Skip to Main Content

A Guide To...Music


Resources for music cover all genres and aspects of the field, including Musical Performance, Music History and Literature, Music Theory, and Ethnomusicology.

To prepare yourself for researching music and utilizing library resources, add this guide and the links below to your bookmarks/favorites:


Search Tips

When searching, use keywords and avoid complete titles, full names, or long phrases. Be as specific as you can, and take away one keyword at a time to get more results. Use whatever keywords you can think of, such as "johann bach organ wolff" to bring up resources on Bach's organ works edited or written by Christoph Wolff.

Possible keywords: Here are just some of the bits of information you can use as keywords in your search:

  • title
  • author/composer
  • editor
  • librettist
  • conductor
  • performer
  • publisher
  • form/genre
  • opus/thematic index number

Opus/Catalog Numbers: If you know the opus number or thematic catalog number of the work you are looking for, use it in the search, but WITHOUT any preceding letters (no "op." or "BWV"). Not all catalog records will include this information, however, so if you are missing results, take the number out.

Use plurals: When searching generic terms, use the plural forms: works, symphonies, sonatas, toccatas, etc.

Use wildcards or truncate: If you use an asterisk (*) you can get all variants of a word. Searching symphon* will provide results of symphony, symphonies and symphonic- every word that starts with the letters before the asterisk. Using a question mark (?) in the middle of the world will return words that have any letter in that space: a search of wom?n will return both woman and women. 

Use numerals: Don't spell out numbers: "Beethoven symphonies 5" NOT "Beethoven fifth symphony"   Exception: If it is part of a proper title: "Four organs"


Want to browse? It just takes a little knowledge of the Library of Congress classification system for the subject area you are interested in.
For Music, the LC Classification is broken down into 3 broad headings:

M Music (Scores)
ML Literature on Music
MT Instruction and Study

For a more detailed breakdown visit the Library of Congress Classification: Class M - Music

There's no need to learn every LC number, but here are some key classes to know for general research

Scholarly Editions

If you are looking for authoritative editions, check the M2 and M3 section. These scores don’t circulate outside of the library, but they are a great reference and often contain detailed information about time periods, places, composers and individual works or pieces. You can also find offprints of these editions and more in the main circulating collection.

M 2 Collections of music with multiple composers  [Denkmäler, Monuments, etc.]
M 3 Collected works of composers (by last name)

Reference & Literature

ML 100-102 Encyclopedias/Dictionaries
ML 134 Composer Bibliographies and Thematic Catalogs (by last name)
ML 410 Composer Biographies (by last name)
MT 5 Music Theory General works/textbooks



All solo keyboard music is grouped based on instrument, and is further divided based on genre and use (sonatas, fugues, religious service music, etc.)


M 6-19 Solo organ
M 20-39 Solo piano

Chamber Music

Chamber music can be tricky to browse if you are searching for non-standard ensembles. Broadly speaking, they are grouped by number of players, and then by instrument combination. 

M 200-986

M 200-299 Duets
M 300-399 Trios
     M 312 Piano Trios
M 400-499 Quartets
     M 452 String quartets
M 500-599 Quintets
M 600-699 Sextets
M 700-799 Septets
M 800-899 Octets
M 900-986 Nonets & larger

Instrumental Ensemble

Large ensemble music is grouped by ensemble and genre.

M 990-1366

M 990 Early instrument ensembles
M 1000-1075 Orchestral music
     M 1001 Symphonies
     M 1002 Symphonic poems
M 1004-1041 Concertos
M 1100-1160 String orchestra music
M 1200-1270 Wind ensemble

Vocal scores are divided into sacred and secular. For works with large instrumental ensembles, there are also different locations based on whether it is a full score or a piano-vocal score.

Secular Vocal

M 1495-1998

M 1500 Operas (full score)
M 1503 Operas (piano-vocal score)
M 1620-1621 Song (voice/piano)

Sacred Vocal

M 1999-2199

M 2000 Dramatic sacred vocal [Oratorios, passions, etc] (full score)
M 2003 Dramatic sacred vocal (piano-vocal score)
M 2010 Masses (full score)
M 2013 Masses (piano-vocal score)
M 2147-2154 Catholic liturgical music

Recommended Databases

Streaming Media

Online Scores

Recommended Websites