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Music Dissertations, Theses, and Recording Projects: a guide: Musical Examples

Placing Musical Examples in your Document

Musical examples should be labeled in sequence throughout your document. Proper formatting of your musical examples will make it easier to generate the List of Musical Examples table in the prefatory pages of your document.

D. Kern Holoman's book Writing about Music contains a chapter on musical examples. Holoman shows examples of how to set simple and complex examples within a document, as well as how to write example captions.

Scanning Musical Examples vs. Transcribing Music Examples

There are two routes to placing a musical example into a document. The first option is to scan a copy of the original and cut it down to the size/measures needed for the example. This works well if you just need to show a copy of the music, but in many cases, a musical example expands or distills the work in question in order to highlight particular aspects of the music. For example, you may want to add some analytical markings to the music, extract the melody, or compare and contrast two parts from the same work. 

Whether you scan a copy of the musical example or create your own, you will need to determine the copyright status of the work and the edition in question (see the Copyright and Licensing tab for more information).

If transcribing, you can use the School of Music ITC to make your examples. Music notation software Sibelius and Finale are loaded on all the computers. There are many video and other online tutorials on how to use both programs.

  Sibelius "Get Started Fast" YouTube playlist

  Finale's YouTube Channel

If you are not a frequent user of this software and doing all your own music examples will slow your writing process significantly, you might want to consider hiring a colleague to make your examples for you.

Determining Copyright Status

If you are planning to include musical examples in your thesis or dissertation, you may need to obtain a license to do so. How does that work? Check our our musical examples checklist and tools:

   First, get organized. Make a comprehensive list of all musical examples that will appear in your document. Start with a full citation for the item, then list each example, including measure numbers and parts used (violin only, piano and voice, full score, etc.).

   Second, determine the copyright status of each work in your list. Is it in the public domain, Creative Commons licensed, or under copyright? Add copyright information for each example in your list.   If you're not sure how to determine the copyright status of the works on your list, look at the information below to learn more about public domain, Creative Commons, and request licenses for copyrighted materials.

Need a sample list to work with?

The Library's got your covered. Check out our sample list that you can adapt and use to organize your list of usical examples:


Licensing Musical Examples that are copyrighted

   If the work is under copyright, identify the copyright holder(s). 

   Make a list of all your musical examples. Include measure numbers, parts (are you showing the full score, or just the violin part or string parts, etc.), publisher, date of publication, and any other relevant edition information.

  Contact rights holders to request a license.

Music Publishers

Public Domain and other copyright exemptions

If the work is public domain, you will not need to obtain a license. Do provide a citation for your musical examples so that readers know which edition was used. Use this chart from Cornell University to determine if the work is in the public domain.

What is Creative Commons?

If the work is Creative Commons licensed, follow the requirements of the license.

Attribution CC BY
Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND
Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC-BY-NC-ND

Want to learn more about Creative Commons? Check out this video: