The thematic index provides two indexing options, both of which are automatically searched when you enter data in the “Index” field:

  1. A two-part index matching the Theme Code Index described below
  2. A simplified version, omitting information on octaves and accidentals

The Theme Code Index was originally developed by Brendán Breathnach and was used by Charles Gore for the Scottish Music Index and other online databases such as the Folk Archive Resource North East and The Traditional Tune Archive. The method is useful for classifying and indexing tunes and searching for variants which contain different ornamentation or figuration. The simplified version given here removes anomalies, particularly around different octaves, and makes it easier to locate certain tunes.

The Theme Code Index shows the pitches at the beginning of each principal beat in the opening bars of a tune. The numbers 1-7 denote degrees of the scale, and letters add information on accidentals and octaves. “1” represents the keynote, and rests are notated as “0”. Letters following each number denote deviations from the standard major scale: sharp as “x” and flat as “b”.

The letters “L”, “H”, and “T” are used to indicate notes which are below or above the main octave. The main octave for each key is the highest scale in that key that can be played on the violin while staying in 1st position. For pieces with keynote C, the main octave begins on middle C; for keynote D, the main octave begins on the D above middle C; and so on through to the keynote of B. Notes below the main octave are indicated by the letter “L”; notes in the scale above the main octave by “H”; and the scale above that with “T”.

A two-part thematic index (Index 1 and Index 2) is created by listing the notes at the beginning of each beat, in two complete bars for tunes in 3/8, 3/4, 9/8, 9/4, 4/4 or 2/2, and in four complete bars for tunes in 2/4 or 6/8.


1. “Ketty”, George Skene MS, f. 8

Key note: D

Theme CodeIndex 1: 1H33Index 2: 637b
SimplifiedIndex 1: 133Index 2: 637

2. “When She Cam Ben She Bobbed”, Bowie MS ff. 28v-29

Key note: G

In 6/4, Index 1 is constructed from bars 1-2 and Index 2 from bars 3-4

Theme CodeIndex 1: 13b17bLIndex 2: 11H75
SimplifiedIndex 1: 1317Index 2: 1175

3. [Untitled], Bowie MS, f. 21v

Key note: F

Theme CodeIndex 1: 321H1HIndex 2: 2H2H2H6
SimplifiedIndex 1: 3211Index 2: 2226