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

The Vocal Music Index is a card file located on the third floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Begun in the 1920s, it was maintained until 1998. These cards index songs by title, first line, and first line of the chorus or refrain of the song (when a song has a chorus or refrain). The Vocal Music Index covers music exclusively in the Research Library on the third floor.


The cards of the Vocal Music Index have been scanned and can be searched by keyword. Please remember that scanning may be imperfect. Also note that some cards are handwritten which can not be searched. Fortunately you are able to browse the index as if you were looking at the physical cards.


Most of the cards have enough information where you can verify if it is the song you are seeking. To retrieve the song, you need the call number information which is generally in the upper right-hand section of the card.


Some cards have the title of the song followed by only by an abbreviation with a page number. These abbreviations are a shorthand for indexed volumes. The list of and key to abbreviations will be found in the box below Abbreviations for the Vocal Music Index.


On occasion, cards can be filled out so cryptically that you will need assistance from staff.  Don't hesitate to email us and if possible, include a copy of the image you need help understanding.


Even though it contains many thousands of cards, the Vocal Music Index represents only a small portion of vocal music in the Music Division. For techniques for finding songs not listed in either the Song Index or the Vocal Music Index, go to the tab Searching the Catalog for Songs. To browse inventories (many of which are not listed in the catalog), go to the tab Browsing NYPL's song collections.


Before searching make sure that your browser allows pop-ups.  Results will appear in a new window.


Search the Vocal Music Index

Instructions for using the Vocal Music Index

The search interface for the Vocal Music Index is simple and provides you with two options, Search and Jump to drawer in Google Drive:

The search interface for the Vocal Music Index

Search: You can enter any word or words in the search box.  You do not need to press the Enter key; the application will automatically start searching. Your initial search may take a while, perhaps as long as 60 seconds. The result will appear below the search box in the form of images from the card file. As an example, a search on the word "sunset" will get this result.  Note that the results are not in any order.

Sample result when searching the world sunset














Jump to drawer in Google Drive:  You can browse the images of the Vocal Music Index as if you were browsing the draws of the card file in the Library. With the mouse, click in the space that begins with "A - A La E": you'll find various ranges of letters which correspond to the physical draws.  When you select one of them, a new window will open to a Google Drive folder containing images of the card file (the images are .jpg files).  After double clicking on one of the images, you can cycle through them as if you were browser a card file.



Search the Vocal Music Index


Alphabetization in the Vocal Music Index

  • All initial articles are ignored. Example:
    • The, A (in English)
    • La, Le, Les (in French)
    • Der, Die (in German
  • All contractions are alphabetized as if they were spelled out. Examples:
    • "can't" is alphabetized as "can not"
    • "doesn't is alphabetized as "does not"
    • "isn't" is alphabetized as "is not"
    • but:  "ain't" is not a contraction so it is alphabetized as is
  • Alphabetization is by word-by-word, not letter-by-letter:
    • "Be glad" comes before "Beautiful"
    • "For you" comes before "Fortunately"
    • "In the" comes before "Inside"
  • Names (in titles) that begin with Mc are alphabetized as if spelled Mac:
    • "McNamara's Band" is alphabetized as:  "MacNamara's Band"
    • "McAfee's Confession" is alphabetized as "MacAfee's Confession"
    • "Old McDonald Had a Farm" is alphabetized as "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"


Abbreviations for the Vocal Music Index

In the initial years of the Vocal Music Index, staff would index volumes by using an abbreviation for the volume and a page number.  Examples: 

Example of a card from the Vocal Music IndexExample of a card from the Vocal Music Index

The following list (as well as the initial cards of the Vocal Music Index) provide an explanation of abbreviations used:

AGS = William B. Bradbury. The Alpine glee singer : a complete collection of secular and social music.. New York : Mark H. Newman, 1850.
Call number: *MP (U.S.) (Bradbury. Alpine glee singer)

ASB = Schwetzky, Otto Heinrich Ludwig. American songs and ballads.
Chicago: Henry O. Shepard Co., 1898
Call number: *Mxxxx

B-Amer. = American broadsides collection [text only; no music]
Call number:  B-Amer.

Blue book of favorite songs
*MP (General) (Blue book of favorite songs)

Book of words

BM = British minstrelsie
*MP (English) (British minstrelsie)

CM = Twenty songs of the Christy Minstrels
*MP (U.S.) 

CS = Lomax, Alan. Cowboy songs and other frontier ballads.
Call number: *MP

DISB = Delaney's Irish song book
Call number:  *ZB-3

DSB = Delaney song book
Call number: *ZB-1-2

De Marson = Henry De Marson. New comic and sentimental singer's journal (1868-1871)
Call number: *ZAN-*M24

Emerick = Emerick, Albert G. Songs for the people.
Call number: *MP (General) (Emerick)

English song book = Harold Scott. English song book.
New York : Robert McBride & Company, 1926.
Call number: *MP (English) (Scott, H. English so
ng book)

Ethiopian G.B. = Elias Howe. Ethiopian glee book
Boston: Elias Howe, 1850.
Call number: *MO (U.S.) (Negro) (Howe, E. Ethiopian glee book)

Evans = Evans's Music and Supper Rooms Covent-Garden : selections and words of madrigals, glees, choruses, songs, &c., sung every evening in the above supper rooms, commencing at eight o'clock precisely
[London?] : [no publisher indicated],[approximately 1860]
Call number: 

F = John Farmer. Scarlet and blue, or, Songs for soldiers and sailors.
London : Cassell & Co., 1896.
Call number: 

Famous Composers= Famous Composers and their music. 
Boston: J.B. Millet Co., 1901.
Call number: 
*ME (Famous composers and their music)

Fitz = S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald. Stories of famous songs.
Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, 1898.
Call number: *MFH.  Digitized and available on HathiTrust

GOS Osbourne H Oldroyd. The good old songs we used to sing.
Call number: *MP (General)

GS = Galaxy of song : popular songs with complete accompaniment
Philadelphia : T. Hunter, 1883.
Call number: *MP (General)

HAM = Archibald T Davison and Willi Apel. Historical anthology of music. 
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950.
Call number: *MFB (Davison. Historical anthology of music)

Hatton = John Liptrot Hatton. A collection of new, standard, and popular humorous songs : with new symphonies & accompaniments
London ; New York : Boosey, [19?]
Call number: *MP (General) (Hatton)

HC = Hitchcock’s collection of old and new songs.  4 volumes in 2.
New York : B.W. Hitchcock, 1881-1884.
Call number: *MP (General)

H&M = John Liptrot Hatton and James L. Molloy. The songs of Ireland.
London : Boosey & Co., [????]
Call number: *MO (Irish) (Hatton …

Heart Songs = Heart songs : dear to the American people, and by them contributed in their search for treasured songs initiated by the National magazine.
Boston : Chapple, 1909.
Call number: *MP (General)

Hopekirk = Helen Hopekirk. Sevetny Scottish songs : edited with accompaniment.
Boston : Oliver Ditson, 1905.
Call number: *MO (Scotch)

JWJ = J.W. Jeudwine. 50 English songs and ballads, from the 13th to the 19th century
New York : W.A. Pond, 1906.
Call number: *MP (English)

M = John P. McCaskey. Favorite songs and hymns for school and home.
New York : American Book Co., 1927.
Call number: *MP (General) (McCaskey. Favorite songs and hymns for school and home)

MASP = Musical Art Society Programs

Call number: *MBD (Musical Art Society of New York. Programs)

MBM = Monthly budget of music

Call number: *MP (General) (Monthly budget of music)

M.C. = Musical comedy file
Call number: M.C. [include the name of the show]

MESG = Alfred Moffat and Frank Kidson. English songs of the Georgian period : a collection of 200 songs.
London : Bayley & Ferguson, [1920]
Call number: *MP (English) (Moffat. English songs of the Georgian period)

MPHS = Gilbert Clifford Noble: The most popular home songs.
New York : Hinds, Noble & Eldredge, 1913.
Call number: *MP (General) (Noble. Most popular home songs)

O’Brien, Frank P.  = Frank O'Brien. Collection of broadsides, songs and ballads
Call number: *MGM (O’Brien, F. P. Collection of broadsides)

OFS = Helen Kendrich Johnson. Our familiar songs and those who made them.
New York : H.M. Caldwell, 18...
Call number: *MP (General) (Johnson. Our familiar songs...

PS or Popular Songs = American popular songs
A collection of sheet music arranged by year of copyright.
Call number:  *ZB-2491

PSVT = Popular songs  - Von Tilzer book after popular song series ????

Plantation songs  =
Call number: *MO (U.S.) (Negro)  (Plantation songs)

ReMMA = Reese, Gustave. Music in the Middle Ages. 
New York: W.W. Norton & company, 1940.
Call number: *MFBE (Reese, G. Music in the Middle Ages)

SC = The singer's companion : containing a choice selection of popular songs, duetts, glees, catches, &c., with music arranged for the voice, flute, violin, and piano.
New York : Stringer & Townsend, 1854.
Call number: *MP (General) (Singer’s companion) or Drexel 4165

SE = John Liptrot Hatton and Eaton Fanning. The songs of England : a collection of 272 English melodies...
London ; New York : Boosey & Co., [19??]
Call number: *MO (English) ???

SF = The song folio : standard vocal music with accompaniment for piano.
Philadelphia: Hunter, 1883.
Call number: 

SHL = Sarah J. Eddy. Songs of happy life : for schools, homes and bands of mercy.
New York: Silow Burdett, 1901.
Call number: *MP (School) (Eddy, S. J. Songs of the happy life)

Simpson = Harold Simpson. A century of ballads, 1810-1910; their composers and singers, with some introductory chapters on "Old ballads and ballad-makers."
London, Mills & Boon, 1910.
Call number: *MFHB (Great Britain)(Simpson, H. Century of ballads)

SMM = James Johnson. The Scots musical museum.
Edinburgh : James Johnson, [1797-1803]
Call number: *MO (Scot)

SO = Edward Arthur Dolph. Dolph. Sound off
1929 or 1942?
Call number: *MO (U.S.) (General) (Dolph, E.A. Sound off)

SOE = Stanford, Charles. Songs of Erin : a collection of fifty Irish folk songs. op. 76
London : Boosey & Co., 1929.
Call number: *MO (Irish) (Standford, C. Songs of Erin)

Spaeth = Two collections of songs compiled by Sigmund Spaeth:
Barber shop ballads. 
publication info.
Call number: *MP (U.S.) (Spaeth, S.G. Barber shop ballads)
Sigmund Spaeth. Weep some more my lady.
Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, Page & Co., 1927.
Call number: *MP (U.S.) (Spaeth, S.G. Weep some more my lady)

Sullivan = Mark Sullivan. Our times
New York: C. Scribner Sons, 1926-1935
IL 99-3665  (In the Milstein Division Room)

USB = University song book
Call number: *MP (English)

WTHD = Whitehead. Folksongs and other songs for children
Call number: *MP (Children)

Uncat songs = [sheet music collected by the Division]
Call number:  U.V.  [Author.Ttitle]