The State Library holds one of Australia's largest, free, public music lending collections. We hold over 70,000 scores and pieces of sheet music, all available for you to borrow on Level 2 of the State Library.
The Music Collection contains sound recordings, sheet music, books, serials, ephemera, videos and DVDs, photographs, oral histories and websites, including 12 000 music and sound recordings. There's also a comprehensive heritage collection of recorded Indigenous music from across the state, covering contemporary and traditional styles.
How to search the sheet music collection
How to search the catalogue for sheet music
Search the State Library online catalogue and limit the search to State Library Printed Music. You can trace a song using its title, composer, lyricist, performer, band or subject matter. If you are unsure of the exact words of the title search by keyword. Searching by title also covers the first line of the song or chorus. Many of the songs are available in different keys and languages.
When searching for songs it is best to use the Classic view of the SLWA catalogue because, unlike the Encore view, the Classic view contains active links to indexed song records.
If you don’t find your song on the library catalogue remember to check out our song card index.
Searching by TITLE
- Open the Classic view of the catalogue.
- Change the Keyword Search option in the drop down menu to Title.
- Enter the song title or words from the first line of the song into the Search field, e.g. Rockin Robin or he rocks in the tree.
- From the Collection drop down menu, change Entire State Library of WA Collection to State Library Printed Music.
- When you are happy with your search string, click the Search button.
- Once you have located the song, take care of due diligence:
- Check the song (index) record.
- Is the song in the correct key?
- Sometimes songs have the same title as one another. Have you found the right song?
- Each song record has a Found in field. The Found in field holds hyperlinks to the scores or sheet music collections in which the song may be found.
- Click the first hyperlink that you want to try. The hyperlink will take you through to a list of anthologies and song collections in which the song appears. If the selected score or sheet music is on loan, use the browser back arrow to return to the song index record and try a different hyperlink.
If you don’t find a suitable result, when limited to State Library Printed Music, try broadening the search by selecting State Library or Entire State Library of WA Collection.
Note: At the bottom of the Found in list, you may see a link to Songs and Ballads Collection, Eleanor Litterick Collection or Popular Song Collection. This indicates that there is a single sheet copy of the song. The sheet music can be fragile with a limited shelf life but may be retrieved if there are no other copies of the song available.
On the Classic catalogue home screen, select Advanced Search from the Search option list on the right-hand side of the screen. The Advanced Keyword Search screen will appear.
- Select TITLE from the first Any Field drop down menu.
- Enter your song title or first line of the song.
- From the Collection drop down menu select State Library Printed Music.
- From the Material Type list select Song / Instrument.
- Click Submit.
How to search the song card index
The “old school” method for finding sheet music in our massive collection is the song card index. Developed over decades, this handy index allows you to search for a song by its title and find out where it is in the Library. The song index cards are located on the Level 2 of the Library with the music score collection.
Songs from musicals and arias from operas are not indexed. However, you can search the catalogue for the parent work in which the song or aria occurs. Use any option to search for the parent work, e.g. if you cannot find Climb ev’ry mountain by title, try searching for The Sound of Music.
General song index (the BIG one)
- The song cards are arranged alphabetically by song title.
- Each card lists the classification, e.g. KDW/GB, and title of the score in which the song appears.
- Entries indicating sheet music copies in the stack are highlighted in pink.
- Unfortunately, the cards are not updated so the scores listed on them may not be current.
Make a note of the score title(s) on the song card, and then search the catalogue for the score title(s).
Part song composer and title indexes (the not-so-big ones)
- Part song composer index is arranged by Composer surname and provides details for the score in which a particular part song may be found
- Part song title index is arranged into sections, e.g. 2 part, 3, part, 4 part, etc., and each section is then arranged alphabetically by song title. Each card provides the score details within which the part song may be found.
Collection terminology used in the card indexes
- ELC: Eleanor Litterick Collection
- SBC (or SBB): Songs and Ballads Collection
- PSC or PSB: Popular Song Collection
- ASC: Australian Song Collection
How to browse the music shelves
The music shelves are located on Level 2. Check out the song book classifications in the table below.
The scores in the music collection are organised by the British Catalogue of Music Classification Scheme. This scheme allows all material for each instrument to be grouped together on the shelves and then further organised by genre within those instrumental groupings. For example, all rock vocal music, all piano sonatas, all flute and piano arrangements etc. are shelved together.
Below is a general outline of the scheme. Each series of letters expands to locate a more specific genre. The shelves are clearly labeled to guide you in the right direction.
|C||Vocal music||L||Instrumental music (General and unspecified)|
|DH||Motets, Anthems, Hymns||SQ||Viola|
|DP/AY||Christmas carols/songs||SR||‘Cello (Violoncello)|
|E||Choral music with instruments other than keyboard||SS||Double bass|
|EZ||Choral music unaccompanied||TQ||Harp|
|F||Choral music for female voices||TS||Guitar|
|G||Choral music for male voices||V||Woodwind|
|J||Unison vocal works||VR||Flute|
|KDW||Anthologies of one composer’s songs||VV||Clarinet|
|KDW/AY||Popular music pre-1950s including show music||VW||Bassoon|
|KDW/GB||Collections of pop and rock vocal music||WS||Trumpet|
|KDW/JR||Film music||X||Percussion instruments|
|KFTDW||Classical vocal music for high voice||Z||Non-European music|
|KFVDW||Classical vocal music for medium voice|
|KFXDW||Classical vocal music for low voice|
Useful to know add-ons
These codes are added at the end of the classification to indicate genre, type etc.
|Class.||Collection Area||Class.||Collection Area|
|/AY||Collection or Anthology||NS||Quartets|
|/HM||Ballet music||P||Solos with piano or other keyboard accompaniment|
|/HX or HJ||Jazz||PL||Solos with second instrument other than keyboard|
Song arranged for SATB = Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
If you need an arrangement of a song for multiple voices, i.e. SATB = Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, or other voice arrangement, you should check our part song composer and title card indexes. Search by Composer or song title and this smaller song index will point you to the 2 part, 3 part, 4 part, and other part songs available in our music collections.
Voice arrangement terminology
SATB:Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
SS: Soprano, Soprano
SSA:Soprano x 2, Alto
TTBB:Tenor x 2, Bass x 2
TTBBB: Tenor x 2, Bass x 3
SA or TB: Soprano, Alto or Tenor, Bass
SSA or TTB Soprano x 2, Alto or Tenor x 2, Bass
When in doubt, sing on out!
If you get stuck or cannot find a particular song please come in and ask our friendly Librarians for help, or contact them using our Ask a Librarian service for help.
Australian Music Examination Board collection
The Australian Music Examination Board collection (AMEB) provides the music student and avid music enthusiast with access to many of the current AMEB publications. The State Library holds all the examinable pieces as listed in the AMEB manual of syllabus. The entire collection is available for borrowing, and includes all the current AMEB publications listed below:
- Music Craft (teacher’s guides and student workbooks)
- Music Production
- Music Theory
- Musical Theatre
- Rock School
- Sight Reading
- Teachers Guides
- Technical works
- Vintage series (of gradebooks)
The AMEB collection is located on Level 2 of the State Library building and is part of our extensive music collection.
All the AMEB publications may be borrowed by registered members of the State Library of W.A. To register as a member of the State Library, please see our membership page.
Pro tip: if someone has borrowed the examinable scores that you need, try looking for the examinable piece elsewhere in the collection. Many examinable pieces from grade 4 upwards may be found in different editions.
If in doubt, always sing out!
If you get stuck and cannot locate the score you need, please speak to one of our Librarians on the Level 3 of the Library or contact us through our Ask A Librarian reference service.