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How To Find a Song at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts: Song Index

This guide will help you get started in your search for that famous or little-known song. Guide by Bob Kosovsky.

Introduction to the Song Index



The Song Index is a collection of over 40,000 songs which are among the most frequently requested. It has a database which is separate from the Library catalog. The songs in this collection are kept on reference at the second floor Music Desk. This collection is always on the premises, and can be borrowed for a maximum of  2 hours for use only within the library. You can assume they will be here unless another user is temporarily using them.  (In many cases we have multiple copies of songs.)


The volumes in the Song Index collection are arranged by either title of show/movie, or by Song Index number (for compilations of songs). This allows our staff to quickly retrieve the volume you want.


None of these songs are in digital form.  You have to ask for the printed music at the Music Desk on the 2nd floor.

The songs in this collection are only a small amount of the songs available in the Library. For songs not included in the Song Index, see the following tabs.


URL for the Song Index:


Easy-to-remember shortcut to the Song Index:

Keyword Searching

The Song Index defaults to keyword searching.

This type of search allows you to search any word within a song title or the first line of a song. The result will be a list of songs (ordered alphabetically by title) containing the word (or words) you entered.  

Understanding the Results

Here's the example of someone who searched for the song "Cabaret." They have entered "Cabaret" as a keyword. This is the first result they will get:

Title [of the song], first line, composer and lyricist allows you verify that this is the song you want. When a song comes from a show (stage musical, film or television), From the Production shows the source of the song.  If the show is underlined and linked, then the collection has a volume of selections or the complete vocal score to the show. Also From indicates what other shows/films the song has appeared. (If a song has not been used in musicals, film or television, these fields do not appear.)

The most important fields are the Song Index Number and the Fake / Real Book Number. The Song Index Number is the information you need to tell to the person at the Song Index desk who will then retrieve the requested volume.

Fake / Real Books: A "fake book" (or "real book") is the phrase that indicates this printed version of the song contains just the vocal line without accompaniment. Often fake books have only the chorus or refrain, and lack the introductory verse.

Other Ways to Search the Song Index

There are other ways to search the Song Index.  

● First line of the song (This is usually the introductory verse; unfortunately there’s no way to search the first line of the chorus or refrain.)

  • First Line Keyword –your search will seach for a match anywhere within the song title
  • First Line Alphabetical—your search will need to match exactly the order beginning with the first word

● Musical/Film/T.V. title—searches the title of the musical, film, or television show

(For those interested in exploring the Song Index, if you leave the search blank and hit enter, you'll get a list of all the indexed entries.)

The Song Index database allows browsing of the collection in other ways:


  • Song Book Title - a list of over 1,500 volumes in the Song Index collection
  • Name - names of people or groups/ensembles associated with a volume
  • Subjects - a list of genres contained in the Song Index collection
  • Decades - a list of volumes in the Song Index collection according to the decade of the songs they contain






How to Request material from the Song Index collection

All you need to know is the Song Index Number (or Fake/Real Book Number), or the title of the show (if we have a vocal score or a volume of selections). You give that information to the staff member at the Song Index desk and present your library card.  The staff member will check out the volume to you for two hours.

When you are finished, return the volume to the staff member at the Song Index desk.  It's as simple as that!

Hints for Keyword Searching

  • You do not have to enter the entire title or first line; the first three or four words will probably suffice.
  • If the title has a distinctive word (that is rarely used by other song titles), you can search on just that word.
  • Be sure you type your keyword search correctly; the database will not offer suggestions if you misspell a word.

Browsing the Song Index