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Music Research Guide

Basic Keyword Searching

Connect to the WRLC Catalog (online catalog at - the default is a keyword search. Keyword searches work best for music because a musical work can exist in so many formats (scores, recordings, books about the work, etc.).

  1. Enter your search terms (last name, most distinctive word in title, etc.).
  2. Once you get to your list of results, you will be able to limit your search in varying ways using the Search Facets on the left-hand side of the screen.
  3. To limit to Catholic University, choose Catholic from the "Institutions" drop-down menu.
  4. To limit to CDs, choose Audio from the "Resource Type" drop-down menu.
  5. To limit to scores (including sheet music), choose score from the "Resource Type" drop-down menu. This will find vocal selections and full scores
  6. Put word phrases in quotation marks: "sound of music"
  7. Truncation: a question mark (?) provides a "wild card" in the keyword search mechanism; for example, song? will catch song or songs.

Some examples:

Q: Find all the recordings CUA has of "Send in the Clowns" by Sondheim.
A: A keyword search - sondheim clowns - with a limit to "Audio" will bring up all relevant recordings.

Q: Find the CD and the sheet music for the opera Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten.
A: Type britten "albert herring" – this brings up a CD, a DVD, the full orchestral score, the piano-vocal score, and an anthology of opera arias by Britten. This kind of search will bring up everything the library owns (excluding electronic holdings and special collections - always check Naxos Music Library for additional recordings and Classical Scores Library for additional scores).

Note: most CDs have all the tracks listed online, so you can search for titles of songs and arias. This is often not the case for scores. If your keyword search for a song or aria brings disappointing results, search by the main title of the work (for example, search for the opera title Amahl and the Night Visitors instead of the aria title "All that gold"). You can also try looking in a song index. To find out how click on the tab "Finding Songs and arias."

Struggling to Find What You Need?

It sometimes happens that your search yields disappointing results. You should never assume that you have found everything. You should ask yourself the following questions.

Did I search in the correct place?
Not everything can be found in the online catalog. If you are looking for journal articles, you'll want to use a database (click here to see music databases). The Music Library also has special collections for choral octavos, popular sheet music, and rare Latin American scores

Is the item part of a larger work?
Not all excerpts are published separately. If you are looking for a movement or aria from a larger work, search for the larger work.

Is the item in a collection?
Most online catalogs do not index every piece in a collection or every volume in a set. The online record for a set of the complete Haydn Piano Sonatas, score or recording, may not list each work. If you get disappointing results, remove specifics and search more broadly: i.e. "Haydn Piano Sonat? score" rather than "Haydn Piano Sonat? XVII/3 score."

Does the item have another title? Did I choose a good keyword?
Popular titles are often not what the composer called the piece. Don't use the popular title "Elvira Madigan" for Mozart's Piano Concerto K.467. It's better to use 467 in your keyword search string. Choose keywords which are distinctive. For Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, “Grimes” is better than “Peter.”

Remember to truncate forms when using a keyword search.
Instead of having to performing different searches for every variation of a word, use truncation by spelling the first part of the word followed by a ? or a * to replace the possible remaining letters. Examples include: symphon?, sonat?, trio?, concert?, and song?

Remember to leave off articles at the start of a title.
Including words like "the" or "a/an" at the beginning of a title can sometimes cause the search to fail. This includes non-English titles. So if you want to find a score for Der fliegende Holländer​, search either "fliegende holländer" or "flying dutchman." (Note that diacritical marks are not required.)

Is the item really by this composer/author?
Attributions may change, but libraries don’t always go back and change previous cataloging.

Use the right tool for the job.
A little thought can save a great deal of time. If you find yourself pawing through every volume of a collected work or set, or sifting through hundreds of search returns, think "is there a resource that can help me with this?"

Don’t ask a librarian to do your work for youDo ask for help if you are having difficulty finding an item or need guidance.