In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Resources for Musical Research

  • Introduction
  • Style Guides for English-Language Writing about Music
  • General Bibliographies of Literature on Music
  • Terminological Music Dictionaries
  • Multilingual Music Dictionaries
  • Iconographies
  • Traditional Musics
  • Music Theory
  • Resources about Composers
  • Popular Music, Jazz, Blues, and Gospel
  • Music Library Guides
  • Music Notation

Music Resources for Musical Research
Zdravko Blazekovic
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0197


At the time when the Internet provides an instant access to an incalculable amount of information about music and to the most diverse range of sources, well-organized reference works with their curated content and controlled vocabularies are more important than ever. They provide the most direct entry point to the relevant information about a specific topic. The number of resources pertinent to music research, both available in print and in electronic databases, is growing daily and every source is capable of providing esoteric entries that can only hint at where one may start the research. This article balances older reference works that have still not lost their significance for music research with more recent resources and databases reflecting contemporary directions in the control of sources and navigation of research tools. Resources included here should be in the toolbox of every undergraduate and graduate student intending to do music research. Individual sections are dedicated to English-language style guides for writing; reference works covering general music sources and specialized repertoires from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period; bibliographies on music scholarship and key encyclopedias; terminological and multilingual dictionaries; and key resources for research in music iconography, traditional musics, music theory, popular music, music librarianship, music publishing and printing, and music notation. The overview includes only the all-inclusive reference works, covering the entire field of a specific music area of scholarship. Excluded are bibliographies, correspondences, catalogues, iconographies, and thematic catalogues concerned with individual artists. Also excluded are catalogues of specific libraries, transcriptions of folk songs in specific geographic regions, and indexes of performances in particular cities or venues. Although such resources are crucially important in music scholarship, they can be found in articles on specific composers or topics.

Style Guides for English-Language Writing about Music

Over the years several style manuals for writing about music have been published. Cowdery 2006 is the most comprehensive in suggesting the best practices for rendering concepts in English as well as other languages, and for bibliographic citing of documents available in electronic media such as blogs, Internet websites, and electronic resources. Boyle, et al. 2004 and Wingell 2009 are guides designed for students researching and writing their assignments. Holoman 2008 is a guide for writing about Western concert music.

  • Boyle, David, Richard K. Fiese, and Nancy Zavac. A Handbook for Preparing Graduate Papers in Music. Houston, TX: Halcyon Press, 2004.

    A handbook aimed to provide the music students with guidelines in the preparation of theses, essays, dissertations, and other assignments that may be required writing as part of their graduate program.

  • Cowdery, James R., ed. How to Write about Music: The RILM Manual of Style. 2d ed. New York: Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale, 2006.

    Style guide presenting policies and procedures relevant to writing about music in American English, also widely considering issues relevant for other languages and treatment of non-English terms, including recommendations for transliteration of languages not using the roman alphabet. The guide provides chapters on abstract writing and indexing, and offers citation formats that also specifically include music document types, such as liner notes, program notes, editions of music, sound recordings, and music videos.

  • Holoman, D. Kern. Writing about Music: A Style Sheet. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

    A guide for authors writing in English about Western art music. It is an expanded version of the style sheet used by the editors and staff of the journal 19th-Century Music. Individual chapters address issues of music terminology, narrative text, citations, captions for music examples, tables and illustrations, and printed programs.

  • Wingell, Richard. Writing about Music: An Introductory Guide. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009.

    A guide offering students practical advice and guidance to consecutive phases of the research and writing process for papers and theses related to music. Recommendations for seminar presentations, concert reports, program notes, and essay examinations are also included.

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