082 – 12 Easy Ways to Save Money on Sheet Music

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Episode Summary

While it’s important we as teachers support our composers and publishers, sometimes it’s nice to know a few ways to save a little here and there (because we buy a LOT of music)! Here are 12 ways to save.


Items Mentioned in this Episode



Welcome to episode 82 of The Piano Pantry Podcast. If you would like to hear some easy tips on how to save a few bucks here or there on sheet music purchases – today’s your day.

When this episode drops – a lot of us are kicking off lessons for the year. Whether you’re purchasing music now for the year ahead or gearing up to purchase Christmas music (which I find early September is the best time to get that done) – I have 12 easy ways that you can save a little money here and there on music.

There’s a BIG disclaimer in all this upcoming advice though which I won’t reveal now but it’s an important one so I hope you’ll take it to heart.

By the way – I’m Amy Chaplin, a piano teacher from Indiana who has NEVER been a coupon-er. I tried; I really tried in the past, but it’s just not my thing. What I DO like is keeping good advice up my sleeve when it comes to helping my fellow teacher friends better manage their businesses, so here we are today.

Even this non-couponer like saving a little money when I can and being a good steward of the resources I have. I promise, they’re actually really easy things to do, so stay tuned.

A few years ago, I decided to embark on a little project: explore and become better acquainted with the gamut of sheet music solos.

Just to clarify – I’m talking about those individual pieces of music that are anywhere from $2-$5. They’re often handed out at conferences in exchange for submitting contact info.

Like many teachers, I’ve never used them continuously with students. Not only are they more expensive than a book, but their intent is more to supplement than supply a student’s repertoire.

Even though I’ve been teaching for 20 years, infrequent use of sheet music solos meant I was feeling a little clueless as to what was really out there and what my favorites were.

So, a few years ago, I vowed to use them more frequently. Basically, (almost) every student had one sheet music solo in progress at all times (almost).

It felt so good to feel like I had finally intentionally explored a large range of individual solo sheets. I decided to share the results of my project in several posts and favorites lists on the piano pantry blog.

You’re going to hear 9 things I learned from the project; there’s also a list of favorite elementary-level solos, intermediate solos, and Halloween solos. I also have a great compilation showing the full range of the Faber solo achievement sheets that are available.

Find links to all of these in the show notes.

While today is all about how to save money on sheet music, I’m going to start by encouraging a mindset that actually completely contradicts what this episode is all about.

Let me ask you this:

Do you appreciate having access to quality music and arrangements for your students?

Do you appreciate high-quality purchasing experiences, whether it’s physically browsing music at your local music store or looking at music online with a top-notch website and purchasing experience?

Don’t actually try to save.

Composers deserve to get paid for their work. Publishers need to stay in business to make it easier to access the work of composers who might otherwise never be heard of. If you think it can be hard making a living as an independent teacher, I would go so far as to say it’s harder as an online content creator, and that includes composers.

Of course, I’m speculating here, but remember that just as we (for example) don’t actually make $50 an hour when charging a fee based on $25 for a 30-minute lesson because there is so much more outside time that goes into it, so composers and publishers only make a small percentage of the actual cost of the goods we buy.

I think it’s important we keep that mindset.

Set studio fees that give you appropriate funds for purchasing materials, and don’t make it your job to undercut and get all your music as cheaply as you absolutely can every time.

Let’s remember in all this that we’re supporting our industry.

That being said, yes, it’s nice to know how we can be smart with our funds and save a little here and there at times.

As I was compiling this list, I was actually shocked at how easy it is and how many different opportunities are available, so… without further ado.

First upPurchase through your local music store. Oftentimes they will offer teachers 10% or 15% off as a thank-you for purchasing through them instead of online. If they don’t though – just remember how nice it is to have the ability to browse music physically and in turn support your local music store.

SecondDownload a coupon extension onto your internet browser. I’ve talked about this on the blog before in a post I’ll link to in the show notes called “A Simple Money-Saving Tool.” I also talked about it here recently on the podcast in episode 077 – 7 Useful Chrome Extensions

It’s called Capital One Shopping. There are others out there as well, but I’ve been very happy with this one. Whether it’s for sheet music or anything else you purchase online, it will scour the internet for coupon codes and at checkout tell you if there are any you can use.

If you use Sheet Music Plus that much, you may have noticed the $2 coupon they always include on their shipping slip. I used to cut those out and tape them to my computer monitor but now, the extension finds the coupon for me. Isn’t that great?! So easy.

If you’re a member of Music Teachers National Association – MTNA – the third way you can save money on sheet music is to be more proactive in utilizing your membership benefits! MTNA members get 10% off at Sheet Music Plus and sends a special coupon code through email.

Fourth – Buy in bulk. I shop a lot at Sheet Music Plus, and if you purchase two or more copies, you get 10% off automatically. If there are a handful of books you use frequently, always purchase two copies – even if you only need one book at the moment.

The fifth way is related to buying in bulk, and that is to plan ahead and place large orders when you attend conferences. A lot of publishers offer up to 25% off for purchase at a conference. Once a gain, if you have books you use a lot with students, take the time to stock up then.

Sixth, for books that you’re interested in but not in a rush to buy, keep them in your cart. Again, I’m speaking simply from experience using Sheet Music Plus, but if you put a book in your cart and then click “save for later”, it will take it out of the cart but keep it on the same page and just shift it to the bottom of the page. From there, you will be able to see if and when it goes on sale. They will often run sales on particular categories such as piano methods or easy piano music, or Christmas. You’ll see red text pop up under that item saying that a certain category of music is on sale. That’s a great time to then throw it into your shopping cart to purchase.

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The next idea is in regard to digital music, and that’s to purchase studio licensed copies. The cost of these licensed books has gone up considerably in the last few years. I remember the days of $25 digital licensed books, but they’re now often more than $100. Think about it, though – remember our mindset of supporting our composers? Those old lower prices were really only the price of two or three books, but you have the ability to use it forever for as many students as you want. They’re expensive – but honestly priced fairly.

Eighth – It all depends on what kind of music you’re looking for, but there’s a lot of classical music in the public domain, which means it’s not under copyright protection and can be freely used by anyone. ****You’ll find easy access to public-domain music on sites like Piano Street and IMSLP – the latter of which stands for International Music Score Library Project.

Next up – number nine – is to use sheet music membership sites like Musescore.com or teaching membership sites that offer sheet music as a membership perk, like on TopMusic.

Number ten is to buy direct from publishers like FJH, Hal Leonard, and Alfred. Similar to purchasing music at conferences, publishers sometimes, throughout the year, will offer 20-50% off designated items from their catalog.

Number eleven isn’t my thing necessarily, but I’ve heard people having luck with finding good supplemental music in Thrift Stores or by using sites like Thriftbooks.com

My twelfth and final recommendation is maybe the most obvious, and that’s to find websites that offer free sheet music, like PianoTunes.co.uk or MakingMusicFun.net.

Just remember, though, our opening mantra is that we are the ones that have to support our composers, so spend your money wisely – however, that may be.

Today’s tiny tip is for those who get random creative ideas DURING lessons. I don’t know about you, but my memory can be fleeting, so I can’t tell you the number of times I had the tiniest idea creep into my mind while teaching. It’s inevitable that If I don’t write it down – I will forget, so I have for years kept post-it notes next to my teaching area. There’s often a little stack of 2 or 3 ideas I’ve jotted down in quick short-form while teaching. Sometimes the ideas get tossed, and sometimes they turn into great things.

So, be prepared to accommodate and capture the random moments when great ideas appear in your mind.