This guide provides research tips and selected resources for studies in music

Identifying Reference Materials

Reference Sources

  • Are an excellent places to start when researching an unfamiliar topic, first performing a piece, or writing programme notes.

They typically contain:

  • Background information
  • Lists of primary/secondary sources on a topic
  • Pointers to useful resources on a topic

For a comprehensive list of music reference sources, see:

Below are some of the common music reference sources, examples, and possible uses:

Type Example Uses
Encyclopedia Grove Music Online For comprehensive articles on music and musicians, as well as composer works lists 
Dictionary Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians For finding out brief biographical details about composers, performers, music scholars, etc.
Bibliography The Musical: a Research and Information Guide For comprehensive lists of sources on a specific topic 
Discography Giacomo Meyerbeer: a Discography of Vintage Recordings, 1889 - 1955  For comprehensive lists of recordings of specific artists, genres, labels, etc. Particularly useful in jazz and popular music research 
Thematic Catalogue Catalogue of Carl Nielsen's Works For lists of the complete works of a composer, including performance history, manuscript sources, and bibliography
Texts & Translations Exploring Art Song Lyrics For song texts and translations. Often includes International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcriptions


Finding Tertiary Sources

There are several useful reference tools for music. If you are searching for reference materials through the Library Catalogue:

  • Ensure you are in the "Advanced Search" interface
  • Search for sources using a combination of terms and fields, e.g.: 
    • music (select SU Subject in the drop down menu) AND [insert reference type here, e.g. Dictionary, or Encyclopedia...]
    • Add other keyword terms if needed, e.g. 20th c., Asian, Blues...
  • Finally, limit to relevant source types: e.g. books, electronic resources...

The following databases may also be helpful: