Vocal Music: Finding Scores - Beyond the Basics

Guide to finding vocal music, including songs in anthologies, in the music library

What's a Uniform Title?

Uniform titles are standardized titles created by catalogers. Their purpose is to bring together all the different versions of a work in the catalog. 

This means you don't have to perform multiple searches or guess about language or wording to gather complete results.

You needn't focus on the details of constructing uniform titles, but familiarity with how they are structured can help you choose better search terms.

Quick Search Tips

> Use the plural when searching for form/genre titles, even when searching for one piece only. (This works as long as the composer wrote more than one work in that genre.) For instance:

  • mozart symphonies 551
  • chopin etudes

> Search for distinctive titles in their original languages. For instance:

  • handel giulio cesare 
  • mozart zauberflote

> If you're searching for something that is part of a larger work, look for the work itself. For instance, search for the song cycle rather than a song within it:

  • schubert winterreise


Any kind of uniform title may have a qualifier at the end to distinguish one kind of edition from another.

Common examples of qualifiers:

  • "Selections"
  • "Arr."
  • "Vocal score"
  • "Libretto"
  • language(s) of translation from original text

Some examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

Rossini, Gioacchino, 1792-1868
Guillaume Tell. Vocal score. English & French
vocal score of William Tell, with text translated into English and French

Sibelius, Jean, 1865-1957
Concerto, violin, orchestra, op. 47, D minor; arr.
Violin Concerto, arranged for piano and violin

Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828
Songs. Selections
a collection of some of Schubert's songs

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750
Wohltemperierte Klavier. 1. T.
the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix, 1809-1847
Sommernachtstraum. Hochzeitsmarsch
the wedding march from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Sondheim, Stephen
Into the Woods. Libretto
the script of the musical Into the Woods

Uniform Titles

If you want your searches for musical works to be as complete as possible, it's useful to understand the concept of uniform titles. Uniform titles are standardized titles assigned by catalogers so that all scores and recordings of a work can be retrieved in a single search. This is useful because musical works can be published with variants in the title wording, and titles can appear in any language.

For example, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony appears in the catalog with these titles:

Cinquième sinfonie en ut mineur = C moll : oeuvre 67
Fünfte Symphonie, c-Moll, Opus 67
Sinfonie Nr. 5, C-moll, Opus 67
Symphonie Nr. 5, c-moll
Symphony no. 5, C minor, op. 67
Fünfte Symphonie, nach der Handschrift im Besitz der Preussischen Staatsbibliothek
Fourth and Fifth Symphonies

You need not search on variant spellings if you construct your search with the uniform title in mind. The uniform title is listed in the catalog record.

Search Tip: An effective search strategy is to begin with a keyword search on the terms you know -- if that doesn't retrieve adequate results, look for the uniform title within a relevant result and then revise your search according to the uniform title. Using the example above, one successful search for this work would be the 'All Fields' search: beethoven AND symphonies AND 67.

Form Titles

There are three main types of uniform titles: form, distinctive, and collective. Form titles are used when the title of a work is a musical form or type, such as concerto, symphony, or quartet. These titles consist of:

  • the form of the work
  • the instrumentation (unless the form implies the instrumentation)
  • the thematic catalog number, opus number, or other numbering
  • the key

A few examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827
Sonatas, piano, no. 18, op. 31, no. 3, E♭ major
Piano Sonata in E-flat, op. 31, no. 3

Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828
Quintets, piano, violin, viola, violoncello, double bass, D. 667, A major
Trout Quintet

Mozart, Wolfgang, Amadeus, 1756-1791
Symphonies, K. 504, D major
Symphony No. 38, "Prague" 

Schoenberg, Arnold, 1874-1951
Stücke, orchestra, op. 16
Five Pieces for Orchestra

Distinctive Titles

Distinctive titles are used when the composer has assigned the work a non-form title. These appear in the original language. Here are a few examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791
The Magic Flute

Messiaen, Olivier, 1908-1992
Quatuor pour le fin du temps
Quartet for the End of Time

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix, 1809-1847
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750
Wohltemperierte Klavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier

Collective Titles

Collective titles are used for collections that contain multiple pieces by the same composer. The collective title may refer to the form or the performance medium of the works, or it may indicate that the works are of mixed types.

A few examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

I. Single musical form/type:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791
Sonatas, violin, piano
Complete sonatas for violin & piano

II. Single performance medium:

Chopin, Frederic, 1810-1849
Piano music
Complete works for piano

III. Mixture of forms and media

Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886
Complete works

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The text and examples on this page are courtesy of the University of Michigan Music Library.