Musical compositions

Cite musical compositions using the author–date system. Attribute compositions with correct references to help people find a particular piece of music.

Cite musical compositions correctly

Musical compositions include:

  • songs
  • operas
  • ballets
  • dances
  • chamber music
  • soundtracks
  • electronic music.

Information about musical compositions can include the:

  • title
  • common name
  • type of composition
  • composition’s key
  • target instrument or instruments
  • catalogue number.

You might use references for musical compositions in the program for official events or other government-sponsored performances, or when using a soundtrack, such as in a video.

The references must be accurate and complete so that they:

  • provide all the information someone needs to identify the work properly
  • comply with copyright and licensing laws.

Examples of in-text citations and reference lists on this page follow the author–date system, as this is the most common way of citing musical compositions in government content. If your organisation uses the documentary–note system, change the citation and style of reference list accordingly.

Copyright requirements

You must attribute copyright material you reference. This includes music and audio, and any underlying copyright in the musical composition (for example, lyrics or score). 

Include all the details required by open access licences (read how to attribute Creative Commons).

Read the government copyright rules in the Australian Government intellectual property manual.

Australian National Anthem

Use title case (maximal capitalisation) and quotation marks for Australia’s National Anthem.

The Vice-Regal Proclamation 1984 sets out the capitalisation of the National Anthem and ‘Advance Australia Fair’.


The crowd stood up to listen to the choir sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’.

Use roman type for unnamed compositions

For compositions with no given name, use roman type and no quotation marks. Always use a capital letter for the key of musical compositions.


Telemann’s suite in D major, TWV 55:C6, was the first piece our chamber group performed in public.

For compositions numbered as one of a series, do not use a full stop for the contraction for the word numero (or ‘number’).


The radio was playing Elena Kats-Chernin’s piano concerto no 3.

Don’t capitalise the generic type of composition.


  • Vivaldi composed several concertos for strings; my favourite is Op. 12.
  • Australian composer Carl Vine composed 6 string quartets between 1979 and 2017.

Use the English word for most types of compositions (Table 1).

Table 1: English words for non-English names of compositions
Preferred English term Non-English terms
prelude praeludium
fugue fuga
symphony, symphonies sinfonia, sinfoniae
oratorio oratorium
song lieder, chanson, canzona
duet duetto, duo*
study etude*
* Use the foreign terms if they are part of the title of the composition.

Use the English plural form for most types of compositions (Table 2).

Table 2: Plural forms for types of compositions
Singular form Plural form
concerto concertos, concerti [grossi]*
suite suites
trio trios
aria arias
partita partitas
toccata toccatas
sonata sonatas
cantata cantatas
* Use ‘concertos’, not ‘concerti’. The exception is ‘concerti grossi, the name for a particular style of composition.

Catalogue numbers

Some composition names include the catalogue number.

‘Op.’ is the abbreviated form of the Latin ‘opus’, meaning ‘work’. It is a common catalogue term for many composers' works. Always use a full stop with this abbreviation.

Some of the more prolific composers have a catalogue of their own. For example, ‘BWV’ is the shortened form of the German Bach Werke Verzeichnis. The English translation is ‘Bach works catalogue’.

Never spell out these shortened forms.

Use italics for long works and compilations, roman type for songs 

Style for the title of a composition depends on what version you are referring to.

Songs and short pieces

Place the titles of songs or short, discrete pieces in single quotation marks. Use sentence case.


The town meeting ended with the school children singing ‘The road to Gundagai’.

Justine Clarke became well known among Australian children for her 2005 song ‘I like to sing’.

Composition titles can be the name that the composer or producer gave the work or they can be a popular name. The titles of hymns follow the same style.


Many people know Beethoven’s piano sonata no 14 ‘Quasi una fantasia’ as the ‘Moonlight sonata’.

If a title is in another language, refer to it in the original language unless it has an English title. Apply the capitalisation rules of the original language.


Clara Schumann’s ‘Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär’ was arranged as a 3-part canon.

Use the abbreviation ‘ft’ for artists named as featuring on song recordings.


Number 5 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 in 2014 was ‘Take me over’ by Peking Duk ft SAFIA.

Long works or series

Long works include operas, ballets and musicals. They may consist of a collection of shorter pieces.

Use italics and sentence case for the titles of long works. If the title is in a language other than English, refer to it in the original language. Apply the capitalisation rules of that language.


  • Many people know Australian tenor David Hobson from La bohème and The pirates of Penzance. Fewer people know that he is the composer of the chamber opera Remembering Rosie.
  • The Brandenburg concertos are part of Bach’s collection of concertos (BWV 1046–1051).
  • Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace, which was composed by the Australian soprano Deborah Cheetham, is sung in Gunditjmara language.

Albums and compilations

Use italics and sentence case for the titles of albums, compilations, playlists and collections. Use the same punctuation as the original title of the album or compilation.


Stonefield is an Australian psych-rock outfit comprising 4 sisters from the Macedon Ranges. Their second album, As above, so below, is their most popular chart release so far.

Soundtracks for films and video games

For names of the soundtracks of films and video games, use italics and sentence case. For individual pieces in the soundtrack, use single quotation marks and roman type.


  • Himesh Patel performed all songs in the soundtrack for Yesterday. The film features new versions of some of The Beatles’s greatest hits, like ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Here comes the sun’.
  • Halo original soundtrackis used in the game Halo: combat evolved.

Cite the song when you use someone’s lyrics

Write the name of the song, the author and the year of publication in parentheses when you cite lyrics in a text.

If you mention the name of the song in the text, place only the author and the year in parentheses. If you mention the author in text, put the date in parentheses straight after the author’s name.

Use single quotation marks and sentence case for the name of the song.


Kevin Parker sings, ‘If it calls you, embrace it / If it haunts you, face it’. We can all learn from that (Tame Impala, ‘Lost in yesterday’ 2020).

Include musical compositions if you’re using a reference list

In government content, you don’t need to create a reference list to cite musical compositions. If you have a reference list already, add musical compositions to your list.

If you’re writing another type of content, check whether you need to add musical compositions to a reference list.

Rule: Creator C (Year) ‘Title of song: subtitle of song’ [Medium], Title of compilation or album, Name of Publisher.


  • Tones and I (2019) ‘Dance monkey’ [Song], The kids are coming, Sony Music Australia.
  • Farnham J (1968) Sadie [Album], EMI/Columbia.

Rule: Creator C (Year) Title of long work or compilation [Medium], Name of Publisher.


Bach JS (2010) The Brandenburg concertos: concertos BWV 1043 & 1060 [Album recorded by Academy of St Martin in the Fields], Decca.

Release notes

The digital edition expands on the information about music provided in the sixth edition. It includes examples to help users cite musical compositions in the correct style.

The sixth edition had brief information about music. 

The Content Guide did not have any information about musical compositions.

About this page


American Psychological Association (2020) ‘10.13: Audio works’, Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edn, American Psychological Association, Washington DC.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (n.d.) Australian National Anthem, PM&C website, accessed 20 January 2020.

Oxford University Press (2016) ‘18.7: Audio and audiovisual materials’, New Oxford style manual, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

University of Chicago (2017) ‘15.57 Citing recordings and multimedia in author-date format’, Chicago manual of style, 17th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

This page was updated Monday 17 July 2023.

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