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How To Find a Song at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts: Browsing NYPL's song collections

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

Introduction to the Research Library's sheet music collections

Although the Research Library (on the third floor) has collected sheet music since its inception over a century ago, most of it has never been cataloged. The various collections described below evolved as a way to manage large amounts of sheet music. One should never assume that all of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts's holdings are within any one of these collections.  One must look carefully— sometimes through multiple categories and collectionsto determine whether the Library has a certain item and where it is located. 

If you don't find what you're looking for, ask or email the staff to help with your search.

Uncataloged sheet music: American music, 1890-1973

Vocal music, 1890-1973

Most of the Music Division's many thousands of pieces of vocal sheet music were organized by year of copyright, then alphabetically by title within that year.  This collection, dating from 1890 to 1973 is available on 257 reels of microfilm with the call number *ZB-768. (Songs dating from 1890 to 1901 have been digitized and are available through Digital Collections.)  A supplement to this collection covering the same period carries the call number *ZB-2491. These collections have been inventoried. A third and much smaller supplement (not yet inventoried) contains songs not present in either *ZB-768 or *ZB-2491.  

For sheet music to songs from 1974 through 2004, the base call number is:  Uncat. P.S. followed by the year of copyright.

Uncataloged sheet music: American music, 1769-1890

AM1
AM1 generally encompasses music printed in the United States from about 1769 through about 1830.  It is subdivided into instrumental music (AM1-I) and vocal music (AM1-V).  We also have a small number of publishers' catalogs for this period (AM1-C).
A scan of the card file for this collection (containing over 5,500 items) is available at:  https://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/AM1_1.pdf

AM2
AM2 generally encompasses music printed in the United States between 1830 and 1869. It includes both instrumental music (AM2-I) and vocal music (AM2-V).
A scan of the card file for this collection (containing over 14,000 items) is available at:  https://drive.google.com/open?id=1cyEJ1tfpy7Ca54ibsgXZZauwj_O0zmA9 (this file must be downloaded)

AM3
AM3 generally encompasses music printed in the United States between 1870 and 1890.  It includes both instrumental music (AM3-I) and vocal music (AM3-V).  This collection is currently in the process of being inventoried.

Uncataloged sheet music: vocal

U.V.

The classmark U.V. (abbreviation of "uncataloged vocal") contains music for voice and piano, primarily consisting of 19th and 20th century works, both American and non-American.  Containing several thousand pieces of sheet music, there is no inventory to this collection, although some works have been indexed in the Vocal Music Index.

Uncataloged sheet music: Popular music categories

Music from musical theater, motion pictures, television and radio

Vocal Music

Due to the popularity of songs associated with stage presentations (plays and musicals) as well as motion pictures, television and radio, a separate category was created to contain such songs.  Originally designated M.C. (for "musical comedy" file), this collection contains music for a variety of mediums.  The base call number are the letters M.C. followed by the name of the show, film, radio or television show. To browse the entire collection, do a call number search on the letters:  M.C.

Instrumental Music

Instrumental music from musical theater, motion pictures, television and radio (primarily piano arrangements) will be found under the classmark:     P.I. (Shows)

War songs

P.S. War Songs - contains songs associated with specific conflicts as well as songs referring generally to any topic associated with war. (Only a portion of this collection is in the catalog; continued processing is pending.)