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Starting points for research in music

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Background Information & Facts - Online

Use these ONLINE resources to locate authoritative factual information such as biographies, dates, and works listings. This is generally the sort of information you need when starting research projects and for writing program notes.


Oxford Music Online * contains several important resources including New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (the place to go for information when you think you wanted to go to Wikipedia instead) and other specialized encyclopedias. Use this site to find biographies of composers and performers. Also important for the complete works listings of each composer providing essential information for program notes. Make sure to also check out some of the TOPICAL entries and other helpful features available like the following (and many more):

MGG Online * is an essential German language music encyclopedia. This online version contains the second editions (published between 1994-2008). It's particularly good in that some of its more important older articles are being regularly updated and new articles for emerging people and musical concepts are being added. While this is in German, it has Google translate embedded into the platform so you can easily get a rough translation. 

Classical Music Reference Library * brings together about 40 different music reference resources. Most notable are Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (all 6 volumes) and Women Composers (all 8 volumes). Other resources include books like the following selections (and many more):



African American Music Reference * contains essays and liner notes related to blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other forms of black American musical expression. Includes books like the following selections (and many more):


Garland Encyclopedia of World Music * is the best starting point for finding basic information about music from all over the world. Be aware that if you plan to browse this resource that it is arranged geographically, not alphabetically.

  • Also available in print: 1st floor Langson Library - ML100.G16 1998


Oxford Bibliographies Online: Music* provides lengthy annotated bibliographies by experts on each subject. Use one of the bibliographies to quickly locate the essential readings on a given topic. Includes entries on topics like the following (and many more):


Oxford Research Encyclopedias include dozens of high quality, peer reviewed encyclopedias on a wide array of topics. These articles can be extremely helpful to better understand the context and background in which music has appeared. Examples of topics covered in this platform include: African History; American History; Asian History; Latin American History; Psychology; Religion; etc.

Gale Virtual Reference Library * is an excellent resource for a plethora of electronic encyclopedias and dictionaries. Very few offered here are specific to music, but many of them can be helpful. For example, if looking up information on queer musicians, you will find some excellent information in the Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History. Another example: Use something like Encyclopedia Judaica to find information on Jewish music. Be a researcher and look everywhere!

Background Information & Facts - Print

(General music encyclopedias focused on my music of a particular country/culture)





Find Books

If you are searching for a particular book or want to discover a book on a certain topic, you should use a catalog to locate a book.

The new UC Library Search online catalog not only searches the physical and electronic holdings of UCI Libraries, but also all of the libraries across the University of California system. If you sign into your library account using your UCINet ID and password, you'll be able to request physical materials and scans of articles and book chapters from other UC libraries directly from the catalog.

If you want to browse the music collections to discover something new then head up to the 3rd floor of Langson Library. Call numbers for music materials begin with the letter M.

M - Music. Most of the sheet music is here.

ML - Books about music. Generally music history and analysis.

MT - Music Instruction. A mix of books and sheet music. Music education, some music theory, etude books, and orchestral excerpts.

Find Dissertations and Theses

Locate dissertations and theses using the following tools:

Dissertations and Theses * is a multidisciplinary database that allows you to find doctoral dissertations and masters theses. In addition to the actual subject content, I find these documents particularly valuable for their bibliographies.

Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology is a service provided by the American Musicological Society (AMS). This database currently contains records for over 14,000 dissertations only related to music. This can also be used to locate dissertations currently in progress.

NDLTD is a free search engine to locate electronic theses and dissertations from all over the world. Many are freely available online.


UCI Libraries offers many different ebook collections. Some of these collections provide books on many different subjects and others only focus on a few different subjects. Following is a select list of ebook collections that are most relevant to Music:

Cambridge Companions to Music * provide clear and accessible information on composers, instruments, and musical topics with the performer and student in mind.

Oxford Handbooks Online: Music * are excellent starting points for both factual and analytical topics in music. Tends to focus on contemporary topics like technology in music, etc.

Oxford Bibliographies Online: Music * provides lengthy annotated bibliographies by experts on each subject. Use one of bibliographies to quickly locate the essential readings on a given topic.

Oxford History of Western Music * is a comprehensive 6 volume survey of western music by the prominent musicologist Richard Taruskin

JSTOR Music eBooks * has many books published by major university presses related to music. UCI has access to many of the books published from 2017-present.

ACLS Humanities E-Books provides approximately 4000 ebooks from dozens of different scholarly publishers that have all been recommended by scholars in 10 different learned societies as making significant contributions to their fields.

HathiTrust is an ongoing project between many different large academic libraries to provide digital access to their public domain works. The UCI community is able to access over 5,000 books specifically about music and over 4,000 pieces of sheet music. Make sure to login!!

The eBooks research guide has a large list of more popular ebook resources.

Translations - Online

IPA Source was developed to assist singers and teachers in the intelligent and well informed performance of vocal literature. It is the largest collection of literal translations and International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcriptions on the web. The goal of IPA Source is to promote comprehension and accurate pronunciation of foreign language texts in order for the singer to imbue each syllable with the appropriate emotional content.

Singer's Babel * offers tools to help you learn the meaning and pronunciation of texts found in art songs, song cycles, oratorios, cantatas, and secular and sacred choral music. Hear a native speaker reciting the text while you read the original text. Also includes word-for-word and IPA translations.

Naxos Music Library * is generally for listening to music, BUT many of the albums have the original liner notes that have translations! To find them, look for an album that has your song, open it, look on the left side of the screen for the link to the "booklet." Open it and generally there will be translations!

LiederNet is a great, FREE resource for translations of many art songs. While many are great, remember that they are not all vetted through a scholarly process, so the quality can sometimes be hit or miss.