Basic Music Resources for General Music Reference
Compiled for Wayne Bivens-Tatum by Darwin F. Scott
Music Librarian,
Mendel Music Library, Princeton University
April 3, 2014

Music Research Guides

Darwin F. Scott’s Music LibGuide (Princeton University) Music Library Home Page

Kirsten Dougan’s Music LibGuides (University of Illinois) Music Library Home Page

Library Catalogs

WorldCat (advanced search)

Darwin's hints for optimal searching and navigation of WorldCat Advanced Search (the best option for music):

·       Change the "Rank by" sort order from "Number of libraries" to "Date” to produce a list with the latest publications first (reverse chronological order). There are lots of duplicate records in WorldCat—a date sort tends to batch them together.

·       Use the "Limit type to" options to focus your results only on Sound Recordings (CDs), Musical Scores, Visual Materials (DVDs), Books.

·       When searching for scores or sound recordings of generic forms of music, use plural forms instead of singular in title or subject (e.g., quartets, symphonies, masses, or songs) rather than quartet, symphony, mass, or song, even if looking for only a specific work.

·       To see which libraries own an item, click on “Libraries that own this item.” By default, libraries in your region show first. Go directly to a library's catalog by clicking on any of the blue links.


Music Classification and Cataloging

Class M (Library of Congress)

Very basic outline of LC call nos. for music:
M = scores / printed music
ML = books about music
MT = music instruction & study


Yale Music Library’s Music Cataloging Web Site

If you want exhaustive information on numerous aspects of music cataloging, spend some time here! Lots of interesting links for the cataloging inclined. For key RDA changes affecting music cataloging, click Yale’s site here.


Music Uniform Titles (RDA: Preferred Titles)

         A tidy, brief introduction covering the basic principles of a complex topic that is fundamental to catalog records for scores and sound recordings (doesn’t display well on Safari).







Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online)

The most comprehensive and authoritative music dictionary available. For best results, use the advanced search option. Now part of Oxford Music Online, which combines the regularly updated (but still annoyingly out-of date) full-text of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed. (published in 2001), with the imbedded New Grove dictionaries of opera and jazz, the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, the Oxford Dictionary of Music, and the Oxford Companion to Music. Now incorporating entries for the new 2nd edition of Grove Dictionary of American Music.

Harvard Dictionary of Music, 4th ed. (2003) – Don Michael Randel. Online at University of Illinois via Credo Reference (not online at Princeton)

The classic source for definitions of music terms. "Entries range from one or two words to multiple pages in length, defining or explicating terms for musical styles, instruments, performance marks, concepts, and works." (ALA)


Oxford Bibliographies Online: Music (at Princeton, but not at UIUC).

Annoyingly not linked in Oxford Music Online. A growing collection of authoritative bibliographies on all aspects of music.

Journal Articles

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (via ProQuest at Princeton) -- 1967+ (Princeton switched interfaces in 2012; UIUC uses EBSCOhost)

Contains citations and abstracts of the international literature in music, including journal articles; articles published in collections of essays, conference proceedings, and Festschrifts; and books, dissertations, and theses. Coverage of popular music is continuing to improve. International resource, so English language filter may be essential. Retrospective indexing in progress.

The Music Index Online (via EBSCOhost) -- 1970+

Indexes (without citations) hundreds of international music periodicals covering every aspect of the classical and popular world of music. The broad range of indexed subjects includes all styles and genres of music, plus book and recording reviews, first performances, obituaries, and news about music, musicians, and the music industry. For citations from 1949-70, use the print volumes. Some retrospective conversion is now underway.

Subscribers to both RILM and the Music Index via EBSCO can search both databases simultaneously by checking off both resources in the “Chose Databases” option (after opening either one of these resources). It’s possible to use deploy a canned link (provided by EBSCO) that automatically sets up searching across both databases.


International Index to Music Periodicals Full Text (IIMP) (via ProQuest) 

Indexes music journals covering a broad scope of research from performance, theory, and composition to music education, jazz, and ethnomusicology. Provides selected full text coverage of the most important music journals in both scholarly and popular publications.

JSTOR (Advanced Search) 

Full-text archive of core journals in select disciplines, presently including more than 83 music titles. Journal issues from the most recent 3-5 years are often NOT available electronically through JSTOR (moving wall). Scroll down the search screen to limit search to music journals. Direct link to music titles.

Academic Search Premier (via EBSCOhost) -- 1975+ 

Multi-disciplinary database providing abstract & indexing with select full text for many core scholarly journals as well as popular press periodicals. Music coverage depends on the journals indexed, but never overlook checking herethis resource can be much more up to date than standard music databases, and interdisciplinary coverage is much broader.

Entertainment Industry Music Archive

Offers for the first time full-text runs scanned cover-to-cover in high-resolution color of core U.S. and U.K. trade papers and mass-market consumer magazines covering the entertainment industry issued weekly or monthly between 1880 and 2000. The selected magazines cover a wide range of subjects in the performing arts, including popular music, theater, film, and broadcasting (television, and radio), together with film fan magazines and music press titles. This archive, which will feature over 25 titles when complete, is presently in development and growing monthly. These complete backfiles will support analysis of trends, movements, styles, and key figures in popular culture across the entire 20th century and provide a broad spectrum of valuable research material for multidisciplinary study of the music, film, and media industries. When complete, titles will include Backstage (1960-2000), Billboard (1894-2000), Boxoffice (1920-2000), Broadcasting (1931-2000), Film Journal International (1934-2000), Melody Maker (1926-2000), Musician (1976-1999), New Musical Express (1946-2000), Screen International (1975-2000), Spin (1985-2000), The Stage (1880-2000), and Variety (1905-2000).

Biographical Sources

Contemporary Musicians (Online)

Biographical information on noteworthy figures active in music mostly since the late 1980s, covering artists working in all musical genres, including classical, rock, jazz, pop, rap, rhythm and blues, folk, New Age, country, gospel, and reggae. Terrible interface: search for biographical entries on musicians under “Document Title” in advanced search. Each print volume includes a cumulative index back to vol. 1. A particularly good place to start for general overviews of popular music figures.



American National Biography Online 

Authoritative biographies of more than 18,000 deceased prominent people who lived in what is now the U.S.A. from the Colonial Period to the present, including many important musicians. A "must-see" if your subject was a prominent American.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Nearly 60,000 biographies of men and women from British history, including every important British music figure now deceased. A "must-see" if your dead subject is of British nationality.

Composer Thematic Catalogs (usually cataloged in ML 134)

Thematic catalogs are fundamental resources for serious research on a composer's body of work, providing not only musical incipits to the works, but also basic information on dating and provenance, surviving manuscripts, early performances, publication history, modern location of sources, and much other key data. To find most thematic catalogs, use a subject search on [composer last name] and phrase “thematic catalogs” (or just “thematic”). So far, all of the essential thematic catalogs are available only in print form. See the Princeton Music LibGuide catalog search link for thematic catalogs.

Composer Research Guides (usually cataloged in ML 134)

Composer-based research guides can provide excellent starting points for any project focused on the work of a particular composer. They inevitably include annotated bibliographies of key primary and secondary resources, lists of works, references to important editions, and much other useful information. Nearly all of these guides are found under the basic call no. ML 134 (with latest edition usually on reference), arranged by the composer's last name (making browsing fairly easy). Representative examples are cited in the Princeton Music LibGuide under the Historical Periods sub-tabs in the Composer Research Guides boxes. To search the catalog for these guides, use a subject search on [composer last name] and bibliography. Surprisingly, most of these essential resources are still in print form only (a few pop up in electronic book packages).

Web Sites

Online Resources for Music Scholars

I consider this to be the best currently available to quality Web sites on music, maintained by the Loeb Music Library, Harvard University. Note: many of the resources available to Harvard users only may be available to you as well via University of Illinois links on your e-resource pages.

Streaming Audio / Video

Naxos Music Library

Extensive multi-label database of classical music streaming audio files. MARC catalog records available for a growing amount of the content—search on series Naxos Music Library. Viable searching is also possible in the advanced search option of articles/periodicals modules of discovery systems with content type limited to music recording (or some other similar designation for music/sound files).

Classical Music Library (Alexander Street Press)

Large multi-label database of classical music streaming audio files from Alexander Street Press. Use advanced search for more sophisticated searching. MARC catalog records available for a growing amount of the content—search on series Classical Music Library. Viable searching is also possible in the advanced search option of articles/periodicals modules of discovery systems with content type limited to music recording (or some other similar designation for music/sound files).

Jazz Music Library (Alexander Street Press) 

Large collection of streamed jazz recordings, covering major and secondary artists, ensembles, labels, and genres, ranging from historical recordings to musicians performing and recording today. Updated regularly. MARC catalog records available for a growing amount of the content—search on series Jazz Music Library.

DRAM (Database of Recorded American Music)

A scholarly resource of recordings, including CD quality audio, complete and original liner notes, and essays from New World Records, Composers Recordings (CRI), Albany, Cedille, and other important labels. Note: Innova is now available via the Naxos Music Library (no longer in DRAM as of 2011). MARC catalog records available for a growing amount of the contentsearch on publisher DRAM).

Smithsonian Global Sound (Alexander Street Press)

Streaming audio database of published recordings owned by the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label and the archival audio collections of the Folkways Records, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, Monitor, Paredon, and other labels. MARC catalog records available for a growing amount of the contentsearch series title Smithsonian Global Sound.

Opera in Video (Alexander Street Press)

An expanding streaming video collection of classical music by orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, and solo musicians, in concert performances plus master classes and interviews with master teachers from around the world.. For more about this resource, click here. MARC records available for much of the contentsearch series title Opera in Video.

Classical Music in Video (Alexander Street Press)

Features opera performances, captured on video through staged productions, interviews, and documentaries. Selections represent the world's best performers, conductors, and opera houses. For more about this resource, click here. MARC records available for much of the contentsearch series title Classical Music in Video.

Dance in Video (Alexander Street Press)

Includes video dance productions and documentaries by performers and companies of the 20th century. Selections cover ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, experimental, and more. For more about this resource, click here. MARC records available for much of the contentsearch series title Dance in Video.

Digitized Scores & Sheet Music

Most online music scores are in the public domain (published before 1923).

Library Music Source

IMSLP: Petrucci Music Library

See also Online Scores & Sheet Music box in Princeton Music LibGuide.

Copyright Issues for Music

Copyright for Music Librarians (Music Library Association)

The Musician’s Legal Companion (Online) - Michael A. Aczon (Safari Books OnlineProQuest; also via ebrary)

Writing About Music

There are several specialized guides on how to write about music: citation forms (for scores and sound recordings), how to write concert reports, analyses of music, the research process, and other tough issues students often face in music survey courses (none of which are online yet). For the best ones, see the Analyzing, Researching & Citing Music in the Princeton Music LibGuide. Also found here are several concert guides and other useful sources for students facing their first descriptive / analysis paper of music.

Finding Lyrics or Translations of Musical Texts

Students often need translations of musical texts from operas or art songs, or lyrics to popular or show tune songs. There are many good resources, hardly any of which are online. For some of the best collections, see Texts Set to Music + Translation in the Princeton Music LibGuide.

Other Important Resources You Should Know About

Performing Arts Encyclopedia

The Library of Congress portal to its ever-growing number of Web sites on the performing arts. “Explore music, theater, and dance at the Library of Congress

ArkivMusic: The Source for Classical Music

Commercial Web site (used by many music libraries for acquisition of sound recordings), chock full of useful information on the classical repertory, with excellent search engines.

Newish full-text databases covering popular music periodicals (at Princeton but not at IUCU—links are to product Web sites):

Rock’s Backpages: The Online Library of Rock Writing (Princeton link)

Full-text and expanding archive of selective interviews, feature articles, reviews, and more on rock and a wide range of popular music (including blues and soul) from the 1950s onward in the music and mainstream press. Updates appear weekly. Click on "enter library here" to search the database. The home page includes links to highlights, audio and video interviews, blogs, and many other features beyond the "ultimate archive of music journalism."