How to Cite a Musical Score

When writing essays about musical compositions or scores, it is important that the composition or score is cited. The Modern Language Association (MLA) style gives specific requirements for citing musical scores in the text of an essay and on the Works Cited page. Citations of musical scores must include the name of the composition and composer’s name, and, if known, the date and place of publication. As with other types of citations, if certain pieces of information are not known, they can be simply left out.

Citing a Musical Score in the Text

Step 1

Include only the composer’s name in all types of in-text citations. No other information, such as page numbers, is needed. Example: (Beethoven).

Step 2

List the composer’s full name when writing a lead-in citation. Example: Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is an illustration of such and such.

Step 3

Use the same citation for subsequent references to the score. Normally, in MLA format, you would omit the author's name and include only the page number. However, since no page numbers are used for a musical score, you can simply continue to use the composer's last name.

Citing a Musical Score on the Works Cited Page

Step 1

List the composer’s name first: last name, comma and then first name. End with a period.

Step 2

Place the title of the score next. Titles of operas, ballets or compositions that are commonly known by name should be underlined. Titles of scores that are most commonly known by number should not be underlined or placed in quotation marks. Place a period after the title.

Step 3

Add the publication place, followed by the publication date, if known. If this information is not available, simply leave it out.

Step 4

Follow this example for citing a musical score on the Works Cited: Beethoven, Ludwig van. Moonlight Sonata.


There are no specific requirements for citing musical scores in the American Psychological Association (APA) style.