So much so, I’ve actually developed a favorite.
Alfred Publishing publishes some of the best scores. In addition to providing histories and performance tips at the start of its books, Alfred also gives detailed annotations throughout. Its typesetting is also some of the most readable, favoring wide spacing and sizable staffs.
And the music is offered in multiple varieties — you can get just the first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, or the complete sonata itself, or the sonata compiled with his other piano works.
G. Schirmer is perhaps the oldest and most established sheet music publisher, but I’ve found some of my old books from 20 years ago clunky — odd measure breaks between pages and staffs, tiny typesetting and oftentimes a lack of supplementary material.
Hal Leonard is the popular music arm of Schirmer, and they publish some of the worst books. Back in 1984, my only copy of Duran Duran’s Arena (arranged for piano/voice/guitar) fell apart because of lousy binding. It’s the same binding Hal Leonard on most of its Broadway books, and it’s still used to this very day.
I could never mark up Hal Leonard books with fingering because I feared bending the spine would make them fall apart. The Alfred scores I’ve bought in the last few weeks, on the other hand, use staple binding, and I can mark those scores up no problem.
Of course, when it comes to sheet music shopping in Austin, Alpha Music Center near campus is the place to go. It’s a tiny shop, but it’s packed with just about everything. It’s an effort to leave without buying anything. (Kind of like Waterloo Records.)
My only gripe — inconvenient hours. Alpha Music closes right in the middle of rush hour traffic, and I’m not anxious to fight my way back to MoPac from 29th and Guadalupe. I work two Saturdays a month, so the lack of Sunday hours is a drag.
The selection over at Strait Music Co. is nothing to sneeze at either, but I really can’t stand how they sort pieces by title instead of composer. The bigger volumes of piano works are sorted by composer, but individual pieces are lumped into odd levels of categories by title. A search for Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune turned up different editions of the piece in two different areas, neither of which suited me.
Strait is also closed on Sundays, but they’re open late enough for me to stop by on the way home, which is literally around the corner.