Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Yale libraries are open to current students, faculty, and staff. View COVID-19 library updates..

Music: Search Library Catalogs

A research guide for finding music in various formats in the Yale University Library, and for beginning research on music.

The Catalog

The Music Library collections are cataloged in two places: Orbis and Quicksearch Books+. 

Quicksearch unites several search services under one discovery interface.

  • Books+ unites Yale's two traditional online library catalogs: Orbis (most of the library) and Morris (the Law Library), and incorporates records from HathiTrust and the Internet Archive.
  • Databases and New Arrivals are focused subsections of Books+
  • Articles+ incorporates licensed e-resources, where you will find journal articles, newspaper articles, dissertations, and other material from a variety of sources. It searches across JSTOR, all the ProQuest databases, and against the full-text of many resources at the individual article or item-level
  • Digital Collections searches digitized images, archival documents, and other materials in the Yale University Library's primary Digital Collections repository.


Why Use Quicksearch?

Quicksearch Books+ Advanced Search offers an easy interface for complex searches for scores and recordings in a way that is not possible in Orbis.

Search results can be easily refined and re-executed. 

You may bookmark the Advanced Search page for future use.

The examples on this guide focus on finding music: particularly scores, recordings, and videos. For additional information on other searches, see the Quicksearch Help Pages

Advanced Search Features

Search up to 5 search boxes (rows) per search

Search within 14 fields, including author, title, publisher, location within a library, call number

Choose Boolean AND, OR, and NOT connectors

Filter by formats including Audio, Books, Video, Notated Music (scores), Archives and Manuscripts

Filter by YUL libraries, such as Music Library, OHAM (Oral History of American Music, and Beinecke

Filter by any language in the catalog (to find a particular language, start typing the name)

Limit by date of publication ranges (for example, 2000-2019)

Tip: for more precise searches, limit to 2 terms or phrases (enclosed in quotation marks) per box

Sample Searches

1. The sample search below will return CDs of Beethoven's Symphony no. 5, in the Music Library's Recordings Collection.

Tips: limit to 2 terms or phrases per box; enclose phrases within "quotation marks;" use digital to locate online and CD recordings


2. The Search Results screen and first item are given below. Note the red boxes around the terms that were searched. Click on the title "Symphony #5" to display the full catalog record.

3. Here is the first record from the search results.

  • Notice where the word "digital" appears. Use "digital" to find CDs and DVDs, as this term appears in Books+ records.
  • Note also the "Uniform Title," which catalogers apply to all recordings and scores of this work. This is a powerful search phrase. Copy and paste this phrase, within quotation marks, into the title field to retrieve a more precise set of results: "Symphonies, no. 5, op. 67, C minor"
  • Remember that Quicksearch will retrieve common singular and plural forms, so that a search for symphony also returns symphonies.

4. Request recordings at the Music Library's Circulation Desk on the first floor, giving the call number. In the above example the call number is MLCD 15325.

1. Here's a search for piano works by Robert Schumann in the scores collections (format=Notated music). Notice the choice of "Subject" as the field for piano - catalogers assign form and genre terms, along with names of instruments or ensembles, as subject headings for scores and recordings.

2. Note that in the first catalog record below the word "piano" occurs in both subject headings. You may wish to click "Back to Results" and then "Modify your search" to provide a more precise heading. You can enter phrase headings in quotation marks, for example "piano music" rather than piano music, to be more precise. Alternatively, you can click on either of the Subjects to see all works under that heading, in all formats. You will have to refine your search to limit to a particular composer or format (scores, recordings, etc.) 

3. Scores with the location Music Library, SML, are shelved in the stacks in the basement level. 

Scores with the location Music Library, SML, Reference Room, ML101M are located on the mezzanine level above the first floor.

In some cases your search terms may retrieve some but not all of the works in the library pertaining to your search, or they may retrieve many irrelevant resources.  Looking for the uniform title and refining your search brings back more complete results sets or more precise sets.

1. In the search below, for Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" quartet, the search has retrieved 4 scores.

2. Click on the title of the first entry to see the full record, and copy the Uniform title from the first record:

3. Now click Back to Results, and Modify search. Paste the Uniform title, Quartets, violins (2), viola, cello, D. 810, D minor, into the Title field, and change the field label using the pull-down arrow to Title Begins With. Then Search. Note that we now have 8 results instead of 4.

Search for Books in a similar way to scores and recordings. Music subject headings for books can be names of composers or their collaborators, form and genre terms (such as opera, oratorio, symphony, sonata), or topics such as Music--History and Criticism.

1. Other useful ways to refine your search results are by using the Facet links to the left of the Search Results list. The examples below focus on facets particularly useful for music, including Author, Subject, and Subject (Genre).

2. Author facets for scores can include composers, librettists, lyricists, arrangers, & editors. 

For recordings, composers, librettists, performers, conductors, and ensembles.

And for videos, composers, librettists, directors, performers, producers, and film companies.

Click on See more at the bottom of the facet to open a full list. 

3. Sort the list by number of results (default setting), or A-Z. 

Right-click on entries that interest you to open results in a new tab or window.

4. Subject facets for scores and recordings will include musical forms and genres, as well as topical headingsFor books, they may include topical subjects, as well as names of persons or organizations the book is about. The Subjects below refer to the results of the Bach B minor Mass search.

5. These are subjects one might see for a search for chamber music (using trio and clarinet as search terms):

6. Subject (Genre) facets will point to scores and parts as well as manuscripts or facsimiles for notated music


7. Subject (Genre) facets point out useful books about a composer, such as bibliography (book-length annotated lists of books, articles, etc. about him), dictionaries, handbooks, and thematic catalogs (lists of works, including incipits of movements). The examples below pertain to Johann Sebastian Bach. Some of these facets are still new to cataloging practice, such as Biography, and so we recommend avoiding using those. Of the more than 1000 books on Bach in our library, many more than 72 will contain biography. Exercise reasonable caution.

  1. Quicksearch will "stem" English words, and return regular singular and plural forms of words: "symphony" will also bring back "symphonies" but not "symphonic." Similarly, a search for "libretto" will also return "librettos" but not "libretti."
  2. Enclose phrases in quotation marks. Example "nozze di figaro." This will return more precise results than records that have nozze and di and figaro scattered throughout the record. If the phrase is part of the title, you can select the Title begins with search field - this will automatically put quotation marks around your phrase. 
  3. Use one or two terms or phrases per box; otherwise the relevancy algorithms will find results that have most of your terms. If you are searching for Beethoven's symphony 5, for example, and put all the terms in one box, your search results will find the combination of (Beethoven and Symphony) OR (Symphony and 5) OR (Beethoven and 5)
  4. Use digital as a search term in All Fields to limit to online and CD/DVD recordings or videos.
  5. AUTHORS: can include composers, librettists, translators, editors, arrangers, and so on. For sound recordings authors can also include performers, conductors, and ensembles. For videos authors can also include directors, producers, performers, and film companies.
  6. TITLES: include titles as found on the title page, Uniform Titles (scores and recordings), series titles, and earlier and later titles (particularly for periodicals and serials).
    1. Copy and paste Uniform Titles into the search box, using the Title Begins With field for a more precise search. These are very powerful search phrases that bring variant titles in multiple languages under one consistent heading.
    2. If your work has a distinctive title (most vocal and choral works, operas, many instrumental works such as Pictures at an Exhibition), that title in the original language of publication will be the uniform title.
    3. Drop initial articles from title searches. These include A, An, and The at the beginning of a title, and their equivalents in other languages:
      1. French: le, la, l', un, une;
      2. German: der, die, das, ein, eine,
      3. Italian: il, lo, la, le, i, gli, uno, un, una;
      4. Spanish: el, la, lo, los, las, un, una, unos, unas.
      5. Example:  L'histoire du soldat - search for "histoire du soldat;" The marriage of Figaro - search for "marriage of Figaro"
  7. SUBJECT: scores and recordings have form and genre terms, with the addition of instrumentation where variable, for subject headings: for example
    1. Choruses, Sacred (Mixed Voices, with Organ)
    2. Concertos, Trumpet (Solo with piano)
    3. Operas
    4. Organ music
    5. Piano Quintets; also Quintets (piano, bassoon, clarinet, horn, oboe)
    6. Suites
    7. Symphonies
    8. Variations
  8. SUBJECT (GENRE) will return particular types of works, as in the following examples. You may use these as search terms in the subject field or look for these and similar terms along the left-hand side of the search results screen and add them:
    1. For Reference Books:
      1. Bibliography (collections of books, articles, etc., on a topic or about a composer)
      2. Dictionaries
      3. Thematic Catalogs (lists of a composer's works, with musical incipits for each movement or section)
    2. For Scores:
      1. Facsimiles (photographic reproductions of manuscripts or rare printed editions)
      2. Parts
      3. Scores
      4. Scores and Parts
      5. Vocal scores
  9. LOCATION: within the Music Library, you may find it useful to limit to the following locations:
    1. "Recordings Collection"
    2. Reference
    3. "Historical Sound" 
    4. "Oral History"
    5. "Special Collections" for archives, manuscripts, and rare editions
  10. CALL NUMBER: enclose any letter-number combinations within quotation marks: for example, "M3," "ML410," "M452 B415," or "CD10101"
  11. A Truly Esoteric Tip: Sometimes you will find similar terms in the subject and subject genre field.
    1. It is usually best to choose the one in the Subject field.
    2. Another rule of thumb: choose the one with a higher number.
    3. Many of the Subject (Genre) headings are relatively new headings and can be found in only a few of the records in the catalog, or in catalog records that have not been fully reviewed as yet.
    4. Ask yourself if the numbers make sense: for example, in a collection with 165,000 audio recordings, why would there be only 13,000 "sound recordings." These are essentially equivalent terms, and the numbers should be nearly the same.