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Overview of 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 the links below to your bookmarks/favorites:

Top Resources:

Course Guides:

Finding music in the library catalog can be a challenge, but once you learn some basic techniques it becomes much easier.

  • ND Catalog

    The ND Catalog allows enhanced keyword searching and filtering based on numerous facets. For example, you can search for a specific composer, and then limit that search to scores only. If you prefer the old catalog, you can always use it by clicking on the links for Catalog Classic. The search tips in this guide apply to both catalogs.

  • OneSearch

    OneSearch will allow you to search our library catalog as well as a large database of articles and free resources. Results can be somewhat overwhelming and irrelevant, but often will turn up something you weren't expecting. Give it a try! You can always limit by books, CDs, etc. to see those items only.

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"). However, not all catalog records will include this information, 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"

Browsing the Collection

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.

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


Journals & Periodicals

Some print journals that aren’t available online or that are key to our research areas appear on the shelves. The majority are in these two call number ranges. 

ML 1 US Periodicals (by title)
ML 5  Foreign Periodicals (by title)


Reference & Literature

ML 100-102 Encyclopedias/Dictionaries
ML 134 Composer bibliographies (by last name)
ML 410 Composer biographies (by last name)


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 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


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

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Dictionaries are most useful in music when they provide detailed definitions of terms, particularly the plethora of foreign words used over the centuries by composers and performers. Sometimes they include information more commonly found in encyclopedias, such as historical overviews of genres and forms.  Encyclopedias offer more in-depth general information on topics and can range from single volumes dedicated to one subject or comprehensive reference works like Grove and MGG.

Handbooks & Other General Reference

Reference resources like Handbooks, Guides, and Manuals provide subject-specific, sometimes technical information to aid in understanding important aspects of the discipline or subject that they treat. 

Web Resources

Below are some general music websites that might prove useful for performance, research, or presentations.