My collection and some samples

I have been collecting old song books and music sheets since mid-2008, buying them online, from used book stores, antique stores, individuals, and from local music stores. I have amassed more than 3,500 titles. But thanks to the contributions of other ukulele players, this collection now has more than 4,950 individual, scanned songsheets with ukulele chord arrangements, 183 scanned song books, and more than 1,000 scanned pieces arranged for guitar or other instruments (all in PDF format).

I started scanning my copies early on, with the intention of passing the printed copies to a university music library. One day I saw on a ukulele forum a request for a song I had scanned. It was from another ukulele player, so I uploaded the PDF of the old song. Then I found other requests for similar material. I put my collection online for anyone to download. It proved fairly popular.

That had other, unexpected consequences. First, the sheer number of files made it unwieldy to display. My first server complained I was using too much bandwidth, and choked my usage, despite having subscribed to their "unlimited bandwidth" package. I moved my content to a more tolerant server. However, I did not wish to tempt them into similar action, so I only provide a limited number of free files here.

By this time the collection consumed almost 400MB of PDF files, so I offered it on a CD. But I kept buying music and the collection kept growing. Pretty soon I had to offer it on a DVD, then two, then three DVDs. Other enthusiasts started sending me their scans, too. Soon it grew to the point where I had to offer it on a USB flash drive. It is now more than 14GB of files as of September, 2020 - order here).

You can download this PDF file to see the collection of uke songs and this PDF file to see all the scanned songsheets and books.

Check my links page for advice on scanning old music if you wish to contribute any files.

I also ended up with many non-ukulele sheets and books, usually included in a lot of mixed titles bought on eBay. I have a smaller collection of guitar arrangements scanned - which can generally be easily adapted for ukulele by simply playing the chord shapes (especially easy for baritone uke). And over the years, I was emailed some items scanned by others, or given links to scans on public sites. I have incorporated many of these into the collection as well. Here's a sample of a playable song chorded for guitar that can be easily played on the ukulele: Roll Along Prairie Moon (1935). Try it!

The quality of the printed material varies from excellent to awful (as might be expected from well-used paper 70-100 years old). The latter includes parted covers, brittle, aging paper, taped pages and even pieces missing. But overall, the condition of most is good and the music remains readable. That's important because my goal was always to play, not merely collect.

I scan everything at 300 dpi, with colour cover and B&W inside and back (unless the back has an unusually attractive colour scheme as well). Some of the scans I've received from others are lower resolution, but are still readable.

The core collection is a selection of arrangements of songs with chords shown for ukulele, plus scores for voice, and usually piano. A few have dual guitar and uke diagrams. I include a folder with songs arranged for guitar or piano without uke chords, as well as some of my own arrangements.

I am a collector, but not for any intrinsic worth of the sheets: rather as vehicles for learning and playing - thus keeping alive - the music of yesterday. If you have any old song sheets you can scan and let me share with others, I would greatly appreciate it (see my notes on scanning on the links page). If you have song sheets you will sell or donate to the project, please contact me.

The vast majority of these song books and sheets are American. A few are Canadian, Australian, and British, but by far the majority originated from the USA. I'm still looking for UK song sheets from that era, particularly those of George Formby (please contact me if you have any you can share or will sell).

Below are the four samples. Click on them to open the PDF (Adobe Reader or similar PDF reader is required).

To the best of my knowledge about a complex and contentious area of law (I'm not a lawyer!), these songsheets and books are long out of copyright, at least as per my understanding of Canadian law. But laws change and vary from nation to nation and records are not always online. It is not easy to understand all the subtleties of international copyright, but I do not believe I am violating it.

Most of the material is between 75 and 90 years old (some of the piano arrangements are even older). My intention is always to keep this old music alive and allow new generations of ukulele players to share it, and especially to play it. Should I have transgressed, please let me know how and I will remove any offending piece(s) from the distributed collection.

These songs can also be played by guitarists (just adjust the fingering of the chords for the extra two strings) and tenor guitarists (no changes required for Chicago tuning DGBE).