Musical Information (Mus 253/CS 275A)

[ Analytical | Compositional | Performance | Encoding | Scores: Printable, Virtual, Scanned | Searching | MIDI | Programming | Courses ]

Analytical Music Notation Systems

Music Animation Machine (homepage)
Pianoroll-based notations of music and other types of graphical visualzations of music by Stephen Malinowski.

Keyscapes (paper) (examples)
Two-dimensional visualizations of the key regions in a piece of music. Each pixel represents an independent computational musical key analysis. The horizontal axis represent time from start to finish in the composition. The vertical axis represents duration of the music being analyzed going from one beat regions at the bottom of the picture to the entire piece at the top of the picture. Chords at the bottom of the picture gradually combine into larger and larger key regions towards the top of the picture.

Schenkerian Analysis (primer) (background)
A reductive notation of regular graphical music notation used to display an analysis of the structure of a composition. Developed by the Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935).

Compositional Music Notation Systems

Tuneblocks (homepage) (Improptu program)
Symbolic notation system in the Impromptu program developed by Jean Bamberger at MIT. Blocks are assigned musical motives, and compositions can be created by lining up the blocks. Analogous to Byzantine chant notation described below.

HyperScore (homepage) (tutorial)
Motivic compositional software tool developed by Mary Farbood and Egon Pasztor at MIT.

Performance Music Notation Systems

Klavar Notation (Klavarscribo) (Klavar Music Foundation of Great Britain) (brief description of klavar notation) (KlavarScript notation software)
Designed to be easier to read than traditional graphic notation and functions as a keyboard tablature. Music is written on a staff which runs vertically. Staff lines represent black keys while spaces represent white keys. Sharps and flats are not notated since the staff spaces/lines represents individual keys on the keyboard. The klavarscribo notation was developed in 1931 by Cornelis Pot.

Shape-Note Notation (Fasola) (description)
Shape-note notation was designed to make it easier for singers to read written music by encoding the scale degree function via the shape of the note. There are both four- and seven-shape notation systems. The first popular shape-note system is found in The Easy Instructor by William Little and William Smith (1801).

Tonic Sol-Fa Notation (example)
Text-based notation system which can be written on a standard typewriter developed by John Curwen in the middle of the 19th century in England. Similar in functionality to Shape-note notation but without staff lines.

Music Notation Project
Overview of proposed notation reforms, typically accomplished by replacing diatonic meaning of the staff with a chromatic interpretation (see Klavarscribo above).

Byzantine Chant Notation (Psalmodia) (tutorial) (manuscripts)
Byzantine chant notation was developed in the Eastern Holy Roman Empire centered in Constantinople (now Istanbul) as a menomic for music in the period from 950 to 1200. This earlier system developed into a staffless notation system developed after 1100 which indicates the first note of the music, then describes the melodic intervals and rhythms with a sequence of symbols.

Gregorian Chant Notation (Plainchant) (description) (list of neumes)
Gregorian chant notation was developed in the Western Holy Roman Empire centered in Rome as a menomic for music in the period from 900 to 1200. This earlier system developed into a staff notation system after 1100 which indicates the pitch of a note, and later the duration of a note. Modern western music notation used in classical music developed out of Gregorian chant notation.

Modern Western Music Notation (good discussion) (music glossary with examples)
Graphical music notation used in western classical music which developed from the notation of Gregorian Chant and has basically remained the same since the middle of the seventeenth century.

Koto Music Notation (westernized examples)
The koto is a Japanese instrument which sounds similar to a harp. Music is notated by indicating the string number to play rather than by pitch, since strings are given many different tunings. Music in the Yamada school is written from left to right; while music from the Ikuta school is notated vertically from top to bottom.

Guitar/Lute Tablature (historical survey) (ASCII Tab tutorial) (rock guitar tab database)
Tablature notation is a graphical notation of the strings which indicates where to place fingers rather than notes. There are many variations of tablature; on the right is an example of 16th-century Spanish vihuela tablature.

Digital Encoding Formats for Music Notation

ABC Musical Notation Language (homepage) (ABC Archive of Early Music) (example encodings of music from 1782)
A text-based digital notation designed for encoding folksong melodies by Chris Walshaw.

Common Music Notation (homepage)
A LISP-based music encoding system designed by William Schottstaedt for generating graphic music notation.

Guido Music Notation (homepage) (Guido Music Notation to graphics)
Guido Music Notation is a text-based system created by Holger Hoos which is useful for typing short musical examples by hand.

Kern notation from the Humdrum Toolkit (description)
A text-based music notation developed by David Huron. Musical scores are encoded score-wise which means that all notes played at the same time are grouped together. Most other data formats are part-wise, where a complete part is encoded before the next part in a score.

LilyPond (homepage)
A text-based encoding format which was designed as an improvement on other TeX-based music systems. Designed by computer scientists for computer scientists.

Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) (homepage)
MEI is an XML-based music notation system created by Perry Roland.

MusicXML (definition)
MusicXML is an XML-based music notation system created by Michael Good which is designed for transfering musical data between programs. It is the most popular XML-based music data format for use with commercial music programs such as Finale and SharpEye.

Online Databases of Printable Scores (generated from virtual music data)

Mutopia Project (homepage)
Contains about 500 compositions of classical music which are typeset in the Lilypond data format. Music is available in PDF format as well as the original Lilypond data, MIDI files, and PostScript. Good searching functionality for bibliographic information. Most compositions are provided with a graphic incipit of the first line for easy identification.

Werner Icking Music Archive (homepage)
A collection of about a thousand compositions of classical music. Most music is from the Baroque era, and most music is for keyboard. Music is organized by composer and there is no index searching available.

Choral Public-Domain Library (homepage)
A collection of 9,000 musical scores of choral works. Music is provided in PDF format and usually includes the virtual datafile used to create the graphic notation. Some music from 3rd party sites is also indexed.

Web Library of Seventeenth-Century Music (homepage) (catalogue) (Society of 17th-Cent. Music homepage)
A database of high-quality editions of music from the 17th century published by the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music. Currently six publications online.

Brazilian Sacred Music from the 18th through 20th centuries (homepage) (list of genres) (funeral music)
The first stage of a project to digitize a collection of nearly two thousand pieces by Brazilian and foreign composers ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries which are housed in the Museum of Music, in the Archiepiscopal Palace of Mariana, Minas Gerais.

MuseData Printable Scores
Music for about 50 works of Bach, Handel, Mozart and Vivaldi. Works are browsable by composer, but no search feature. Both scorse and printed parts are available for some orchestral works.

Online Databases of Virtual Scores

KernScores (homepage)
A collection of music encoded specifically in the Humdrum Toolkit for Music Research's **kern data format. The database of music includes almost 5 million notes. Data translations to MIDI and other virtual music formats are available. Music is searchable by bibliographic information and also browsable by collection.

MuseData (homepage)
A collection of 4,000 movements of classical music in the MuseData data format. Music is browsable by composer and searchable by bibliographic information. Many works also have MIDI translations. (homepage) (another guitar tab site)
Mxtabs is known for having guitar tablature scores to heavy metal songs. The site's database contains 148,963 tabs from pretty much all sub-genres of rock from the last few decades. Compared to some of the other popular tabulature sites on the web, the search capabilities of are minimal. You can search only by song name or band name (and not album title, sub-genre, year, etc.). However, the interface is very easy to use, and it has a good clickable ontology (similar to that allows you to browse by popular bands. It also links to popular tabs from the main page, which is convenient. This site is geared toward beginning-to-intermediate musicians who like popular, mainstream music.

Classical Music Archives (homepage)
A collection of 32,000 MIDI files of music by classical music composers. Also includes mp3 recordings of classical music. Non-subscribers can download 5 MIDI files per day. Subscribers ($25/year) can download 1,000 MIDI files per day. Music is browsable by time period and composer and basic searching by keyword.

Project Gutenberg Sheet Music Subproject (homepage)
Printable and virtual scores usually edited in Finale or Sibelius. Virtual scores usually available in MusicXML and MIDI formats. Currently 31 finished works, mostly of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Haydn.

Online Databases of Scanned Musical Scores

Music for the Nation (Library of Congress) (homepage)
62,000 scanned sheet-music compositions from 1820-1885 from copyright deposits at the Library of Congress. Music can be browsed or searched for bibliographic information. Music is scanned in grayscale and higher resolution TIFF files are available in 600 DPI two-tone.

Levy Collection of Sheet Music (homepage)
A collection of 30,000 scanned sheet-music compositions at Johns Hopkins university published before 1923. Scans are in grayscale and no high-resolution images are available online. Music can be browsed by archive box, or searched by bibliographic data.

Historic American Sheet Music (homepage)
An online library of American sheet music published between 1850 and 1920 hosted at Duke University. The database consists of 3,042 works including covers and illustrations. The music is available as 72/150 DPI Color JPEG files. The browsing and searching features of the database are particularly good; you can browse by decade (which also includes timelines of major world events), subject content, illustrations included with the music, advertisements in the music, or by title page thumbnails. You can also search the database in 27 different fields of bibliographic information; however, there is no advanced search feature for searching multiple fields.

Early Chopin Editions (homepage)
A collection of over 400 first and early printed editions of music by Frédéric Chopin which is maintained at the University of Chicago. Music can be searched by title, genre, opus, place of publication, publisher, dedicatee, subject, plate numbers, and general keyword. No search by musical theme. All music is available as scanned color JPEG files in low and high resolutions with no accompanying symbolic data represented in the score.

Sheet Music Archive (homepage)
A collection of about 1,000 classical compositions primarily for piano from the classical and romantic periods. Scanned music available as twotone PDF files scanned at 300 DPI. Two pieces can be downloaded per day.

Searching Musical Data

Themefinder (homepage)
Contains a database of 100,000 themes and short incipits. Data can be searched by melodic sequence. Results are displayed in graphical notation.

Meldex (introduction)
Music searching with an audio interface.

MIDI Links

Improv (homepage) (subset library) (review)
A set of C++ classes and example programs for creating interactive MIDI performances.

MIDI Note Number to Chromatic Spelling (US Patent Application 20040216586)

Musical Data Programming

Finale Plug-In Developement (Finale Plug-In Development Kit) (Finale Plug-In Development Forum)
Software resources for creating built-in plug-ins for the Finale music notation program.

Humdrum Toolkit for Music Research (homepage) (virtual scores for use with the Humdrum Toolkit)
A set of command-line programs for processing and analyzing music in the Humdrum file format.

Melisma Music Analyzer (homepage) (ftp) (Melisma Stochastic Melody Generator)
A set of programs in the C language for harmony analysis written by Daniel Sleator and David Temperley.

Centerpoint XML
An easy-to-use XML file parser written in C++.

C++ library and example programs for processing musical information primarily in the Humdrum, MIDI and SCORE data formats.

Related Courses

Engineering Approaches to Music Perception and Cognition (homepage)
Taught at the University of Southern California by Elaine Chew.

Music Information Retrieval, Preservation and Aquisition (syllabus)
Taught at McGill University by Ichiro Fujinaga.

Computer Applications in Music Research (homepage)
Taught at Ohio State University by David Huron.

Revised: 26 Jan 2005