The hidden magic of Tūranga’s score collection

May is New Zealand Music Month and our library collection has more resources to support your musical journey than you would imagine. For instance, did you know about our collection of musical scores? While you might associate the word "score" with background music in films or television, in the context of the library collection it refers to our books of printed sheet music and they are a real boon for anyone learning to play an instrument AKA "The New Zealand Music Makers of The Future".

What's so good about scores?

I had a chat with one of our library assistants, Jill, about how Tūranga's score collection reignited her hobby of playing the piano.

How have you used the score collection in your personal life?

Since I’ve started working here, I’ve loved those scores! They just open up a whole world of music. And it could be music that you haven’t heard or maybe played for a long time. I learnt to play the piano when I was young - and I played it a lot - but then I had a big gap in my life, where things just got busy, I went to university, and I had a family. I’ve always tried to pursue it a little bit, though.

Because it’s so easy to lose it if you don’t keep up with it. 

Yes! Luckily, I’m surrounded by music - the rest of my family are great at practicing and playing so there’s a lot of music played all the time in my household. So when I came here, I thought, “Right! It’s me time!” I started taking home some of the collections of piano music, something I could play really simply.

And then it got me to thinking of the memories of scores in my childhood as well. I have an original, really old nursery rhyme score, which I’ve still kept all this time. And plenty more at home that I’ve acquired over the years.

Do you have any particular recollections of scores in your childhood?

There’s a lovely story that comes to mind. My gran was one of those women who, if she wanted something, she made sure she had it. She used to listen to Concert FM, and wanted me to learn how to play the Rustle of Spring, which is an old, kind of obscure European piece. She took me along to the old Begg's Music store. I have very fond memories of going in there and looking through the scores like you would have done with records and CDs. They didn’t have the Rustle of Spring when we went in there, of course, because it was quite a specific request, but they ordered it in and then it came, just this two page double-sided simple piece. And it was great! So I have this fond memory of going in with my gran to get that. I haven’t seen it in the collection here, but I imagine it probably was at some point. Whenever we have a customer that comes in looking for something specific like that, and then we can find it, it’s really cool. 

(Author note: As it turns out, I later found the piece in the collection of classic and modern scores below!)

The Family Music Book

It's especially exciting when you find it in a wider collection of music! Like a little hidden gem.

There’s been quite a few instances of that, right? And often people might photocopy them even if they don’t take them out. Some of those really old scores do feel a bit precious to take home!  My collection at home was just photocopied and stuck into a scrapbook. Because that’s how you used to do it at the time. My music teacher would give me her book, and I’d just copy them at the library, and paste them into the scrapbook.

We have such a broad collection to browse at the library. We used to have even more than we do now, but they’ve moved a lot to Store (the Library’s storage facility). It is like a treasure chest, really, with so much to find. I personally love the idea of playing something that was composed 200 years ago.

And then we also have pop scores, which young budding musicians often come in and enjoy, so they can create their own covers.

Yeah, Taylor Swift and so on - they’re really popular! We also have other components to our music section, like the books that teach you how to learn an instrument, and the history of music - there’s a whole lot of stuff over there.


Do you have any favourite scores that you’ve played recently?

There’s one that I remember learning for my piano exam. It’s by Erik Satie. When I saw it there, I thought, “Ah, I can’t believe they’ve got it!” That music wasn’t particularly popular when I was playing it, but later it was used for ads and things on TV. It’s lovely, slow, whimsical music. Playing it brought back memories of childhood, and doing Grade 7 piano. So that’s one of my favourite ones we have in our collection.

Gymnopédies, Gnossiennes, And Other Works For Piano

Being able to read music is such a wonderful skill to have. When I played piano as a kid, I also had my examination books, but everything else I wanted to learn I’d try to play by ear - I didn’t like reading music! I can't do it very well now, because I didn’t practice enough or keep up the skill into adulthood, but I wish I had. The scores would be a great way to try to learn again.

Yes, they would! I can read music, and that’s something I was taught quite strictly; I was classically trained. I’m lucky that I can pick up an intermediate piece, give it a go, and see it come together, bringing it to life. It might not be brilliant, but I quite like unlocking the secrets of the songs. It’s like a code.

My daughter learns piano now, and her teacher was really excited to hear that we have scores here! He’s a virtuosic classical player, but he didn’t know. He passed that information on to his students to come in and grab some music that they were interested in. It’s great since there’s often a paywall if you’re trying to get sheet music online, but these ones are available to borrow for free. The collection has been great for some of our elderly customers too, who may not be so digitally savvy, but have a lot of fun finding their favourite music in physical form. 

It’s been nice to see the wide range of customers that have discovered the scores. And how it can bring back their memories of playing an instrument when they were younger, and the songs that they loved.

Yes! We’ve had customers who have heard things on the radio, and come in to find the specific music for that song.

And then sometimes found other songs they love within those books or the wider score collection.

That’s the thing, isn’t it! You could come in for one piece, and it can just ripple and inspire you to try more, because it’s such an eclectic collection with so many different styles of music. There was a customer that came in who was learning to play the clarinet but didn’t know where to start. We found some books that taught the basics of clarinet, and there were also some simple scores for it.

There are a lot of instruments in there - sometimes I’m surprised that we have scores for them, but we do! Not just piano, guitar and violin, but the ukulele and saxophone and even the harmonica.

And we have some orchestral scores, too, which you might never really see - most of us don’t play in an orchestra, but I just think they’re an incredible work of art! They’re so complex.

It’s wonderful to think how notes on a page can represent something that sounds so beautiful when it all comes together. We had a customer a while ago who was playing the piano upstairs on Auahatanga|Creativity, Level 4 in the evening, and he was really good, so the librarians told him not to bother wearing the headphones. He played all these themes from TV shows and movies, and some pop songs - it was great! I kept hanging round near the stairwell so I could hear it drifting down from the floor above.

I don’t know if all customers know about that piano, but I hope it gets more use! We have a community piano in Lyttelton that was bought after the earthquakes. I helped with a little unveiling for the piano and we invited young and old from the neighbourhood to come and play something, and it was so sweet! Community pianos are a wonderful idea to bring people together around music.

There’s something extra special about music in person - whether it’s playing it yourself, or hearing others perform. I’m excited for what New Zealand music month has in store - hopefully we can see more people trying out some scores and playing music, or maybe even recording it!


Want to give recording music a go?

The Taupuni Oro/Ataata – Audio/Video Studio on Auahatanga | Creativity, Level 4, Tūranga can be used to compose, record, and mix your own music, for that sweet professional sound. Why not pick up a score and have a go at making a recording of it?

Bookings are highly recommended to ensure you get a timeslot! On your first use, you'll get an orientation session with one of our sound engineers to help get you on the right track.

You can also pop along to an open studio session if you're curious to see how everything works - no experience required.

Some top tips for searching for scores

Searching for scores on the catalogue can be difficult if you're not sure where to start.

If you’re looking to find a specific song, try using the broadened search! This search option not only looks for the title of a book but also its contents. Take a look at the example below.

I’ve chosen to search for Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. If I simply type it in as a keyword search, the results show me various ways to listen to the piece, or learn about it, such as through streaming videos or music, audiobooks, and CDs. However, no printed music shows up in the search.

When I click on Broaden search, I can now select “printed music” in the format menu - which brings up 16 scores that contain Moonlight Sonata!

Scores usually have the pieces of music listed in the Full details.

We can see in the record's full details that this score contains the sheet music for Moonlight Sonata!

It’s also important to check the availability of the scores to see where they’re kept. Some scores, particularly the older or less popular ones, are kept in Store, our storage facility. If you’d like to borrow one of these items, you’ll need to place a hold on it and have it sent to a library of your choosing for you to pick up.

Scores which have Tūranga listed as their location can also have holds placed on them, but you can pop into Tūranga and find them in person on Tūhuratanga | Discovery, Level 3. Other libraries in the network may also hold scores, though the bulk of the collection is kept at Tūranga.

Children's scores, which have a J in front of their call number, are kept in various libraries in the Children's section.

Enjoy discovering what our score collection has to offer! Please don't hesitate to ask the friendly Tūhuratanga staff for help with any of your score enquiries!

See more

Try some of our top New Zealand scores

Pure Heroine

Nature's Best

He Koha

Dave Dobbyn

Flight of the Conchords

The Definitive Collection, 1980-1984