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Waidner-Spahr Library

Music: Scores & Books about Music

Guide to library materials for music research

Classification Numbers: Where to look for print books

The library's scores and print books about music are arranged according to the Library of Congress Classification System. You can browse the shelves physically (in the library) or virtually (via the Library Catalog) according to the specific topics and subtopics represented by the classification numbers.

The three broadest music subclasses are: 

M Scores

ML Music history, criticism, biography, bibliography

MT Music instruction and study

You can see on our library map three important locations for music resources: scores are on the lower level, reference books are on the main level, and circulating books about music are on the upper level.

Below are several sample classification numbers:

M1001 Symphonies (scores)

M1500 Operas (scores) 

ML100 Dictionaries and encyclopedias about music

ML410 Biographies of individual composers (arranged alphabetically by composer)

ML420 Biographies of singers

ML1700 Opera (books about opera)

ML2075 Motion picture music History and criticism

ML3533.8-ML3534.6 Rock music

ML3790 Music trade (the business of music)

ML3916-ML3918 Social and political aspects of music

The numbers above are just the beginnings of complete call numbers. For example, ML410 .M9 S815 1991 is the complete call number for the book The Mozart Myths: A Critical Reassessment by William Stafford. The .M9 represents Mozart, and S815 stands for the author's last name, Stafford. You need to write down, print out, or electronically capture the complete call number and location to find the book in the stacks with the matching call number on its spine label. 

Can't find it?

If you find a book in the catalog with a Dewey Decimal call number and a location of storage, submit a storage request form and it will be retrieved for you. If you find a book in the catalog with a Dewey Decimal call number and a location of Archives & Special Collections, go to Archives & Special Collections on the library's lower level and request the book. (These books can only be used in the archives reading room.)

If a book you want is not in our catalog, or is checked out to someone else, you may borrow from other libraries.


Reserves are located at the Circulation Desk, main level. These are materials selected by your professor for your particular course. They may be books, scores, CDs, DVDs, or videocassettes. They are all kept behind the circulation desk and must be requested by call number. To find out what your professor has put on reserve for your class, and to see each item's call number, click on Course Reserves in the library catalog.

Subject Headings: How to search

In addition to browsing by call number, you may search the Library Catalog or JumpStart in other ways, such as by keyword, author, title, and subject. Here are several selected Library of Congress subject headings to enter as a subject search in the catalog:


Motion picture music History and criticism

Music Political aspects

Music Social aspects

Music Trade

Music and literature

Music and race

Music and technology

National socialism and music


Protest songs

Rock music History and criticism

Sound recording industry

Composers Biography

or, Composers [Country] Biography (for example, Composers Germany Biography)

African American composers Biography

Women composers Biography

You can also perform a subject search using a musician's name to find biographies and criticism. You do not have to enter dates. Examples:


Dylan, Bob, 1941-

Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

Primary Sources

The subheading "Sources" following a topic or name indicates the work contains primary sources. For example:

Music History and criticism Sources

Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971 Sources

Primary sources are created by the musician being studied, or by contemporaries and associates. Primary sources include a composer's autobiographies, diaries, letters, interviews, annotations, and manuscripts of scores. Video and audio recordings of performances by musicians of their own works are primary sources. Scores and recordings created under the composer's supervision are also primary sources, as are reviews, correspondence, and biographies by contemporaries and associates.