A collection of carefully vetted internet resources to provide assistance with understanding music history, song research, and access to other teaching resources like museums and lesson plans
General Music and Music History
American Roots Music – PBS site for the successful television series. Includes song lyrics and backgrounds, oral histories, and lesson plans. Links to curriculum standards.
American Popular Music Before 1900 – Kingwood College. A Chronological overview of American history through its music up to 1900 with extensive links to additional resources.
Experience Music Project Online Archive Exhibits – includes standards-based lessons utilizing oral histories; also free online courses, however all geared towards utilizing oral histories to teach.
The 100 Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century – The site contains brief background information on all of the songs, plus recordings.
Worldwide Internet Music Resources – This site, maintained by Indiana University, includes internet sites for the following topics related to music:
Individual Musicians (All Genres) and Popular Groups
Groups and Ensembles (Except Popular)
Other Sites Related to Performance Composers and
Composition Genres and Types of Music
Research and Study
The Commercial World of Music
Journals and Magazines
General and Miscellaneous
Public Domain Music: 19th Century American Popular Composers — includes biographies and midi files as well as lyrics.
Smithsonian – Links to music and musical instrument exhibits at the Smithsonian. Some page contains historical information and also lesson plans, but each is different.
History Matters: Making Sense of American Popular Song — This site includes an extensive essay that discusses how to use popular song to teach history. Also includes many resources and bibliography (“using songs as historical evidence.”)
Song Lyrics, General
For a general description of techniques to use when trying to track down song lyrics, please see our Guide to Finding Song Lyrics.
The Mudcat Cafe — Searchable forum of discussions of 1,000s of songs.
Folk Music dot org featuring the Digital Tradition — an online database of over 10,000 traditional songs [I don’t see lyrics anywhere on this page. They may have changed.]
International Lyrics Playground Songs from Europe, North America, and around the world – Search the Google frame with any combination of lyrics of the song you’re looking for [not scholarly; the lyrics for "Oh Susanna," for example, are incomplete]
Sheet Music Collections
Library of Congress American Memory “African American Sheet Music 1850 – 1920” — This collection consists of 1,305 pieces of African-American sheet music dating from 1850 through 1920. The collection includes many songs from the heyday of antebellum black face minstrelsy in the 1850s and from the abolitionist movement of the same period.
Library of Congress American Memory “America Singing: 19th Century Song Sheets” — Excellent searchable collection for images of song sheets (many without music).
Bodleian Library Broadside Ballad Collection At Oxford University — This is a collection of British broadsides, so I don’t know how much use it will be to teachers of US history, unless they are researching an old song
California Sheet Music: A virtual library of 19th century California music from 1852-1900 — A virtual library of some 2,000 pieces of sheet music published in California between 1852 and 1900, a project of the University of California at Berkeley. Also includes links to sheet music according to cultures and topics.
Center for Popular Music Databases — This site is useful only if you know what you’re looking for.
Duke University Historic American Sheet Music Collection — This site allows you to search or browse their collection of American sheet music published between 1850 and 1920.
Lester Levy Collection, The Johns Hopkins University — Browse or search this digital collection of American sheet music from 1780 to 1960. All pieces in the collection are indexed, which is really helpful.
Music of Old Nebraska at the Polley Music Library (Lincoln Nebraska) — This site is dedicated to music of Nebraska, including lesson plans and sound files (created by the librarians). It may be helpful, however, to those in other parts of the country.
UNC-Chapel Hill Music Library 19th Century American Sheet Music — This site includes sheet music from the 1830s to 1860s. [I would link this to the “About” page, rather than the search page.]
Sheet Music from Canada’s Past — This site is maintained by the Library and Archives Canada and features Canadian sheet music published before 1900, from 1900-1913, and from 1914-1920. Extensive historical background is provided for each work.
UCLA Digital Sheet Music Collection — An extensive collection of American popular sheet music. Follow the link to Search the Archive.
Charles H. Templeton Sheet Music Collection at the University of Mississippi — This site not only provides search capabilities, but also allows you to browse by genre.
Performing Arts in America, 1875 to 1923 at the New York Public Library — This site provides lots of historic background information, in addition to sheet music, audio files, and biographies. You can also browse by genre.
African American Sheet Music, 1820-1920 at Brown University — Although the African-Americana is the most important category in this collection, it also features music relating to World Wars I and II; music from the Yiddish-American stage at the turn of the century; early American imprints; Confederate imprints; Broadway show music; movie music; musical settings of American poetry; Rhode Island music; octavo band arrangements; and a very large collection of general popular music of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The USDA’s Historical Photos site — Most of the photographs on display in this section were taken between 1937 and 1943 during the Farm Security Administration (FSA) era. The entire FSA collection of almost 300,000 pictures are housed at the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration. Included on these pages are other USDA photographs, some of which date back to the 1800s.
FDR cartoons — This site, created by the Niskayuna High School with help from the FDR Presidential Library, is dedicated to cartoons about FDR. You can browse by topic as well as search the database.
Digital History — Rich site hosted by the University of Houston of primary sources, teachers' guides, multi-media presentations and other materials.
Northwestern University’s World War II Poster Collection — The Government and Geographic Information and Data Services Department at Northwestern University Library has a comprehensive collection of over 300 posters issued by U.S. Federal agencies from the onset of war through 1945. High-resolution digital images available for a fee.
FDR Library & Museum — Site includes access to photographs, as well as online documents and audio and video clips.
Historic Pittsburgh — Historic Pittsburgh is a comprehensive collection of local resources that supports personal and scholarly research of the western Pennsylvania area. This site enables access to historic material held by the University of Pittsburgh's University Library System, the Library & Archives of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania at the Heinz History Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Chatham College Archives.
Historic Images of the Civil War — Most of these images are from the National Archives and are in the public domain. Site features not only images of the Civil War, but also of the old west. Also organized by state.
Library of Congress American Memory, "Votes for Women" Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920 — “This selection of 38 pictures includes portraits of many individuals who have been frequently requested from the holdings of the Prints and Photographs Division and the Manuscript Division. Also featured are photographs of suffrage parades, picketing suffragists, and an anti-suffrage display, as well as cartoons commenting on the movement--all evoking the visible and visual way in which the debate over women's suffrage was carried out.”
General Music History by Region, Subject, Genre, and Period
African American Music
Archives of African American Music and Culture —Established in 1991, the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) is a repository of materials covering a range of African American musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era. The collections highlight popular, religious, and classical music, with genres ranging from blues and gospel to R&B and contemporary hip hop. The AAAMC also houses extensive materials related to the documentation of black radio. Hosted by Indiana University
Lift Every Voice and Sing: Music in American Life — This site, hosted by the University of Virginia Library, highlights materials from an exhibition. Lots of wonderful information, including images and audio clips.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture — Everything related to the novel, directed by Stephen Railton at the Department of English at the University of Virginia. You can browse the collection to locate a wonderful discussion about the songs written for or about the novel.
Center for Black Music Research, hosted by Columbia College — Provides wonderful information on musical styles and genres by following the links.
Follow the Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History — This site contains an extensive history of the song, samples of many recordings, and information on books inspired by the song. Additionally, the site casts doubt on the actual use of the song by the Underground Railroad.
Anti-War songs, ala carte — This site has an extensive list of songs, but some of the links to the lyrics are not working. Also has a list of songs about the war in Iraq.
Civil War Music
Civil War music site — Poetry and Music of the War Between the States.
The Music of the American Civil War — Extensive background information and midi files for songs related to the Civil War.
Library of Congress American Memory “We’ll Sing to Abe Our Song!”: Sheet Music about Lincoln, Emancipation, and the Civil War From the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.
Cold War Songs
“Atomic Rock: The Cold War Hit Parade” — Part of CNN’s Cold War Experience website, this page features a comprehensive essay by David Browne, Entertainment Weekly Music Critic
Songs about the Cold War from the 1980s — An alphabetic list of songs with descriptions and links to information about the performers.
Colonial Music/Music from the American Revolution
The Colonial Music Institute — This site includes many helpful essays and bibliographies about colonial music. It also features wonderful recordings (some may be sampled) of important songs.
Country and Western
Roughstock’s History of Country Music — A wonderfully comprehensive site covering the entire history with lots of images. Includes the "Cowpie Song Corral" a search engine for lyrics and performers.
Songtexts of the Original Carter Family — Site includes song texts and a minimal amount of biographical material on the Carter Family.
Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and America — Folk and Traditional Music and Popular Songs, with Lyrics, Midi, Tune Information and History behind the folksongs and ballads. Irish, British and American Folk Music including Francis J. Child Ballads and Sea Shanties.
Folk Music: An Index to Recorded Resources — Created and maintained by Jane Keefer, this site is searchable by keyword as well as browsing.
The Traditional Ballad Index — The Traditional Ballad Index is a collaborative effort designed to help people find reference information on folk ballads. It is not itself a source of song texts or of discussion of ballads, although it contains some summary information. Hosted by California State University, Fresno. A good resource for researching old English ballads.
Folk Library Net A Library of Folk Music Links — The FolkLib Index is an on-going attempt to index information on the World Wide Web that is related to the field of Folk Music. As an index, it consists primarily of links to other sites.
Gospel Music Hall of Fame — This sites provides some historical information about gospel music.
Library of Congress American Memory “Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection” — This site is an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera generated during two separate documentation trips supported by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center). Wonderful recordings of early ballads.
Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago site on Hip Hop Resources — All-inclusive site, provides definitions and explanations, and also lists books and online resources.
Library of Congress American Memory “Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection” — Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection is an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.
Jazz and Blues
Jazz/Blues Archives from the Joseph Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago — This site provides excellent information on how to get started on jazz research, and also some helpful links.
Duke Ellington’s Washington — This is the companion web site for the PBS special by the same name and includes information about the city and its music scene, in addition to biographical information about Ellington.
The Devil’s Music: 1920s Jazz — This is the companion web site for Part 4 of the PBS Culture Shock series and features an interesting essay about early jazz.
The Labor Movement — This site includes songs of the Industrial Workers of the World, songs of Joe Hill, and other songs related to work and struggle.
The Songs of Joe Hill — Songs by and about Joe Hill, including lyrics and MP3s.
Native American Music
Index of Native American Music Resources on the Internet — This site includes links to other resources, including a bibliography of good sources on Native American music.
Parlor Songs — This site presents a history of parlor songs, along with biographies of major composers.
Musical events on the fourth of July — This site created and maintained by the author of the Fourth of July Encyclopedia (North Carolina: MacFarland & Co., Inc., 2007). It includes information on musical events related to this holiday, as well as music sung and played.
Library of Congress I Hear America Singing — Search the collection with the terms “Patriotic Songs” for a lengthy list of available sheet music.
“Perfessor” Bill Edwards — Especially helpful is his page with links to other ragtime sites.
Music and Railways — This site is hosted by the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom, which means that all the songs listed on this page are British.
A Collection of Selected Lutheran Hymnals — This site is part of the Project Wittenberg, dedicated to everything related to Martin Luther. It includes comprehensive list of Lutheran Hymns, with text.
Sacred Harp Online Index — Site dedicated to Sacred Harp Singing, includes indexes for The Sacred Harp (1991 edition) by titles, first lines, tunes, words, and composers, amongst others.
Shape Note Recordings Index — Search by tunes, albums, titles or expressions for recordings of shape note tunes.
Rock and Roll
Rolling Stone Online — Site includes good biographical information on rock stars.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” — A teacher’s guide to the Billy Joel song, includes a wonderful companion video.
Sea Songs and Shanties
Shanties and Sea Songs — This is a good source for lyrics, CDs and books.
International Shanty and Seasong Association — More general information about shanties can be found at this site.
Library of Congress American Memory “John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern State Recording Trip” — The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip is a multiformat ethnographic field collection that includes nearly 700 sound recordings, as well as fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscripts documenting a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States. You can search the collection by keyword, or browse by photo subject, audio subject, song text, or performer.
Spanish American War
Crucible of Empire - The Spanish American War — Another excellent website companion to a PBS special. Includes sheet music and audio samples of songs related to the war.
The Roots of Tejano and Conjunto Music —Wonderful explanation of this genre by the experts at Arhoolie Records, including audio samples. Site is hosted by the University of Texas at Austin.
Tin Pan Alley
Songwriters Hall of Fame, Tin Pan Alley: 1880-1953 — This site provides a good introduction to Tin Pan Alley.
Parlor Songs: The Story of Tin Pan Alley — Another good explanation of the phenomenon.
Music That Americans Loved 100 Years Ago — Created by Tim Gracyk, a collector of old phonographs and recordings, this site has wonderful explanations of popular music.
Women of Tin Pan Alley — Companion site to PBS “American Masters” series. Only one page devoted to this topic, however, by following the link to Teacher Resources, you can find some wonderful lesson plans relating to other musicians, such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.
Songs of Americans in the Vietnam War — Part of the Vietnam Veterans Oral History and Folklore Project at Buffalo State University, directed by Lydia Fish. A wonderful essay about music during the war, including audio clips.
What’s Going On? An Incomplete List of Songs About Viet Nam — A comprehensive list of most of the well-known songs about Viet Nam. Unfortunately, not all of the links to lyrics and audio are current since the site has not been updated for several years.
Vietnam Era Anti-War Music — A site created by a Vietnam veteran. Within the context of a personal essay about the war protest, he presents several songs and information about protest songs, including complete lyrics and audio files. Also includes links to other Vietnam and Iraq sites.
Vietnam Songbook — Website documenting a live concert featuring the music of Irwin Silber’s “Vietnam Songbook.” Provides audio clips of the songs that were performed.
War songs, general
Iraq Unplugged — Songs written and recorded by American soldiers in Iraq.
Soldier Songs — A former paratrooper and Green Beret, Michael McCann knows what he’s singing about in Soldiers’ Songs. Beginning as an album of songs from 8 wars, Soldiers' Songs evolved into a presentation of the music histories of WWI, WWII and Vietnam with audiences ranging from students to seniors. Drawing on his combat experience, knowledge of military history and his satchel of songs written by and about soldiers, Michael tells powerful stories about these wars from the soldiers’ perspective.
Women and Music
Creativefolk.com: Woman’s Equality Day — A site consisting of songs, music downloads, related to Woman’s Equality Day.
In Search of Women in American Song: A Neglected Musical Heritage — A comprehensive essay from ParlorSongs, including lyrics and MIDI versions of several songs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Womansong Collection — A collection of women’s folk songs hosted by CreativeFolk.com. This site features historic information as well as lyrics and downloads for a variety of traditional folk songs.
Malvina Reyonlds: Song Lyrics and Poems — Malvina Reynolds’ songs have found their way into the repertory of entertainers, protesters, teachers, parents, and children all around the world. In this service the focus is on her song lyrics and poetry, but we also provide links to biographical and historical information about Malvina, her songs, and her life.
World War I
First World War: Vintage Media — Although the editor admits that this site has not been submitted for formal peer review, this is nonetheless a wonderfully comprehensive site, which features all of the songs popular during the war organized chronologically. Complete original audio recordings of all the songs are available along with lyrics; in many cases you can listen to more than one recording of the same song. Site also includes information on other aspects of the war.
World War II
Music of the Holocaust — Part of “A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust” produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida. Includes music of the ghettos and camps, music of the Third Reich, and others, as well as teacher resources, including lesson plans.
World War II Before Pearl Harbor: American Music — Part of The Authentic History Center, this site provides a fascinating overview of the music prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor (the site creators are currently working on subsequent music). In addition to wonderful factual information, there are images of sheet music, lyrics, and complete audio recordings of many songs.
World War II Songs — Songs written about and during the war by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and friends. The site includes lyrics and some background information.
National Social Studies Standards — This is the site for the National Council for the Social Studies and does not provide access to the standards. You need to purchase their publications.
National Standards for United States History — “The development of the History Standards was administered by the National Center for History in the Schools at the University of California, Los Angeles under the guidance of the National Council for History Standards. The standards were developed with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education. This publication does not necessarily represent positions or policies of the United States government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.”
History/Social Studies Web Site for K-12 Teachers — This is a site developed by a teacher (?) and is no longer maintained since he retired. Not a peer reviewed site and has lots of moving things on it.
These sites offer lesson plans and resources of interest to K-12 educators who are interested in integrating music into their classrooms. Or, these museums offer on-site or internet resources which are helpful for understanding American music in a historical context.
America’s Shrine to Music Museum (Vermillion, SD) — Visits only, but some good online images and information about music instruments.
Center for American Music (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) — Virtual tour, online lesson plans and images of the 19th century.
Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, VA) — This site offers activities and extensive resources for teachers.
Country Music Hall of Fame (Nashville, TN) — Teachers will find some helpful resources by following the links through “Experience the Museum” to “Museum Programs”
Georgia Music Hall of Fame (Macon, GA) — Some resources through their “Education” link, along with interesting free podcasts.
Hank Williams Museum (Georgiana, AL) — Visits only.
Memphis Rock n Soul Museum (Memphis, TN) — A variety of lesson plans may be found under “Sound Education.”
Mystic Seaport (Mystic, CT) — Visits only.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, OH) — Follow the link, “Education and Outreach” and “Teacher Programs” to numerous lesson plans, student activity guides (under “Student Programs”) and a comprehensive bibliography. They also offer distance learning programs (under “Student Programs”).
Rosie the Riveter World War II Homefront National Historic Park (Richmond, CA) — Lots of information related to women in the workplace, especially in Richmond.
Texas Music Museum (Austin, TX) — The Texas Music Museum collects and preserves artifacts, documents and reference material surrounding diverse traditions of Texas music, and utilizes these collections in the presentation of exhibits, educational programs, and performances. The collection and programs of the Texas Music Museum encourage active participation by youth and adults in continuing the legacy of creating Texas music.
Additional Suggested Sites for Teachers:
Rubrics, Assessment Rubrics — Helping you design assessments
Teachnology — Site provides free access to lesson plans, worksheets, rubrics, as well as teaching tips and themes.
Visual Understanding in Education
Southern Poverty Law Center — Members receive Teaching Tolerance four times a year - which has great articles (student level reading) and tons of teaching ideas. Have your principal send in (on school stationary) a request for their many documentary films. Website also has great stuff on the Civil Rights Memorial and “Intelligence Watch” which traces hate groups in America.
ARTSEDGE — “The National Arts and Education Network supports the placement of the arts at the center of the curriculum and advocates creative use of technology to enhance the K-12 educational experience. ARTSEDGE empowers educators to teach in, through, and about the arts by providing the tools to develop interdisciplinary curricula that fully integrate the arts with other academic subjects. ARTSEDGE offers free, standards-based teaching materials for use in and out of the classroom, as well as professional development resources, student materials, and guidelines for arts-based instruction and assessment.”
The Getty Museum — The teacher resource section of this site provides information and lesson plans to help incorporate the study of visual art into the classroom.
Music Educators’ National Conference (MENC)
Internet Resources for Music Educators — This site provides a vast quantity of links to music-related sites in a well-organized manner.