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July 11, 2005

Where to buy Tango Sheet Music

I have always had problems find tango sheetmusic here in the states. When I first started playing tango 10 years ago, the only things I could find were old "continental" or "ballroom" tango sheets like Jalousie, "Hernando's Hideaway", and "La Paloma". There were a few Argentine tangos available, like "El Choclo", "Lar Cumparsita" and "Adios, Muchachos", but almost nothing else. I was able to find some piazzolla, but it was very expensive for a recent college grad.

My solution has been to transcribe tangos from CDs. I write them out as simple leadsheets that a good musician (or someone in my band) can use as a basis. I've collected and posted about 100 of these transcriptions here.

But what if you want some "real" tango sheet music?

More after the jump:

If you are looking for piano arrangements, I prefer buying an album of multiple songs rather than individual music sheets. It's usually more cost-effective. The best piano transcriptions I've seen are the Tango Albums 1-6 published by Melos There are about a dozen golden-era tangos in each volume and the piano arrangements are very artistic (as opposed to the overly-simplistic arrangemnts in most vintage sheet music). These books were published in the last decade and the typesetting is crisp and easy to read. Melos has also published a lot of really good Piazzolla albums. Ricordi also published a number of tango albums of individual composers, such as Arolas, Canaro, Troilo, and Bardi. These are reprints of much older editions, but they are still pretty readable. Musica-argentina.com and JulianHasse.com are two good sources. You can buy lots of early piazzolla and continental tango at Universelles.fr. This site has a huge ammount of scores, but is understandable heavy on French tango.

There is a very popular book of Guardia Vieja Tangos published by Mel Bay, as well as a book of French Tangos. Unfortunately, neither contain many recongnizable mainstream Argentine Tangos. However, these books should be easy to find from US distributors and may also be in you public library.

I've had good luck buying scores on Ebay. One problem, though: the market for older sheet music is often for the image on the cover (they are almost always really cool!). You will be bidding against folks who collect covers. I bought a bunch of stuff from a seller named "grandtio" who was fantastic. Bear in mind that postage from Argentina to the states is REALLY expensive. Some sellers might be willing to sell you photocopies of vintage sheet music, since that allows them to sell it twice.

I also have another Argentine source at sonodisc@argentina.com. Liliana can email you a catalog of just about every piece of sheetmusic available in Argentina. I bought some Piazzolla scores from her a while ago. She also has a _huge_ catalog of CDs full of MP3s, including 30 or so Tango discs, each with 120 or more songs. I won't get into the legality or ethicality of this, but I will say that I did cash-through-the-mail buisness with her, and I promptly received the items as described.

I have had some good luck finding partituras online at 2 sheet music trading sites: pianofiles.com and pianosheets.org. Both require you to register. a href="http://pianosheets.org">Pianosheets.org is basically a torrent tracker for sheet music downloads. If you are not familiar with bitTorrent, you should get a copy of Azureus and prepare to spend a few frustrating hours learning how to use it. Once you have mastered that, a world of semi-legal peer-to-peer filesharing will be at your fingertips. Pianofiles.com is a service where you can hook up with users that have something to share. All shareing is done by email. You list what you have to share and what you want and you can find email addresses of folks who can help you. I've had some good luck with this.

Also, I'll willing to trade just about anything. Make me an offer!


Posted by bbarnes at July 11, 2005 12:49 PM


Im looking for the orchestra music of Jalouise

Posted by: Richard Rudolph at June 15, 2006 4:08 PM

Hello Bob, I downloaded your book a while back for curiosity's sake on a referral from an old bud. Now it's going to save the day (if not our derrieres) - we just got hired for a tango dance gig and have 10 days to get a repertory! Thanks for all your hard work! Really! If they don't fire us we'll send you a little donativo by PayPal, eh? -- Jack

Posted by: Jack at November 26, 2006 9:44 PM