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1. Searching for Scores by Instrumentation, to See What's Available 

If you already know the name of the composer and perhaps a keyword from the title of a piece of music you would like to play, and are seeking the score online, skip this section and go to Searching for Specific Scores below.

Fortunately, in the online research environment it is not necessary to know exactly what you are fishing for in order to catch fish. Many guitarists enjoy the delights of discovering music previously unknown to them while browsing online. Serendipity can be very rewarding! Here are some resources and strategies to maximize your results when you are browsing for published scores.

The key to success in this kind of search is to fish in an appropriate pond using appropriate lures. For example. if you are curious to see what exists for clarinet and guitar, you can search Google for keywords like [guitar clarinet scores]. You will retrieve over 100,000 Web pages, but the relevance of the retrievals may leave much to be desired.

In contrast, an intelligent subject-search of the largest online library catalog in the world, OCLC's WorldCat (click, then click the "advanced search" link) will result in many more pertinent score retrievals. In WorldCat you can browse scores for every conceivable combination, limiting your search by format (Musical score). The quality of your retrievals will depend on the quality of your search strategy. Here's a simple example:

Suppose you want to see what kind of music has been cataloged for clarinet and guitar.

a) Example of a broader WorldCat search

  • In the Keyword field type [clarinet guitar]
  • In the Format field select [Musical scores]
  • Clicking "Search" will retrieve over 1,200 scores in which the clarinet and the guitar at least figure in the instrumentation. The retrievals include a fair number of trios, quartets, and larger ensembles with clarinet and guitar.

b) Example of a more focused WorldCat search

  • Use the precise LC subject heading for the instrumentation you desire in the Subject field—in this case it's "clarinet and guitar music." This search brings back over eighty responses representing nearly as many original published scores for clarinet and guitar.
  • You can use WorldCat's library locator feature to see where a copy of a score that interests you might be found.
  • Even if you want to buy scores rather than borrow them, the cataloging in WorldCat will be reliable enough to allow you to search for a precise title or publisher online; purchasing the scores online would then be an option.

2. Searching for Specific Scores

When you know the composer's name and at least the key elements of the title (like the opus number) of a certain work, often it is best to start searching for it on the "advanced search" page of WorldCat, described above. No other database will allow you to search a billion cataloging records from over ten thousand participating libraries worldwide. If you locate a score you wish to see, you may be able to borrow it from a nearby library. At least you'll be able to identify one or more publishers, for purposes of placing a subsequent order.

Let's use the little facsimile pasted below for the exercise: Carulli's Easy Pieces for Solo Guitar, Op. 121.

Sample search of WorldCat for a known composer (Carulli) and work designation (Op. 121)

  • In the Title field type just the opus number, 121 (It will be the element least likely to change from edition to edition when the language of the title page changes.)
  • In the Author field, type Carulli
  • Under the "Limit results by (optional)" heading select, in the Format drop-down menu, [Musical Score].

Note that three editions come up: a German edition by Ernst Hülsen with selections from Op. 121; an early 19th-century edition with a French title page, Vingt-quatre pièces pour guitarre seule oeuvre 121 (Offenbach: André, [ca. 1825]); and a Siciliana from Op. 121 (Milano: A. Monzino, 19--). Having a closer look at any of these retrievals (when online to WorldCat), by clicking on them, will bring up the names of holding libraries and other useful details. (The sample page below is not interactive; it is only shown for purposes of illustration.)

It should be clear, now, that a very smart way to search for published scores worldwide, especially when you would be happy with a modern edition as opposed to something archival, is by using WorldCat. It used to have restricted access (only for member libraries, who used it to share cataloging efforts), but lately it has become free for all, for purposes of searching. It is a gift and a resource of inestimable value.

3. Searching Special Collections and Archives

While WorldCat has tens of thousands of entries for archival material of all kinds, it still misses much of the older guitar music that exists only in special collections and archives.  GFA member Robert Coldwell has  been working to devise cross-platform search engines (a) specifically for the 5000+ digitized public domain scores that are available online , and (b) more generally for some 12,000+ cataloged scores, the majority of which are not yet digitized.

The latter are held in collections around the globe that are included in Mr Coldwell's Digital Guitar Archive site, through an Archive Search form. As of January 2010, his search engine was able to simultaneously query all the following online specialty catalogs and databases at once:


The collection of Carl Oscar Boije af Gennäs (1849-1923) includes printed editions from the early 19th century and manuscripts. All items are currently being digitized by the library.
Source: Statens Musikbibliotek (The Music Library of Sweden) - online catalog

The complete Etude magazine article text by Sophocles Papas and George C. Krick published from 1930 to 1943.
Source: entered by hand from original Etude magazines

Freie Vereinigung
The Freie Vereinigung Zur Förderung Guter Guitaremusik Collection in the Augsburg Public Library.
Source: Stadtbücherei Augsburg - online catalog

GFA Archive
The Guitar Foundation of America Archive at Bierce Library, University of Akron, Ohio.
Source: GFA Archive - online catalog

Gitarristisches Archiv
Collection from the International Gitarristisches Vereinigung at the Münich State Library.
Source: Münchner Stadtbibliothek

Krick (Colorado)
The portion of the George C. Krick Collection residing in the University of Colorado, Boulder library.
Source: American Music Research Center, University of Colorado at Boulder - online catalog

Krick (Missouri)
The portion of the George C. Krick Collection residing in the Washington University Library in St. Louis, Missouri.
Source: Gaylord Music Library, Washington University in St. Louis - online catalog

Levy Collection
guitar items only - complete
The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music at Johns Hopkins University.
Source: Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries

Library of Congress
guitar items only - complete
The Music for the Nation catalog includes sheet music deposited for copyright in the U.S. from 1820 to 1885. The guitar related items number 1187 out of a total of 62,500 items.
Source: Library of Congress Music for the Nation - online catalog

Rischel & Birket-Smith
The Rischel & Birket-Smith Collection in the Royal Library of Denmark. All items in this collection have been digitized by the library.
Source: Det Kongelige Bibliotek (The Royal Library of Denmark) - online catalog

Kenneth Sparr Collection
complete 13-Jul-2007
A catalogue of early prints and manuscripts for the guitar in the collection of Kenneth Sparr. The catalogue spans the period 1760-1900. The collection contains many Swedish and French prints.
Source: The Collection of Kenneth Sparr

Seville Conservatory
Taken from an article by Julio Gimeno on Matanya Ophee's Guitar and Lute Issues website, "Two Nineteenth Century Volumes of Chamber Music with Guitar at the Seville (Spain) Conservatory".
Source: Guitar and Lute Issues

Mary Belle Swingle Guitar Collection
Mary Belle Swingle Guitar Collection at Yale University.

One of the special collections near Los Angeles not yet fully cataloged online but very important is the International Guitar Research Archive (IGRA), at California State University at Northridge. One should consult the online checklists that are now available of the music score holdings, as well as view the database of scores that are mounted in low-resolution, but still legible, facsimiles -- the Easley Collection of scores.

4. Privately Created Web Sites for Guitar Music Scores

Publishers' Sites (fee-based)

Fondazione Araniti Editions describes itself as"the first e-book publisher of guitar music in the world." Its catalog includes complete works of Molitor, Kuffner, and Carcassi available in various electronic formats.  Other composers' scores are also represented. Purchase them via PayPal.

Tecla Editions no longer offers any free scores online, as it formerly did through its "Hebe" subsidiary.  It does, however, provide low cost downloadable editions, through PayPal, of interesting works by the Danish Romantic guitarist/composers Søffren Degen (1816-1885) and Henrik Rung (1807-1871).

Virtual Sheet Music currently offers a few dozen selections of popular guitar solos & chamber music (66 at last count) for free. But it is also a discount portal to the large commercial world of music publishing. It currently lists for sale over 53,300 editions of guitar music or scores involving guitar in some way. Subscribers can buy everything on the site at a discount. sells downloads of any of 2000+ scores of solo and chamber music, vocals and methods for guitar. Prices range from $2-10 generally. Its cataloging is bizarre in that it calls composers "artists" and only sorts retrievals by popularity, name, or price. There are many Mel Bay editions, including tab scores and pieces for plectrum guitar, but one can also find modern editions of the classic composers: Sor (100+ editions), Giuliani (100), Carulli (20), etc.

 In contrast to the institutional and fee-based commercial sites listed above, there are many sites on the Internet created by individuals who wish to share either their own compositions or their favorite repertoire (presumably already in the public domain) online, in a kind of peer-to-peer score-sharing arrangement. No one can vouch for the reliability of the self-published editions at these sites, but often they can be helpful starting points for those seeking copies of scores that are not to be found in the music trade or in the special collections mentioned earlier.


Peer-to-peer Sites (free) was started in San Francisco as a site where authors could share their original works, but has evolved into a site where anyone can upload anything of value. Guitar teacher James McCutcheon ( has uploaded what appears to be his personal library of some 800 digitized guitar scores from all eras. Others have contributed guitar scores to this site, too.

Sor complete works (Homa Dream site, Japan). Jun Sugawara, editor of Guitardream and former editor of Gendai Guitar, passed away in Tokyo on Dec. 30, 2009. One of his last major projects was to engrave the complete works of Sor - these (free) PDF files are modern editions with notes in Japanese. [Thanks to the Savannah Classical Guitar site for this information.]

Jean-François Delcamp , a classical guitarist/editor/teacher based in France, has created a site with numerous links to digitized scores of vihuela and guitar composers' works online, and free to download.  Many of his sources are copies of the well-known collections of Sweden (Boije) and Denmark (Rischel - Birket Smith), but others are less well known. For example, he offers PDFs of the complete works of Julian Arcas, but minus the title pages or editor information. These and much more are echoed (replicated? mirrored?) at another peer-to-peer site, (See below.), the "Classical Guitar Library," is the work of two brothers, Alexandru and Boris Cohaniuc, the former being a Web developer, the latter a guitarist and teacher. Alexandru writes that the "initial idea behind this website was non commercial, my brother wanted an online resource for classical guitar students and teachers."  This site seems to share links to/with the Delcamp site above, and between these two there are hundreds of digitized scores that have been made available. The site owners believe that they are sharing music in the public domain. Here one can download the complete or known guitar works of Call, Carcassi, Carulli, Sor, Aguado, Arcas, Giuliani, Tarrega and most other famous composers of guitar music. (How long this "public service" will last is difficult to say!), which stands for International Music Score Library Project, is the largest site specifically for known or suspected public domain (PD) music scores in the world. Hosted in Canada, it attempts to enable "sharing” of these scores as much as possible while still striking a reasonable balance between three divergent copyright protocols. For more information on IMSLP, see the remarks at the bottom of the "Free Guitar Scores Online" page.

Visitors are invited to send suggestions for additions and corrections to Thomas F. Heck

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