By Charles Moehnke
With over 835,000 titles in the Sheet Music Plus catalog, it can occasionally be challenging to find the exact edition you want. During my years in customer service, however, I’ve developed a strategy for zeroing in quickly and effectively. By following these few strategies you can simplify your search experience and become a Sheet Music Plus Power Searcher, just like me!
To quote a fortune cookie I once received, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” That Confucius fellow was obviously way ahead of his time, because Power Searching is all about simplicity! I start every search on Sheet Music Plus by using our main search bar at the top of the page.
This search bar will search all fields and descriptions, and your results will be displayed based on the relevance the title has to your initial search. You can modify any set of search results to only show digital or print titles, and you may adjust the order of the listed items, sorting by price, top-selling order, alphabetically and release date–whatever best fits your needs.
To increase the validity of the results, I try to limit my search terms to exactly what is important to me. This can but doesn’t always include the title, composer, artist, instrument and/or publisher. Again, Power Searching is all about simplicity. Avoid writing searches in the form of a question or sentence, as this adds unnecessary search terms that keep you from seeing all results that are relevant to you.
For example, say I’m looking for Taylor Swift music for violin solo. The two most important details of my search are “Violin” and “Taylor Swift” so I simplify my search from “Where can I find solo violin sheet music from my future BFF Taylor Swift?!” and search instead for “Taylor Swift Violin,” and the perfect title comes up.
Sometimes searches aren’t quite this straightforward, of course. Say you and your “Gleek squad” are looking for an a cappella choir arrangement for the song “Hallelujah” from the movie Shrek. Searching all the details at once makes for a very long search regardless, and the longer the search, the more likely you will exclude relevant results. Again, simplicity is the key!
My approach would be to start with a very broad search and zero in on exactly what you want from there. I call this the “Broad to Narrow” search approach.
Let’s start with a search for “Hallelujah”.
Obviously, there are thousands of results that match…too many to look through. I know I want the version from Shrek so I’ll use the “Narrow your search” in the left column and narrow by the word “Shrek.”
This narrows it down to 16 titles. Much better, but who wants to waste time scrolling when you could be practicing? This is when the browse links in the left hand column come in very handy! If I click on “choir” I’ll drill down to only choral titles that meet my search for “Shrek” and “Hallelujah”.
A quick click on “A Cappella” in the choral categories that have now appeared under “Choir” and you’ll drill down to exactly the title you want!
“So,” I hear you asking (a Power Searcher superpower), “What if you search for something and the search comes up with no results?”
This can be caused by a variety of issues. While it is possible that we don’t have what you’re looking for, more often than not you can find what you want by modifying your search slightly.
First of all, chekck yuors pellign! Composers’ names, for instance, are often spelled a variety of ways and it may help to try alternate spellings. For example, Tchaikovsky can be spelled several different ways:
If everything appears to be spelled correctly, try the Broad to Narrow search approach described above. Often full data is not provided to us by the publisher. So while we may have the specific arrangement of Over the Rainbow for ukulele you want, the data may not have included the arranger’s name, for instance. Try searching for only the title and then drilling down to the instrument, or you can even start with just the word “Rainbow.”
Of course, the opposite may be true. You may have too many results to sift through no matter how much you limit your search terms. For these searches I suggest using our most potent weapon as Power Searchers, the Advanced Search.
The legendary Advanced Search does indeed exist and can be found by clicking the link just to the right of the standard search bar.
The Advanced Search is divided into two sections. The first section, entitled “Title Name,” (that’s not a oddly redundant placeholder, I promise!) will search only within the titles of works and songs. This can come in handy if the title contains a person’s name, for instance, and prevents all those organ solo arrangements by Eleanor Rigby of the northwestern parish of Canterbury from appearing when you want the Beatles song instead. (Admittedly, I made that up, but with our new self-publishing feature you never know what will be popping up in our catalog in the future!)
The second section, less cryptically named “Other Details,” will search all other relevant information and will not search the title or song name fields. This section is great for specifying specific instrumentations or finding editions by your favorite publisher.
What’s most helpful about the Advanced Search is that it allows you to combine different search types. You can do a “Match Any” search, which will find titles that match keywords regardless of the order the come in. You can search for “Exact Phrase”, which will treat what you enter as a phrase the must be matched exactly. You can even exclude words using the “Find results without” field.
All of these fields can be used alone or in any combination, making the Advanced search a VERY powerful tool. The search below will find sheet music for the song “The Prayer” for Alto Sax with an accompaniment CD and without a Piano part.
You can see how using these fields in combination will allow you to find almost any title on our site.
I have one last tip for anyone still having troubles finding that perfect title. Just ask us! Our customer service representatives are always willing to help you find whatever you’re looking for. Email us 24/7 at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 1-800-SHEETMUSIC from 8-4 Pacific Time, M-F.
If you’ve studiously read this far, congratulations! Your training has completed and you are now a Sheet Music Plus Power Searcher. Go find that elusive mandolin orchestra arrangement and remember – only use your powers for good!
Charles Moehnke is the Search Marketing Manager at Sheet Music Plus and holds degrees in bassoon performance from Indiana University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.