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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding Music Materials

A guide to searching for and distinguishing between different musical formats using the library catalog.

The Basics

This page outlines some general tips for searching for scores and recordings, since a similar process applies to both formats. For more detailed, in-depth information specific to a particular format, click through the next three pages, selecting the format you're looking for (printed music or audio/video).

  • The next box will walk you through the filters you can use in the catalog to limit and refine your results
  • The final box summarizes some general search tips you can use to find scores and recordings more efficiently

Searching for Scores & Recordings

When searching for printed music and recordings, it's often best to start with what you know about the piece and to use the default keyword search feature. 

A keyword search will check the terms you enter against almost every word in every part of an item's catalog record. This is important for music materials because the composer might not be listed in the author field, or there may be a small variation on the title (like foreign language titles). 

Then use the "Tweak your results" section in the catalog to get more specific. To learn more about refining your results, check out the next tabs in this box. Each tab shows a different filter you can use to make your results more specific.

A screenshot of a keyword search in the catalog.

Use the Resource Type facet to pick whether you want books, scores, audio recordings, or video. Limiting by format will eliminate a lot of irrelevant results from your search. 

Screenshot of library catalog with the tweak your results filter options

Consult the Subjects list in the Details section of the item record to determine what an item is about or what type of music the item contains. Subjects will tell you if the item contains a score, vocal score, score and parts, etc.

The subjects listed in blue are also clickable; you can click on any of the subject headings listed in the record to initiate a new search for similarly classified materials.

screenshot of catalog record for a recording with the classifying subjects indicated

To see the full contents of an item, you must scroll down to the Details section. This is where you can see what works or tracks a recording includes or what chapter titles a collected anthology includes.

screenshot of catalog record for recording highlighting Contents and General Note sections

As we covered in the previous tabs, each item in the library catalog is assigned one or more subject headings to tell you what it is about. Rather than search by keyword, you can also choose to search by subject heading using the catalog's Advanced Search feature. 

To search by subject in the catalog:

  • Open the library catalog and click on "Advanced Search" to the right of the search bar
  • Underneath "Search filters", you'll see that the default is set to "Any Field"
  • Click on the arrow next to "Any Field" and select "Subject" from the drop-down menu
  • Try a search
  • To brainstorm subjects to try, we recommend looking at some of your more promising results from your basic searches and using the subjects listed in the record to find additional related materials

General Search Tips

Using the following tips will make your searching more efficient and effective.

  • Use quotation marks to keep phrases together
    • Search for a phrase (like "string quartets" or "rhythmic improvisation") with quotation marks to only retrieve results that include your terms in the exact order you specified. But be careful - make sure something is really a phrase or you might miss important results.
  • Use a truncation mark (an asterisk *) to retrieve variations of a word
    • For example: Symphon* finds symphony, symphonies, and symphonien
  • If you're searching for something that is part of a larger work, look for the work itself. For instance, search for the song cycle rather than a song within it:
    • For example: Schubert Winterreise rather than Schubert Gute Nacht
  • Search for distinctive titles in their original languages.
    • For instance: Handel Giulio Cesare; or Mozart Zauberflote