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Last Updated: May 23, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Searching by music instrumentation

Most scores and many music recordings have been indexed so that you can limit your search results in the library catalog by instrumentation if you wish. (Instrumentation here includes voice names like “soprano” and also more general terms like “medium voice.”)

One way to do an instrumentation search is by beginning a search by composer name or some other search terms, then refining your search results by instrumentation. At the left of your search results, you will see “Refine your search,” with “Musical Instrumentation” at the bottom of the options there. Click here and then click your instrument in the list which appears. Your search results will now be adjusted to limit to works including your instrument.

You can also click additional instruments in order to find chamber music combinations. Add as many instruments as you wish; your result list should keep getting shorter as you limit to only works containing all of the instruments you add.

A second method is to build your instrumentation into your initial search in the “Advanced Search” mode. Down at the bottom, under “Other attributes,” you will see the “Musical Instrumentation” search box. Use the pick list here, or start typing the name of your instrument. (There are even some ensembles like “chamber orchestra” available here.) You can still use the other search boxes to add other search terms, such as composer name, or any additional criteria, such as format.

Beware: If you enter more than one instrument in the “Musical Instrumentation” search box, your search results will include works that include any one of your instruments--not just the combination of all of them. If you need a specific combination, it’s better to use the post-search limits described above.

One caution regarding music recordings (CDs, etc.): since many CDs include works by more than one composer, you may find some items which match your instrumentation to a work by one of the other composers on the CD.

If you need to find works including multiple players of the same instrument, there is a special trick you can use in your searching: you can use the catalog codes themselves. These consist of 2 letters and 2 numerals. For example, ba01 is the code for 1 horn, ba02 for two horns, and so forth. To search for works that include 4 horns, enter ba04 in the “Any Field” search box in Catalyst. (See the full list of 2-letter codes below. Remember to add 01, 02, 03, etc. to specify your desired number.) You can combine this kind of search with a composer’s name or other criteria by using Catalyst’s “Advanced Search” mode.


wa  Flute

wb  Oboe

wc  Clarinet

wd  Bassoon

we  Piccolo

wf  English horn

wg  Bass clarinet

wh  Recorder

wi  Saxophone


ba  Horn

bb  Trumpet

bc  Cornet

bd  Trombone

be  Tuba

bf   Baritone


pa  Timpani

pb  Xylophone

pc  Marimba

pz  Percussion (general)

Strings (bowed)

sa  Violin

sb  Viola

sc  Cello

sd  Double bass

se  Viol

sf  Viola d'amore

sg  Viola da gamba

Strings (plucked)

ta  Harp

tb  Guitar

tc  Lute

td  Mandolin


ka  Piano

kb  Organ

kc  Harpsichord

kd  Clavichord

ke  Continuo

kf  Celeste


va  Soprano

vb  Mezzo-soprano

vc  Alto

vd  Tenor

ve  Baritone

vf  Bass

vg  Countertenor

vh  High voice

vi  Medium voice

vj  Low voice

vn  Narrator or unspecified voice


ea  Synthesizer

eb  Tape

ec  Computer

ed  Ondes Martinot

Keep in mind that some older library items cataloged many years ago may not have been coded for instrumentation, so they will not appear under these methods.


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