The old-fashioned way of obtaining sheet music for “classical” music was to go to a music shop such as Zephyr Music or Allans Music and buy it, or browse in second hand shops (Da Capo Music in Glebe), or borrow from the library.
Over the last fifteen years I have enjoyed following the score when listening to classical music. Since starting to learn the piano I have been searching for suitable music to play.
In the past I borrowed scores from Willoughby library but more recenly I discovered the vast resources of Public Domain Scores.
Petrucci Music Library
The Petrucci music library or IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project) is a web site where volunteers have scanned and uploaded public domain music scores. These works include solo instrument scores (piano, cello and violin in particular), as well as orchestral scores and individual parts for ensembles. This has proved very usefel for the Kuringai Youth Orchestra where I am one of the music librarians.
The site is a Wiki and looks something like Wikipedia. You can browse scores by Composer, Nationality, Time Period, and Instrumentation. Once you have found the music of interest, PDF files can be downloaded for printing or viewing, and sometimes royalty free recordings are available.
What is public domain?
Any work published in the lifetime of an author who died in 1954 or earlier, is out of copyright. The term for authors who died in 1955 or later is 70 years. IMSLP has a page explaining Public Domain and copyright.
Jean Sibelius died in 1957, therefore his works enter the public domain in 2027 (1957 + 70). Maurice Ravel died in 1937 therefore his work is now in the public domain. Sometimes a score is available on this web site but not public domain in Australia, therefore it can’t be legally used for a public performance.
And now read another article about Where to find Public Domain Music.