Sheet Music – How Music was viewed and consumed in the early 19th century

So, we go back in the first half of the 19th century, the times between 1900’s and 1950’s, where the concept of sheet music was common.

Sheet music, or music sheets, is a page where musicians and song writers used to write down the chords & musical notes along with the lyrics of the song. Music sheets are the one which we see the conductor of an orchestra band referring to while the band is in session.

Well, the interesting thing about this simple piece of paper is that it beholds a history of music, a way of life that has changed in the last century.  We are talking about the time in the 19th century, before the birth and rise of Rock and Roll culture, before the wake of Elvis, the song was more important than the performer. Confused?

See, the current times are very different from what music was 100 years back. To understand why it is said that in the early 19th century, the song was more important than the performer, lets view these examples;

Current Time:

Oh, Elvis sang this song! So cool right…!!!

So, Beatles came up with this song, that song’s pretty good I say.

Heard Bon Jovi’s latest song? Isn’t it wonderful..!!!

Oh my sweet God, Bryan Adams, his latest song just melts my heart..!!!

Nearly 100 years back:

This new song, ‘Under the Mistletoe,” is a fine song. I wonder how it would sound if Elvis sang this song.

Beatles may not be able to sing that song well.  Oh but Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams are perfect for that song.

Let’s play the song tonight!

Surprising, isn’t it? So back then, nearly every household in US had a piano, and two or three members of the family would know how to play the piano. In those days, most of the posh localities had a local store, known as ‘5 and a Dime’, that used to ‘sell’ sheet music. These stores would stock up hundreds of music sheets to be bought by urban audiences.

All one had to do was to walk down to the local 5 and a Dime store, browse through different songs, pick a few songs which may appeal to you, pay for its worth, and start playing those songs in your next social gathering

Considering the fact that a lot of people back then knew how to play the piano, it isn’t hard to judge the popularity of sheet music. Another reason why such was a trend in the market is also for a simple logic that one may know how to play the piano, but one may not necessarily come up with their own compositions!

One interesting piece of information about this era of ‘Sheet Music’  is that in high-end and posh localities, these 5 and a Dime stores would have an in-house piano, all set with a pianist, only so that one can hear the song before one purchases it!!

Compare this situation to the current times, where we have practically stopped buying music, and everything is now streamed online.

Incredible change in 100 years!

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