Music downloads organization and storage

January 2, 2023, 12:39 PM · There are a lot of downloads for sheet music now. How do you keep these organized? How do you know what you have? Do you print them or leave them on a laptop, desktop or tablet?

Mine are a mess. If I put them in a notebook, I don't know what I have and end up not using them. Or I worry they will get lost.

I don't own a tablet. I am terrible at keeping my computer organized and being able go find things on it. And then there is forgetting that I even have something on it.

Help! Please.

(Wasn't sure what category this post should go under.)

Replies (9)

January 2, 2023, 12:58 PM · I keep my sheet music file downloads in a folder visible on my computer desktop. The files are organized alphabetically by composers' last names followed by description. For example:
"Mozart_Symp No. 41. viola.pdf"
January 2, 2023, 2:04 PM · I wish I couod say that my downloads were more organized. I do put important info in the file name. This lets me search my computer for it.

Most of my stuff is printed. That is organized. Some of that is by composer, but some chamber music is organized by instrumentation, so I can grab relevant stuff to read with a group.

Edited: January 2, 2023, 5:35 PM · @Laura - I print out my sheet music and normally punch holes in it and put it in a notebook of current music. Once I have finished using it, I label it and put it in notebooks. I have one notebook for violin 1 parts, one for violin 2 parts and one for viola parts. Within the notebooks, I do not have the sheet music organized in a particular way. However, I have a separate notebook for Handel Messiah parts, and some sheet music involving multiple pieces that are part of a group, e.g., etudes by a particular composer, Telemann's Fantasias, and some specific pieces, I simply have bound separately. I do not use a tablet or iPad for reading downloaded music.

I hope this is helpful. Others on this site are clearly more organized than I am. And, most music that I download comes from IMSLP, so I can download it again if I need to. Good luck finding a system that works for you. I suspect that musicians who no longer use hard copy sheet music but only use downloaded music on an iPad or tablet find it fairly easy to organize the music. But, that's not me.

January 2, 2023, 8:03 PM · I dump my downloaded music into a folder, and rely on search for composer and opus number to find what I need.

In ForScore, I organize the music into sets (per concert) so everything I need is together. A piece of music can belong to many sets, though.

January 4, 2023, 7:22 AM · Bit of an aside here - my hard copy music is stacked alphabetically within different categories - solo/sonata; string quartet; piano trio, etc. My downloaded music is organized mostly by composer.

The aside is that I NEVER scan through the downloads - if I need something I find it and print it. However, when looking for a piece in my hard copy library I inevitably find something else I have not played for years and get wonderfully distracted. Just like visiting a (book) library shelf. Does this mean that getting lost in your collection will die out?

January 4, 2023, 7:28 AM · The key for downloads is to give the file a reasonable name when you save it. Then, your OS can find it based on a keyword search.
January 4, 2023, 10:27 AM · Thanks everyone. I think I will make sure I have a naming system for downloads. I have been trying to save them all under a specific label thinking that would make it easier to find but that doesn't seem to really work.

And I will just have to get notebooks set up to track the loose sheets from printing downloads.

If I were just starting out on my music collection journey, I would keep everything on a tablet or computer. I think it would be nice having everything in an easy to carry package. And having everything right there whenever and wherever you need it. But, I have quite a bit of shelf space that holds hard copies of music and no way am I going to scan all of that in.

Elise - I hear you and relate. I have been putting back my piles of music that seem to gather around my music room. Very easy to get distracted. I also find that the pieces I have had to download I end up not remembering I have them. They aren't there on the shelf when I paw through looking for something. And putting them in a notebook means I have to actually open the notebook and look through them.

One of my 2023 goals is to make a list or database of the music I own. Hopefully that will mean I make better use of my music collection.

Edited: January 4, 2023, 8:56 PM · Laura, years ago I built my own "database" using a Google Sheet. The key feature is that one of the columns is just plain cardinal numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. Then each piece of music is given a unique sequential number and a separate entry in the sheet, without regard to any other characteristics such as composer or instrumentation. Whatever the next thing is that you grab, that gets the next number. That's what's great -- you can build the database without thinking -- at all -- about what gets stored next to what. The other columns in the sheet are Status (for example, if I've loaned it out), Title, Composer, Editor/Arranger, Publisher, Instrumentation, Comments (for example, if I performed it, or if a part is missing), and Category (four categories: repertoire, chamber, studies, or "genre" which usually means a book of pop tunes or fiddle tunes or a fake book). And the great thing is that I can sort it by any of the columns, and it's fully searchable just by typing CTRL-F. And it's SIMPLE and it doesn't require any fancy bespoke software. It's just a spreadsheet. Then, the music is simply filed in numerical sequence. Just now I decided to find Mozart Cto No. 3, so I sorted the sheet first by composer and then by title, and it's No. 51. If I go to my shelf, it will be numbered as "51" and filed that way. So it's in between Viotti 22 and Kabalevsky ... who cares? And I can get to it from my phone whenever and wherever I am. Our local community orchestra has the same kind of database for its library.
January 5, 2023, 4:27 PM · Paul - WOW! That is useful. I would not have thought about doing it that way. I had gotten as far as composer and piece title and category. I usually keep my music alphabetized but I like the number idea.

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