Make cheap art with sheet music

Guest post by Victoria Brooke Rodrigues
Cleveland's Luck & Love Grand March

My husband and I were looking for antique nightstands when we came across our first piece of vintage sheet music. The cover read “YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY! (What did I do?)” The sentimentality of it was so ridiculous — hadn’t we said something pretty similar before? I had to have it… but the shop wanted $8 for what amounted to two sheets of paper. I went home and found it online for 99 cents. A big, flat envelope showed up a few days later, I framed it and put it on the wall. Just like that, I became a collector of vintage sheet music.

Why collect?

  • At the top of the list of awesome aspects: if you don’t have a lot of money for art, they can easily create a colorful, themed display on your wall for less than the Dali poster you’ve been slugging around since college.
  • Sheet music covers a wide array of topics, styles and eras. The covers go from art deco glam to mod-folksy; Western to metropolitan; funny to melancholy-funny; all the way down to legitimately sad.
  • Better than a print made yesterday and sold in the thousands, these are folios of history. I should note that there is a pile of offensive sheet music covers out there. I’ve seen plenty of racial, gender, and ethnic stereotypes. But long before I decided to frame covers as hokey graphic wall art, they were used to play the hip songs of the day and are reflective of the values and concerns of their eras. That can go really wrong, but it can also bring you women’s suffrage music like Woman Forever.
  • With the topical and visual ground covered by sheet music, they also make original, personal gifts. “Mom, remember how we used to sing “Down by the Old Mill Stream” on road trips? I framed it for you!” My sister is opening a feed store called Cheyenne? Consider it decorated!
  • Sheet music usually comes in 8 x 12 or 11 x 14, so they fit into store-bought frames. And if you continue to collect more than you want on the wall at one time, you can switch them in and out of a few frames as you please.
  • Sheets are easily themed. I am building one wall dedicated to the cliches and sentimentalities of love — a big theme in sheet music. Well, I guess a big theme in all music and pretty much everywhere else, if I’m being honest about it. So far the collection includes, among others, “I Wish You Were Jealous of Me,” “When I’m Alone I’m Lonesome,” and “How Many Girls Have You Told That To?

I hate to increase competition for items that I feel lucky to get so cheaply, but I’m not the type of person who can keep splendid things to myself. In return, though, I’d love to know what inexpensive, collectible decor other budget-conscious Homies are sporting!

Comments on Make cheap art with sheet music

  1. I love the Squirrel Nut Zippers cover of you “You’re Driving me Crazy”. 🙂

  2. Hi! Love this idea. Would you mind posting the link where you found it for 99 cents? Or just any other recommended links would be helpful…thanks!

  3. I just checked ebay, and there is a treasure trove! I love framing japanese paper and origami, and my sister frames interesting wrapping paper. Also, pics from old children’s books (I’m on the look out for a good illustration of Thumper from Bambi atm) make glorious wall art, as do the pretty pictures the children in your life draw. Also – in Oz we have stands in public areas with ‘avant card’ postcards (essentially advertising in postcard form) which often have awesome images. Free, and pretty!

    Art is everywhere. In Year 12 Art (senior year I think) I picked grass and used it as a brush to create images with food dye. looked fab too!

  4. Oh, this makes me so nostalgic! When I was little the only art on the walls in our family room was framed sheet music, all courtesy of my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s piano music collections. I actually first learned about WWI from asking what various song titles and illustrations meant (there was one about calling on the Kaiser, “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)”, etc.

  5. Never thought to frame sheet music as art! I have a ton of pieces that I found at local thrift stores that I bought strictly for the artwork on the cover sheet! I should look into finding some jungle stuff. :-p

  6. Someone on offbeat bride needs to take that image, put in their own pictures and make save the date/invites/wedding announcements ASAP. I would, but I’m married already and feeling sorry I missed the boat here.

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