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This subject guide is for music students.

Locating Books about Music

There are a variety of ways of locating books about music.  Common pathways include searching for books using the Libraries catalog and browsing the shelves by call number.

Searching within the Libraries Catalog

You can search for books within the Libraries catalog ( by Author, Title, Keyword, and Subject.  

To search by topic, search using Keywords and Subject Headings.


Searching by keyword is akin to using a web search engine such as Google.  Words you use to search will return books with those same words.  For example, if you search using the word acoustics, you will get a list of books about acoustics.  If you search with the words "music theory" (quotes included) you will get a list of books about music theory.

Subject Headings

Keyword searching returns books by raw text matching.  At times this is problematic as words often have multiple meanings.  Consider the word fox, which could refer to the mammal, people with that last name - Michael J. Fox, and corporations - Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel, etc.  To limit your search to one of these meanings, you would use subject headings.  For example, if you wanted to search for fox the animal, you would search with the word "foxes" as a Subject Heading.

Here are some common subject headings in music:

Arrangement (Music)
Chamber music
Choral music
Chords (Music)
Communication in music
Composition (Music)
Computer music
Dance music
Electronic music
Emotions in music
Feminism and music
Folk music
Gender identity in music
Human body in music
Improvisation (Music)
Instrumental music
Instrumentation and orchestration
Masculinity in music
Mass media and music

Motion picture music
Music by women composers
National socialism and music
Nature in music
Patriotic music
Popular music
Radio and music
Realism in music
School music
Sex in music
Socialism and music
Street music and musicians
Symbolism in music
Symphony orchestras
Time in music
Virtuosity in music
Vocal music
World music

Browsing by Classification Numbers

The Purdue University Libraries utilizes two systems for classifying and locating books - the Dewey Decimal Classification system and the Library of Congress Classification system. All books acquired after January 2009 are classified according to the Library of Congress Classification system.

Dewey Decimal Classification System

Books about music are classified under the 700's (Arts and Recreation), and more specifically between 780-789:

  • 781 General principles & musical forms
  • 782 Vocal music
  • 783 Music for single voices; The voice
  • 784 Instruments & Instrumental ensembles
  • 785 Chamber music
  • 786 Keyboard & other instruments
  • 787 Stringed instruments (Chordophones)
  • 788 Wind instruments (Aerophones)

Library of Congress Classification System

Books about music are classified under the class M.  There are three subclasses within the main class:

  • Subclass M - Music
    • M 2 General Collections
    • M 3 Collected works of individual composers
    • M 6-1494 Instrumental Music
    • M 1497-1998 Secular Vocal Music
    • M 2000-2199 Sacred Vocal Music
  • Subclass ML - Literature on music
    • ML 1 Periodicals published in the U.S.
    • ML 5 Periodicals published outside the U.S.
    • ML 160 General music history
    • ML 198-200 History of American music (general)
    • ML 410 Biographies
    • ML 3549 History of American music (popular styles)
    • ML 3506 Jazz
  • Subclass MT - Instruction and study
    • MT 6 Music appreciation
    • MT 50 Harmony and composition
    • MT 170-949 Instrumental and vocal techniques and method books