Instrument and Voice Guides

Some music-specific examples to help you find what you really want: Tricks for searching in the Libraries catalog and databases

Strategies for starting research/writing projects

Starting a research/writing project can be overwhelming, but getting organized is the first step. These tips will help with taking effective notes, creating an outline, formulating a thesis statement, and mroe  - pick and choose the ideas that you feel will work best for you!

Getting started for researching program notes and lecture recitals

Looking for scholarship on performance, pedagogy, history, and other relevant topics?

  • Start by searching in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. RILM indexes and links to full text articles from thousands of journals, books, dissertations, conference proceedings, and more. Many articles are available in full text; for those materials that are not, click the "M-Find It" button to request items through interlibrary loan.
  • Music Periodicals Database is another great place to search. This database offers full text and indexing for articles in hundreds of music periodicals

  • JSTOR allows you to download PDFs of articles from hundreds of humanities journals, including over 70 music-specific titles. Remember: JSTOR doesn't include the newest scholarship so although it's a great place to start your search, it shouldn't be where your research ends.
  • Interested in the most cutting-edge research out there? Proquest Dissertations and Theses is the place to start searching for both full-text and indexed theses from all over North America.

Looking for more digital tools? Visit the Music-Related Databases Guide!


Guides to writing program notes:

Note: Though these materials are often shelved in the Music Library's Reference section (located in the low shelving across from the circulation desk when you first enter the Library), they're sometimes placed on Course Reserves. If you're looking for a title and it's not in Reference, please ask at the circulation desk!

Bellman, Jonathan. A Short Guide to Writing about Music. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

  • Reference, ML3797 .B4 2007
  • Provides a good overview of different types of music-related writing: analysis, program notes, summaries, abstracts, press releases, and scholarly papers (opinion pieces)

​Strunk, Jr., William and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

  • Reference, PE1408.S772 1999
  • A classic guide to grammar, punctuation, and style that’s short and easy to read
  • Highly recommended if you have not had much practice with thinking about and implementing the rules of grammar

Wingell, Richard. Writing about Music: An Introductory Guide. 4th ed. New York: Pearson, 2008.

  • Reference, ML3797 .W54 2009
  • Walks the reader through the research process (choosing a topic, gathering materials, creating an outline, writing and editing drafts, common writing problems, etc.)
  • Highly recommended, especially if you have not written a research paper before or feel less than confident in your ability to write in the English language
  • Also covers different types of music-related writing: seminar presentations, concert reports, program notes

Working on a style analysis paper?

  • Check individual composer biographies for information about specific pieces; biographies of a single composer are located in the ML410 section of the Music Library. Strategies for finding this content, which may be peppered throughout biographies, include:
    • Consulting the table of contents and index for piece titles, and the names of relevant people and places in the composer's life
    • Looking closely at the sections of the biography that deal with a specific time frame of interest or when your piece was composed
    • Don't forget to read up on the times in the composer's life preceding the composition of your piece - what were their influences? How did they come to write that specific work?
  • The "analysis and appreciation" resources in the MT90 through the MT146 sections include write-ups of specific pieces:
    • MT 90: General analytical works
    • MT92-MT109: Analytical guides to operas by specific composers
    • MT110: Analytical guides to oratorios, cantatas, etc.
    • MT125-MT139: Analytical guides to orchestral music
    • MT140-MT145: Analytical guides to chamber music
    • MT146: Analytical guides to popular music
  • Our subscription to the A-R Music Anthology is more than just digital scores - this database includes a growing collection of critical commentaries and articles on genres, styles, and individual composers.
  • For anyone working on Bach research:

Some suggestions for conducting reception history research

Historical newspapers and periodicals can be great ways to explore how a piece was disseminated and received. Concert announcements, performance reviews, record reviews, and even obituaries can provide insight into how contemporary audiences felt about the music they heard and the productions they saw. Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals (RIPM) is a fantastic resource for finding nineteenth-century periodicals may that include writings contemporary with some of the works you'll study in this course:

A few additional ideas and resources for when you're looking for reviews and information about newer music:

  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers is a great place to start, since it allows you to search a large number of newspaper archives at one time:
  • Find a wider range of resources for reviews and more on the Find Newspapers and Magazine Articles page of the Music-Related databases page.
  • Exploring primary sources like letters, photographs, and other archival materials might give you more context for the information in concert and record reviews. Check out the resources linked from the Music-Related Databases Guide's Find Primary Sources page, or consider exploring one of our on-campus archives - The University Libraries, the Performing Arts Archive, and the Immigration History Research Center Archive (all located on the Twin Cities campus), as well as digital and physical historical collections made available by other institutions can all be incredible resources to give your program note, term paper, or dissertation depth and richness.
  • The resources below are just a few suggestions; make an appointment to meet with Jessica to discuss your specific project, and we'll identify a curated group of resources that are right for you:

Resources and strategies to help with writing program notes

Last Updated: Jun 8, 2022 1:08 PM