Music Guidelines

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DP Official Documentation - General
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The following are guidelines for DP projects containing music notation for:

Comments and suggestions for future revisions are welcome - send a PM to the DP Music Coordinator (currently LCantoni) or post in DP's Music Team thread.


Links to audio and other music-related files in an e-book containing music notation provide a very rich experience for the reader. Depending on what kinds of files are provided, readers can listen to the music, download notation source files to edit and use for their own purposes, or download and print sheet music to play on an instrument.

It is required that, at the very least, projects containing music notation, whether the project is primarily music-related or not, have audio files (MP3 or MIDI) to accompany them.

Some exceptions to this requirement are discussed below.

Why do this when the original books didn't have sound? Here's why: In the days before recordings and radio and other forms of sound transmission, there were far fewer ways for people to hear music other than by going to a concert, and many had few opportunities of doing even that. But most educated people had access to a piano or other musical instrument. Knowing this, authors and publishers put passages of music notation in their books so that readers could play it for themselves and enrich the experience of what they were reading.

You don't have to know music to handle a music project. DP's Music Team and Music Coordinator, currently LCantoni, are always ready to advise you and to transcribe music (i.e., turn music notation into audio and other files). And these Guidelines are designed to help you every step of the way.

Guidelines for Content Providers

Choosing a Project

Music-related books are always welcome at DP, but you should be aware that pure music projects, such as those consisting entirely of scores or sheet music, are not feasible for DP. They are not adaptable to the distributed proofreading model, mainly because there are so few DPers who can commit to transcribing large amounts of music.

Before you upload your project, be sure to consult the DP Music Coordinator, currently LCantoni, or post in the DP Music Team, for an evaluation of whether it's feasible for DP. As a rule of thumb, if more than 10% of the project's pages consist of full-page music notation (e.g., 30 full pages of music notation in a 300-page project), it may not be feasible to run at DP. Because projects with music vary greatly, there can't be a hard-and-fast rule for how much is too much. The Music Coordinator will evaluate feasibility on a case-by-case basis.

Preparing the Images

Music notation has a lot of very tiny symbols that are very important (e.g., a dot after a note, lengthening its time value; a dot over a note, indicating that it should be played short). So, to ensure that these are visible, music images should be scanned at the highest, crispest resolution possible.

If you are cropping the music images, be sure not to crop them too closely. Very often, music symbols, text directions, and even lyrics appear outside the staff boundaries. Better to have too much than too little.

Guidelines for Project Managers

Planning the Project

When you're the PM for a new project containing music, the first thing you should do is go over the project and make a note of how much music notation is in it and what form it takes. In most projects, the music consists of snippets of notation to illustrate the text. In others, there might be complete musical pieces. And some projects may use musical symbols in the course of the text. This is all information you'll want to include when Writing the Project Comments.

If the project has musical symbols in the text, be sure to choose the Symbols Collection Character Suite when creating the project so that the proofreaders will have access to Unicode musical symbols. Note, however, that the project may also use symbols not in that collection; see Music Symbols below for more information on handling those.

The next thing you should do is set up a plan for how you want the music to be handled by the proofreaders, formatters, and post-processor. The DP Music Coordinator and/or the DP Music Team can help you with your plan. Some music notation may not be transcribable; some notation may be just a single note and not worth transcribing. Decisions about what should or should not be transcribed should be made at this point.

It's a good idea to get a music-capable PPer in advance, if possible, who can help you decide how the project should look (and sound), and who may even be able to transcribe the music before or during PP.

Failing that, try to get a volunteer to transcribe the music in advance, while the project is going through the rounds. A post in the Music Team forum should get reasonably quick results. The music files can then be added to the project so that they're safely stored and ready for the future post-processor.

In the final HTML e-book, the post-processor will use, at a minimum, the original image with a link to an audio file. Some PPers like to provide multiple audio formats (e.g., MP3 and MIDI); some also like to provide a MusicXML file so that the music notation can be downloaded and imported into any music notation software. See the discussion of Music File Formats below. It's a good idea to work with the PPer and/or music transcriber to make these decisions in advance.

A Note about Epub and Mobi

Many e-reading devices that use the epub or mobi e-book format still don't support links to external files, which means that readers using such devices won't be able to hear, view, or download music-related files. But PMs and PPers should still include audio and other music-related files in their projects, to enhance the HTML version, and in the hope that someday, epub/mobi will catch up to HTML in providing a rich e-book experience with external resources.

Writing the Project Comments

Once you have a plan in place, your Project Comments should be very specific about what you expect from the proofreaders, formatters, and PPer. Again, getting a PPer on board beforehand will be very helpful in formulating clear instructions. The DP Music Team can also help you with this.

The Project Comments must be clear on how to handle these issues:

  • How much music is there?
  • Are the music illustrations snippets, or full pieces, or a combination?
  • Does the music have lyrics, titles, composer credits, or other text elements that should be proofed?
  • Has the author put music illustrations in the middle of a sentence or paragraph to illustrate a point?
  • Are there music symbols (flats, sharps, and so forth) in the text?

Do provide a link to these Music Guidelines - but you must also give specific guidance to proofreaders, formatters, and the PPer based on what is in your project.

Writing Instructions for Proofreaders

Music images are treated the same way as illustrations, so the proofreaders won't be involved in formatting the markup. But if the music illustrations have text elements, you'll want them proofed.

The proofreaders should be proofing only these portions of music notation:

  • title
  • composer, arranger, lyricist, or other credits
  • lyrics
  • copyright information or other text information about the piece
  • captions such as "Fig. 1" or "(2)" or the like

Purely musical directions, such as tempo markings (e.g. Allegro), instrument designations (e.g. Voice, Piano), and dynamics (e.g. crescendo) should be excluded from proofing.

Specify in the Project Comments what the proofreaders can expect to find and how they should be proofed.


Lyrics present special issues. In vocal music notation, syllables are sometimes hyphenated to match the musical notes, and dashes or long ellipses are sometimes used to indicate a held note. Unlike the actual words of the lyrics, these hyphens, dashes, and ellipses have no textual value but are instead part of the music notation. It is therefore best to remove them so that the text is more readable.

So, proofreaders should be instructed to remove hyphens, dashes, and ellipses. For example, if the lyrics in the original are "Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb whose fleece was white as snow......" they should be proofed as "Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow."

Music Symbols in the Text

Music symbols in the text will require special proofing, as they'll need to be represented in the plaintext version, and the PPer will need to be able to find them for HTML treatment.

The Symbols Collection Character Suite contains the following Unicode symbols that the proofreaders can use and that will appear properly in the plaintext version:

  • Sharp ♯
  • Flat ♭
  • Natural ♮
  • Quarter note (crotchet) ♩
  • Eighth note (quaver) ♪

Other music symbols in the text should be proofed with the name in brackets if the proofreader knows what it is, e.g. [**crescendo], or simply with [**music symbol], so the PPer can find it.

Time signatures expressed in numbers, like Timesignature34.jpg, should be rendered as fractions (e.g., 3/4).

In place of the stylized letter symbols for music dynamics such as



and the like, proofreaders should use italicized lowercase letters, e.g., p, f.

Writing Instructions for Formatters

The formatters will be concerned with three issues:

  • Adding [Music] markup.
  • Marking lyrics as poetry, where appropriate.
  • Determining whether the music illustration should remain in its original place, or be moved to the nearest paragraph break.

The [Music] Tag

Be sure to specify in the Project Comments for the formatters that music notation must be marked as [Music], not [Illustration]. This makes the music easier to find so that the PPer knows where to add links to the music files.

Text elements in the music (title, composer, lyrics, copyright, etc.) that aren't musical directions should be included within the [Music] tag. For example:



<sc>Emilie Poulsson.</sc>

<sc>C.C. Roeske.</sc>

1. Skim, skim, skim,
With the skimmer bright;
Take the rich and yellow cream,
Leave the milk so white.

For music continued on or from another page, formatters should use the same convention used for continued footnotes, i.e. *[Music] or [Music]*.

Lyrics Formatting

Lyrics should be formatted as poetry. Formatters should be instructed to use their best judgment in determining where each new line should begin. The most common clue is a capitalized word in the middle of a lyrics line, such as "With," "Take," and "Leave" in the example above.

Very often, songs with multiple verses have additional verses in text below the music notation, which will give a good idea of how the layout and indentation should look. For example:

Sixpence music.jpg

The correct formatting for the above music:


Sing a song of Sixpence
  A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty Blackbirds
  Baked in a pie;
When the pie was open'd
  The birds began to sing,
Oh, was not that a dainty dish
  To set before the King.

2. The King was in his counting-house
     Counting out his money,
   The Queen was in the parlour
     Eating bread and honey;
   The Maid was in the garden
     Hanging out the clothes,
   There came a little blackbird
     And pecked off her nose.

Sometimes, multiple verses will appear in the notation itself, often numbered. These verses should be separated. Example:

Babysopera music.jpg

Correct formatting for the above:


1. What are little boys made of?
   What are little boys made of?
   Frogs and snails and puppy-dog’s tails,
   And that are little boys made of.

2. What are little girls made of?
   What are little girls made of?
   Sugar and spice and all that’s nice,
   And that are little girls made of.

3. What are young men made of?
   What are young men made of?
   Sighs and leers, and crocodile tears,
   And that are young men made of.

4. What are young women made of?
   What are young women made of?
   Ribbons and laces, and sweet pretty faces,
   And that are young women made of.

Multi-voice music, such as choruses or duets, needs to be formatted so that each voice part's line is separate. Note that there may be slight differences in the words for each vocal part. For example:


Proper formatting for the above:


<sc>Soprano 1.</sc>

Louange et gloire en action de grâce,
Chantons à Dieu de la

<sc>Soprano 2.</sc>

Louange et gloire en action de grâce,
Chantons à Dieu de

<sc>Alto 1.</sc>

Louange et gloire en action de grâce,
Chantons à Dieu de

<sc>Alto 2.</sc>

Louange et gloire en action de grâce,
Chantons à Dieu de

Music in the Middle of a Paragraph

Sometimes music illustrations, like regular illustrations, are moved to the nearest paragraph break. But the Project Comments should be clear that music illustrations that are used in the middle of a sentence or paragraph to illustrate a point (if they exist in your project) should NOT be moved. For example:


101. Other varieties of measure sometimes found are 9/8 and
12/8, but these are practically always taken as three-beat and
four-beat measures respectively, being equivalent to these if
each group of three tones is thought of as a triplet.
[Music] is identical in effect with [Music]

Writing Instructions for Post-Processors

Even if you've engaged a PPer in advance, you should lay out your PPing requirements in the Project Comments, in case the project is later reassigned to another PPer. Many PMs simply ask that at least audio files be included, and leave the rest up to the PPer. If you do have further requirements for the final product, include them in the Project Comments. Most importantly, you should specify all the file formats you want included in the e-book, such as MP3 and MusicXML (see Music File Formats).

Do not, however, specify that you want music transcribed using a particular notation program. Specifying a particular program will reduce considerably the already-small pool of available music transcribers.

Music Images

For the music images, always use the original images. Not only does that stay true to the original book, it also avoids the PPer and music transcriber having to worry unnecessarily about recreating the appearance of the music.

That said, if the original images are hard to read due to poor quality, or use an archaic notation style like medieval neumes, you might like to have clean and/or modern notation images to include with the project in addition to the original images. If that's what you want, be sure to say so in the Project Comments. But don't expect the Music Transcriber to re-create the appearance of archaic notation.

Remember, the more you require, the more work for the PPer and the Music Transcriber, and the longer it will take for the project to get posted.

Adding Music to the Project Files

If you've asked for music to be transcribed in advance, it's important to have a safe repository for the music files. Keeping them on someone's home computer is far from optimal; people leave DP, their hard drives die, things get accidentally erased. And while your DPScans folder is one way to store these files, there's still the possibility of accidental deletion.

To solve this problem, you should ask Db-req to add the music files to the project's extra files. The PPer will then be able to download the music files along with all the other project files.

For db-req's purposes, the only file types that can be added to the project files are:

  • MIDI or MP3
  • MusicXML (.mxl)
  • A text file (.txt) containing transcriber's notes

Please do not include image or PDF files when asking db-req to add music files to the project. If the music transcriber has sent you a zip file containing anything other than the above file types, please create a new zip for db-req with only the permitted file types.

Here's how to ask db-req to add music files to the project:

  1. Make sure the music file filenames are all lower case and without spaces.
  2. Zip up the music files, naming the zip file with the project ID number and the word "music" after an underscore (no spaces!), e.g., (Copy and paste the project ID number from the project page to avoid typos.)
  3. Put the zip file in your DPScans folder. If you don't have one, upload the zip file to a cloud storage site, such as Dropbox, so that a db-req Squirrel can download it. Do NOT send it as an email attachment to db-req!
  4. Send an e-mail to db-req asking that the music files be added to the project's extra files. Be sure to include your DP username, the project name and ID number, and the location of the zip file, e.g. DPScans, Dropbox, etc. For Dropbox or other external locations, be sure to provide the direct link for downloading the zip file.
  5. If you're the PM, put a note in the Project Comments telling the future PPer that the music files are in the project's extra files. If you're not the PM, mention in your email to db-req that the PCs should be updated. You should also post in the Project Discussion that you've asked db-req to add the files.
  6. Do not delete the zip file until you've confirmed that the music files have been added to the project.

Guidelines for Proofreaders

The primary directive for proofreaders, as for any project, is to follow the Project Comments and read the Project Discussion. The PM will, ideally, have given specific instructions on how to proof any text elements in the music.

In the absence of specific instructions, proofreaders should do the following when encountering music in a project:

  • Treat music illustrations as illustrations; that is, leave the markup to the formatters.
  • Proof text elements such as the title, composer, and any lyrics.
  • In the lyrics, remove hyphens between syllables (unless the word is normally hyphenated), ellipses, or long dashes.
  • Ignore text elements that are actually part of the music, such as tempo and dynamic markings (e.g., Allegro, rit., cresc., p, f, dim., etc.). If you're not sure, leave it in, with a [**note].
  • Mark music symbols in the text as [**music symbol], or, if you know the name of the symbol, include it, e.g., [**crescendo].
  • Ask in the Project Discussion, or leave a [**note], for anything you're not sure of.
  • See Writing Instructions for Proofreaders above for more information.

Guidelines for Formatters

The primary directive for formatters, as it is for proofreaders, is to follow the Project Comments and read the Project Discussion.

If the PM has not given specific instructions on formatting music, formatters should follow these basic guidelines:

  • Mark music illustrations as [Music].
  • Include any text elements (title, composer, lyrics) within the [Music] tag, e.g., [Music: Liebestraum].
  • Format any lyrics as poetry, using /* markup. Multiple verses (usually numbered 1, 2, etc.) should be separated.
  • If the music appears in the middle of a sentence or paragraph as part of the text, leave it there. Move standalone music illustrations to the nearest paragraph break.
  • Do not add music notation code, such as Lilypond. The music may already have been done, or is planned to be done in a different manner. If you'd like to transcribe the music — and your help would be most welcome! — contact the PM, the PPer, the DP Music Coordinator (LCantoni), or the DP Music Team, before you do anything.
  • Ask in the Project Discussion, or leave a [**note], for anything you're not sure of.
  • See Writing Instructions for Formatters for more information.

Guidelines for Post-Processors

Most of the considerations discussed above in the Guidelines for Project Managers apply with equal force to PPers, especially where the PM has deferred to the PPer's preferences. Please review the Guidelines for Project Managers before you start the PP process.

It's also a good idea to browse through all the page images to make sure you know where all the music images are, including music symbols in the text, before you start PPing.


The proofreaders should have used the music symbols character picker for the few available Unicode music symbols. As for symbols not in the picker, while you can use a generic [musical symbol] tag, it'll be a richer experience for the reader if you give a more specific description, such as [crescendo] (which the proofreaders may have already provided). The Dolmetsch Chart of Musical Symbols is a handy resource, or, if you're still not sure, post in the Music Team forum.



For accessibility purposes in the HTML, be sure that the text elements in the music image (title, composer, lyrics, etc.) are laid out in the main text of the HTML. See Our Old Nursery Rhymes for an example.

Lyrics can be placed either directly below the music image, or in a separate section at the end of your document (in which case be sure to place a clear "go to lyrics" link from the area of the original image).


Use the original music images. Nothing represents the original better than the original. If the Music Transcriber has prepared an alternative image file for you, you can use it in addition to, but not instead of, the original image.

Don't crop music images too closely; keep a sharp eye out for music and text elements (such as lyrics) that are outside the staff margins.

Make sure the image resolution and size are sufficient for the reader to clearly see all of the music, including the little dots and so forth. You can display a small image and link to a larger one if necessary. But don't make the image display too large, or it will overwhelm the page. See the PP FAQ for more information on image sizes.

A simple border around the music image can be attractive. See Our Old Nursery Rhymes for an example.


When preparing the HTML version of the e-book, create a separate "music" folder containing the music files you want to include.

Create visible links to the audio files near the music notation image. You may also want to link to MusicXML or other files. Explain these links in a Transcriber's Note at the beginning of the HTML file. See Our Old Nursery Rhymes for an example of how this can be done.

Include in a Transcriber's Note that the music files are the music transcriber's interpretation of the printed notation and are placed in the public domain.

As noted above, at the time of this writing, music file links will not work in mobile e-book formats like epub or Kindle/mobi. You can use the "x-ebookmaker-drop" class in your CSS to hide these links in a mobile e-book (see Mobile Formats). Alternatively, you can note in a Transcriber's Note for users who are reading the e-book in one of these formats that they can listen to the music or download music files in the HTML version.

Music Symbols in HTML

As noted above in the Guidelines for Project Managers, the proofreaders will have used the Symbols Collection character picker for a few basic music symbols (e.g., flats and sharps).

You can use in-line illustrations taken from the page images for other symbols. See Music Notation and Terminology for an example.

Finding a Music Transcriber

If the PM has not already arranged to have the music transcribed, and you aren't able to do it yourself, post in the Music Team forum to request a volunteer.

Once the Music Transcriber has sent you the music files, be sure to follow the instructions in Adding Music to the Project Files.

And be sure to ask the Music Transcriber whether and how he or she should be listed in the e-book's credit line, e.g., "Music transcribed by [real name or DP name]." If you're not directly uploading the project, let the PPVer know how the credit line should read.

Guidelines for Music Transcribers

Note: Although you need not be a professional musician to transcribe music at DP, these guidelines assume that you can read music notation, at least at an elementary level.

First Steps

Before you transcribe music for a DP project:

  • Look over the music and make sure that your music notation software is capable of producing at least a midi or mp3 file. If you're not sure about something, post in the Music Team forum, with a link to the music page.
  • Check whether the music continues on the following page(s). A single piece of music spanning several pages has to be transcribed as one piece, so that you can produce a single audio file.
  • Review the text pages surrounding the music for additional clues as to how it should be handled (tempo, instruments, etc.), if this information is not apparent from the music itself.
  • Use online resources to help determine how the music is supposed to sound, if it's not already familiar to you. For example, if the music is by a classical composer whose works are in the public domain, the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library has a huge selection of free scores in PDF format, which you can use to double-check possible printer errors in the project, determine the correct tempo, etc. YouTube is also a great resource for actual performances of just about any kind of music.
  • Don't be shy about asking for credit. You worked hard on the music and deserve kudos for it. Let the PM or PPer you're working with know how you want to be listed in the project credits (e.g., with your real name or your DP name), or, on the other hand, that you'd prefer not to be credited at all.
  • Do not take it upon yourself to transcribe music for a project without checking with the PM, the PPer, or the DP Music Team first. It may well be that the music is already being, or has already been, transcribed. You don't want to duplicate efforts.


When you're asked to transcribe music for a project, you should ideally provide an MP3 file and a MusicXML file, if your software is capable of producing them. If not, at the very least provide a MIDI file. You can also provide both MP3 and MIDI if you desire or the PM or PPer request it. You can also provide a PDF file, if you like and your notation software can generate one, so that the PM or PPer can check your work if so desired. But the PDF file will not be made part of the project files.

Transcribe only what you see in the notation. Don't re-orchestrate or re-arrange it. For example, if it's written for piano, use a piano sound. If it's written for voice only, use a vocal sound (MIDI has "choir aahs" and other vocal sounds). Just as we don't edit the text of the books we work on, we should not be editing the music. That said, you can make two kinds of alterations to the original:

  • You can correct obvious printer errors and note them in a transcriber's note.
  • Where the original doesn't indicate instrument, tempo, or dynamics, you can use your judgment or, if it's a well-known piece, consult online sources to add them as needed, and note what you did in a transcriber's note.

By creating and submitting music files for a DP project, you are agreeing that the files are being placed in the public domain, and there will be a notice to that effect in the e-book. If you can't agree to this, don't work on the project.

File Naming Conventions

When naming the files you're providing, match them to the image file names so that the PM/PP can find them easily. So, for example, if you're providing music files from an image named i_008.jpg, name the files i_008.mp3, i_008.mxl, i_008.mid, etc. Do not put spaces in the filenames.

When you zip the music files, please use the project's Project ID number followed by an underscore and "music." For example,

Handling Printer Errors

Just as with text, there can be printer errors in music. Unlike with text, however, it may not be possible to just leave the error in place - the audio file may sound terrible if you don't correct the error.

First, however, make sure it's an error. Sometimes dissonances are deliberate. Sometimes a bar deliberately contains more fewer beats than the key signature indicates (as in cadenzas, or in partial or pickup bars). If you're not sure, post in the Music Team forum, with a link to the music page.

As you work, keep a running list of printer errors and embody them in a transcriber's note that the PPer can include in the project. Describe exactly where the error is (giving system, bar, and beat numbers), why it's an error, and what (if anything) you did to correct it.

The transcriber's note can be in a separate text file, or you can add it to the MusicXML file for the particular piece.

Old-Style Notation

Because we work with older books at DP, you'll frequently come across archaic music notation symbols, such as old-style clefs, rests, and time signatures. If you're not sure what a symbol stands for, check the Dolmetsch Chart of Musical Symbols, or post in the Music Team forum.

Depending on your notation software, you may not be able to reproduce these symbols exactly as they appear in the original. In cases where you're creating only an audio file, that doesn't matter, as long as you can accurately reproduce the intended sound in modern notation.

If, however, you've been asked to produce a MusicXML or image file, you should note in a Transcriber's Note that your software cannot reproduce the symbol, and that you've used a modern equivalent instead.

Medieval Notation (Neumes)

You may also come across medieval music notation, also known (in its various forms) as neumes, Gregorian chant, or mensural notation. Here's an example:


In most instances, in order to create an audio file from medieval notation, you'll have to enter modern notes in your notation program. Note that, because medieval transcribers often assumed familiarity with note durations based on custom, the durations may have to be guessed. Here's how the example above would look in modern notation, with a Transcriber's Note regarding note durations:


If you can't read medieval notation, post in the Music Team forum to find someone to help you.

Note: Some handwritten medieval notation may be too unclear to decipher accurately, or may require expertise beyond our volunteers' capability. In that case, it may not be possible to create an audio file. If the tune is well-known, however, an Internet search may come up with a modern image or a sound file to help you decipher the notation.

Figured Bass

In the Baroque period, figured bass was a shorthand way of representing accompaniment in the bass staff, by placing just one note in the staff, with one or more numbers underneath it representing the other notes in a chord or interval. Here's an example:


As with medieval notation, there is limited, if any, support for automatically playable figured bass in most notation programs. Transcribing figured bass for DP projects is therefore optional.

If your software doesn't support figured bass, but you know how to realize (i.e., interpret) it, you can create the audio file by entering the full accompaniment into your notation software. Here's an example of figured bass in modern notation (note the use of multiple voices):


If you need help realizing figured bass, try this easy-to-use Figured Bass Calculator (free for the first few uses, $1.99 thereafter as of August 2023).

Be sure to include a music transcriber's note for the PM or PPer that you have realized the figured bass.

Music File Formats

Below is a review of some of the most common audio/visual formats for music in DP projects. All of them are accepted at Project Gutenberg as of this writing.

Some music transcribers may be tempted to supply proprietary file formats from notation programs, such as .mscz from MuseScore, .musx from Finale, .sib from Sibelius, etc. Please don't supply these files, as proprietary formats may not be accepted by PG and will not be of use to people who don't have the appropriate notation software to match. MusicXML is currently the universal standard for sharing notation. Alternatively, MIDI can be used to share notation. See below for more information on MusicXML and MIDI.


The high-quality sound of MP3 (.mp3) files makes them ideal, especially where the music is more complex (e.g., orchestral music), and a more realistic and reliable sound is desirable. MP3 files are WYHIWYG - what you hear is what you get. Unlike with MIDI, the sound of an MP3 file is not dependent on the particular sound fonts a listener might have installed - it will sound the same on any device.

MP3 files are significantly larger than MIDI files, but significantly smaller than WAV files with no loss of quality.

See Johann Sebastian Bach: The Organist and His Works for the Organ for an example of the use of MP3s in a PG e-text.


MIDI files (.midi or .mid) have a very small file size. They used to be the standard for sharing audio, but no longer. The current popularity of MP3 and the increased bandwidth of most people's Internet connections means that MIDI is no longer ideal.

While MIDI is capable of reproducing a wide range of instrumental sounds, the quality of those sounds will depend entirely on the individual user's sound card and sound fonts. This is because a MIDI file is not really an audio recording; it's actually a set of digital commands telling a computer what sounds to play and how. In short, unlike with MP3 and other audio file formats, what you hear when you play a MIDI file is not necessarily what someone else will hear.

There is nothing wrong with providing MIDI in a project, especially if that's the only format a music transcriber can provide with his or her particular music software, but you should be aware of this limitation.

MIDI files can be imported into a number of music notation programs in order to create an editable score, but the user will have to do significant editing and add in all the text elements. MusicXML is far better for this purpose.

Note also that many current browsers won't automatically play MIDI files. The user may have to adjust some browser settings, install a plugin, or download the file to play in an external media player.

See Navaho Legends for an example of a music project with both MIDI and MP3 files.


WAV (.wav) audio files have high quality sound, much like MP3, but with a very large file size that make them much less practical for use with e-books. MP3 is therefore preferable for e-books.

Note: Some music notation programs generate high-quality audio files only in .wav format. Use audio-conversion software, such as the free audio editor Audacity, to convert WAV files into MP3 files before including them in a project.


MusicXML (.mxl, formerly .xml) is now the primary Internet standard for sharing music notation code. It is readable and/or writable by over hundreds of music programs, enabling music notation to be widely shared and making it ideal for PG e-books. It means that just about anyone can download the notation to their preferred software to correct any errors in the music or use the music for whatever purpose they wish.

A MusicXML file contains nearly all the musical and text elements in a music piece. The code can be viewed in any text editor and most browsers, and there are even plug-ins allowing browsers to play/display MusicXML files as music.

While MusicXML import/export is generally very good, some elements may not be automatically generated, so the user who downloads a MusicXML file to his/her preferred music software is likely to have to do some editing.

You can find more information on MusicXML at Wikipedia and on the MusicXML website.

See Johann Sebastian Bach: The Organist and His Works for the Organ for an example of the use of MusicXML in a PG e-text.


PDF files (.pdf) can be created with many music notation programs and can be used to enable the PM or PPer to check the music transcription against the original. But they are not a substitute for the original images and will not be accepted for inclusion in the project files.

Music Notation Software

If you're an old hand at transcribing music on a computer, you already have your favorite notation software. If you want to explore, there's a comparison of many popular ones here.

At a bare minimum, the notation software you use for DP should be able to produce a MIDI file. Ideally, however, it should also be able to produce high-quality audio (mp3 or wav) and MusicXML.

Free Notation Programs

A free notation program popular among DP music transcribers is MuseScore. It's a powerful program with a user-friendly WYSIWYG interface quite similar to professional programs like Finale or Sibelius. It can handle just about any of the music you're likely to encounter in DP projects. It's available for various platforms beyond Windows and Mac, it can produce high-quality audio, and it can import and export MusicXML.

Before MuseScore came along, some DPers used Lilypond, a free text-based notation program. Using any text editor, you type in codes for notes and other music features, then run the text file with Lilypond to produce a PDF file with the music image and a MIDI file with the sound. It's powerful and can handle just about any of the music you're likely to encounter in a DP project. But Lilypond is primarily an engraving program focused on appearance rather than sound. It has a very steep learning curve, it's very time-consuming to use without a third-party graphical interface, and it can't produce high-quality audio or MusicXML. Worse, it isn't backwardly-compatible - its code changes constantly, and older Lilypond files can be difficult or impossible to convert to newer versions. It is not recommended for DP projects.

Optical Music Recognition

Formerly known as "music OCR," optical music recognition, or "OMR," is the process of digitally recognizing musical symbols from a scanned music image and turning it into editable notation.

There are a number of commercially available OMR programs, but you should be aware that OMR is nowhere near as reliable as OCR - and we know from our work at DP that even OCR, as highly developed as it is, has its drawbacks.

It's usually much quicker just to enter notation manually than it is to edit OMR output. The error rate tends to increase dramatically with complex music or the kind of low-resolution score images we often encounter in older books.

Given these factors, at this time the use of OMR is not recommended for anything but the simplest music with the clearest images. If you do use it, be sure to check and edit the output very carefully.

Online Resources

Below are just a few of the vast number of music resources on the Internet.

Music Theory

Dolmetsch Online has an extensive collection of music resources, including:

  • Chart of Note Ranges (scroll down to the two staff lines near the bottom of the page) - This is extremely helpful in rendering notes in plaintext, using either scientific notation (middle C is C4), or Helmholtz notation (middle C is c´). It's also helpful in identifying notes that are far above or below the staff line.

Other handy resources:

Scores and Performances

  • IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library - Huge selection of free, public-domain scores and recordings of classical music. Helpful for error-checking or where a scan is unclear.
  • Choral Wiki - Large selection of free, public-domain choral scores.
  • YouTube - Free videos of music performances in all genres. Helpful in determining tempo and feel.
  • OperaGlass - Large selection of opera libretti. Very useful for checking opera lyrics.
  • Art Song Central - Archive of free, public-domain art-song sheet music, managed by DP Music Team founder David Newman.
To comment or request edits to this page, please contact lhamilton or wfarrell.

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