< Skip to main content


Sources in Music Research & Performance

Music Scores:

  • Come in various formats
  • Vary in quality
  • Score formats each have advantages and disadvantages depending on their intended use 

Below is a list of some common score formats, and their uses:

Type Example Uses
Full Score ('conductor's score') Don Giovanni For study, analysis, and conducting. Not suitable for individual performance.
Study Score ('miniature score') Don Giovanni (overture) For study and analysis. Not suitable for performance or conducting.
Performance Score Hungarian March From "The Damnation of Faust Op. 24" (Set of Parts) For performance. Not suitable for study and analysis, or conducting. Includes individual parts (as applicable).
Piano Reduction, Piano-Vocal Score Owen Wingrave For rehearsal and performance. Not suitable for study or analysis.  
Critical Editions, Collected Works, Monuments of Music Digital Mozart Edition Scholarly editions of music best suited for academic study. Generally not suitable for performance, although the often contain works not published elsewhere.

Sound Recordings: 

  • Are an essential resource in music study and performance
  • Vary in quality
  • Help you to better interpret a musical work, and write better assignments

When including sound recordings in your assignments and repertoire study, consider the following:

  • Listen to contrasting performances of the same work
  • Listen to authoritative sound recordings wherever possible. You can find lists of authoritative recordings from scholarly biographies/bibliographies of performers and composers
  • Listen to high-quality  sound recordings. Try to find sound recordings with good sound quality, such as those on CD, or in library streaming databases
  • Read the liner notes (physical or digital) that accompany sound recordings. They contain essential background information often not found elsewhere
  • Note: sound recordings in Rutherford Library and RCRF must be placed on hold from the library catalogue in order to be retrieved  

Secondary Sources:

  • Critique, interpret, or evaluate primary sources such as scores, recordings, and performances 
  • You will likely use many secondary sources when you write a music paper

*Remember that it is important to also use a variety of primary sources, whenever possible.

Below are some of the most common secondary sources used in music research, and how you might use them:

Type Example Uses
Biography Patti Smith: America's Punk Rock Rhapsodist For information on the life and works of performers and composers. Often includes critical assessments of their impact on musical life 
History & Criticism Punk Rock, So What?: The Cultural Legacy of Punk For information on various musical subjects, with a critical historical perspective
Analysis Song Interpretation in 21st Century Pop Music For analyses of music works, genres, and composers
Scholarly Article ‘nor Did I Socialise with Their People’: Patti Smith, Rock Heroics and the Poetics of Sociability For peer-reviewed information that reports on original research, or evaluates the research of others. *You are often required to use this type of source in your papers
Popular Article Patti Smith: At Last, The Lower Manhattan Show For journalistic account of musical performances, music criticism, etc. *Especially helpful in researching popular music
Thesis/Dissertation "She's So Busy Being Free": The Dynamics of Utopia in Popular Music by Women, 1968--2008 For an in-depth treatment of a topic. *Use the bibliographies from theses and dissertations as a starting point for finding sources for your assignments


Reference Sources

  • Are 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

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


For a comprehensive list of music reference sources, see:

More Information on Sources

For more information on different types of sources and how they could be used, see: