Paperback vs Sheet Music

Paperback vs Sheet Music: What’s the Difference?

Sheet music is the written form of the lyrics to a song, which must be read by looking at it. A paperback book has been printed not only on paper but also bound somehow.

This can mean hardback or softback, though it usually means softcover. So, what are the differences between sheet music and paperback?

The Number of Pages

The first difference is that sheet music has more pages than a paperback book does. This is because there are more characters in songs than there are sentences in books. Of course, this varies depending on how long each song or book is.

For example, the longest song ever written clocks at 220 verses, whereas The Hobbit has 322 pages.

The Way You Read It

Sheet music can be read by looking at it vertically, horizontally, or diagonally but this changes depending on what page orientation the sheet music is written in.

Paperback books are all written left to right across each page, top to bottom.

Blacking Out

Another difference is that you cannot “blackout” pieces of paper. This is not to be confused with black spots, which are entirely different.

Music can include white-out, though, especially if the songwriter suddenly realizes the wrong words have been used.

The Soundtracks 

By listening to your favorite songs on their soundtracks, you can get an idea of what it would be like to read them as sheet music.

All you have to do is hum along to the tune in your head. If you want to know how much you love a song, try finding its soundtrack because they are always written in beautiful “sheet music.”

When Did The Songwriter Write It?

Sheet music is always written with the date it was written on, even though this information will be hidden in the corner most of the time. Paperback books are not generally dated but can be.

This information may be found next to or underneath the title on a promotional “blurb,” which is often located near the front cover of paperbacks.

The Color Scheme

The colors used to print both sheet music and paperbacks depend on what they are about, but both are always filled with colors that can make your heart sing. One big difference is that paperback colors are often more vibrant than sheet music colors.


Do not be fooled by the word “paper” in the term “paperback.” Paperbacks are made out of paper, which gives them their rigidity and strength compared to softcover books made out of fabric.

Sheet music is usually printed on them, paper too. Though it can sometimes be printed on plastic or even metal depending on the songwriter’s preference.

The Price Varies Wildly

The prices of both of these things not only vary from country to country, but they change over time as well.

However, a general rule is that paperbacks tend to be cheaper than sheet music, especially if it is past the first edition date.

The Number of Songs 

In general, more songs are written for paperbacks than for sheet music because usually, one song will have been written about one thing, whereas many more stories have been made into a single book. This is not always the case, though.

The Number of Pages 

As mentioned earlier, one song can be in many paperbacks. Because many stories are put into single books, there is a lot more variety in the length of each book than there is for sheet music which almost always has between 7 and 11 staves (excluding altered versions such as piano reduction).

One exception to that statement would be “The Hobbit,” which has 322 books and about 220 SONG pages.


Overall, both have benefits and drawbacks depending on what is being examined, so neither can replace the other.

Other comparisons in the series:

Baldwins vs Steinway

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