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What is a composer’s cutter number?

A composer’s cutter number normally appears in the second section of a call number (Click picture to see larger view).

Each composer has a unique cutter number, consisting of one letter (usually the first letter of the composer’s last name) followed by two to four numbers. There is also normally a period before the letter in the composer cutter number.

You can think of a cutter number as an abbreviation of or code for a composer’s name. In many cases, music libraries across the country will use the same composer cutter numbers. This means that once you learn the cutter number for Bach or Beethoven, you can search other music library catalogs using that same cutter number.

Searching for scores using a composer cutter number

There are two main ways to search the library catalog using a composer cutter number.

The first method involves using a keyword search and limiting the search to scores in the music listening library. This method is useful if you just want to browse a composer’s scores.

Note that an author search would guarantee that you pull up all the items by a composer; however, because you cannot place limiters on an author search, you will pull up everything by that composer, not just scores. This can be problematic if the library owns many recordings of that composer’s works.

The following example shows a search on Beethoven’s cutter number, .B415 (Click picture to see larger view).

The second method can be used if you also know the format of the material you wish to browse.

For example, let’s say you want to browse the library’s holdings of symphonies by Beethoven (.B415). In the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system, symphonies are classed under M1001. Doing a ‘special call number’ search (see Finding Scores Using LCC Call Numbers) for M1001.B415 produces a list of Beethoven symphonies (Click pictures to see larger views).

You can also adapt this second method if you are uncertain about the exact cutter number for a composer.

For example, let’s say you want to browse for symphonies by Brahms, but you don’t know the cutter number for Brahms. Try a ‘special call number’ search for M1001.B and you will see a list of all the symphonies by composers whose names begin with B, including Brahms.

Key points to remember about composer cutter numbers

1) Each composer will have only one cutter number in the music library. (If you happen to notice that any scores by the same composer have different cutter numbers, please let the music librarian know so that this inconsistency can be resolved. )

2) Many music libraries use the same composer cutters; however, from time to time you will run into variations on composer cutter numbers. In some cases, these may be due to alternate spellings of composers’ names.

A few examples of composer cutter numbers

Bach, J. S. .B118
Beethoven .B415
Brahms .B813
Chopin .C549
Debussy .D289
Handel .H236
Haydn .H415
Mendelssohn .M537
Mozart .M939
Puccini .P977
Rodgers, R. .R691
Schubert .S384
Schumann .S392
Sondheim .S698
Tchaikovsky .T249
Verdi .V484

How to determine the cutter number for a composer

If you are looking for the cutter number of a composer not included in the list above, try an author search under the composer’s name in the library catalog. You will probably be able to determine the composer’s unique cutter number by looking at the call numbers for the first few records in the results list.

The 'Music Cataloging at Yale’ website at Yale University provides a searchable list of composer cutter numbers. Be aware that the music library at OCU does not always use the same cutter numbers as on this list; nonetheless, in many cases, the cutter numbers will be identical.

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