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Music: Primary VS Secondary Sources

What is primary and secondary research in music?

Most major research projects will include both primary and secondary resources. A description and examples of primary and secondary sources are listed below:

Primary Secondary

Primary sources reveal information about the production and performance of music, aural traditions, histories of musical composition, notation, and technique, information about music theory and about individuals' and cultures' technological advancement, economy, education, cognition, and more.

Danielle Loftus (2012)

Examples of primary sources:

  • Manuscript music sources
  • Musical instruments
  • Sheet music
  • Composer's notes, correspondence or autobiographies
  • Musical performances/recordings/films of live performances

Secondary sources offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but use them to argue a contention or to persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion.

Danielle Loftus (2012)

Examples of secondary sources:

  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Textbooks
  • Monographs and articles that interpret, analyze, or review research works