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How To Find a Song at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts: Searching the Catalog for Songs

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


Not all songs are included in the Song Index or the Vocal Music Index. There are two techniques for searching for songs not in either of those databases.

  1. Searching for songs in the catalog 
  2. Searching for songs that don't appear in the catalog but NYPL probably has anyway

Both of these techniques depend on finding the contents of songs in the catalog record for compilation volumes.

The following two examples show the location of the contents note in a catalog record.  Here is a catalog record as it appears in the "Encore" interface:  



Below is an image of the same catalog record using the "classic" interface:


To be able to search the content field you have to perform advanced keyword searches as explained and illustrated below.

Searching for songs in the catalog - Classic interface

The advanced keyword search can be found at:

Advanced keyword search

In the first field where the label says "Any Field" type in the title of the song.  It is important to enclose the title in quotation marks. Then under "Collection" make sure it says "Entire Collection."  Before you hit submit, go down to the area "Material Type" and select SCORE. 

Here's an example with those fields filled in:


Click the "Submit" button to view your results.

Searching songs in the catalog: Some Hints

  • You should enter only as much of the song title that makes it unique. Generally all you need is the first three or four words of the title. The more words you enter, the more chances there are for errors. (Unlike Google, the library catalog will not suggest alternatives if you spell words incorrectly; it will simply not find them). 
  • If your song title includes a unique word, you can try searching on that word alone.  Examples of song titles with unique words:  
    • Bewitched [bothered and bewildered]
    • The Kinkajou
    • Shipoopi
  • Warning about using the date limit: Despite being first published in a particular year, many songs are reprinted—sometimes years or decades laterin compilation volumes, making the use of dates superfluous. Also, a song's popularity may occur only many years after it was first published.  We recommend using date limits only for experienced researchers.

Searching for songs in the catalog - Encore interface

The advanced search for the "Encore" interface can be found here.undefined


This is a search with the keywords filled in:


Click the Search button to view your results.


Searching for songs that don't appear in the catalog

Patrons should remember that over 100,000 scores that the Music Division acquired prior to 1972 do not appear in the online catalog. Going on the assumption that we probably have the item, patrons can search OCLC's Worldcat catalog. As with the NYPL catalog, one should do a keyword search by putting the song title in quotes and select the format of musical score. Worldcat can be searched here. Here's an example of a person seaching the song "Rolled into one":


Once you've determined what volumes contain the song you want, you can email us to see whether have the wanted volume.