Main research areas of the SIM are historically oriented music theory, organology and musicological bibliography.

The institute's overarching agenda is exemplified by its research in the field of »performance practice oriented music theory« (Praxisorientierte Musiktheorie). The research activities at the »Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung« are linked to those of the »Musikinstrumenten-Museum«, thereby providing the basis upon which questions of the relation between music theory and performance practice can be raised. The integration of historical background knowledge is a fundamental part of the museum's conception.

The institute's documentary project    BMS online provides a service-oriented foundational resource work for the world of musicology.