Sheet Music, DRM, Musicianship

On my way into campus today there was a dude with a keyboard serenading us Metro patrons with the Peanuts theme! Amazing.

I’ve been playing piano (to some degree) for almost 20(!) years now and I’ve never gotten around to figuring that song out. So I gave the guy some change, struck up a conversation with him, and he showed me the basic fingerings. “Yeah this is one of those magic tunes,” he said, “people love it!” But then he encouraged me to buy the sheet music…

Like, he was quite emphatic about it. “Don’t just go online and get it! Don’t even buy the PDF for a dollar! Go to the real website and buy it for full price!”

Now even though I have experienced a strong desire to learn this song in the past, I never once considered actually buying the music. Clearly one reason for this is that I’m cheap, but another is that it’s just patently unreasonable to pay full price — even more so given this dude’s situation: here’s an unkempt guy who may or may not be homeless, carrying around an old keyboard and a scruffy backpack of random other stuff, and he is apparently willing to pay more than necessary to some music publisher?

Perhaps he was a sheet music salesman in a clever disguise. Homeless or not, it just seems crazy that anyone would buy the music, let alone buy it for full price, online, with all of the intrusive DRM stuff built in.

But talking to this dude made me realize that I was also opposed to buying the sheet music on a personal level even. When I was a kid I would pore over sheet music and then memorize what I was playing, which was boring…and not a good way to learn to read music. Now that I am an adult (an assertion which calls for another parenthetical !) I take a certain amount of pride in being able to play jazz rather than classical, and to play by ear or with a lead sheet (a sheet that provides you with just the chords and basic melody of a song, allowing you to improvise and play the song however you like). For a jazzy song like this, sheet music just feels like sacrilege to me.

That said, I think I’m going to swallow my pride on this one. It is a tricky song. I’m going to take this guy’s suggestion and actually get the sheet music — since I’m sure I’ll forget how to play it by the time I get back home to the piano.

On the other hand, if anyone out there happens to be looking for gift ideas…

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