A guide to finding library resources related to Music

Why Use Uniform Titles?

Sometimes it seems no matter how you conduct a search, the catalog pulls up too many or too few items, and most of those items are irrelevant.This is especially true if you're looking for works by major composers and with generic titles such as "First Symphony."  One of the problems is that publishers might use any number of titles for the same work. In these kinds of situations, using a "uniform title" can be helpful. For many well-known works, librarians have established unique titles, which they call "uniform titles."

For example, if you do a keyword search for "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" or "Beethoven symphony no. 5" you'll probably pull up a list of either too many or too few items, many of which will be unrelated to that symphony. If, on the other hand, you find the correct uniform title and click on it, in this case "Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827. Symphonies, no. 5, op. 67, C minor," you will find items related to that particular work. Although uniform titles aren't always added to catalog records, and although keyword searches will sometimes pull up items that are important to your research, using uniform titles is often the quickest and surest way to find what you need.

Examples: Uniform Titles

There are three types of uniform titles:

1. Distinctive titles (typically a distinctive name in the original language, such as "Zauberflote"; not "The magic flute")

2. Generic titles (when no distinct title is given, such as "Sonatas, piano, no. 18, op. 31, no. 3, E major)

3. Collective titles (when groups of items are often published together, such as "Piano music")

These titles are then combined with the composers' names. So the above titles could have the following full uniform titles.

  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.Zauberflöte.
  • Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.Sonatas, piano, no. 18, op. 31, no. 3, E♭ major.
  • Chopin, Frederic, 1810-1849.Piano music.

While it is possible to type uniform titles into a catalog search, the easiest way to use uniform titles is usually to conduct a general search to find an item that includes the desired uniform title, and then click on it. This will pull up a list of all items with that uniform title. In some cases you will be redirected to other uniform titles.

Additional examples of uniform titles are listed below.

Distinctive Uniform Titles

A distinctive title refers to the title given by the composer in its original language. While items can often be found using a popular title, the distinctive titles will list additional variant titles. You may wish to try a popular title, find the uniform title in the citation and click on the link to get more entries.


Composer Popular Title                               Uniform Title
Smetana, Bedrich Bartered Bride Prodaná nevesta
Rossini, Gioacchino Cinderella La Cenerentola
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus                Magic Flute Die Zauberflöte

Generic Uniform Titles

In sitations in which the composer did not provide a specific, unique title, libraries have assigned a uniform title in the following pattern:

MUSICAL FORM, MEDIUM (instrumentation), NUMBER (work number, opus, catalog number), KEY

Note:  The form is most often plural as many composers composed more than one example in a form.


Composer Popular Title Uniform Title
Beethoven, Ludvig von              Pastoral Symphony                Symphonies, no.6, op.6, F major 
Chopin, Frédéric Black Key Étude Études, piano, op. 10, no. 5

Collective Titles

Still can't find your item? Sometimes uniform titles are created for often-published collections of items, such as the complete piano works by a composer, or the complete sonatas, or the complete symphonies. Collective titles will help you locate collection titles which may contain the piece you need.

Collective titles are for collections of a composer's works in a broad category such as piano music,  vocal music , or works (for complete works).


Composer Title of publication Collective Title
Mozart                                Neue Mozart Ausgabe (scores)             Works, 1995
Mozart The Complete Mozart (audio) Works
Mozart Masonic Music (audio) Vocal music. Selections              

Need More Help?

Indiana University's Cook Music Library  provides a great guide on searching for music. Check it out here!