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After the mid-15th century, mechanical techniques for printing sheet music were first developed. Prior to this time, music had to be copied out by hand. To copy music notation by hand was a very costly, labor-intensive and time-consuming process, so it was usually undertaken only by monks and priests seeking to preserve sacred music for the church. The use of printing enabled sheet music to reproduced much more quickly and at a much lower cost than hand-copying music notation. This helped musical styles to spread to other cities and countries more quickly, and it also enabled music to be spread to more distant areas. Prior to the invention of music printing, a composer’s music might only be known in the city she lived in and its surrounding towns, because only wealthy aristocrats would be able to afford to have hand copies made of her music. With music printing, though, a composer’s music could be printed and sold at a relatively low cost to purchasers from a wide geographic area.
As sheet music of major composer’s pieces and songs began to be printed and distributed in a wider area, this enabled composers and listeners to hear new styles and forms of music. A German composer could buy songs written by an Italian or English composer, and an Italian composer could buy pieces written by Dutch composers and learn how they wrote music. This led to more blending of musical styles from different countries and regions. Venice during the 16th century. 1501, is commonly misidentified as the first book of sheet music printed from movable type. Nevertheless, Petrucci’s later work was extraordinary for the complexity of his white mensural notation and the smallness of his font.