Wikipedia:Naming conventions (music)

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This page contains naming conventions for music-related articles, covering both classical musical works and popular bands, albums and songs.

The first step for disambiguating classical compositions is rather a reference to their composer, while popular music is rather disambiguated by a type qualifier. Cross-over rather follows the popular music convention, e.g. Summertime (song), not Summertime (Gershwin).

Apart from some points regarding formatting and disambiguation in #Bands, albums and songs, the naming conventions regarding articles on musicians are covered by Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people), including what is said there on groups of people (Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people)#Articles combining biographies of several people). Orchestras, music production companies, etc are however also often subject to Wikipedia:Naming conventions (companies). See also Wikipedia:Naming conventions (definite or indefinite article at beginning of name)#Names of groups, sports teams and companies

Compositions (classical music)[edit]

Definitions - italics[edit]

Generic and non-generic names 
Compositions have one or more generic or non-generic names:
Generic name Non-generic name
Symphony No. 2 (Mahler) Resurrection Symphony
Serenade in G major, K. 525 Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Aria, BWV 508 Bist du bei mir
song cycle Op. 25 (Schubert) Die schöne Müllerin
Variations on a Theme by Haydn Saint Anthony Variations
Pavane pour une infante défunte
Pavane (Fauré)
Quartettsatz, D 103 (Schubert)

Non-generic names are italicised, except those of individual dances, songs, hymns, lieder and arias (e.g. The Blue Danube, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Heidenröslein, Madamina, il catalogo è questo), and separate movements or sections of larger works (e.g. Ride of the Valkyries).

Also a descriptive name can be a non-generic name that is not italicized (e.g. Music for the Royal Fireworks), unless it is the actual name of the work (e.g. The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Trois mouvements de Petrouchka). Most generic names are however nothing else than standardized descriptive names.

Generic and non-generic composition types 
Most compositions belong to a generic composition type:
Composition type Examples
symphony Sinfonia da Requiem
Symphony in C major (Wagner)
sonatina Sonatina (Bartók)
Sonatine bureaucratique
concerto for two pianos and orchestra Piano Concerto No. 10 (Mozart)
Concerto for Two Pianos (Stravinsky)
incidental music A Midsummer Night's Dream (Mendelssohn)
piano quintet Trout Quintet
Piano Quintet (Schumann)

A generic name for a generic composition type is not italicised. This is language-independent, e.g. Liederkreis (German for song cycle) is not italicized in Liederkreis, Op. 24 (Schumann).

Composition titles that are incipits and have been put to music by several composers are usually regarded as generic names, and so not italicized, e.g. Stabat Mater (Dvořák), unless the composition belongs to an otherwise defined composition type like cantata, e.g. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1.

In some exceptional cases what in the wording looks like a generic name is treated as a non-generic name (this can only be done for primary topics that would need no further disambiguation):

Quotation marks and partially italicized titles[edit]

Quotation marks should be avoided, except for the name of a theme in a set of variations in a generic article title:

Otherwise the use of quotation marks in generic artitle titles is limited to a very few exceptions:

Partially italicized article titles are likewise unusual for compositions (that is, apart from never italicizing comma-separated and parenthical disambiguators):

Italics and quotation marks should not be used together in a single article title.

Capitalization of generic names[edit]

Generic names of compositions (sonata, partita, quartet, symphony,...) should not be capitalized beyond the first character of an article title in descriptive article titles. Examples:

Similar for article titles of articles on the composition types themselves:

"Fixed set" principle for an article on a group of compositions: in Cello Suites (Bach) the second word is capitalized: it is a generic name for a fixed set of 6 suites belonging to the same group. In the baroque to classical era such set often consisted of 6 or 12 similar works for a single opus number. Cello suites (Britten) is not a fixed set (three different opus numbers, not composed as a single set), so "suites" not capitalized in the article title, it is a descriptive article title.

Generic names of compositions are capitalized in article titles on a single composition,

Instrumentation included in generic names:

Articles not belonging to a series: common name and disambiguation[edit]

Compositions that fall under no generic composition type category are rare. Their article title strictly follows the common name principle:

Compositions that are one of a kind and nonetheless have a generic name not requiring additional disambiguation are even more exceptional:

When the name of a non-generic composition is neither unique nor the primary topic under this name, add the composer's last name as parenthical disambiguator:

Common name always applies when a composer composed only one instance of a generic type of composition:

A non-generic article title for an article on a composition that is unique to a composer is only disambiguated by composer's name or composition type when such disambiguation is needed:

When disambiguation is needed for a non-generic article title that applies to several works by the same composer, use composition type or catalogue number:

Unless the composition type is truly one of a kind (exactly one composer with exactly one instance of the type) or is a set of variations disambiguated by their theme, generic compositions with a generic article title are always disambiguated by catalogue number and/or the name of the composer:

Avoid however to disambiguate by composer when the composer is not known with certainty, or a composer's name would be otherwise misleading:

Key signature, catalogue number, opus number, and other additions to a composition's article title[edit]

Key signature 
The key signature of a composition is only added to the article title when it is part of the common name of the composition. For generic names of compositions the formatting of the key signature is as described in Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Music#Accidentals, however avoiding special graphics (, ) in article titles.
As a disambiguator, key signatures can only be used in natural disambiguation, so they're never enclosed in parentheses, nor after a comma.
As key signatures are not always mentioned, can be ambiguous, and are often difficult to remember, they can't serve as an exclusive disambiguator, unless, exceptionally, as part of a non-generic common name article title, e.g. Te Deum in C.
Catalogue number 
Disambiguation by catalogue number is usually avoided while these numbers have a low recognisability potential, and can only be used for these composers that have a single widely used catalogue covering all of their compositions:
  • Bach: BWV – For Anhang (Anh.) numbers, without the Roman numeral (I, II, III) that indicates the Anhang section, e.g. Gott, gib dein Gerichte dem Könige, BWV Anh. 3, not Gott, gib dein Gerichte dem Könige, BWV Anh. I 3
  • Buxtehude: BuxWV
  • Handel: HWV
  • Mozart: K.: there is another reason to avoid this one as much as possible: there is a lot of variation in the numbers in subsequent editions of the catalogue. When K. numbers are used in article titles nonetheless, use the oldest available catalogue number, usually the one in the original 1862 version of the catalogue, as these oldest numbers appear the most recognisable ones. However, when a composition has as well been numbered in the main catalogue (in one or more editions) and also, in one or more editions, in the Anhang (Anh.) of the catalogue, it is best to differentiate: use the oldest K. Anh. number unless when it is certain that Mozart is the composer of the piece, in which case the oldest main catalogue number should be used. All available K. and K. Anh. numbers should be mentioned in the article.
  • Schubert: D — use Deutsch numbers only according to the latest version of the Deutsch catalogue in article titles, and where applicable explain former numbers in the article.
An advantage of disambiguation by catalogue number is however that compositions can be uniquely identified without taking a stance on who composed them:
Catalogue numbers can be added as disambiguator after the common name:
Avoid D numbers as exclusive disambiguator, in other words, an article title containing a Deutsch number should always end on "(Schubert)":
Avoid Deest as a catalogue indicator in an article title: if there is no catalogue number, the catalogue can't be used as part of the disambiguation.
Opus number 
Opus numbers are only part of a generic name when the composition (or group of compositions) is usually indicated in that fashion:
Also opus numbers can not be used as exclusive disambiguator, they're always followed by the last name of the composer in parentheses.
Other additions
Following types of qualifiers should only be added to an article title when they're part of the common name. For generic titles they are generally not considered suffient as an exclusive disambiguator, so would usually require an additional composer/catalogue type of disambiguator:
Disambiguate by last name only? 
A last name can be ambiguous, in which case it is best to keep an eye on what one is disambiguating from:
Composers sharing the same last name...
For composers sharing surnames disambiguation by last name only is not usually problematic, e.g.:
Only when period, style, way of naming compositions etc can be confusing the added first name can give additional clarity, e.g. Requiem (Michael Haydn). A particular example of this is Johann Sebastian Bach and his many composing namesakes. Conventionally J. S. Bach's compositions would be the primary topic in any genre, i.e. without disambiguator (Brandenburg Concertos) if not needed, and disambiguated or serialized by BWV number (Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582) or (Bach) parenthical disambiguator (Orchestral suites (Bach)). Only descriptive titles (including category names) would usually give the full name for any composer after "by" (List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, Category:Compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach). For the other Bachs, if parenthical disambiguation by name of the composer is needed: add the initials (with periods and spaces) in the parenthesis:
Last name can signify something completely different...
E.g. (Ireland) as a disambiguator would rather refer to Ireland than to John Ireland, so the precision criterion for article titling calls for (John Ireland) when the name of the composer is used as a parenthical disambiguator.
Composer uncertain 
Use (attributed to <most likely of the named composers>) as disambiguator for a composition when all of the following applies:
  1. the composition isn't part of a series that uses the standard series format (see below);
  2. its composer isn't known with certainty, but there is at least one name of a composer to whom the composition has been attributed;
  3. there is no other way to avoid the composer disambiguator (e.g. using a primary topic nickname, or disambiguating by a catalogue number that doesn't imply authorship, disambiguating by composition type, etc.)

Articles in series[edit]


When a composer wrote more than one composition of a similar type, multiple articles on such compositions form a series. The most standardized format for article names of such a series is as follows:

  • [composition type] No. [number] ([last name of composer])


For concerto series, composition type includes soloist instrumentation (e.g. "Cello Concerto"). Also for sonata series the (soloist) instrumentation is mentioned in the composition type ("Violin Sonata"). Similar for most other types of chamber music ("Partita for keyboard", "Flute Quartet"). For other numbered series the instrumentation is only mentioned when not what one would usually expect, e.g. "Symphony for Organ". Other additions when well-estabished, e.g. "Hungarian Rhapsody" for the series of compositions by Liszt.

Deviations from this standardized format are only possible:

When the usual standardization is not possible for the aforementioned reasons, a common format is nonetheless preferably maintained across related series for a particular composer:

Facilitate easy navigation[edit]

always consider making redirects to the article from other plausible names to aid searching, and avoid people creating duplicate articles. For example, if you create Piano Trio No. 1 (Schubert), consider making redirects to it from Piano Trio in B-flat major (Schubert) and Piano Trio, D. 898 (Schubert).
compositions may be described under article titles without opus number, catalogue number, nickname and other characteristics that may be highly recognizable to some readers: series should always have navboxes with such additional information and/or link to a list article that contains the details.
Category sorting
choose a clear sorting scheme for all compositions in a category, that is also as intuitive as possible to readers less familiar with the topic.

Bands, albums and songs[edit]


Do not replicate stylized typography in logos and album art, though a redirect may be appropriate (for example, KoЯn redirects to Korn).


Capitalization of band names should be consistent with the guidelines for trademarks. The definite article before a band name (such as the Beatles) should be lowercased in running prose.

Capitalization of song titles and album titles should be consistent with the guidelines for composition titles; in particular, capitalize the first and last word and all other words except:

Note that short verbs (Is, Are, and Do) and pronouns (Me, It, and His) are capitalized.



When necessary, disambiguation should be done using "(band)", "(album)", or "(song)" (such as Queen (band) or H.M.S. Donovan (album)). As per Wikipedia:Disambiguation, a term may redirect to its primary topic; for example, even though Hurricane redirects to Tropical cyclone, that redirect should not be replaced with Hurricane (song) or Hurricane (album). Use further disambiguation only when needed (for example X (American band), X (Australian band)).

Unless more than one album (or song) of the same name exists, there is no need to disambiguate any further. For example, Down to Earth (Ozzy Osbourne album) is fine, because there are many other albums named Down to Earth, but H.M.S. Donovan (Donovan album) is unnecessary. Disambiguate albums and songs by artist and not by year unless the artist has released more than one album (or song) with the same name. When a track is not strictly a song (in other words a composition without lyrics, or an instrumental that is not a cover of a song), disambiguation should be done using "(composition)" - assuming there is no composition with lyrics - or "(instrumental)".

If EPs are genuinely notable as an EP, and not for the main song on the EP, then the disambiguation should be "(EP)" unless "EP" is itself part of the title, as in The Black EP or The Green EP (Professor Green).

See also[edit]