Why should you use (and cite!) different types of scores in your research?

There are a number of different options when it comes to scores you can use for research and performance:

  • Manuscripts
  • Facsimiles
  • Scholarly editions, including collected/historical sets (M2s), collected/complete works editions (M3s), and Urtext editions
  • Performing editions

When conducting music research, you should choose your edition carefully based on your personal research needs:

  • Do you need a scholarly edition that captures the composer’s final intention for the piece?
  • Are you looking for a score to use in performance that includes suggestions from an expert interpreter of that style or genre?
  • Have you identified what you think is a wrong note or inaccurate text in a specific edition and need to compare it to others to find out if that’s really what you’ve found?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

For more information on the different types of scores, and on when and how you might use them in your research, please visit our Types of Scores and How to Find Them Guide

Tips for searching for print scores in the University Libraries catalog

Tip 1: Always use Advanced Search and the Catalog Only option when searching for scores.

  • By searching this way, you'll get the option to limit your search results to scores only (and won't have to sift through books, articles, recordings, and other materials related to your keywords). Remember: putting in more information at the start of your search will ensure that you'll get fewer results back and they're more likely to be relevant to what you're looking for!
  • When starting your search, visit the Libraries homepage at lib.umn.edu, click the down arrow next to the search box, and select "Advanced Search from the list:

    An image of the UMN Libraries homepage with arrows showing where to click to get to Advanced Search: first, click the down arrow next to the search box; then, click Advanced Search from the menu that appear.

  • Then, choose "Catalog Only" from the buttons at the top of the screen. After you do this, several menus will appear on the right side, and you'll be able to use the "Material Type" menu to limit your search results to scores:

    An image of the UMN Libraries Advanced Search interface. Choose "Catalog Only" from the buttons on the top of the screen, and use the "Material Type" menu to limit search results to scores.


Tip 2: Try adding a publisher name to your search.

  • It's helpful to get to know the names of publishers that usually put out good-quality, scholarly, and/or Urtext editions for the repertoire you work with.
    • When searching for a score to perform from, you might want to use an Urtext edition. As defined by the Harvard Dictionary of Music, 4th ed. (p. 936), an Urtext edition is “a text in its presumed original state, without subsequent alterations or additions by an editor; an edition purporting to present a work in such a state.” Music Research: A Handbook, 3th ed. defines them as the following: “Urtext (Ger.): original text”; “Urtext edition: performing edition intended to be as close to the composer’s original as possible without editorial changes or additions” (p. 284). Performing editions may also be useful, but could have many additions (like bowings and articulations) added by an editor. For more information on different types of scores, visit our Types of Scores and How to Find Them guide (coming soon).
  • Important publisher names for Urext editions vary by rep, but probably include:
    • Bärenreiter
    • Henle
    • Universal Editions
    • Wiener Editions
    • Salbert/Heugel
    • Ricordi
  • IMPORTANT: Note that not all scores published by these publishers are Urtext editions! Look at the introduction to the score, description in the Libraries catalog, or the publisher website to learn more. Also, if you notice editorial markings that aren’t the same as other editions (bowings, articulations, etc.), then it’s not an Urtext edition.

  • Try adding the publisher name as a keyword in your search - this will narrow your search results considerably.

Tip 3: Try adding an opus number or a catalog number to your search.

  • Not sure what this is for your piece? Check the Works List in the Oxford Music Online/Grove entry or google the piece. Also, this is a great time to make sure you have the correct spelling for the names of the composer and the piece!
  • If searching the catalog for "Brahms Op. 88" or "Brahms Opus 88" isn't getting you what you're looking for, try  leaving out the "Opus" or "Op." - search "Brahms 88" instead.
  • Catalog numbers: These will look something like “BWV 106” for works by Bach; “D. 821” for pieces by Schubert; or K . 429 or KV 492 for compositions by Mozart. If you're not finding what you're looking for by including the letters (BWV, D, K, etc.), try just searching for the composer's name and the number instead (e.g. Bach 106).


Tip 4: Check the catalog record to make sure the item you found is actually what you want.

  • After clicking on the title (which is a link to all of the information contained in the catalog record) look closely at the description of the item: Does it contain parts? How many pages is it? There may be useful information in the description that can help you figure out if what you've found is actually what you're looking for.

Questions? Need help? 

Please contact Music Librarian Jessica Abbazio (jabbazio@umn.edu) or the Music Library staff (musiclib@umn.edu) for help!


Tips for browsing in person and finding scores on the Music Library's shelves

Last Updated: Jul 20, 2021 3:37 PM