Sheet Music of the Musical Theater

  • 20% Completed
  • 52% Needs Review
  • 1% In Progress
  • 26% Not Started

Completed Pages: 21,786

Registered Contributors: 1,740

Launched Sept. 27, 2023.

Explore more than 16,000 pieces of sheet music published between 1880 and 1922. These piano-vocal selections come from musicals, revues and operettas primarily of the American and British stage. In this campaign we aim to transcribe nearly all text found in the sheet music selections, including lyrics, advertisements, and cover text. See the instructions below for more information.

Transcribers will encounter songs by some of the best-known composers and lyricists in American popular music history such as Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, George Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and more. Women composers and lyricists such as Anne Caldwell, Rida Johnson Young, and Mabel Daniels are represented in the campaign, as well as trailblazing creative artists who shaped black musical theater like Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson, and Will Marion Cook. American Yiddish Theater is also showcased with selections by notable composers Isidore Lillian, Joseph Rumshinsky, and Sholom Secunda.

The sheet music in this campaign also provides a unique and valuable lens for observing culture and history between 1880 and 1922. One can view attitudes towards relationships, new inventions (such as automobiles), places around the world, leisure activities, and popular topics of the day. The cover art is also an important resource for commercial art of the period.

Content Advisory: Because of potentially offensive and racist language and views, which reflect both their time and circumstances, this transcription project may not suitable for all volunteers.

Instructions: The primary goal of transcribing sheet music text is to facilitate page-level discovery of lyrics, subjects, and the creators and publishers of the work through the Library's website. Musical notation, performance instructions, and other markings are currently beyond the scope of this program. See our illustrated and downloadable Transcribing Sheet Music PDF for more help and examples

  • Transcribe titles, lyrics, tempo markings (Moderato, allegro, allegretto, etc.), publication information, and advertisements.
  • Transcribe text in the order it appears on the page (this may differ from the order in which the piece would be performed). Preserve line breaks. If a word is broken across a line or page, transcribe it intact on the initial line or page where it appears.
  • Do not transcribe any musical notation - this includes time and key signatures, and dynamic markings.
  • Do not transcribe hyphens (or melisma) within lyrics (even if broken across pages), to enable keyword search.
  • Do transcribe the text of illustrated title pages.
  • Do transcribe handwritten notes and Library of Congress cataloging stamps as marginalia.

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