Skip to Main Content

Music and Sonic Arts: Finding Printed Books and Scores

Music Classification at Queen's University Belfast

The Library at QUB uses in-house classification scheme for music materials. 

Printed music materials are divided into 3 main types: books about music, books about composers and music scores.

Most print material is located on Floor 2 of the McClay Library.  High demand reading list titles will located in the Short Loan collection on the Ground Floor.

Books about music

M followed by a number

This is the sequence of books ordered by subject matter.  The most important/relevant categories are listed below. The in-between numbers continue fairly logically with related minor subject areas. The music of many different countries, for example, takes up most of the numbers between M120 and M170.

M1    general introductions
M3    old dictionaries and encyclopaedias of music (see R below for modern dictionaries)
M9    recording / broadcasting
M20    criticism / theory
M33    church music
M35    vocal music
M40    opera
M50 – M59.9    instruments
M60    electronic music
M61    acoustics
M63    psychology of music
M64    aesthetics, philosophy of music
M65    improvisation
M100-M106    general history and criticism of music
M107    contemporary classical music  
M108    jazz, blues
M109    popular (Pop, Rap, Rock, Punk, Country)
M110    songwriting
M115    music industry, music trade
M122    English music
M123    Irish music
M201-M217    ancient music
M301-M370    medieval and renaissance music
M401-M408    folk music
M420-M470    folk music from individual countries


Biographies and criticism of individual composers and their works

The works about individual composers are arranged alphabetically by composers’ surnames. The shelfmarks are developed by adding letters after the letter “M”

  • the first two letters of the composer’s surname (in most cases a further number is added to distinguish between 2 names beginning with same letters, i.e. Beethoven = MBE1, Berlioz = MBE31)

  • the number 1 to indicate the form Biography or Criticism about the composer or their particular work.
  • the letters after the numbers stand for the author of the book.

For example, the following book has the shelfmark MBA1.8 SCHU
Schulenberg, D. (2006) The keyboard music of J. S. Bach. Second edition. Routledge.
MBA1 = Critical/biographical works about J.S. Bach
.8 = relating to the keyboard
SCHU = first four letters of the authors surname

Significant composer biography and criticism collections are found as follows:

MBA1  Bach, Johann Sebastian
MBE1  Beethoven, Ludwig van
MBR1  Brahms, Johannes
MCH11  Chopin, Fryderyk
MDE1  Debussy, Claude
MEL1  Elgar, Sir Edward
MHA1  Handel, George Frideric
MSC1  Schubert, Franz

MSC31 Schumann, Robert
MST21  Strauss, Richard 
MVA11  Vaughan Williams, Ralph
MVE1  Verdi, Giuseppe
MWA11  Wagner, (Wilhelm) Richard


Music scores in general

At QUB Library the scores are indicated by a lower-case “s” followed by another lower-case letter to indicate the size of the score (“sm” – for “miniature” scores; “sq” – for “octavo” and “quarto” sizes scores; “sf” – for “folio” size scores).

The shelfmarks of all score are developed by one of the above prefixes followed by the letter “M”. For example:

sqM11-sqM16                   collections of music scores (e.g. vocal, organ, chamber music)

sqM320-sqM370              scores of medieval or renaissance music arranged by country

sqM420-sqM470              scores of folk music arranged by country


Music scores by individual composers

The shelfmark is developed by adding after the symbols “sqM”:

  1. the first two letters of the composer’s surname (in most cases a further number is added to distinguish between 2 names beginning with same letters, i.e. Beethoven = MBE, Berlioz = MBE3)
  2. then a number or number and letters are added to indicate the work:

2      collected works

3      vocal and choral scores (3.C – cantatas; 3.M – masses; 3.O – operas; 3.S - songs)

4      orchestral scores (4.B – ballets; 4.O – overtures; 4.S – symphonies)

5      chamber scores (5.T – trios; 5.Q – quartets; 5.O – octets)

6      duets scores

7      organ scores (7.B – ballads; 7.C – capriccios; 7.F – fugues; 7.M – minuets)

8      piano (keyboard) scores (8.B – ballads; 8.Fa – fantasies; 8.P – preludes)

9      other individual instruments (9.C – clarinet; 9.G – guitar; 9.O – oboe)

For example: the shelfmark “sqMBE3.O” indicates the score for the opera Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven.