Finding and buying sheet music
As a music student you will need to source legal copies of your own music. Here are a few essential links to help you find the resources you need for your lessons. Please email the Music Department if you would like to recommend another source
Libraries and free sheet music online:
City Lit Library has instrumental and vocal sheet music, opera DVDs and online access to Grove Music.
Barbican Music Library [external website], where membership also gives you access to an array of online resources such as Naxos Music Library and Grove Music Online.
Westminster Music Library [external website] has a vast range of music scores, orchestral and chamber musc sets, books and recordings.
Holborn Library [external website] on Theobalds Rd has a smaller collection of music, books, CDs and DVDs, but can order items from other libraries in its network.
IMSLP-Petrucci Music Library is a treasure trove of music that is out of copyright, and includes parts for ensemble music, often with transpositions.
Denmark Street [external website], London’s famous ‘Tin Pan Alley’ c. 10 mins walk from Ciyt Lit, has numerous music shops including Music Room and Rose Morris (specialising in guitar and piano). Nearby are:
Foyles Book Shop [external website], one of the iconic Soho/Covent Garden bookshops, with huge premises on Charing Cross Rd, They have a huge range of books, sheet music, CDs and DVD, in all genres and styles of music.
Yamaha Music London [external website] in Wardour St, which has both sheet music, instruments and a wonderful showroom of pianos, including digital pianos.
Schott music [external website] in Soho, the official shop for Schott music publishers.
Travis and Emery [external website], near Leicester Square, sells second-hand music and books (including out-of-print publications and also some new books and their own publications.
Dots Music Shop [external website] in Camden carries all of the exam pieces you need and can advise on choosing instruments and repertoire.
Chimes [external website] has shops in The Barbican and Kensington, and offers a 10% discount for students (show your enrolment receipt).
Online stockists include:
ABRSM Shop [external website] is the official shop for the one the largest music exam board. Here you can buy their exam music collections, theory texts and workbooks, and a huge range of other instrumental and vocal music.
Forwoods ScoreStore [external website] offers an excellent range and educational discounts.
Specialist music suppliers include June Emerson Wind Music and the Early Music Shop [external website], for those interested in early music (Baroque and earlier).
Choosing your instrument
Renting an instrument
Renting is a great idea if you are just starting out, especailly for more expensive instruments such as cello, clarinet or piano. Many shops that have rental services will offer a rent-to-buy scheme, where they deduct your rental payments if you eventually buy your instrument from them.
Buying an instrument
An acoustic piano is best. We like Yamaha and Kawai pianos but there are very good deals on all sorts of second hand pianos. Visit Piano Auctions [external website] or Piano Warehouse [external website] to see what is on offer.
A keyboard or digital piano is fine for beginners up to about level 4. You can use headphones to play in private and they’re smaller and easy to store. Choose a model with full-size keys (not toy piano keys) and a full-length keyboard (88 keys). A good model from Yamaha is the Yamaha P-45 [external website]
There are several keyboard/digital piano shops with showrooms near City Lit, including Music Room, Rose Morris, Yamaha, Jacques Samuels and Peregrine’s Pianos [external websites]
Guitars (acoustic/classical) and ukulele:
Recommended starter guitars include the Yamaha F300 range (acoustic) and Yamaha C/CX series (classical), starting from c. £160 new. Remember, you may also need accessories: case, shoulder strap, tuner, capo, footstool, spare strings…
Good suppliers near City lit include London Guitar Studio, Footes and Rose Morris [external websites].
Drumkit and Percussion
All drummers need a pair of drumsticks (c. £10) and a practice pad (c.£15). A practice kit with rubber drumheads for quiet home playing starts at c. £170. A digital drumkit starts at £180, and if you have somewhere you can play on a full acoustic drumkit, one will cost you at least £200.
Good suppliers include Footes, Impact Percussion, and Gear4music [external websites]
Violins / Violas / Cellos
Prices for a decent student instrument start at c. £125 (violins), c.£200 (violas), c.£450 (cellos). These come with a bow in a case. Essential accessories: rosin (for your bow), cleaning cloth (any soft cotton fabric), spare strings, and for violin/viola a shoulder rest (many models and styles available).
For a good starter kit all way through to instruments for advanced players, in London visit Stringers and Guivier [external websites]. Bass Bags in Derbyshire offers hire and buy facilities [external website].
JPB Music and StringZone [external websites] have an excellent range of accessories for online order and delivery.
Accessories: spare reeds (clarinet, saxophone); cleaning cloth with rod, small screwdriver, joint grease (some instruments).
London Music Co, based in Haringey, offers woodwind instrument rental including hire-purchase, and repairs.
Yamaha Music London and many shops in Denmark Street sell woodwind and brass instruments.
Woodwind and Reed in Cambridge and Windology in Shropshire are wind instrument specialists, including a good second-hand range.
Early Music Shop [external website] for recorders and other Renaissance / Baroque instruments
Clarinets: advice from our teacher Ross Thomas
Recommended brands of student clarinet are Yamaha (YCL255S Bb Student Clarinet), Buffet (Prodige Bb Clarinet) or Jupiter (JCL-700S-Q Bb), which all cost £450-£500. Cheaper models (under £200) are much lower quality and often don't have a satisfactory mouthpiece, which makes playing much harder. If you need a new mouthpiece, I recommend a Yamaha 4C (c. £35)
You can always look for a better brand second hand, or consider renting/rent-to-buy. Norman’s Clarinet Buyers Guide [external website] offers further good advice.
Inspection before buying
Always look at the instrument before buying it. Contact the seller and ask to view it first. If this is not possible, check the pictures carefully and allow for returns if it turns out to be damaged/not as described. If the 2nd hand clarinet doesn't have a branded mouthpiece then you will need to buy a new mouthpiece so factor this in.
If you have a rental clarinet already and are looking to purchase a second-hand one later, take your rental clarinet with you when looking at a second-hand one. Compare the two, and look out for the following problems:
Keys: check that all the long rods and keys are straight (even a slightly bent rod will need to be fixed by a repairer) and check the paddle keys at the bottom of the clarinet that look like this:
The bottom two should line up flat when you look at them from the side, like this: _ _
If they don't then that will need fixing also.
Pads: Push down/lift up the keys and look at the underside of the pads. They should be white/ivory coloured and shiny. If too many of them look dirty, discoloured, fluffy, cracked or missing then you will need a complete re-pad. However having one or two pads changed will not be expensive.
Dust and dirt: Have a look down the inside of the clarinet,at the plastic under the keys, and inside the holes where your fingers go down. If there is dust and grime it will need a clean. A little bit is manageable and you can clean it yourself lightly with pipe cleaners and a pull-through cloth.
Play it: Lastly, play it if you can, or ask the seller to play it. If you take a rental with you, compare the two in terms of sound and function. See if it makes a nice sound and feel the key movement to check if any are stiff or stuck. If so, they might be a bit bent or have parts missing.
In summary: If it looks like it needs a couple of news pads changed and/or a couple of keys fixed/springs replaced then factor that into the price; minor repairs would cost £20 - £50. So if you can find nice brand for £100 - £200 and need to spend £20 -£80 on repairs and new moutpiece, you could get a good instruments for much less than £400. However if it needs a complete clean and significant repairs, I would move on.
Useful accessories for all musicians
Accessories useful to all musicians include:
- metronome and tuner (you can get these as smartphone apps),
- cleaning materials for your instrument,
- music stand, and
- spare strings / reeds.