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Music: Finding Music in the Catalog

This guide provides an overview of resources from the Music Department at CLP. We have books, printed music, sound recordings, databases, special collections and musical instruments.


Did you know that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has one of the largest public library music collections in the country? But if you search our catalog under the title for "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," it might not look like we have anything! While a bestselling author like Stephen King will have about 450 items listed in the catalog, a composer like Beethoven lists over 1300! (J. S. Bach has 2300 entries!) Many of those items will have very similar titles; he did after all write nine symphonies, over thirty piano sonatas and more than fifteen string quartets. Multiply that by the various editions and arrangements for scores, and the different performances on CD, and things can get very complicated! 

Check the tabs below for tips and tricks to searching the catalog for various types of music materials.

If you don't find what you are looking for, please contact us!

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Music Librarian
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

How to Find Music in the Library Catalog

Find a specific song by going to the catalog and using a KEYWORD search.

Type the name of the song using quotation marks around the title of the song, so the catalog looks for the words in a string, and not as separate words.

For example, a search for "all you need is love" with quotations yields 113 results. Without quotations, the number of results is over 700!

For songs that have a common word for a one word title, like "happy," try adding in the songwriter or performer, for example: happy Pharrell Williams.

You can then filter your results by format, location and other criteria. 

Searching for classical music works is often challenging due to the variety of languages and arrangements involved. Should you search for works in the original composer’s language or by the titles in English? One recording or score may say it contains "Beethoven's Symphony No. 5," while another will call it "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony."

Tips for searching the catalog

  • Music catalogers look at each score and each recording and assign a standardized title, called a Preferred Title. Preferred titles (or Uniform Titles in older terminology) are particularly useful when pieces of music are known by multiple valid titles and those titles are known in multiple languages. The preferred title may include the type of music, instrumentation, opus number, key, or composer’s catalog number.
  • Use the original language title for operas, ballets and choral works. The preferred title will be in the original composer’s language.
  • Add * to the end of a word to find alternate spellings.
    • Example: Symphon* brings up symphony and symphonies.
  • Using a KEYWORD SEARCH, type any version of the title you are searching for and include the composer’s name and/or some other identifying information, such as the opus number, key, etc.
  • It can be useful to use the Classic Catalog (an older version of the library's catalog) to find the preferred title. 
    • Enter the keywords for the title closest to what you are seeking. In the results, the line after the Author's Name will say "Unif Title." Click on that to find everything with that preferred title.
  • We collect music scores and parts for chamber music up to nonets (see the "Chamber Music" tab at the top of this box), but don't usually collect separate instrumental parts for larger orchestral pieces, like symphonies. (Here are some exceptions: Orchestra Musician's CD-ROM Library and Dance Orchestra Sheet Music Collection.) We do however collect mini-scores and study scores for orchestral works. This allows you to see the score of all of the instruments for the full orchestral piece.


Call or email us if you have any questions!

The library is a rich resource for duos, trios, quartets and quintets. We have chamber music up to nonets (9 instruments), but don't usually collect instrumental parts for larger orchestral pieces, like symphonies. (Here are some exceptions: Orchestra Musician's CD-ROM Library and Dance Orchestra Sheet Music Collection.)

Here is how we might approach a catalog search to browse chamber music IF you do not already have a specific piece in mind:

  • Put the instruments you are looking for into a KEYWORD search. Filter the results to "Printed Music." Click to see the "Full Details," and see the SUBJECT headings. This may offer other results.
  • Use a SUBJECT search for one or more of the instruments and use the word for the combo you want (like trio or quartet). Filter your results to "Printed Music," click on something that interests you, and click "Full Details." Look at other SUBJECT headings to see other results.
  • The term "basso continuo" (or continuo or BC) may be used. You may be able to use this part for a piano, harp, or an instrument that plays in the bass register.
  • You may be able to substitute an instrument that plays in the same key for another, like a violin for a flute, or a B♭ clarinet for a trumpet.

Browsing the catalog for everything we have for the instrument combination you are looking for can be tricky! The Classic Catalog, an older version of the library's catalog, may help you to find all of the variations of instrumentation combinations.

  • Use a SUBJECT search for the combo you want, then go down the list of subjects
  • Use a SUBJECT search for one of the instruments you have. In general, start with the instrument highest in pitch, but any instrument may be used. The list of subjects is the full list that mentions that instrument.

Call or email us if you need help!

Guitar tablature, commonly referred to as guitar tab, is a form of musical notation in which notes are represented by numbers showing the fret at which the the string should be held down in order for that note to sound. The numbers are positioned on horizontal lines which represent the strings of a guitar.

Carnegie Library collects music in this notation. The best way to find guitar tablature is with a keyword search of those two words. The word “tablature” typically appears in the note field.

You can find all of the guitar music in the library by starting in a KEYWORD search and typing "guitar music," then selecting the FORMAT "Printed Music" at the left column. “Guitar music” refers to any guitar musical notation, including staff notation, tablature, etc.

To search for a particular song or band, start with the KEYWORD search above and add the song title in quotation marks (see "Songs" tab in this box) or the band's name.

Here are some examples of guitar tab, sorted by SUBJECT searching:

For decades, musicians would create "lead sheets” which are rough outlines of popular songs. These gave the musician enough basic information to "fake" their way through the tune. Collections of these songs were known as “fake books.” The books would be copied and sold to other musicians without securing copyright releases or paying royalties to the original composers, making them technically illegal.

In 2004, the publisher Hal Leonard licensed these lead sheets for legal sale. New volumes were added to the series, and some of the errors in the original volumes were corrected. Real Books are now published in different key signatures (C, B♭, E♭, F).

Here is the current selection of Real Books. This is found in our catalog by typing "real book" in the catalog as a title search, then selecting printed music in the left-hand column. 

The library has many more lead sheets then the Real Books published by Hal Leonard. Here is the full selection of Lead Sheets, found by typing "lead sheets" into a keyword search in the catalog, and selecting for printed music. This includes the popular volumes published by Jamey Aebersold

You can also search for a specific song in the catalog. See the "Songs" tab in this box.

Searching the catalog for music for children yields almost 9000 hits! We have Disney songbooks, music and singing games for children, learning to play a musical instrument for kids (music methods books in library terminology), and so much more. 

Here are a few tips to navigate the catalog:

More examples of SUBJECT headings 

The library has an extensive selection of vocal music and songbooks. We have musicals, operas, art songs, and international folk songs. We have songbooks geared to auditions, voice types, and compilations of songs by an individual composer. 

You can search for this type of materials in the catalog by the title of the show, the name of the composer, performer or group, voice type (soprano, tenor...), and/or adding words to a KEYWORD search like "audition," or "teen." 

You can search the Classic Catalog (an older version of the library's catalog) to browse the subject headings for popular music from different decades and countries: Popular music by subject.

Recorded Accompaniments (Your Instrument Here)

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to practice your instrument or sing with a band in your own space whenever the spirit moves you? The library can help! We have Recorded Accompaniments that will allow you to do just that.

Recorded accompaniments are music scores that contain CDs or a reusable internet access code to online audio accompaniment tracks. These are recorded songs, minus an instrument or the vocal part, for you to play along. It’s like karaoke for whatever instrument you choose. These series are put out by different publishers and may have titles such as “Music Minus One” or “Play-Along.”

Here are some examples of this type of material in our catalog. The subject headings will be in this format:

Try a search with your favorite instrument! We have saxophone, harmonica, viola, accordion, trumpet, and lots more. We have all types of genres, like blues, jazz, heavy metal, and classical music. We have the vocal music of Elvis Presley, Broadway songs in male, female and teen editions, Lady Gaga, opera, R&B - you name it!

Here are some examples of the types of accompaniments that are available, taken from the descriptions right on the material:

  • Enhanced CDs comprise full performances and piano accompaniments; includes tempo adjustment software.
  • Compact disc comprises demo and play-along tracks; playable on regular CD player and computer.
  • The 1st compact disc comprises complete versions and tracks without viola; the 2nd CD comprises a slow tempo practice version.
  • Includes access to online audio demonstration and accompaniment tracks, as well as online videos featuring step-by-step instruction.