Don’t buy from

Update: There used to be an unhappy blog post about my experience with from 2009 here, but I don’t know if any of it is relevant or not anymore. If you are looking for open-source software for music notation, I encourage you to check out MuseScore.

42 Responses to “Don’t buy from”

  1. Piano instrumental writes:

    you are right, the system from musicnotes is very frustrating! I made similar experiences!

  2. Nathan writes:

    I couldn’t agree more. A couple of years ago, a girl whom I was teaching piano asked if I could teach her a favourite song of hers, Never Alone by Barlowgirl. I searched the internet first for free sheet music, found nothing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a song by Schubert or Gershwin that she wanted to learn, so the option I found was Just the one piece, and for 5 dollars. As opposed to option 2, which was to by an entire book of sheet music from the artist, and have it shipped. Looking back now, I suppose I should have ordered that and have her cough up the money, then she’d have a whole book of songs to learn in the future. But I just bought the one song and paid for it myself. I printed it, which went fine. Because the music looked so ugly, I actually put in each note myself into Finale, condensing a 10 page score into I think 5 or 6 pages. Musicnotes stretches out the notes so wide in what is probably an attempt to make it more legible, ironically making it less legible. I like it when the notes are closer together. I didn’t put in the lyrics though. In a few days I’ll be going to her graduation party, and as we are going to different colleges, I was going to PRINT OUT A SECOND ORIGINAL VERSION FOR HER, WITH THE LYRICS. And it only printed out the first page. Then I read this article… I will never purchase from musicnotes again. Now I’m going to scan in and create a digital backup version for her. I mean, really, if you’re going to college, all of the chaos surrounding moving all of your belongings… the chances of keeping an 11 page score intact aren’t great, and it is the only existing version. Are you aware of They use .pdf files, come with actual midi files, and look comparatively nicer. And yet it seems musicnotes has more public recognition. Go figure. Sorry for rambling on! It’s good you posted this.

  3. EP writes:

    i just bought something from them and wish i had read this blog post first!!

  4. Richard writes:

    My 10-year-old-son wanted the sheet music to “In The Mood.” After going through the whole procedure of installing their software, and then purchasing the score, I tried to print it. The printer malfunctioned, and only half the sheets were legible. I checked the printer ink, and tried again, only to find, to my dismay, that only the first sheet would print. I tried everything I could think of, but still, only one of three sheets would print. I then read the FAQ’s, and saw that you get one–and only one–shot at printing. If your printer malfunctions, you’re out of luck. They should warn people BEFORE purchasing of this fact. If I had seen that, I would never have bought from them. I sent a complaint via email to them, asking for my money back. If I don’t get a satisfactory response, I will dispute the charges with my credit card company.

  5. Rebecca French writes:

    They’re very accommodating, when music doesn’t print correctly, if you call tech support, 800-944-4667. I’ve reprinted several times because of printer malfunctions.

  6. Music Lover writes:

    Actually, there is a way to get an electronic pdf copy if you know how, at least on the Mac OS. Not that this makes it worth buying–the hassle is way, way too high anyway, but if you are desperate, as I was a week or two ago, here is how to get an electronic copy.

    Unfortunately, you still need to use their software.

    1. Start printing as normal
    2. Click, “print now” or whatever it is.
    3. When your printer window comes up, click “Hold” or “Pause Printer”–You are temporarily stopping the job!
    4. Open the terminal window
    5. Type “sudo ls -ltrh /var/spool/cups”

    The system may ask you for your password. Go ahead and type it in.

    A list of files with gibberish titles will go by, it will look something like this, but possibly much longer:

    -rw——- 1 root _lp 2.4K Jan 24 14:27 c00477
    -rw——- 1 root _lp 2.8K Jan 24 20:43 c00478
    -rw——- 1 root _lp 2.4K Jan 24 21:31 c00479
    -rw——- 1 root _lp 2.4K Jan 24 22:23 c00480
    -rw——- 1 root _lp 2.4K Jan 24 22:23 c00476
    -rw-r—– 1 root _lp 185K Jan 24 21:10 d00481-001
    drwxrwxr-x 13 root _lp 442B Jan 24 21:11 cache
    -rw——- 1 root _lp 2.2K Jan 24 21:11 c00481
    drwxrwx–T 2 root _lp 68B Jan 24 21:28 tmp

    Note the current time. Find an item in the list with a time stamp within the past few minutes. It should be somewhat large. In this case, it is the one from Jan 24, at 21:11. Note the filename. In this case, it is “d00481-001”


    sudo cp /var/spool/cups/d00481-001 ~/check.pdf

    A file named, “check.pdf” will appear in your home folder.

    Now, use the Preview application to open that file–“check.pdf” in your home folder. If you have done these steps correctly, the file will be your score. You may want to rename it to something more intelligent. But you are done.

    This pdf file can be freely copied and printed. You should only use it for personal use though.

  7. eric writes:

    See, that could probably be generalized into a spool-monitoring script that automatically copies all of your printouts to the Desktop, making electronic backups of your printouts really easy.

  8. Benno writes:

    Music Lover, you made my day! I panicked when I installed Musicnotes’ stupid plugin and couldn’t save as PDF, and tried to hunt around for a virtual printer for OSX to no avail. Now I have my pdf so I can play from my screen (I don’t have a printer).
    Great trick for saving prints too!

  9. Jack writes:

    Yeah, I just tried to buy music from them.
    Waste of $5.
    Thanks for the links though. 🙂

  10. Mark Gorrin writes:

    I bought 2 pieces from Toy Story 3 for my son. I installed their software hoping that when the time came to print I would be able to send it to a PDF….. well, they have gotten smart, their software blocks access to your PDF printer.

    The quality of the print-out from my laser printer is quite acceptable, but since I want to be able to have a digital backup, I brought it to work to scan, unfortunately during the scanning process you lose quality, even though I setup the quality to highest, it leaves a lot to be desired.

    I am a programmer by day and I fully understand the need to protect your product from illegal copying, but as usual the attempt to protect a product affects the paying customer.

    I doubt I would be buying anything else from musicnotes.

  11. goatslayer writes:

    I fell for it too. I was desperate for a single page of A4 sheet music. A really nice piece so grudgingly went for rather than ordering the book it was taken from. I hadn’t read this blog post and now have a file that I can’t use as I don’t have a printer. I was hoping to PDF it from their software and take it into work to print. nm.

    I won’t use again.

  12. Musicnotes « queroumpasteldenata writes:

    […] Se querem comprar partituras na Musicnotes, leiam este artigo primeiro: Vou resumir: […]

  13. Musicnotes (English version) « queroumpasteldenata writes:

    […] take it you can read in english if you are reading this, so be sure to read this article to know what I’m talking […]

  14. Daniel F writes:

    MusicNotes are nothing but a bunch of AHOLES.
    They’ve screwed me over twice with there rubbish software, rubbish quality and rubbish printing system.


  15. Darren writes:

    Won’t print to pdf. Rip off. Bless my daughter’s heart for having me purchase the sheet music for her friend, instead of copying it from the book of sheet music which I had previously purchased. So here’s what I’m going to do. Now that I’ve purchased another copy of the sheet music, since Music notes won’t let me save it as a pdf, I’m going to make a copy from the book so my daughter can give it to her friend.

  16. dt writes:

    I have Acrobat Pro installed on my Mac. The print dialog’s “Print to PDF” worked fine for me. Perhaps MusicNotes has relented on multiple copies. FWIW, my music was legible and usable. I auditioned with it and got the part.

  17. Daniel writes:

    Most of the printer drivers allow you to print/save to a pdf file. That’s what I did and that works. You’re right, MusicNotes sucks, I wish I hadn’t purchase anything from them, even their ipad viewer is not good and doesn’t allow you to recover thepuchased PDFfile after sync..

  18. Mark Matthews writes:

    They have an iPad app that allows you to view the songs on ipad. Not the best format.. but ..

  19. Peeved writes:

    I can understand their DRM policy. What I don’t like is how they blatantly lie about what you are going to receive until you purchase it and then the description changes and you are told you don’t actually get a download. I am happy to support musicians and pay for their work. I am not happy to be lied to by this scummy company.

    Also the scores are not accurate, I wanted to buy a score to get the notation for all the fills and variations in a song but the file just showed the same repeating figure for the whole song.

    Completely worthless fraud. I think their business model counts on people not asking for refunds since it’s just $5.

    If they honestly described what I would actually get I could have made an informed decision on if I wanted to buy it. But they lied. I would bet they don’t actually pay royalties either based on how fraudulent their product descriptions are. If they will lie to their customers they will lie to the rights holders.

  20. Edmund writes:

    I absolutely love musicnotes.

    The plugin is great. It is miles better than Sibelius Scorch, which is the only other option for this kind of digital music distribution. Scorch was fussy, is not really supported any more, and doesn’t run on 64-bit systems. I really appreciate that musicnotes went to the trouble to write their own alternative.

    Musicnotes allows me to buy – almost! – any song I want without having to hunt down a compilation book and pay for a bunch of other music I don’t need. I can pick between a bunch of different arrangements – some of which are awful (I wasn’t impressed with ‘singer pro’) but some are great.

    The single printout restriction is understandable given the way music copyright works. Get a cheap laser printer and print on quality paper and it is almost as good as a professionally printed copy.

    IMSLP is an amazing project and is wonderful for public domain music but there’s an entire century of musical innovation still under copyright.

    Yes, DRM is bad and the length of copyright is crazy. I would be the first to argue for reforming it, but there will probably always be copyright restrictions on at least some music. I think musicnotes’ ‘pay per printout’ model is reasonable. For me at least it has been just like buying physical sheet music, but with the choice of millions of songs all available immediately.

    The only thing that annoys me about musicnotes is when I type in a song name and I find out that no-one has published the sheet music for it!

  21. Jon Polden writes:

    I too, can’t see what people are complaining about. If you go to a shop to buy music you only get one copy unless you pay for more. I have used musicnotes a lot and am quite satisfied. I can see the music, transpose it (usually) if I wish to and have had no problems with them if printing has failed.
    Sometimes they don’t have what I want so I go to other sites and may find what I’m looking for there.
    What is the problem? It seems from the comments here that people want a lot for free. I agree that sometimes the layout is not the best but I have never bought anything I couldn’t use. And as for making another copy – that’s what a copier is for!
    My major difficulty is that there are times when a piece I would like is not available for me as I live in the UK.

  22. ladyplf writes:

    I’ve shopped at for music since 2003 but recently I discovered that they changed to a “sync” scheme that means you have to use their software online in order to use the music you bought. This makes the music totally locked to a single pc and useless. The point of digital music was so you could have it on any pc or a flash drive to take with you instead of paper. And looking at the price of my first purchase in 2003 compared to the price of music now I realize that they are gouging me to boot. $5 for songs that other sites charge $3.99? see ya!

  23. Anonymous writes:

    I had to respond to this because most of these comments are from clueless people. I work at Musicnotes in customer service and I dela with a lot of these morons daily, who think they own the music that they purchase on our site. To clarify, when you purchase sheet music you are paying for the ink and paper for the number of copies that you purchase.

    We have agreements with many publishers and, in order to abide by these agreements, we cannot sell sheet music in PDF format. If we did so, the publishers would cut us off immediately as they demand that we either use Scorch (which we used to do for many of our files due to Hal Leonard’s insistance), or our Musicnotes (.mtd) file format. They demand that we use a system that allows only one SUCCESSFUL print per purchase for regular Musicnotes files in order to dicourage copyright law violation (Note that Musicnotes Editions files [Public domain works] include unlimited prints with purchase).

    I emphasize “successful” because some people here have complained that they tried to print, were unable to, and now are mad at us because we “took” their money. We don’t know if you were unable to print your music unless you contact us. We have a dedicated customer service department (7 reps and growing) to handle these issues promptly.

    About sites offering PDF copies of sheet music – Sites can only do this if the arrangement is in the public domain. If you do not know what public domain is, Google it to find out so you don’t look like a dumbass when you contact us to bitch about why you didn’t get a PDF from us. Rather than offer sheet music in the .mtd format and PDF format, we leave everything in the .mtd format so you can play our files back using the Musicnotes Player program (For PCs) or the Musicnotes Cloud player/viewer (For Mac and PC). We also have mobile apps that you can access your Musicnotes Files and PDFs (PDF feature is currently only available for iOS devices). Why not offer our Musicnotes Editions files in both .mtd and PDF? If we did this we would then need to make duplicates of all of our Musicnotes Editions files and revamp the website. In addition, we get A LOT more responses from customers who love our Musicnotes playback capabilities than we do from customers who just want a PDF of their music.

    If sites are offering PDFs of non-public domain songs, they are doing so illegally. No music publisher would allow this as it enables the end user to print unlimited copies of their arrangements. The MPA (Music Publisher’s Association) is constantly on the lookout for sites offering copyrighted PDFs.

    What about the people who complain that it’s hard to print their music? Since this is a constantly evolving industry, our company has changed the way customers print their music. In the past you needed the Musicnotes Viewer browser plugin in order to print music from our site. Currently, and for about the past year, our print page uses Adobe Flash Player to print. ALL YOU NEED TO HAVE INSTALLED IS A CURRENT VERSION OF ADOBE FLASH PLAYER. Note that our free monthly downloads still require the Musicnotes Viewer plugin to be installed on your computer. Our tech team is working on revising the printing process for these files, but I’m not sure when they plan on having that complete. Also, the Musicnotes Player program includes the Musicnotes Viewer plugin, so you do not need to download both the Player and the Viewer. One more thing, if you are experiencing problems printing using one browser, try using a different browser before freaking out. You may have some little box checked deep in your browser’s settings that is not allowing Flash Player to work properly. Don’t contact us thinking it must be our fault and that your computer and printer are working perfectly. If everything works fine but your printer is printing gibberish only when printing music, try updating your printer drivers as they may be out of date.

    Regarding the above engraving of ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ that’s a matter of personal preference. If you want an edition that’s easier to read and less busy, go with ours. If you prefer a more crowded arrangement that is more difficult to read, go with the bottom arrangement.

    The author of this article is pretty clueless with respect to copyright law and publisher restrictions, as well as our site. I’m not sure how accurate he is on our printing process since I wasn’t a user of the site when this article was published. To clarify, you do not have to print your music immediately after purchase. You can print it right after you buy it, or 6 years from when you buy it, it doesn’t matter, just keep in mind that for regular Musicnotes files you only get one successful print.

    What if I print my music in the wrong key? All you need to do is contact us and we can give you an additional print so you can receive your desired key. Note that copyright law considers each key an individual purchase requiring payment so you will need to throw out your original print. If you want to have an arrangement in multiple keys you will need to purchase the song multiple times.

    Finally, if you really want to bitch about DRM and not being able to have a PDF of your music, there is one really simple thing you can do: SCAN YOUR MUSIC AS A PDF IMMEDIATELY AFTER PRINTING SO YOU HAVE A BACKUP COPY!

    I hope this information helped clear up some things.

  24. Rebecca writes:


    Do you know if I can correct this glitch: when musicnotes changed its format, all my music (100’s) that I had scanned as pdf’s lost their titles. So now it is impossible to search for my music as they’re all called ‘untitled.’ Do I need to rescan all of that music or is there a way to rename the music?

  25. Sdogga writes:

    Thank you very much for this. I bought some music from musicnotes, and only afterwards did i realise what a ridiculous deal it was. Unfortunately now, i’m stuck with either downloading their crappy software or attempting a print. either that, or reading of my ipod, the only real portable device i have capable of running it. all in all i am dissapointed, and i agree with you. I won’t be buying from music notes any more. However, is print-screening a good option? Is it possible to view the music in some full screen way with the software and then doing some fancy foot-work with say photoshop or even word to make it full page? i know it won’t be perfect but i just want either the paper or the damn pdf. But anyway, thank you!

  26. Joel writes:

    The anonymous employee of musicnotes is the moron. I was unable to print even a single time the music I purchased because it crashed when I was trying. Their customer support doesn’t respond to my email, but they still have my money. I’m going to look into reversing the charges.

  27. anonymouse writes:

    I love the comment by the anonymous musicnotes support drone. It’s very typical attitude of tech support to trash the customer.

    I too fell for the one-time print restriction, which wasn’t evident until I spent money. Sorry musicnote drone but I’m not a copyright expert. I buy digital works so I don’t have to worry about filing reams of paper for safe-keeping.

    Fer instance, I just went back to print something in which my paper copy was no longer in existence. No, I wasn’t trying to make illegal copies for distribution. Now, you say that if I bought printed sheet music and lost it, I’d just have to buy it again because I’m paying for ink and paper. Well, guess what? You want five bucks for giving me the privilege of using my own ink and paper. Very weak sauce.

    BTW, on Windows, for saving a personal digital copy that you can print from at will, print to XPS Document format. After that, you can print hard copies or convert to PDF by printing to that format.

    I hope everyone has a happy DRM-free holiday.

  28. PhillyInDC writes:

    I do pay for musicnotes for the pure reason that paying $5 for a song in an approriate key for me or my students is well worth it than having to transcrive it to Finale. But ONLY if I need it in an alternate key. And on my Mac, i have always been able to save as a PDF which I do every time and have never had a problem

  29. Pianist writes:

    You can use the music notes software for windows to make PDF copy of their digital .mtd files easily on Windows 7.
    Here are the steps:

    1. Open the software and open a piece of music which you would like to print.

    2. Click on File>Print and print window will popup.

    3. On the popup window, there should be a drop down list to select printers.

    4. Click on the drop down list, and click on print to file, or Print to PDF.

    5. Click on print, then windows should prompt you to save a .pdf file.

    6. Pick a location to save the PDF

    7. Open the PDF with Adobe Reader and voila a complete sheet music

    I am not infringing copyrights here, I am just pissed off that they are making money off composed music with DRM.

    They did not compose the music, they simply turn the sheet music into digital format, then made money off by duplicating the digital file.

    Musicians are pissed off when their songs get downloaded off the internet as Mp3, and they think their copyrights have been infringed. But I think the person who composed the music are the one who actually owns the copyright.

    I know Beethoven and Mozart wouldn’t be happy about this :P. But I doubt they can take musicnotes to court. I too bought some sheet music, and then I realised that after purchasing it, I could only print like 2 copies. But Musicnote is duplicating it for god know how many times. Just fkn pisses me off.

  30. Scruff writes:

    To add to what Pianist wrote, you can use any PDF print driver. I use BullZip.

    What MusicNotes fails to see, is that there are perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting copies, such as education. I wanted to submit sheet music with an assignment for a course I’m studying. I therefore need a file – not a physical print.

    So what did I do? Print in the original key to PDF. Then their website asked if it printed successfully? So, I obviously said no. Then printed a PDF in another key … and so on. In the end, I got the song in 5 different keys before their website said no more prints – contact customer support.

    I say screw them. If I bought it, then I’m perfectly entitled to make a copy for educational purposes. That’s the law. They tried to stop me from doing that, so I screwed them back.

  31. JennyLeah writes:

    I’ve never had any qualms or issues about purchasing from MusicNotes. DRM doesn’t bother me tremendously. I don’t mind installing the plugin – it’s as inconvenient as installing Adobe Flash. SheetMusicPlus is similarly bound by DRM requirements for digital copies, and I don’t see anyone dragging their name through the mud.

    Also, there’s nothing stopping you, the buyer, from printing directly to PDF (BullZip is a great PDF print driver for Windows, PDFWriter is a great example for Macs), or print once and scan as a PDF. It’s like magic!

    And ultimately, who cares how many times you can print directly from a digital file? Once it’s been printed, you can photocopy it – which is exactly what consumers have done with hard copies for decades! And while it’s still, technically, a violation of the copyright agreement, the industry at large knows there’s not a damn thing they can do about it, or they’d have developed an ink that defied the photocopy by now. Just sayin’.

    So print to PDF AND print a hard copy that can be photocopied. Voila! Multiple copies, and a re-printable digital copy all at once. It’s like magic, but not anywhere close to it.

  32. Gary writes:

    I don’t quite see the fuss about only getting one print. If I pay £2.50 in a music shop, I get one piece of music in my hands. If I need 40 copies for my choir I pay £100. If I want to make illegal copies (I don’t as it happens, because I believe in intellectual property, and composers being paid for their work) I just use a photocopier.

    The main disadvantage to home printing is paper size, and that has nothing to do with Scorch/Musicnotes. Most choral music is printed on B4 but you can’t buy that size. A4 is just a bit too big to handle.

  33. Alex writes:

    I was just trying to save my bought music sheet to a file. Nothing worked.
    I was able to select my printer “brother hl2030” in the drop down menu of the printing menu, but when I selected “pdf creator” the flash plug-in from crashed (everytime I tried).
    Next try was selecting my printer and “print to file”. Didn’t work, there was a warning that the file could not be opened.
    Then I started the print on my printer and tried to hold or pause the print job. Unfortunately, there weren’t any print jobs in the print job menu that I could have paused.
    Summarized: I was not able to circumvent the “copy protection”.

  34. TimeForAChange writes:

    Wake up and smell the iTunes model MusicNotes!!!!

    If you make it easy and cost effective for people to buy additional copies of music, “most” people will choose to be honest and do just that. This model makes way more money than shooting everyone including yourself in the face with DRM crap.

    The PDF format has become almost universal and there are many sites that make music available for digital download in PDF format. These sites may have specific arrangements with music publishers, but some even offer permission to make up to 5 copies of the music INCLUDED with in the price of your original PDF download. WOW!

    Checkout as a example.

  35. ben writes:

    As a workaround for Windows, open the application select print, when it comes to selecting the printer choose Microsoft XPS Document Writer OR if you have Microsoft OneNote installed, print to OneNote, then from there print as many copies as you like.

  36. T. writes:

    I actually find their scores a lot more legible. The example you gave was pretty bad. Musicnotes’ version looks so much cleaner and still maintains all the original markings. Also, sheet music is purchased with the intent of being played by humans. Don’t blame them for only playing simple notation.

    Also, you can literally just print the score to PDF and reprint it as many times as you want. Alternatively, when they ask if your score printed correctly in the application, just click no and they’ll let you print it again. I’ve yet to actually say I have a successful print.

  37. Andy writes:

    As ben stated above, He has a windows machine which I guess lets you print to XPS.doc. I have a MAC and any time you buy the music immediately print on the drop down, and click save to PDF. Then you can save it to flash memory and have it for as long as you keep the PDF file. This cancels out the idea that you can only print it once.

  38. Jared writes:

    Musicnotes workers steals from amateur arrangers and sell their work without paying back.

    Their arrangements in fact don’t get along with the real instrumental tracks of the songs. It’s a shame to ask 6 dollars for such a low quality of work. Seems like they jazz-trained and cannot deal with pop or rock bass lines.

  39. R.M. writes:

    070717 Very informative, good article. Just got off phone, from asking if they can print the music a bit larger. She said she had had this same Q yesterday, but in answer to my additional Q, said no, she doesn’t get asked the Q I asked very often.

    The answer was no. As much as we pay, I said IMO they ought to be a bit more flexible, noting that differences in vision is a worthy consideration &, for whatever reason, someone might prefer larger print. I told her the guitar chords are on the small side IMO, asking her to make a note that I as customer, am requesting this option.

    She said if I use larger than 8.5″x11″ paper in the printer, the printout will automatically adjust, printing out a magnified copy to fit the page. That’s not what I was going for; and when I said I could copy it enlarged at a copy center myself, she said due to copyright law, it would be unlawful.

    I told her it seems it should be okay since I’ve already paid for it. She straightened me out on that also . . . I’ve paid for (1) copy, she said (i.e., regardless of how small or illegible the font, and how tough the chords might be to make out as I try to play the piece thru).

    I think enlarging and darkening would be (2) controls I’d change, if I were legally allowed to copy these onto the SAME size paper; you know — to avoid the stress & strain of trying to make out the notes within chords, so I can finesse the song a bit better . . .

    Like I told her, if anything’s going to change, someone has to say something . . .

    She was good to mention page magnifiers might be available at a copy center. It isn’t likely how I want to proceed however.

  40. Rapido writes:

    I needed a second copy for a different transposed version of the score, but I had to pay again! Terrible policy.
    I found out screenshots are possible on the iPad app. I used this way to have a second, transposed, version of a score. It gives some hassle to open de screenshots in, let’s say MS Word, and export it to PDF. But I managed to do so.
    Never going to buy again from Musicnotes

  41. Arran Boyd writes:

    If you want all the prints you could want just save it to a PDF when you go to print it.

  42. Darren writes:

    I’ve got a number of songs from Musicnotes and had no problems at all. Usually I download the PDF version of the song and then put it into MuseScore that way I’ve always got a copy I can just tell MuseScore to print off at any time (plus in musescore you can add additional information, use different instruments, etc).

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