If you are a music transcriber and are willing to be called upon to help with a music project, please add your name and preferred notation software to the Volunteer Music Transcribers list at the end of this page — we need your help!
These guidelines are not intended to address issues in pure music projects, e.g. sheet music and scores, which are not generally appropriate for DP treatment. See the Sheet Music Archives page for more information on this.
Feel free to contact the DP Music Team with any questions you may have about handling music in a project, for help with transcribing music, or if you have any suggestions regarding these Music Guidelines.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Guidelines for Content Providers
- 3 Guidelines for Project Managers
- 3.1 Planning the Project
- 3.2 Writing the Project Comments
- 3.3 Adding Music to the Project Files
- 4 Guidelines for Proofers
- 5 Guidelines for Formatters
- 6 Guidelines for Post-Processors
- 7 Guidelines for Music Transcribers
- 7.1 First Steps
- 7.2 Music Notation Software
- 7.3 Handling Printer Errors
- 7.4 Old-Style Notation
- 7.5 Collaborative Music Projects at DP
- 8 Resources
While it is not required, having links to audio and other music-related files in an e-book provides a very rich experience for the reader. Depending on what files are provided, readers can listen to the music, print out sheet music, and download notation source files to edit and use for their own purposes.
Turning printed music into an audio file is what we call music transcription. If you're a PM or a PPer, you don't have to know music to handle a music project. DP's Music Team is always ready to advise you and to transcribe music.
A Note about E-Pub and Mobi
Note that, right now, many e-reading devices that use the epub or mobi e-book format 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 sound and other music-related files in their projects, at least to enhance the HTML version, and in the hope that someday, epub and mobi will catch up to HTML in providing a rich e-book experience with external resources.
Music File Formats
MIDI audio files (.midi or .mid) are universally playable, and their file size is small, making them ideal for representing music in an e-book. This is the most common music file format used in DP music projects.
MIDI is also capable of reproducing a wide range of instrumental sounds. But the quality of those sounds will depend entirely on the user's sound card. Unlike with other audio file formats, what you hear when you play a midi file is not necessarily what someone else will hear. You can read more about that here.
MIDI files can also be imported into a number of music notation programs in order to create an editable score.
Note that some browsers don't automatically play MIDI files when the link is clicked. The user may have to adjust some browser settings or install a plugin.
MP3 and WAV
MP3 (.mp3) and WAV (.wav) audio files are less commonly used in PG e-books, in part because of their larger file size, but their high quality make them ideal where the music is more complex (e.g. orchestral music), and a more realistic and reliable sound is desirable. Unlike MIDI, MP3 and WAV files are WYHIWYG — what you hear is what you get.
Many commercial music notation programs, like Finale and Sibelius, are capable of generating high-quality audio files (usually in .wav format) using plugins like Garritan Personal Orchestra, which reproduces highly realistic instrument sounds.
WAV files are uncompressed and therefore tend to be very large. MP3 files are compressed but maintain very good quality. It would be wise to use audio-conversion software (such as the free audio editor Audacity) to convert WAV files into MP3 files before including them in a project.
See Principles of Orchestration for an example of the use of MP3s in a PG e-text.
Other Audio Formats
PG also accepts Ogg Vorbis (.ogg) audio files, which are also high-quality compressed files, though a less popular format than MP3.
PDF files (.pdf) are downloadable, printable versions of the engraved music that the reader can use as sheet music. They can be created with many music notation programs. The PPer can also grab images from the PDF for display in the HTML version of the e-book.
PDFs are most useful where the book contains complete music pieces, or where an alternative music image is desirable (e.g., where the original music image is not of acceptable quality, or a modern version of medieval notation is wanted). See Indian Story and Song for an example of a project with PDF files created from music notation software.
The original music images can also be combined into a PDF file for use as sheet music. This can be useful where there are many pages of music, and the PPer wants to avoid long image-loading delays in the HTML. In Music and Some Highly Musical People, for example, there were 149 pages of music. The PPer opted to display in the HTML just the first page of each piece, with a link to a PDF containing the original images of the full piece.
MusicXML (.xml) is fast becoming the primary Internet standard for music notation code. It is readable and/or writable by nearly 200 music programs, enabling music notation to be widely shared — which is ideal for PG e-books.
A MusicXML file contains 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 plug-ins allowing browsers to play/display MusicXML files as music. (Theoretically, a MusicXML file can also be created from scratch in a text editor, but it would be a laborious process.)
For a sample e-book with links to MusicXML files, see Principles of Orchestration.
Other Notation Files
Notation source files for certain music programs are also accepted at PG, and can be a useful addition to an e-book, though they may not be necessary if you're including MusicXML files. These include Lilypond (.ly), Finale (.mus), and Sibelius (.sib) files.
One of the concerns about music files in DP projects is whether they'll be usable by the largest number of people for the longest possible time. Some call this "the 100-year rule." MIDI seems to have met this test; its use is widespread, and it has been around for over 30 years. But other music formats, particularly notation code, are still in development, and it remains to be seen whether they will stand the test of time. MusicXML, which has been in existence for over 10 years, has the greatest chance of similarly becoming a long-lasting Internet standard for music notation, because it's XML-based and, as noted above, is usable by numerous music notation programs.
There was once a belief that Lilypond, being open-source and text-based, met the "100-year-rule." But unfortunately that's not the case. While Lilypond is an excellent program, one of its major drawbacks is that it's not backwardly compatible, i.e., code created in older versions of Lilypond is not automatically readable by newer versions. There is a conversion utility to update Lilypond files, but it isn't perfect; a fair amount of code-tweaking is necessary, and the older the original version, the less likely it is that the automatic conversion will be successful. Moreover, if the old source file doesn't contain a \version statement, the conversion utility will not work at all. A case in point: The Liberty Minstrel was transcribed in Lilypond around 2004, but didn't come into PP until 2007. Lilypond had gone through several incarnations in the interim. There were no version statements in the old source files, so the conversion utility couldn't be used to update them. Volunteers had to re-transcribe over 70 songs by hand to make them compatible with the current version of Lilypond.
PMs and PPers concerned about future utility should keep these factors in mind when deciding what music notation files to include in a project.
Guidelines for Content Providers
Choosing a Project
Music books are always welcome at DP, but you should be aware that pure music projects 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. Please consult the Sheet Music Archives page for more information about this.
Before you upload your project, it would be a good idea to consult the DP Music Team for an evaluation of whether it's feasible for DP.
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 the original is very clear, you can probably get away with black-and-white; otherwise, high-resolution grayscale may be the way to go.
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.
When choosing file types, PDF is the obvious choice for a single stand-alone document, and PNG is the better choice for small snippets within HTML files. All browsers can display a PNG inline within the page, but not PDF. For resizing and other options, PDF is better. Keep in mind that some apps don't handle PDF, and others only work with PDF. There is so much out there in the mobile world we are trying to reach.
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 set up a plan, i.e., decide how you want the music represented in the HTML and what files you want in the project. The DP Music Team can help you with your plan.
The easiest way of representing music in the HTML is simply the original image with a link to a midi file. You might also want PDFs generated by the music notation software; you might want MusicXML files; you might want proprietary source files; you might want all of the above. See the guide to Music File Formats above to help you decide.
It's a good idea to get a music-capable PPer in advance who can help you decide how the project should look, and who may be able to transcribe the music himself/herself during PP. Failing that, try to get a volunteer to transcribe the music in advance, while the project is going through the rounds. See the list of Volunteer Music Transcribers, or post in the Music Team forum.
If there is a large amount of music in the project, consider creating a DP Wiki page with links to the music images, so that a group of music transcribers can claim music to work on while the project is going through the rounds. See the Traditional Games project for an example.
Some PMs have specified that they want the music transcribed using a particular notation program, such as Lilypond. This is not advisable, as specifying a particular program will reduce considerably the already-small pool of available volunteers. If you are tempted, you should at least be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly used programs before you decide to do this. See the sections on Music Notation Software and Longevity for information on the most commonly used programs and the future utility of their output.
Writing the Project Comments
Once you have a plan in place, your Project Comments should be very specific about what you expect from the proofers, 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.
Look through the project:
- 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?
The Project Comments must be clear on how to handle these issues.
Writing Instructions for Proofers
Music images are treated as illustrations, so the proofers won't be involved in formatting the markup. But if the music illustrations have text elements, you'll want them proofed.
The common practice is to have the proofers proof only the title, composer or other credits, copyright information, lyrics, and any other text information about the piece. Purely musical directions, such as tempo markings (e.g. Allegro), instrument designations (e.g. Voice, Piano), and dynamics (e.g. crescendo) are generally excluded from proofing.
Specify in the Project Comments what the proofers can expect to find and what you want proofed.
Lyrics present special issues. In music notation, syllables are hyphenated to match the notes, and dashes or long ellipses are often used to indicate a held note. Proofers frequently ask questions on how to handle these, so it's important to be clear about what you (and/or the PPer) want.
There are two schools of thought on how lyrics should be proofed:
- Ignore hyphens, dashes, and ellipses. For example, if the lyrics in the original read, "Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb whose fleece was white as snow......" they are proofed as "Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow." Some people prefer this method because it's much easier to read, and because, in the plaintext version of the e-book, syllable divisions won't make sense without a music illustration. Moreover, hyphenation is often erratic or even wrong in the original.
- Match the scan. All hyphens, dashes, and ellipses are rendered as they appear in the original. Some people prefer this method because it is as close as possible to the original and easy for the proofers to follow (just match the scan). Also, music notation programs usually require the addition of hyphens for the lyrics to appear correctly under the notes. This method allows the music transcriber to simply copy and paste the pre-hyphenated lyrics into the notation program (editing to add missing hyphens or correct wrong ones in the original).
Music symbols in the text will require special handling, as they'll need to be represented somehow in the plaintext version, and the PPer will need to be able to find them for HTML treatment.
Some suggested methods for proofing common music symbols:
- Sharp (♯): [#] or [sharp]
- Flat (♭): [b] or [flat]
- Natural(♮): [n] or [natural]
- Double sharp (): [x] or [double-sharp]
- Double flat (♭♭): [bb] or [double-flat]
So, for example, you could have the proofers represent B♭ as B[b] or B[flat]. (The latter method might be clearer for readers of the plaintext version who are not conversant with music notation, but if the former method is used, the PPer can always put in a Transcriber's Note explaining the symbols.)
The Project Comments should also mention that other music symbols in the text should be proofed with the name in brackets if the proofer knows what it is, e.g. [crescendo], or simply with [**music symbol] so the PPer can find it and add the name in later. For example:
62. The sign [crescendo-decrescendo] over a note indicates that the tone is to be begun softly, gradually increased in power, and as gradually decreased again, ending as softly as it began. In vocal music this effect is called <i>messa di voce</i>.
There are also two methods of representing musical notes in text that can be useful in providing a text description, if desired, of a one- or two-note music example:
which is G above middle C, could be represented in text as [Music: G4] or [Music: g´].
This may be a bit too advanced for the proofers, however, so it is probably best to leave it up to the PPer (with the assistance of a music transcriber, if needed) to include this information. (Note: The PPer should also include a transcriber's note explaining the system used.)
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
Text elements in the music (title, composer, lyrics, copyright, etc.) should be included within the [Music] tag. For example:
[Music: MAKING BUTTER. <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 can use the same convention we use for continued footnotes, i.e. *[Music] or [Music]*.
You should specify in the Project Comments how you want lyrics formatted. In general, multiple-line lyrics should be marked up as poetry, using /* tags as in the example above. Single-line lyrics will not need /* markup.
You should also specify in the Project Comments whether you want the formatters to insert poetry line breaks in multiple-line lyrics, or simply match the scan. As can be seen in the "Making Butter" example above, and the "Lauriett" example below, line breaks in the lyrics depend on the length of the musical staff; one line of music may encompass more than one line of lyrics.
If you want the formatters to create line breaks, give them a guide as to how to do it. Usually a new line of lyrics begins with a capital letter. The rhyming scheme is also helpful in determining where the line breaks should go. Sometimes additional verses are set forth in text below the music image; these can also be a good guide as to where line breaks should go.
If the music image has multiple verses of lyrics, you need to specify how you want them formatted: separate them, or match the scan. For example, the lyrics in this image
can be formatted to match the scan:
/* 1. Lauriett! Ah! my 2. Fare thee well! Ah, my dearest, I will often think of thee, When dearest, Wilt thou often think of me, When I'm */
/* 1. Lauriett! Ah! my dearest, I will often think of thee, When 2. Fare thee well! Ah, my dearest, Wilt thou often think of me, When I'm */
or separated with poetry line breaks:
/* 1. Lauriett! Ah! my dearest, I will often think of thee, When 2. Fare thee well! Ah, my dearest, Wilt thou often think of me, When I'm */
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 requirements in the Project Comments, in case the project is later reassigned to another PPer. Many PMs simply ask that at least midi 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. For example:
- All the file formats you want included in the e-book, such as midi, PDF, MusicXML, notation program source files (see Music File Formats above).
- Whether you want the original images displayed in the HTML, or, instead, images generated by the music notation software.
The easiest, and most common, way of representing music in the HTML is simply the original image with a link to a midi file. The PPer and music transcriber don't have to worry about the appearance of the music, and just about any notation software can be used to generate the midi.
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. Before you insist on images created from notation software, or the use of a particular notation program, think about whether it's justified. Here are some guidelines:
- The original image should be used unless it is of unacceptable quality.
- Where the original image is acceptable but not terribly clear, it can be used with a link to a clearer image or PDF file created by notation software.
- If you decide that you need images or PDFs engraved with notation software, decide whether you need to match the original image (which may have old-style or non-standard notation) or whether it is sufficient that the music be represented in equivalent modern notation. Remember that while most notation software can engrave modern notation very well, attempting to reproduce old-style or non-standard notation may not be successful, and could incur a disproportionate amount of effort.
- PDF files are appropriate where the music is a complete piece, and you want the reader to be able to view or print a piece out as sheet music. They're less useful for music snippets (unless, as noted above, the original music image isn't clear).
- MusicXML files are also appropriate for complete pieces. They do, however, have some utility for music snippets; if a reader comes across an error in the music, anyone with pretty much any notation software can make corrections to the music later on. Note that not all notation programs can create MusicXML files, however.
- Please avoid requiring the use of particular notation software; as noted above, you'll reduce the already small pool of potential music transcribers if you do. See the Music Notation Software section for the advantages and disadvantages of different programs.
- Important Note for Lilypond: If you feel you must require Lilypond, it is essential that you specify in the Project Comments that the Lilypond source files contain a \version statement, so that the source files can be converted to later versions of Lilypond.
Adding Music to the Project Files
If you have asked for music to be transcribed in advance, you might like to have a safe repository for the music files until the project gets a PPer. In the past, dpscans was available to PPers; the PM could park the music files in his or her folder and note in the project comments that the files are available there. Unfortunately, dpscans is no longer an option for PPers. The alternative of an individual PM or transcriber holding the files is not optimal, as there is the possibility that one or the other of them may become unavailable, and the files could thereby be lost.
To solve this problem, we now have the capability of adding music files to the project's "extra files," just as high-resolution images are stored there. The PPer will therefore be able to download the music files along with all the other project files.
Here's how to do it:
- Name the music files using only lower case letters, numbers, the underscore or hyphen character, and the dot that separates the filename from the extension. See the PG FAQ concerning filenames.
- Zip up the music files, naming the zip file with the project ID number, e.g., projectIDxxxx_music.zip. (Copy and paste the project ID number from the project page to avoid typos.)
- Put the zip file in your dpscans folder. If you do not have a dpscans folder, upload the zip file to a storage website, such as Dropbox, from which it can be downloaded by a db-req Squirrel. Do not send it as an email attachment to db-req.
- Send an e-mail to db-req asking that the music files be added to the project's extra files. Be sure to include the project name and ID number, and the location of the zip file, e.g. dpscans, Dropbox, etc. For Dropbox, or other non-dpscans locations, you will need to provide a direct link for downloading the zip file.
- If you are the PM, you can put a note in the Project Comments telling the future PPer that the music files are in the project's extra files. If you are the not the PM, mention in your email to db-req that the PCs should be updated.
This method is optional, but is highly recommended to ensure that music files created in advance are preserved for the PPer.
Guidelines for Proofers
The primary directive for proofers, 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, proofers 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.
- Lyrics are often hyphenated to indicate that the syllables are to be sung on different notes; leave the hyphens in, unless otherwise instructed.
- You may also encounter ellipses or long dashes in lyrics, indicating that a single syllable is to be sung on more than one note (a "melisma"). These can be ignored.
- 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 Music Guidelines re: Writing Instructions for Proofers for more information.
Guidelines for Formatters
The primary directive for formatters, as it is for proofers, 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, and match the original line breaks unless otherwise instructed. 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. Standalone music illustrations can be moved 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, 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 them before you start the PP process.
Be sure to browse through all the page images to make sure you know where all the music images are, including music symbols in the text.
Some additional guidelines for PPers:
Explain in a Transcriber's Note how musical symbols in the text are represented. While you can use the generic [musical symbol] tag, it would be a much richer experience for the reader if you gave a more specific description. 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 of the music (title, composer, lyrics, etc.) are laid out in the main text of the HTML. See Music and Some Highly Musical People 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).
It's best to use the original images, unless they're of unacceptable quality. Nothing represents the original better than the original.
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. Don't make the images too big, or they'll overwhelm the page. An image width of no more than 600px (where the music extends the full width of a page in the original) usually does the trick.
A simple black border around the music image can be attractive. See Music and Some Highly Musical People for an example.
Include clear links to music files (midi, PDF, MusicXML, source files, additional image files) above or below the music image, and explain them in a Transcriber's Note at the beginning of the HTML file. See Music and Some Highly Musical People for an example of how this can be done. You should create a separate music folder containing these files.
There are a few Unicode glyphs for common musical symbols that can be used in the HTML text:
- flat (♭)
- sharp (♯)
- natural (♮)
- quarter note (♩)
- eighth note (♪)
You can use in-line illustrations for other symbols. See Music Notation and Terminology for an example.
Browse the list of Sample Music E-Books at PG for more ideas on dealing with music in plaintext and HTML files.
Finding a Music Transcriber
If you need volunteers to transcribe the music for you, post in the Music Team forum, or contact someone on the list of Volunteer Music Transcribers. And please be sure to ask the transcriber whether and how he or she should be listed in the credit line, e.g., "Music transcribed by X."
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.
When you're asked to transcribe music for a DP project:
- Look over the music and make sure that your music notation software is capable of rendering it. 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 needs 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 classical pieces.
- 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.
- Please don't 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.
Music Notation Software
If you're an old hand at transcribing music on a computer, you already have your favorite notation software. For those who are new at it, or who want to try something different, here is a short guide to the most commonly used notation programs at DP. PMs and PPers may find this guide useful as well. (Note: Users of other notation programs are welcome to add them to the list below; please include a short description and a list of advantages and disadvantages.)
- Open source
- Operable on Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Available in over 40 languages
- Easy-to-use graphical interface
- Note entry via computer keyboard, mouse, or MIDI keyboard
- Can handle complex music, including jazz, percussion, and early music notation
- Can generate MIDI and WAV audio files
- Can import and export MIDI and MusicXML
- Can import Capella and other notation software
- Can export to Lilypond
- Supports Unicode fonts for text and lyrics
- Extensive, easy-to-read documentation
- Active community support forums
- Extendable with free plugins
- Portable application available to run from a flash drive or CD on any computer
- MuseScore Player available for iOS and Android devices
- Integration with music-scanning software still under development (as of Feb. 2015)
- MuseScore Player app can only play back scores; no editing function yet
Some user notes:
To add notes that overlap in time, but start or end at different times, see Voices in the Help Section. Voices allow you to have different note durations within each bar. Voices are sometimes called 'layers' in other notation software. Each staff has up to four (4) different color-coded Voices. As long as the notes are of the same duration, they can be of the same color. It's only when you have notes of different durations in a bar that color coding becomes necessary.
Each staff MUST have a Voice 1. If it doesn't, MuseScore will input Voice 1 rests. When color-coding SATB, all notes of each voice must be input in any measure. If not, it will leave colored rests that cannot be deleted, but can be hidden when you are ready to save and export. For simplicity, it is suggested you add each voice in order: Voice 1, Voice 2, Voice 3, Voice 4. Voices and rests can make up individual bars, but only Voice 1 notes and rests are required in each bar of the staff.
MuseScore will allows additional time signatures or key changes inside the formatted bars. Sometimes what is logical reading and writing to humans is different from what is logical to a computer. Review the MuseScore sample pieces for formatting suggestions.
Volta Brackets, or first and second ending brackets, are first dropped into your score and then adjusted to the number of measures. Read the instructions for adjusting. One includes measures and notes, and one is for visual display adjustments only.
MuseScore Help has an online, searchable handbook. Try to find your answer there first. If that doesn't work, try the Forums. The MuseScore community is very helpful.
If you run into a problem you can't resolve with either of MuseScore's help options, ask for help in the DP Music Team forum. We'll try to figure it out with you.
Lilypond is a free, open-source, text-based notation program. Using any text editor, you type in the codes for the notes and other music features, give the text file an .ly extension, and run it with the Lilypond software to produce a PDF file with the music image and a MIDI file with the sound. It can handle just about any of the music you're likely to encounter in a DP project.
- Open source
- Produces attractive, clear engraving in a PDF file
- Generates MIDI files
- Can handle most complex music
- Operable on numerous OS platforms
- Extensive documentation
- Active user mailing list for support, with archives
- Can import MIDI and MusicXML
- Accepts Unicode fonts for text and lyrics
- Time-consuming to learn and use
- No graphical interface, so you can't see what you've done until you compile the code, and if you make certain kinds of errors, the code will not compile at all (though the error will be listed in a log file)
- Code is complex and continually changing
- Documentation is not always clear, and it can be difficult to find what you need in the manual
- Not backwardly compatible — older Lilypond files will not run in later versions
- Converter program to update older Lilypond files does not perform a complete conversion, and automatic conversion is impossible if the older file does not contain a version statement, so code will have to be re-entered manually
- Some features are not reproducible in MIDI
- Cannot create MusicXML files
Important Note: It is essential that Lilypond files contain a \version statement so that the source files can be converted for use with later versions of Lilypond.
Finale Notepad is a FREE (as of February 2015), stripped-down version of the professional Finale program. It has an easy-to-use graphical interface that allows you to see the music as you enter it on the staff. It is appropriate for creating midi and MusicXML files for relatively simple music.
- Easy to learn and use
- WYSIWYG interface allows for easy entry of music directly onto the staff with the mouse, the computer keyboard, or a midi keyboard (step-time, not real-time); menus and buttons let you easily add dynamics, text, and other features, with automatic positioning
- Can play back the music as you work
- Good documentation
- Backwardly compatible — newer versions can read files created with older versions
- Can import and export MIDI and MusicXML
- Supports Unicode fonts
- Windows and Mac only
- Limited to 8 staves of music
- Limited to 1 verse of lyrics
- No modulation (i.e., key change in the middle of a piece)
- Sound output is midi only
- No page layout controls
- No image output (but you can print to PDF, if you already have that capability)
- No support for scanning
- No support for real-time playing from a midi instrument
Finale and Sibelius
- Easy to learn and use
- WYSIWYG interface allows for easy entry of music directly onto the staff with the mouse, the computer keyboard, or a midi keyboard; menus and buttons let you easily add dynamics, text, and other features, with automatic positioning
- Can handle any kind of music, no matter how complex
- Can import and export midi and MusicXML
- Supports music OCR — printed music can be scanned and converted to editable notation
- Can create high-quality audio files, like MP3 or WAV
- Includes high-quality instrument sounds in addition to the midi instrument set
- Can play back music as you work
- Can create image and PDF files
- Powerful page-layout controls
- Backwardly compatible
- Extensive documentation and user forums
- Many other features too numerous to mention here
- Very expensive (list price around $600; academic discounts available)
- Windows and Mac only
- Special music fonts, such as medieval neumes and figured bass, must be purchased separately from third parties
Both Finale and Sibelius have a variety of less expensive incarnations, such as Finale PrintMusic ($119.95), Finale Songwriter ($49.95), and Sibelius First ($89.95). (Note: You can probably find a used copy of one of these for even less — and you can probably use that used copy to qualify for the upgrade price on the full version, which could be as much as a 50% discount.) Though not as powerful as the full-featured versions, these "light" versions have many useful features and are more than adequate for most DP music work.
Sibelius Scorch is a free browser plug-in that plays music while displaying the score, which can also be printed. If you transcribe the notation in Sibelius, you can create Scorch files for use in the HTML version of the project. The reader must download the free Scorch plug-in in order to use it.
Note that Scorch is available only for Windows and Mac, and for Internet Explorer 7 or greater, Firefox, Safari, and Netscape 7 or later. Some Scorch features, such as saving, printing, and customizing tempo or key, are not available for all scores.
Because of these limitations, Scorch should not be the only music files available in the project. Midi or MP3 files, plus the music images (png, jpg, or pdf), should always be available as well.
For a good example of the use of Scorch in a PG project, see Wit and Mirth: or Pills to Purge Melancholy, v. 6.
Other Notation Software
There are numerous other music notation programs available. Here are just a few more:
- ABC is a text-based notation system readable by a variety of free programs, and can be converted to Lilypond.
- Noteworthy Composer is a relatively inexpensive ($49) graphical notation program for Windows, which can import and export midi files.
- Rosegarden is a free graphical notation program for Linux. It can create midis and MusicXML, and its visual output can be ported to Lilypond.
- Capella, popular in Germany, is a full-featured notation program for Windows, available in the U.S. for about $250.
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. For example, if you're using Lilypond, certain errors (e.g., too many beats in a bar) may cause the code to fail to compile. Moreover, the midi file may sound terrible if you don't correct the error. Keep these considerations in mind when deciding whether to leave in an error or correct it.
First, however, make sure it's an error. Sometimes dissonances are deliberate. Sometimes a bar deliberately contains fewer beats than the key signature indicates (these are called 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, if your notation program allows you to add text, a note in the PDF/image output and/or MusicXML file for the particular piece. In Lilypond, the note can be added in the source file (.ly file) itself, with a percentage mark at the beginning of each line to denote a comment; for example:
% Transcriber's Note: % 7th system, 1st bar, treble part, last note was E-flat % in original, but should probably be E-natural.
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 a midi 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 an 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:
Lilypond can reproduce medieval notation (referred to in the manual as "Ancient Notation") visually, but without midi playback. Other notation software either cannot reproduce it at all (Finale Notepad), or require the purchase of a third-party plug-in to do so (Finale). (Sibelius can create medieval notation, but it's unclear from the Sibelius website whether there are any limitations.)
In most instances, in order to create a midi 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:
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 a midi 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.
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 figure. Here's an example:
As with medieval notation, there is limited, if any, support for playable figured bass in most notation programs. If your software doesn't support it, the solution is to create the midi 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):
Collaborative Music Projects at DP
Watch this space for large music projects at DP that can use your transcribing help — they're open to any volunteer using any notation software.
Please also consider putting your name on the list of Volunteer Music Transcribers to help with other DP music projects.
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 useful sites:
- IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library - Huge selection of free classical scores in PDF format; helpful for error-checking or where a scan is unclear.
- YouTube - Many videos of classical music performances; helpful in determining proper tempo.
- OperaGlass and Opera Manager have large selections of opera libretti; very useful for checking opera lyrics. See also the collection of opera libretti and art song lyrics at Naxos, and aria/art song lyrics at The Aria Database and Art Song Central.
- For a good basic primer on music notation, check out Prof. Karl Gehrkens' classic book Music Notation and Terminology.
Sample Music E-Books at PG
Take a look at these PG e-books to see the different ways in which music is represented in our projects.
- The Art of Stage Dancing - midi, original images of handwritten music, PDFs with notation
- The Baby's Opera and The Baby's Bouquet - midi, PDF, MusicXML, lyrics formatted as poetry, detailed transcriber's note, original images (complete pieces)
- Essentials in Conducting - midi, original images (snippets), in-line music illustrations; also contains a symphony movement with small original page images linked to larger images, a midi file, and a PDF containing the original images of the full movement
- Finger Plays for Nursery and Kindergarten - midi, PDF, MusicXML, lyrics formatted as poetry, original images (complete pieces)
- The Good Old Songs We Used to Sing - combination project of a 19th Century pamphlet containing only lyrics, and corresponding sheet music from the Library of Congress and other sources - midi and notation PDFs (only the covers of the sheet music were used in the HTML)
- How to Listen to Music - midi, Lilypond source files, images from PDF in place of originals (snippets)
- How to Sing - midi, images from PDF in place of originals (snippets)
- Indian Story and Song - midi, PDF, MusicXML, lyrics formatted as poetry, detailed transcriber's note, original images (complete pieces)
- The Liberty Minstrel - midi, PDF, Lilypond source files, original images (complete pieces)
- Music: An Art and a Language - midi, some MP3s (created using Finale with Garritan Personal Orchestra for realistic instrument sounds), MusicXML, original images
- Music and Some Highly Musical People - Appendix containing 149 pages of music (13 pieces); first page of each piece displayed in HTML with links to midi, PDF containing original images of the complete piece, and MusicXML; detailed transcriber's note; lyrics formatted as poetry; Unicode symbols
- Music Notation and Terminology - midi, original images (mostly snippets), in-line music illustrations and Unicode symbols, figured bass; also contains a sonata movement with small original page images linked to larger images, and a midi file borrowed with permission from the Classical Midi Connection
- The Pianoforte Sonata - midi, Lilypond source files, images from PDF in place of originals
- Principles of Orchestration - mp3s, midis, MusicXML, small music images with PDFs of original page images
- A Popular History of the Art of Music - midi, original images (snippets and complete pieces), in-line music illustrations, medieval notation; choral version of "Sumer is icumen in" with midi, original images (linked to larger images) and modern transcription (PDF)
- Resonance in Singing and Speaking - midi, original images (snippets)
- Shakespeare and Music - midi with different instrument sounds (harpsichord, lute, viol, trumpets, horns, oboes, drum), images from PDF in place of originals (snippets and short pieces), in-line music illustrations
- The Shanty Book, Part I, Sailor Shanties - midi, original images (snippets and complete pieces), musical note images placed over text lyrics
- The Story of Rouen - contains a complete "Madrigal of 1550" with midi, MP3 (created with Finale using Garritan sounds), PDF, MusicXML, original images
- Style in Singing - midi, original images (snippets), in-line music illustrations and Unicode symbols
- Voice Production in Singing and Speaking - midi, original images (snippets), in-line music illustrations
- Wit and Mirth: or Pills to Purge Melancholy, v. 5 - midi, original images, lyrics formatted as poetry
- Wit and Mirth: or Pills to Purge Melancholy, v. 6 - Sibelius Scorch, midi, original images, PDF, lyrics formatted as poetry
- The Esperantist, Vol. 1, No. 1 - original image, midi, MusicXML, newly typeset PDF, lyrics formatted as poetry
Volunteer Music Transcribers
The DP Music Team forum is an excellent resource for help and advice. In addition, the people listed below are available to transcribe music (time permitting, of course), using the music notation software they prefer.
- LCantoni - Finale (also familiar with Lilypond and MuseScore, and has access to help with old-style or medieval notation and figured bass)
- monkeyclogs - Sibelius
- annecel - Sibelius
- junet - Finale
- beadsandweeds - novice trying various: lilypond, musescore, rosegarden, etc.
- astronomer - Finale 26.3
- Corsetiere-Finale NotePad and MuseScore
- quexxon - Lilypond
- hornist - Finale
- karam - MuseScore
- azaghal - Lilypond
- jdlh - novice trying various: MuseScore, Lilypond, Noteflight, etc.
- espe - Finale
- judeeylander - MuseScore