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Finding Songs & Other Vocal Music Resources

HOW TO FIND A SONG (or aria)

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?



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

  • Databases:

    • The Vassar College Libraries online catalog or WorldCat may give you information that could speed your search, such as name of the composer and the complete title: Example: "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.  [Also, if the Dickinson Music Library doesn’t have it, you can request it through InterLibrary Loan this way.]

    • The Aria Database may help: Search by aria title, opera or role. This will not work for songs

    • If you know the composer's name and are searching for a song: search for the title in the WORKS list under the composer's name in Grove Music Online. If it is a contemporary composer with a website, try the list of compositions on that website. This will not work for opera arias.


1950, 1972.  Includes incipits.



2014. Search by composer or poet's name followed by musical settings arranged alphabetically.  (Ebook)


1966. Indexes by name of composer (v.1-2) and name of title (v. 3-4).


2008. Covers American art songs from 1980-2007?.  Includes an alphabetical list of composers of American art song with biographical notes and songs as well as separate indexes by name only of composer, poet, song cycles, song titles; song by voice type, and songs by difficulty [also by voice type].


Second edition: 1960-62. v. 1. Coloratura soprano, lyric soprano, and dramatic soprano. v. 2. Mezzo soprano and contralto. v 3. Lyric and dramatic tenor. v. 4. Baritone and bass. v. 5. Program notes for the Singer's repertoire.


Alphabetical list of "composed songs" in collections by name of composer, editor, compiler.  Followed by a list of "Anonymous songs and folk songs" divided by geographic location. Carols. "Sea chanties". "Index to all titles and first lines" and "Index to Authors" of the song texts..


1926. Index to songs in collections. One alphabetical list with first lines and composer's names.


In the Vassar Libraries online catalog, the quickest way to search for a song may often be to do a KEYWORD search for the composer’s name and the song title. Then 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.

A KEYWORD search for the song title alone may be effective.

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

Example: I feel pretty from Bernstein's musical West Side Story:  I feel pretty will give you 20 results, while "I feel pretty"--in quotes--gives you 11. 

However, this could cause confusion if the Music Library collection includes 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. 



While you may find scores for individual songs using a KEYWORD search in the online catalog, searches for the titles of songs or arias that are part of a larger work will rarely give you the score for the entire larger work.  

DO a KEYWORD search for the name of the composer and the title of the larger work. Modify your search results by limiting your results to scores.

Example: Puccini Madama Butterfly.


Many songs are published in collections, so one way to find them in the online catalog is by searching for the title of the song using a KEYWORD search. This search looks at the table of contents in many of the published song collections in the online catalog as well as the title of the collection.

But there are problems with this approach:

  • Not all song collections have contents notes in the online catalog.

  • Not all collections are listed in the online catalog. Some are in the card catalog.

To address this:

Once you find a collection title you can search the online or card catalog under the name of the composer or the title of the collection (not the title of the song.)

  • In years past, Vassar created some collections of the vocal music of selected composers.  To find them, search the card catalog for the name of the composer, then go to the title "Songs" or "Vocal music."



Scores in critical editions can be searched using an AUTHOR or KEYWORD search for composer’s name or title in the online catalog and by doing a search by author in the card catalog.

But there are problems with this approach:

  • If searching critical editions in the card catalog, remember:

    •  Critical editions will be listed at the beginning of the composer’s entry. Many will not have contents notes.


Examine your results because your results could include:

  • An arrangement and not the original version you hoped to find:  For Example: this Schubert song is arranged by Golijov and is not the original:  Dass Sie Hier Gewesen

  • 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