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Understanding Music Division Classmarks: Sheet Music Classifications

A guide to the various classification systems used in the Music Division

Sheet Music

This page deals with the format of sheet music, meaning a publication of 2-10 pages containing (generally) a single work.  It does not refer to published collections of music which contain multiple works.

Cataloged sheet music:

Prior to 1972, the Billings Classification was used for cataloged sheet music with the addition of the suffix box (example:  *MYD box).

After 1972, all cataloged sheet music was categorized using either the prefixes Music (Sheet) (for non-American music) or Music-Am. (Sheet) (for American music).  This was followed by two digits indicating the year of cataloging, a dash, and then the remaining numbers indicating the order of acquisition.  For example:

Music (Sheet) 00-179

means sheet music that was cataloged in the year 2000, where this item was the 179th item to be cataloged.


During the 20th century, the Music Division received massive amounts of sheet music where it was not feasible to catalog each title individually.  In response to this situation, staff created various general collections based on what was thought to be of interest to patrons.  Explanation of the classmarks are as follows.

Uncataloged sheet music: vocal


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: Instrumental

Instrumental music

Popular instrumental music generally consists of music for the piano.  These are subdivided into the following categories:  General, Marches, Rag, and Shows. Each is listed below with their classmark followed by a brief explanation.

P.I. (General) - popular music for the piano (not yet inventoried)

P.I. (Marches) - marches for piano

P.I. (Rag) - music that was explicitly or implicitly determined to be ragtime music

P.I. (Shows) - music from theatrical musicals and plays, motion pictures, television and radio

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.)

Uncataloged sheet music: American music, 1769-1890

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:

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: (this file must be downloaded)

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: 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.

Important reminder

The various catagories on this page were seen as a way to manage large amounts of sheet music. One should never assume that all of the Music Division's holdings are within any of these classmarks.  We have many thousands of pieces of sheet music that have been cataloged and thus not included in any of the collections outlined on this page. To summarize, one must look carefully (possibly through multiple categories) to determine whether the Division has a certain item and where it is located.