p { line-height:1.38;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt; } Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Today's hours:

See all library hours »

  • Ask a Librarian
  • FAQ

VOCAL MUSIC

SEARCHING FOR VOCAL MUSIC

Repertoire for voice is either very easy or very difficult to find. For most individual songs and sometimes songs from musicals often you can do a keyword search.  Even keyword searches can be tricky. See our tips for doing effective keyword searches for vocal music.

 

But for most of the repertoire you study it’s not going to be that easy. That’s because much of the vocal repertoire is taken from a larger work or put in a collection with other vocal music. 

BEGIN BY ASKING QUESTIONS

Songs and arias may be found in several ways and you may have to try a variety of methods to find the information you are seeking.  In order to use these methods you need to know some information about the song or aria.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before beginning your search:

  • What is the composer's full name?

  • What is the complete title of the song or aria--in the language in which it was written?

  • What kind of vocal work is it? An art song? Aria from an opera? Aria from a cantata? Song from musical theater? A popular song? A folk song? 

  • Was it composed as part of a larger musical work?

  • Could it be in a collection?

KEYWORD SEARCH

Try keyword search for the composer’s name and the song title.— you might get lucky. If not, you may pick up some useful information.  e.g. who the composer is, what larger work the vocal selection is from:

Don't forget to modify your search by limiting by material type to find only scores.

Example: Schubert Gretchen am Spinnrade. Modify your search by limiting by material type to find only scores.

Check your results to make sure that:

  • You have typed the name and title correctly.  Using a KEYWORD search, you will not find a result if your spelling of the name is different from the spelling used in the Vassar Libraries' online catalog.
  • The score is not a transcription by another composer; notice the transcription of this Schubert song by Liszt in the resulting list.

Keyword search tips:

  • Add quotation marks around your title to search the words as a phrase.

ExampleI feel pretty from Bernstein's musical West Side Story:  I feel pretty will give you 27 results, while "I feel pretty"--in quotes--gives you 13. 

If you do this, watch for multiple songs with the same title.

Example: A search for the aria known as the "Flower Duet" will show recordings of two arias by that name; one from Delibes' opera Lakme and the other from Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.

STILL CAN'T FIND IT? OTHER WAYS TO FIND SONGS.

Try searching these databases and print indexes, or ask a music librarian.

 

Online sources: 

  • The Aria Database: Search by aria title, opera or role. 
  • Search for the title in the WORKS list under the composer's name in Grove Music Online
  • Try finding a the list of compositions on a contemporary composer’s website.

Print Song Indexes: Here are a few. Most are in the Mus Lib REF ML128.S3 section.

​Ask a Music Librarian: If you can't find your song, WE WILL HELP YOU! 

SOME THINGS TO WATCH FOR

Examine your results because your results could include:

  • An arrangement and not the original version you hoped to find:  Example:  Dass Sie Hier Gewesen; Arranged or Erlkönig; Arranged.

  • A sound recording and not the printed music you are seeking.

  • A different form of the printed musical score than you were seeking, e.g. a full score rather than a vocal score.

  • A different musical setting of the librettist's or poet’s work