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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Writing Citations in Music

Titles of Songs, Operas, and Similar Works

See CMOS 8.194: Titles of Operas, songs, and the like

Titles of Larger Works

The titles for larger works such as symphonies, oratorios, operas, and other longer compositions are written in italics and are capitalized as you would normally capitalize a title.


  • Handel’s Messiah
  • Rhapsody in Blue
  • Finlandia

Titles of Smaller Works

The titles for smaller works, such as movements, arias, songs, or shorter works are instead presented in quotation marks.


  • “All You Need Is Love” (a song by the Beatles)
  • “So What” (a composition by Miles Davis)
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner”

When writing the title for a smaller work and also giving the larger work it is a part of, list the smaller work in quotation marks first and then the larger work in italics. Separate them with the word "from".


  • “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ ” from Oklahoma!
  • “Wohin?” from Die schöne Müllerin
  • “La vendetta, oh, la vendetta” from The Marriage of Figaro
  • the “Anvil Chorus” from Verdi’s Il Trovatore

Titles of Instrumental Works

See CMoS 8.195: Instrumental Works and CMoS 8.196: Opus numbers

Instrumental works are often known by a generic name, such as symphony, quartet, sonata, etc. These names are capitalized, but are not in italics or quotation marks. If a work has an alternative title, it should be written in italics. If a movement has an alternative title, it should be written in quotation marks. If the alternative title is written alongside the generic name, it should be written in parenthesis.


  • Concerto no. 2 for Piano and Orchestra; the second movement, Allegro appassionato, from Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto; two piano concertos
  • Ives’s Piano Sonata no. 2 (Concord, Mass., 1840–60) - or - Ives's Concord Sonata
  • Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (or Concerto for Orchestra)
  • Bach's Mass in B Minor
  • Carter's Figment, for solo cello
  • Dvořák's String Quartet no. 12 (The American) - or - Dvořák's The American String Quartet
  • Air with Variations (“The Harmonious Blacksmith”) from Handel’s Suite no. 5 in E

Words such as number or opus are abbreviated and are not capitalized. Other letters referring to the catalog of a composer's works are also abbreviated, but are capitalized. Opus and catalog numbers should have a comma before them.

  • Number → no.
  • Numbers → nos.
  • Opus → op.
  • Wolfgang Schmieder. Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach) → BWV
  • Köchel Catalog (Mozart) → K
  • Otto Erich Deutsch. Schubert Thematic Catalogue. (Schubert) → D


  • Bach's St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
  • Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67

If a work has both an opus number as well as a catalog number, write the opus number first followed by the catalog number.


  • Schubert's Winterreise, op. 89, D. 911

Titles of Works Not in English

See CMoS 11.6: Titles of Works From Other Languages

As a general rule, follow the rules of capitalization and punctuation of the original language. Specifically for German, this means that all nouns should be capitalized. For other languages, use sentence case - only capitalize the first word of the title unless there are proper nouns.


The use of Italics and Quotation Marks to show titles of works or titles of shorter works should follow the same conventions of English. Do include special characters and diacritics (examples: æ, ñ, ó, or ß).

Examples from CMoS 11.8: Italic versus roman type for titles from other languages

  • We picked up a copy of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung to read on the train.
  • She published her article in the Annales de démographie historique.
  • Strains of the German carol “Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen” reached our ears.
  • Miguel Hernández’s poem “Casida del sediento” has been translated as “Lament of the Thirsting Man.”

If the work has a translated English tile, include the translated title in parentheses after the original title:

  • Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
  • Slavyánskiy marsh (Slavic March)

If possible, for languages such as Russian or Chinese which use a different alphabet, use the transliterated version of the title. A transliterated title is one where the text has been converted to the Latin alphabet.

  • Славя́нский марш, (Slavyánskiy marsh)
  • 看不见的声音 (Invisible Voices)

Changes you can make:

1) Change punctuation between the title and subtitle to a colon ( :).

2) Capitalize the first word of the subtitle.

3) Change guillmetes (« ») or other forms of quotation marks into double quotation marks ( " " ).

4) Do NOT insert or remove any other punctuation marks.