Tips for Finding Out of Print Music

In my previous post, I mentioned that Verne Reynolds’s Hornvibes: Three Duos for Horn and Vibraphone was out of print, and a little tricky to track down. Luckily this doesn’t happen too often, but it can be discouraging if you are looking toprogram a specific piece and can’t get your hands on it. However, with a little knowledge and perseverance, you’ll be able to find most works. In the case of the Reynolds, I was actually able to obtain it through a few different resources. One thing to be aware of when searching for out of print works is that copyright law still applies. Here’s some clarification on this issue from the University of Pittsburgh Library.

9. If a book is out of print, do I have to worry about copyright? Yes. If the book is not in the
public domain, the copyright is still in effect and should be respected. Permission would be required for copying large portions of the book. (See brevity question) One possible exception is in the case of replacing lost, stolen, or damaged materials. This is mentioned in University of Pittsburgh Policy 10-04-01: It is not permissible to copy an entire issue, volume or complete work. However a copy may be made for replacement purposes if the item has been lost, stolen, or damaged, and it has been determined that a copy is not available through normal trade sources at a fair price. Note that this is for replacement purposes only and would not be applicable for distribution purposes. Normal trade sources would include the out-of-print market in this case.

The gist is that even if a work is no longer in print, you should make every attempt to purchase it (on the used market) before resorting to any of the methods I’m about to mention. Even though I was already aware that Hornvibes was out of print, I still made the effort to see if a copy was available for purchase., a major retailer, clearly states that the work is “currently unavailable for purchase,” so no luck there. The used markets were no help either (at the time – see the end of this article for the most recent update). Sometimes publishers will offer a work on a “print on demand” basis, meaning that they will only print and sell a copy if there is a customer ready to purchase it. To my knowledge, the Reynolds is not available by print on demand either. So, what to do? In this case, there are a few options.

  • Library: This should be your first stop if you are unable to obtain a work through the above methods. If you can’t find something at first, ask a librarian! I’ve noticed that students are often far too willing to give up on a search if their first (or second attempt)
    fails, and without asking a librarian for assistance. If the piece you are searching for is particularly rare, you can check WorldCat to see how many libraries worldwide have the item. If your local library doesn’t have a copy, don’t give up yet! Consider an inter-library loan.
  • Inter-Library Loan: In my experience,this is one of the most under appreciated and under utilized library services, especially among undergraduate students. Setting up an account takes a matter of minutes, and with inter-library loan you have access to a much wider selection of materials. I’ve had great success using inter-library loans, but be aware that the process can take some time. If you need something tomorrow, inter-library loan is not the best way to go.
  • Colleagues/Teachers: Also a viable way to obtain things, but I still recommend the library route first, especially if you are a student. Consider it an exercise, and preparation for the day when your teachers (and their personal libraries) are not at your disposal. Having a good relationship with your colleagues also pays off too, especially if you need something quickly!
  • Email Lists/Social Networking: Many of the messages and posts on email lists and social networking sites begin with “Does anyone have a copy of…” and “Where can I find…” I’ve not used this method personally, but I assume it is somewhat successful or people wouldn’t continue to use it. Before asking for a free copy of something, though, be sure to check that you are in compliance with
    national and international copyright laws. Copyright laws vary widely, particularly between the U.S., Europe, and Asia, which further complicates the issue.
  • Public Domain Websites: Sites like imslp, Mutopia, and the Werner Icking Music Archive are wonderful resources (just to name a few), but they are not the be all and end all in music publishing. Since they deal mainly in public domain works, copyright restrictions aren’t as big an issue.

Have I missed anything? Have you obtained an out of print or otherwise difficult to find work through other, legal means? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

The postscript to this story is that after obtaining copies of HornVibes through inter-libary loan and the help of some colleagues (thanks Casey Maltese and Kristine Coreil!), I was able to find a used copy on eBay, which I promptly ordered. The price was great, and included free shipping too.


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The Hornvibes it’s one of those amazing pieces in the out of print arena. I’ve ordered it 5 times, in different websites, they accepted my order but then made me a refund because it was marked as out of print. Then suddenly one websit sold me, after trying and trying…
An other amazing piece out of print if the Sonatina for the horn and Piano by Jaroslav Kofron. I searched all over Prague, and went to the publisher, tht now was sold to an other company and could not find the piece and asked for copy from my teacher. It’s very sad that these gems go out of print…

James, great article as always. I am have a C. Kopprach question: What exactly did F. Gumbert and A. Frehse do to Book I & II for revisions for the 1939 Carl Fischer edition? And further, is it possible they would have started as early as 192 ,or 1930 on this effort? Finally, have you done a measure by measure comparison of the CF 1939 with the 1833 B & H edition? As ever, JPO

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