of a piece indicates its popularity and its dissemination.

Sheet music covers can be symbolic and visually striking with items of interest such as 'as sung by Peter Dawson' or 'a musical in three acts', as well as portraits of the composer and/or lyricist. Hints of contemporary social history can be gleaned through the advertisements, price, information about vendors and evidence of fashions printed on the cover.

To view the sheet music by theme select from the following:

Further Reading

Holmes, Robyn. The collector's book of sheet music covers, Canberra : National Library of Australia, 2001


British Library Online Gallery - Victorian popular music

Music Australia 



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