University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Using the Music Library

How to Find Music in the Library Catalog

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a tutorial on basic use of the Library catalog. If you're not familiar with the catalog, you should begin with the excellent tutorial at

Finding music (scores or recordings) in any library catalog presents special challenges. How does one find a work with a title like Sonate Nr. 17 d-Moll Op. 31 Nr. 2 für Klavier--especially if you don't care in which language the title page is written? Why is one of Tchaikovsky's most popular works listed in the catalog under Shchelkunchik. Suite? How do you find Haydn's "Drumroll" symphony? And how to you locate one work (such as a song) that usually appears in a collection of some kind, not by itself? As a general rule, these are difficulties that library users in other disciplines don't have to deal with (although they have their own problems).

Most of the "difficulties" in locating music in a library catalog are a result of the fact that you're actually looking for a specific work, not a title (even though you may not realize it). You're not really looking for Sonate Nr. 17 d-Moll Op. 31 Nr. 2 für Klavier; you're looking for Beethoven's piano sonata in D minor with the opus number op. 31, no. 2, regardless of how it's described on the title page. Similarly, you don't want to have to hunt down all of the possible languages that "Nutcracker Suite" might be written in; you just want the music itself (printed or recorded).

Because of this, most music titles are entered in a library catalog in a standardized way, in which one title will serve regardless of what language or phrasing is used by the publisher to describe the work. These titles are called uniform titles, and are one of the keys to quickly finding the music you're seeking.

 If the work has a unique title 

By a "unique" title, we mean one that is not the name of a musical form, such as "sonata," "concerto," etc. An example would be Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker. When you search by such a title, you may get two kinds of results:

  • Listings for works with that title; and
  • A "cross reference" to some other title.

In the case of the Nutcracker, you will see both kinds of listings if you search by title under the word "nutcracker." You may find such things as

  • Children's stories based on the Nutcracker story;
  • Books about ballet and staging;
  • Videorecordings of the ballet;
  • A collection of short stories, one of which is titled;
  • Recordings of the ballet; and
  • Scores of the suite from the ballet.

In addition you will see the cross-references

  • Nutcracker -- see Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich, 1840-1893. Shchelkunchik and
  • Nutcracker suite -- see --Tchaikovsky Peter Ilich 1840 1893 Shchelkunchik Suite

Missing from the above search results are those recordings and scores of the Nutcracker with a title page in a language other than English. For this reason searching by title is hit-or-miss at best. Even a work with an English title might be published in another language, with the title translated accordingly.

In order to locate all of the Library's copies of the work in question, your best bet is to click on the cross-reference provided, which is the work's uniform title. Regardless of the language or wording on the title page of a particular edition, it will still be listed in the Library's catalog under this uniform title. (For example, clicking on the cross-reference Nutcracker suite -- see --Tchaikovsky Peter Ilich 1840 1893 Shchelkunchik Suite brings up 10 entries, all of them recordings or scores of the Tchaikovsky ballet suite).

 If the work does not have a unique title 

One of the things that distinguishes music from most other fields is the use of standard forms as the titles of works. One does not normally title a film Adventure Film no. 3, or a painting Western Landscape no. 7. (Poetry is one of the few exceptions, with collections of numbered sonnets, etc. being not uncommon.)

TIP: As a general rule, you are better off searching under the composer's name first, and then by title under the resulting listings. Because uniform titles are so consistent, they can also look very much alike and it can be difficult to tell which Sonatas, piano, no. 3 is Tippett's and which is Dello Joio's without looking at each and every record.

Countless musical works have titles like Sonata no. 4 in B major, opus 6 or Symphony no. 7 in A major, opus 92. Regrettably, these "generic" titles may appear in any language and the pieces of the title in every imaginable order, making a title search pointless.

For this reason, the uniform titles for these works are structured in a consistent, predictable form. Instead of searching for Sonate Nr. 17 d-Moll Op. 31 Nr. 2 für Klavier you search for Sonatas, piano, no. 17, op. 31, no. 2, D minor regardless of how the title is translated and/or rearranged on the title page. For more detailed information on how these titles are formatted, see Principles of Music Uniform Titles on this site.

 If the work has a nickname  

If a work has a nickname, this is often included as either an extra title entry in the catalog, or as a cross-reference to the uniform title for the work. If you're looking for Haydn's "Clock" symphony, a title search under clock may locate what you're looking for. However, unless a cross-reference comes up, be aware that you may only be seeing those scores or recordings that actually had the word "clock" somewhere on the title-page or container, so it's not terribly reliable as a search method.

 If the work is in a collection 

See How to Find Music in Collections on this site.