Public Domain Music


The music presented among these webpages, especially from the 19th century popular styles, was and continues to be a source of melodic inspiration in my further appreciation of much of its "simplicity" despite its "square" harmonic progressions and strophic, and typically very repetitive, song forms. The chance to experiment with various arranging options as well as MIDI controller mix settings has also greatly interested me. My initial interest in it was because of my interest in composition and developing my sense of melodic phrasing development and more so in writing for vocal choruses.

I began the initial contents here from transcribing and arranging the music of Stephen Collins Foster, from just the fourty songs from the Stephen Foster Song Book and ultimately to complete the sequencing of all of his music from the definitive edition of his music in The Music of Stephen C. Foster: A Critical Edition. From there I decided to get and sequence the songs from The Civil War Songbook. Both books increased my appeciation of hearing the original sheetmusic sources for the songs they contained. Although I do occasionally add, what I consider complimentary parts, to the original music, the original music is always included in my MIDI file arrangements unmodified. MIDI track names are clearly prefixed by "(BRT)" when they are added by me. That songbook interested me more in pursuing the works of the main composers I started sequencing music by, namely: George Frederick Root, Henry Clay Work, and Henry Tucker. Because of my appreciation for their work and the considerable variety of it, as well as the quantity of it (much more, in the case of George Root than I realized!), I was inclined to add more dedicated composer webpages and being especially impressed by the songbook Popular Songs of Nineteenth-Century America.

The online digitized collections especially at John Hopkin's University's Levy Collection of Sheet Music and the Library of Congress' American Memories websites have been major sources of the sheetmusic I've been able to obtain which I highly recommend others consider discovering the enormous musical and cultural content available among them.

Some outstanding reference resource books I have been able to obtain, have considerably helped me provide more definitive composer and lyricist info as well as a detailed history of American popular music. I highly recommend the following for anyone's further knowledge of such subjects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Some frequently asked questions, as well as some I'd anticipate getting, are provided answers below. If anything is not answered here, feel free to email me.

  1. May I use your MIDI files?

    Please see my Sales Catalog for more info.

  2. May I use your lyric text files?

    Yes. All lyrics posted here are fully in the Public Domain, and do not need any permission for use. There are no restrictions on their use. If there are any errors, please let me know. Please note that my sheet music sources, if not listed on the affected webpage, are most likely to be listed in my TXT files. If they are not, email me, I always include my sources in my Finale transcriptions of them.

  3. Do you accept song requests?

    I accept song requests freely, only for public domain music (i.e. pre-1923); but give higher priority for those to be used for webpages (as background music), and thus, besides sending you a completed copy, they will also be subject to posting among my appropriate webpages.

  4. Will you be adding a webpage for .... in the future?

    The current composer webpages are my main interest which have my highest priority to complete before considering adding any other pages. At this time I am somewhat overwhelmed with the workload I self-volunteered giving myself ;->), nevertheless, I continue to enjoy hearing and discovering old, yet "new" songs to my ears.

  5. How may I obtain the sheetmusic?

    Check the TXT file of the lyrics which in most cases lists my online source. For those which don't, email me to ask the source I used. As I create Finale files of all my transcriptions, I occasionally post my version at the Finale Showcase site which you can play and print out using the freely available Finale Notepad application from the FinaleMusic website. For sales of my Finale engraved scores please see my PD Music Sales Catalog for more info.

  6. What is public domain music?

    Public domain music in the United States is music originally copyrighted (currently) prior to and including 1922. DISCLAIMER: this is NOT legal advice. If in doubt, always seek legal advice. Visit the U.S. Copyright Office's website for more info. Please note that the source music used is indeed in the Public Domain, but the MIDI files are all copyrighted by me. You must have my permission to use them. See above.

  7. What is my link exchange policy?

    My link exchange policy is to do so only with sites whose contents only contain Public Domain media files such as: TXT, DOC or PDF (lyrics); MID (MIDI data); WAV, WMA, MP3 -- digitized audio; or PDF, TIF, JPG, GIF, PNG -- digitized scores.

  8. What software and hardware do you use?

    (1) I initially trancribe and arrange all songs with Finale in which I usually include MIDI implementations of all score markings, such as articuations, dynamics, tempo indications, and text markings (such as verse, chorus, interlude). I use a "template" file which also includes my current preferences for the indiviual part's setup of their expression controllers and patch assignments. These currently include controller values for volume, panning, reverb and chorus, and occasionally modulation.

    (2) I then save a MIDI version of the song for further editing in Cakewalk Pro Audio [or SONAR] in which I: set the PPQN to 96 (from Finale's default of 1024); set all durations (above a 32nd note) to 88% of their values; set drum note durations to 5 or 8 clock-ticks; offset the time of all program changes before their effective note applied value, to improve start-time playback; include a GM System On bank message for auto-loading with the file; correct all markers (by updating for example the specific verses intended, etc.); and add track name decriptive info as well as copyright info and credits to the file. NOTE: my own "complimentary" track names are always prefixed with (BRT). Some may use either (BB) or (JAM) indicating that they were created with either Band-in-a-Box or Jammer Pro.

    (3) All playback is done optimally for any General MIDI Level 1 device [the Roland SC-88 or Yamaha MU80 are my current "mastering" synths] to allow maximum portablily of the music, unless I include Track info data suggesting otherwise.

  9. Should I email my questions/comments or use your Guestbook?

    Positive and constructive comments are most appropriate for my Guestbook. Questions and song requests are best for email. Please try a search "engine" before asking me something first. Some search engines on the web are Engine54; Google; and Teoma. Also, if you are searching for song titles, composers, first lines of lyrics, etc, a very convenient feature of the search engine site is to use a site restricted search string like the following
    I use it often myself for its extreme convenience, especially of text file lyric searches!

  10. Do you want error reports (spelling, facts, link, etc.)?

    Absolutely! And they will be fixed immediately. The larger my site grows, the more prone it is to have unknown and unreported errors. Your help in reporting any errors would be greatly appreciated.

  11. Don't you think original music is more important to spend time on than transcriptions and arrangements?

    I hope my answer provides some insight to others, who might be similarly inclined. My growth as a composer has been with mixed feelings due too a lifelong "conflict" with performance (guitar and bass) versus composing and arranging preferences. To the extent that my growth is in fact stimulated and improved by my devotion to transcribing and arranging the "behavior" of "good" music, as the self-improvement "guru" Tony Robbins might advise, I believe the time is well spent in the discipline required to do so as well as contribute its invaluable aid to my overall ear training and its "better" behavior and discernment of what's "good." Otherwise, I do not "force" inspiration in my own work, but have found that, the "osmosis" of my daily efforts positively influencing my own creative imaginings however far and few they may be. My greater awareness, and appreciation, of my "past" influences are strong factors in my continued "cultivated" musical growth.

Webpage contents are
Copyright © 2000-2014 by Benjamin Robert Tubb.
All Rights Reserved.
Created on 27 February 2000.
Last updated 10 February 2014.