Public Domain Music: Seven Free Online Resources

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Music that has passed into the public domain is free and completely legal to download. Here are seven sources for free public domain music that you can use to download tons of great music onto your computer or digital audio device, expand your musical horizons, and discover a whole new world of music you might not have heard of before. 

Public domain and copyright laws are complicated and can change. While the sites outlined in this article have done the heavy lifting for you to make sure what they are offering is in the public domain, it's always best to read the fine print before downloading any music to protect yourself against any possible legal complications. The information contained in this article is intended for entertainment purposes only. 

International Music Score Library Project

International Music Score Library Project

 Jerri Collins

What We Like

  • Well regarded by academic institutions.

  • Free public domain sheet music downloadable as PDFs.

  • Scores searchable by instrumentation/genre, composers and time period.

What We Don't Like

  • Some user-uploaded scores may not be public domain.

  • Membership is needed to listen to commercial recordings.

The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)/Petrucci Music Library is a great resource for public domain music, with more than 460,000 music scores available at the time of this writing. Search by composer namecomposer period, check out the featured scores or browse the most recent additions. First editions of popular historical works can also be found here, as well as works distributed in a dozen different languages. 

Public Domain Information Project

What We Like

  • Contains public domain music published in 1923 and earlier.

  • Website can provide exact reprints of most public domain songs.

What We Don't Like

  • The website charges for sheet music reprints.

  • No sound recordings are in the public domain. They must be licensed for use.

The Public Domain Information Project is a great place to find a list of public domain songs and public domain sheet musicThe Public Domain Information Project was organized in 1986 to provide information about public domain music.

It provides carefully researched lists of Public Domain Music titles, PD Sheet Music Reprints, and PD Sheet Music Books. It offers the Music2Hues and Sound Ideas professional Royalty Free Music Libraries on CD and for download. In addition, PD Reference Materials, Digital PD Sheet Music on CD, and additional Royalty Free Sound Recordings by a carefully selected group of independent musicians are also found on this website. If you're looking for information that you can license as part of a personal or commercial project, this is a good place to find possible sources. 

ChoralWiki

What We Like

  • More than 30,000 free choral and vocal scores.

  • Supports translations in seven languages in addition to English.

  • Additional scores added regularly.

What We Don't Like

  • Website lacks a modern-looking interface.

  • Some scores may have restrictions on their use.

ChoralWiki, home of the Choral Public Domain Library, is a fantastic resource for anyone who's looking for some great public domain music. For example, you can search for music for Advent and Christmas, look at the entire Online Score catalog, or browse the ​Archives for what's been added month to month. Sacred music is categorized by season.

Musopen

What We Like

  • Downloadable sheet music and recordings.

  • Tax deductible paid plans include HD Radio

  • Classical-Radio mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.

What We Don't Like

  • Free account limited to five downloads per day.

  • High-definition recordings require a paid plan.

Musopen offers both public domain sheet music and public domain music. Musopen is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on increasing access to music by creating free resources and educational materials. They provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions. Their stated mission is to "set music free."

Freesound

What We Like

  • Sound of the Day.

  • Sounds available individually or in themed packs.

  • Active forum.

  • Supports MP3, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, and AIFF/WAV formats.

What We Don't Like

  • Must have Flash installed for previews.

  • Each sound carries one of three licenses that include unrestricted use, attribution required, and non-commercial use.

The Freesound Project is a little bit different than the other public domain resources on this list. Instead of sheet music or downloadable music, the Freesound Project offers a huge database of all kinds of sounds: birdsong, thunderstorms, voice snippets, etc. Freesound aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps released under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse. Freesound provides new and interesting ways of accessing these samples, allowing users to:

  • Browse the sounds in new ways using keywords, a "sounds-like" type of browsing and more.
  • Upload and download sounds to and from the database, under the same creative commons license.
  • Interact with fellow sound-artists.

If you're looking to create a new and unique project, Freesound could be a great resource for you.

ccMixter

What We Like

  • Music mixes free to use with attribution.

  • Robust social media aspect.

  • Sections for Editors' Picks and What's Hot.

What We Don't Like

  • Website is cluttered.

  • Frequent requests for donations.

CcMixter offers mashups of public domain songs under a Creative Commons license. If you're looking for background music for a project, for example, this is a good place to find it. At ccMixter, musicians and DJs use Creative Commons licensing to share music content and build a community of artists, thanks to an open source infrastructure designed to facilitate storage, tracking, and sharing of multimedia content.

The Mutopia Project

The Mutopia Project

Mutopia is a great source for public domain sheet music downloads. Search by composerinstrument, or by latest addition. The Mutopia Project offers sheet music editions of classical music for free download. These are based on editions in the public domain and include works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, and many others.