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I just started learning the piano after 25 years.

I'm trying to find sheet music for a particular song I want to play.

The internet is full of arrangements done by other people; however, I am wondering if there is a way to get the actual sheet music composed for the song?

Do artists submit sheets when they copyright a song? If so, is there a legitimate way to purchase access to them?

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    Very often there is no original sheet music. Singer-songwriters don't compose their pieces on paper, they usually don't play them from sheet music, they aren't in the business of selling notated music, and they don't particularly want others to copy their set lists. (When you live in a free-market society and some obvious good simply isn't to be had for sale, the most probable reason is that it doesn't exist in the first place.) – Kilian Foth Nov 1 '15 at 5:51
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Generally speaking, no, songwriters do not submit sheet music when they copyright a song. If they do, and this is rare these days, it is usually only a "lead sheet" which has the melody line with the lyrics, and the chord symbols above the melody line, and nothing more.

There are a few areas of music where meticulously notated sheet music is published and available for sale or rent. One is that of compositions which are written for solo piano in the first place. Another is orchestral conductors scores and individual parts for each instrument/section in the orchestra, for music written for the symphony orchestra concert stage or for the soundtracks to motion pictures. These scores are most often available for rent, not for purchase, and are very expensive, because they can also involve licensing arrangements for the recipient to perform the works in public and sell tickets to the concerts.

The other example are scores for musical theater and opera productions. These are almost always strictly available for rental, and again, they are very expensive because the right to perform the work for profit (in a specific location, on specific dates) is negotiated into the rental agreement. All scores have to be returned to the renting agency when the performances are complete.

If you want to determine what scores might be available, start by identifying the publishing company through which the songwriter published the music. Then find out what sheet music company the publishing company works with to print, rent or sell scores. You need to assume that whatever printed sheet music titles you find are in fact simplified re-arrangements of the original, unless stated otherwise. The words "original score", "transcription" or "conductor's score" might indicate that you are getting what you want. But you might have to write to publishing companies and sheet music printing companies and ask questions before making a purchase.

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There is not much I can add to Wheat's excellent answer.

As Wheat said, newer material is not likely to have sheet music included in the document submitted with the copyright registration package. I am a songwriter and have registered my copyright on many of my songs. But these days all I have to submit is a copy of the lyrics and a recorded sound file (such as an MP3) for the music. Before being able to upload MP3 files through the internet, songwriter's and composers could register a copyright on a recorded work by submitting a cassette tape or CD via the mail.

I am guessing that prior to the ability to register a copyright on a recorded work, that it was more common to submit sheet music or something akin to it. Songs and musical compositions registered with the US Copyright Office are available to the public for a fee. To learn more about how to search what is on file at the US Copyright Office and obtain copies thereof - click this link Obtain Copies from Copyright Office

Obtaining a copy of a song from the copyright office, does not give you authorization or license or the right to use the copyrighted work for commercial purposes - or to reproduce or copy it for distribution to others. But if you use it to learn to play a song at home for your own enjoyment, I think you are safe.

You can purchase sheet music with full music notation for multiple instruments (including piano) from numerous sources. But most of those are arrangements written out by someone who interpreted the original artists or songwriter's work. Many of these arrangements may have been created under license or with permission from the copyright owner, but that still does not mean it was the original songwriter or composer who wrote the score or notation.

In probably more cases than not, the original writer or composer my have never written any sheet music or score for the song (I never do - and neither do any of the song writers I know) - so the only thing that will ever be available is sheet music created by someone who interpreted the song and arranged it according to what they hear in a recording.

If the song you want to play is a popular song, it is very likely that someone has taken the time to create a very authentic arrangement and published it (perhaps with permission) in fully notated sheet music form. If you have not already tried it, I would enter Song Title Sheet Music in your internet search engine and see if that yields some results. Alternatively - search for sheet music by the artists name as opposed to song title. Often entire song books of sheet music are published for songs by a particular artists or for all the songs on a particular album.

Good luck.

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