The module described in this chapter offers the means to describe music in so-called
‘Common Music Notation’ (CMN, sometimes referred to as ‘Common Western Music Notation’).
For this purpose, it provides a number of special elements and adds several attribute
classes to elements from the 2 Shared Concepts in MEI module.
This chapter is supposed to frame the repertoire target by the module, i.e., what is Common Music Notation?
4.2Basic Elements of CMN
This section describes the use of basic features of MEI important for encoding CMN
material. Most of the elements discussed here are defined in chapter 2 Shared Concepts in MEI of these Guidelines, but are used in music from the CMN repertoire in specialized
4.2.1The Role of the Measure Element
Arguably, the most important element of the CMN module is the measure element. It is used as a structural unit inside section elements and acts as a container for ‘events’ from the model.eventLike class, such as notes, chords and rests as well as ‘control events’ from the model.controlEventLike class, such as slurs and indications of dynamics.
The following example demonstrates the use of the measure element:
A measure slices the flow of a score or part into chunks that normally comply with a duration
determined by the meter defined within a preceding scoreDef or staffDef element. Each staff in the source material is represented by a staff element. As the order of the staff elements in the file does not have to reflect
their order in the original document, to eliminate confusion they should always refer
to a staffDef element, using either an n or def attribute. Whereas the def attribute uses the xs:anyURI datatype, the n value refers to the closest preceding staffDef or layerDef with the same value in its n attribute.
Each staff may hold a number of layer elements to reflect multiple ‘voices’. Just as with staff, the order of the layer elements in the file does not have to reflect their original order in the document,
so they also possess n and def attributes for association with the appropriate layer definition.
There are other attributes that allow the specification of many further details of
a score. These are available from the element definitions accessible at scoreDef, staffDef, staffGrp and layerDef.
When content is provided for scoreDef, it must contain a staffGrp element. This element is used to gather individual staves and other staff groups.
This is useful for collecting instrumental or vocal groups in a large score, such
as woodwinds, brasses, etc., and for assigning a shared label to the group, using
the label and labelAbbr subelements. The staffGrp element is also used for the two staves of a grand staff. The bar.thru attribute on staffGrp allows one to specify whether bar lines are drawn across the space between staves
of that group or only on the staves themselves.
A staffDef element is used to describe an individual staff of a score or performer part. It bears most of the attributes described above. The label and labelAbbr subelements may be used for providing staff labels for the first and subsequent systems.
Every staffDef must have an n attribute with an integer as its value. The first occurrence of a staffDef with a given number must also indicate the number of staff lines via the lines attribute.
The order of staffDef elements within scoreDef follows the order of staves in the source document or planned rendering. The individual
staff elements within a measure refer to these staffDef declarations using their own n attribute values. Therefore, the encoding order of staves within a measure does not
have to mimic the order of the staffDef elements with scoreDef.
In addition to the parameters inherited from scoreDef, the following attributes are important for staffDef elements:
Records the direction of octave displacement to be applied to the clef.
A staff with a tenor clef is encoded as in the following example:
In the case of transposing instruments, the key-related attributes described above
may be used to override the written key expressed in the scoreDef element. As a basic principle, MEI always captures written pitches, so the trans.diat and trans.semi attributes may be used to indicate the number of diatonic steps and semitones to
calculate sounded pitch from written pitch. The piccolo and E♭ clarinet staves in
the example below utilize these attributes:
There are a number of additional elements that can be used as children of staffDef in order to describe additional features of the staff, such as the color of a clef
or a key signature added in a different hand. These elements include:
Used to capture alternating, interchanging, mixed or other non-standard meter signatures.
With the exception of label, these elements may also occur within the flow of musical events captured in a layer, since they are members of model.eventLike. In the layer context they function as milestones and affect all following content
assigned to the layer (even in subsequent measures) until their information is again
overridden either by the same element bearing different information or a staffDef or scoreDef. In this context, it is also possible to combine them with the elements described
in chapters 11.1 Critical Apparatus and 11.2 Editorial Markup of these Guidelines.
Such flexibility as this may require close inspection of an encoding to retrieve the
correct definitions for a given staff. As a general rule, the closest preceding and
most specific element provides this information: For example, a keySig in the preceding measure is more relevant than a staffDef at the beginning of the section, which is more relevant than a scoreDef at the beginning of the score. However, a section-specific scoreDef that provides only information about the meter does not override the more specific
information about key signature gathered from a staffDef for a transposing instrument.
Every staffDef may contain a number of layerDef elements, which may be used to establish default values for the distinct layers sharing
one staff. MEI does not use the term ‘voice’ to describe these ‘musical threads’ because
that term implies continuity across measure boundaries. Given the sometimes arbitrary
relationships between these threads from measure to measure as well as across staves,
MEI uses the more neutral term ‘layer’.
In some rare cases one can find different meters in different layers, as seen in Maurice
Ravel’s Oiseaux tristes.
In these cases it is necessary to encode each meterSig for the staff as child of the corresponding layerDef:
4.2.4Re-definition of Score Parameters
Sometimes it is necessary to re-define the parameters of a score or a staff. For example,
a score may change keys, the number of staves, or use different layout settings. Likewise,
a staff may change its clef, change the number of layers, or become invisible. To
accommodate these changes, staffDef is allowed to occur in the following locations:
within the description of staff groups; that is, in staffGrp,
within sections and endings; that is, inside section and ending elements; and
between sections and endings; that is, directly within a score or part.
It is also possible to include scoreDef and staffDef in staves and layers when the MEI All schema is in use; however, this practice is
not recommended for the CMN repertoire.
The following example shows how to change the key and meter signatures within a score.
The keysig.cancelaccid attribute may be used to control the position of the cancellation accidentals of
the key signature change, while the keysig.visible can be used to hide the key signature entirely.
4.2.5Notes, Chords and Rests in CMN
Undoubtedly, the most important element for any music notation representation is the
note element, which is defined in section 2.2.3 Basic Music Events. This section describes the usage of note in the CMN repertoire as well as CMN-specific additions to the basic definition in
the shared module.
126.96.36.199.1Basic Usage of Notes in CMN
In CMN, notes are determined by three basic parameters:
pitch name (using pname)
octave (using oct)
duration (using dur)
A single note, in this case a quarter note C4, is therefore encoded as:
The default values for pname and oct conform to the Scientific Pitch Notation (SPN) (also known as American Standard Pitch Notation); that is, the letters A–G indicate
the musical note name of a pitch, and the numbers 0–9 indicate the octave range to
which a note belongs. pname values differ from this convention only by using lower case values for pitches (a–g
instead of A-G). The value for oct changes between B and C, that is, octave ranges go from C, D, …, G, A, to B. For
example, middle C or c' (the C in the middle, i.e., fourth C key from left, on a standard 88-key piano keyboard) is represented on the
first ledger line in G clef notation and labelled as C4, in the naming convention of SPN. The note one semitone below would be labelled B3, and A4 would refer to the first A above C4.
The usual CMN-specific values for dur are:
Additionally, the following two values borrowed from mensural notation are allowed,
as they sometimes also appear in CMN:
Please note that their mensural counterparts bear different names in order to clearly
distinguish between repertoires.
Dotted durational values are accommodated by the dots attribute, which records the number of written augmentation dots. Thus, a dotted
quarter note is represented as in the following example:
The CMN module adds two optional attributes, grace and grace.time, to note and chord. The presence of the grace attribute indicates a grace note or chord.
The encoding of the left-most example would look like this:
Grace notes are not counted when determining the measure’s conformance to the current
time signature. Therefore, the dur attribute records only the written rhythmic value of the grace note. The time necessary for the performance of grace
notes can be unspecified, calculated based on taking time from other non-grace notes,
or specified precisely using the dur.ges attribute.
The values of grace indicate from which note time is ‘borrowed’ to perform the grace note: The preceding
note, in which case the value unacc (unaccented) is used, or the following note, when the value acc (accented) is appropriate. Technically, this value determines if the note following
the grace will keep its original onset time or will be slightly delayed to allow the
grace note itself to be accented. Sometimes it is not clear how to perform a grace;
in these situations the value unknown allows one to indicate a grace note while unambiguously stating that its performed
duration remains unknown.
The grace.time attribute is only to be used in combination with the grace attribute. It records the amount of time (as a percentage of the written duration)
that the grace note should ‘steal’ from the preceding note (when grace="unacc") or the following note (when grace="acc").
Grace notes can be placed within a graceGrp element, which itself allows all values for grace as explained above. The optional attach attribute is used to record whether the grace note group is attached to the following
event or to the preceding one. The graceGrp element can be used with single or multiple grace notes.
Often we find multiple notes that are not sounding in succession but sounding simultaneously.
These chords in MEI are basically defined as a container of notes that are stemmed
188.8.131.52.1Chords in CMN
A chord is any set of pitches consisting of multiple notes that are to be played simultaneously
and are usually grouped together visually with a single stem. In MEI the chord element functions as a container for all participating notes. Also it features many
attributes that are allowed for notes, e.g., usually all notes in a chord have a common duration, so it can be applied to the
whole chord within it’s dur attribute.
Some notational features like articulations or lyrics are connected to a whole chord
instead of a single note. Therefore elements like artic or verse are also allowed as children of chord elements. In the following example from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2 all chords carry an accent.
The stem.mod attribute accommodates various stem modifiers found in the CMN repertoire. These
symbols are placed on a note or chord’s stem and generally indicate different types
of tremolo and Sprechstimme. The following values are allowed:
1 slash through stem
2 slashes through stem
3 slashes through stem
4 slashes through stem
5 slashes through stem
6 slashes through stem
X placed on stem
Z placed on stem
The stem.mod attibute is normally used in accordance with practices described in section 184.108.40.206 Tremolandi.
The CMN module makes the att.stems.cmn attribute class available, which adds the optional stem.with attribute to note and chord. The attribute stem.with allows for the indication of a stem that joins notes on adjacent staves.
The following code demonstrates one method of encoding the first chord in the last
measure in the image above. The stem.with attribute must occur on all the notes or chords attached to the cross-staff stem.
Alternatively, the encoder may choose to treat the notes in the lower staff as logically
belonging to the top staff and to ‘displace’ them using the staff attribute on note. Some use cases, however, may require filling the time that those notes would normally
occupy using the space element described in section 220.127.116.11 Event Spacing. Using this mechanism, the example above could also be encoded like so:
The choice between these two methods of representing material that crosses staves
is often software-dependent.
Whereas stem.with can be used to define stems that connect notes across different staves (cross-staff
chords) stem.sameas is meant for describing a stem that connects two notes pertaining to different layers
within the same staff.
The typical scenario for stem.sameas is orchestral scores where two wind instruments are notated on one single staff.
Normally, the notes have individual stems pointing in opposite directions. However,
it is common engraving practice that notes of the same duration are often stemmed
together between the parts encoded in separate layers. The following example demonstrates
this practice in the wind instruments (bassoons and trumpets in meas. 1 - 3, horns
in meas. 3)
The following code represents an encoding of shared stems in the bassoon and trumpet staff using stem.sameas.
The dur attribute on rest captures the written duration of the rest and allows the same values as on note and chord. The CMN module also makes three more elements available for special forms of rest:
The cutout attribute provides for the description of the rendition of the mRest. If cutout is set to ‘cutout’ (the only value allowed), then the complete staff including the
staff lines will not be rendered for this measure.
It is a semantic error to mix an mRest with other events in the same layer. However, other ‘control events’, such as fermata, may be used at the same time as mRest.
The multiRest (multiple measure rest) element is used to encode multiple measures of rest. It is
commonly used in performer parts, but due to the problem of synchronicity with other
staves, it is never found in scores. A numeric value, stored in the num attribute, indicates the number of resting measures. The older visual forms displayed
below (often called Kirchenpausen) are not captured by multiRest, but may be created by rendering software. You may force modern block rests by using
the block attribute.
The mSpace (measure space) element is closely related to the space and mRest elements. It is used to explicitly indicate that a layer has no content but that
no information is missing from the encoding.
4.2.6Timestamps and Durations
MEI offers multiple ways of defining onsets and offsets of timed musical events such
as notes and slurs. The most common and most musician-friendly approach to this is
through the use of a combination of the attributes tstamp and dur, which are made available by the attribute classes att.timestamp.log (inherited by att.controlEvent) and att.timestamp2.log, both from the shared module.
The timestamp (tstamp) of a musical event is calculated in relation to the meter of the current measure
and resembles the so-called ‘beat’ position. In a common time measure with four quarter
notes, the timestamp of each quarter equals its beat position in the measure: The
first quarter has a timestamp of 1, the second has a timestamp of 2, and so on. MEI
defines the value of tstamp as a real number; the second eighth note position in a measure would thus be represented
by the value of "1.5". The range of possible values is defined as starting with zero
and ending with the number of metrical units in a measure (the ‘numerator’ in a time
signature) + 1. This allows the capture of all graphical positions starting from the
left bar line ('0') and ending with the right bar line of the measure ('5', in the
case of 4/4 time).
For ‘spanning’ elements like slurs, which are members of the model.controlEventLike class, it is often more intuitive to record two timestamps – one for the onset of
the event and one for its termination. Because the termination of the event may be
in a succeeding measure, the second timestamp (tstamp2) has a slightly different datatype than the one marking the initiation of the event.
Its datatype is constrained to values following the formula "xm + y", where x is the number of full measures that this particular feature lasts (or the number
of bar lines crossed) and y is the timestamp in the target measure where the feature ends. The timestamp is expressed
using the same logic as described above. For example, a value of "0m+3" in 4/4 time
indicates that the element bearing this attribute, a slur for example, ends on beat
3 of the same measure where it started. A value of "1m+1.5" would indicate an end
on the second eighth note of the following measure. In 6/8 time, the value "2m+3"
means that the feature ends two measures later on the third eighth note.
4.3Advanced CMN Features
Over time, in addition to the basic features of note, chord, and rest, many other
symbols have been added to CMN. The following section describes some of these symbols
and introduces their handling in MEI.
A very common feature of music from the CMN repertoire is the beaming of eighth or
shorter notes. MEI provides two elements for the explicit encoding of features joined
Alternative element for explicitly encoding beams, particularly those which
extend across bar lines.
Use of the beam element is straightforward. The beamed notes, rests, or chords are simply enclosed
by the beam element:
Whereas in music notation every note value shorter than an eighth adds another beam
(sometimes referred to as ‘secondary beams’), in MEI only one beam element is used,
no matter the durations of the contained notes. The visual rendition of a set of beamed
notes is presumed to be handled by rendering processes.
From the 19th century onwards, it became quite common to break secondary beams to
increase readability of longer beamed passages. The optional breaksec attribute on notes and chords under the beam may be used to encode the breaking of secondary beams after the note or chord bearing the attribute. The value of breaksec indicates the number of continuous beams. For example:
In the music of the second half of the 20th century, it is quite common to indicate
acceleration or deceleration using converging (feathered) beams as in the image below:
The encoding of such a beam is accomplished using the form attribute of the beam, which allows the following values:
Beams gradually diverge.
Beams gradually converge (into one).
Beams diverge and converge arbitrarily.
The beam is rendered as usual (default).
The duration of notes, rests, or chords under a beam which carries the form attribute with a value of ‘acc’, ‘rit’, or ‘mixed’ must be treated specially. The
first and last contained elements must specify a duration which matches the number
of beams displayed at the point of these events. In the case of a ‘mixed’ beam, each
event at the point of change in the number of secondary beams must carry a dur attribute. Beams like this may be encoded thusly:
Beams that connect events on different staves may be encoded in two different ways.
First, a single-layer approach may be taken that treats the events lying under the
beam as logically belonging to the same layer as the initial event but visually ‘displaced’
to an adjacent staff. In the example above from Moritz Moszkowski’s12 Pianoforte Studies for the left hand, Op. 92, MoszWV 117 this method makes even from a semantic perspective perfect sense.
It can be achieved with an additional staff attribute value that contradicts the ‘normal’ staff placement indicated by the n attribute of their ancestor staff.
In other contexts however, a staff-by-staff methodology may be employed in which the
notes are encoded according to the staff on which they appear. This encoding style
requires that each beam element account for the total time encompassed by the beam; that is, each beam must use one or more space elements to account for the time occupied by notes on the opposing staff. For example,
the time used by the first two notes of the beam must be represented on staff number
1 and the time taken by the last two notes of the beam must be filled on staff number
Downstream processing needs are the determining factor in the choice between the two
alternative encoding methods.
Due to the potential problem of overlapping hierarchies, the beam element only allows the encoding of beams that do not cross bar lines. When beams
cross bar lines, the use of the beamSpan element is required. Unlike beam, the beamSpan element does not contain the beamed notes as its children. Instead, it references
the xml:id values of all affected notes in its plist attribute and denotes the initial and terminal notes of the beam using startid and endid attributes. This configuration allows beams to cross measure boundaries. The following
example from Erwin Schulhoff’sViolin Sonata demonstrates a typical example of such hierarchy-crossing beams:
In addition to the explicit encoding of beams accommodated by the beam and beamSpan elements and the beam attribute, MEI allows for specification of default beaming behavior using the following
attributes on scoreDef, staffDef, and layerDef:
Provides an example of how automated beaming (including secondary beams) is to be
Indicates whether automatically-drawn beams should include rests shorter than a quarter
The beam.group attribute can be used to set a default beaming pattern to be used when no beaming
is indicated at the layer level. It must contain a comma-separated list of time values
that add up to a measure in the current meter, e.g., 4,4,4,4 in 4/4 time indicates that each quarter note worth of shorter notes should be beamed
together. Parentheses can be used to indicate sub-groupings of secondary beams. For
example, (4.,4.,4.) in 9/8 meter indicates one primary beam per measure with secondary beams broken at
each dotted quarter duration, while (4,4),(4,4) in 4/4 will result in a measure of 16th notes being rendered with a primary beam
covering all the notes and secondary beams for each group of four 16th notes.
The beam.group attribute is available on scoreDef, staffDef, and layerDef elements, making it possible to set different beaming patterns for each of these.
Also, the beaming pattern can be changed anywhere score parameters may be changed,
for example, at the start of sections. This beaming "directive" can be overridden
by using beam, beamSpan, or beam attributes as described above. If none of these beaming specifications is used, then
no beaming is implied. Default beaming can be explicitly ‘turned off’ by setting beam.group to an empty string.
4.3.2Ties, Slurs and Phrase Marks
One of the most specific features of CMN is the use of ‘curved lines’ which connect
notes. These lines are used to indicate various musical features, depending on their
A tie is a curved line connecting two notes of the same pitch. The purpose of a tie is to join the durations of both notes, so that the first note
sounds for the combined duration. In other words, there is only one onset for both
In MEI, ties can be encoded in different ways, depending on the level of detail that
the encoder wants to preserve. The simplest solution is to use the tie attribute found on note and chord.
This attribute allows three values:
Marks the start of a tie
Marks a participant in a tie other than the first or last
Marks the end of a tie
The scope of the tie attribute is the musical layer; that is, a tie started in one layer may only be ended by a subsequent musical event
with a tie attribute with an m or t value in the same layer. The tie-terminating event may lie in the following measure.
When tie is used on chords, it functions as a shorthand indication for multiple tie markings;
that is, a separate tie is drawn for every pitch in the chord that remains unchanged
in the succeeding chord.
This is equivalent to the following, more verbose version:
A slur is a curved line that connects a group of notes of different pitch. It normally
indicates that an instrument-specific performance technique should be applied to the
affected notes. For example, in notation for winds, the notes should be played in
one breath, while a single bow is indicated for string instruments.
In MEI, slurs may be encoded in a similar way to ties: note and chord bear a slur attribute that allows the commencement or ending of a slur at this element. The allowed
values, however, are slightly different: The i, m or t are followed by a single digit in the range 1 to 6, as in the following example:
The reason for this difference is that slurs, unlike ties, may overlap, so that a
second slur may start while the first slur is still ongoing. The digit indicates the
level of nesting of slurs on the note; ‘1’ indicates no nesting, while ‘2’ indicates
the existence of 2 slurs in which this note participates, and so on. In the example
below, the second and third quarter notes lie under 2 slurs. The second note is covered
by the slur that begins on the preceding note and by the one that it starts. The third
note is affected by the slur that begins on note one and by the one that starts on
To support analytical operations, slur may take on more than one value. For example, the example above may be more explicitly
In this encoding, the notes in the beamed group are marked as participating in two
slurs – one connecting just the beamed notes and one connecting the first and last
notes of the layer. In ‘nested’ slurs like this, the function of the slurs is usually
different. Here, the slur connecting the 8th notes indicates legato performance, while
the longer slur functions as a phrase mark.
While ties are not normally allowed to cross layers or staves, slurs may. The following
example demonstrates how cross-staff slurs may be encoded using the slur attribute:
Slurs and ties that cross system or page breaks are often split into two separate
symbols for rendering. One slur or tie ends at the last bar line, another one starts
at the beginning of the new system. MEI expects this to be the default rendering behavior,
so that in situations like these, the regular tie or slur attributes are sufficient to describe both curved lines resulting from the split.
Sometimes, however, one of these two symbols is missing in the document, or the encoder
wants to provide additional (often visual) information about the slur or tie. In these
cases, using an attribute is not an adequate solution. Therefore, MEI offers dedicated
tie and slur elements. A third element, phrase, is used to identify a unified melodic idea (in German: Phrasierungsbogen), whereas the slur element is used as a generic element for all curved lines (in German: Bogensetzung) except ties. All three elements have nearly identical models.
Another reason for using elements instead of attributes for ties, slurs, and phrase
marks is that only elements may be combined with the functionality provided in chapters
11.2 Editorial Markup and 11.1 Critical Apparatus of these Guidelines.
Although these elements are allowed within a layer to accommodate unmeasured notation, by convention in CMN they are normally placed
inside measure, after the encoding of staves, alongside other so-called ‘control events’.
Obviously, to be complete the slur in the above example needs to be ‘attached’ to
the notes somehow. The ‘vertical assignment’ can be indicated for the example above
using the staff and layer attributes like so:
For the ‘horizontal assignment’, the encoder may choose between two different mechanisms.
The first uses two timestamp attributes as described in section 4.2.6 Timestamps and Durations. The start and end points of the slur may be indicated thusly:
By using tstamp and tstamp2 attributes, the encoder denotes a rather loose connection – the slur (or tie) is
attached to a certain position in the measure, not to a specific note or chord. If
the encoder wants to specify a close connection to a particular event, the startid and endid attributes may be used instead. Here, the xml:ids of the first and last note of the slur are referenced. This mechanism also allows
the crossing of layers and staves.
For human readability, it is recommended to encode slur, tie and phrase features in the measure where they begin; that is, in the measure that holds the element referenced by startid. On the other hand, for machine processability, it may be desirable to place slur, tie, and phrase elements in the measure where they end or even in the last measure regardless of their beginning and ending points in the music. This last option makes
all references contained within these elements ‘back references’. Back references
are necessary when using processing software that treats the encoded file as a stream;
that is, programs that process the file without creating an in-memory representation
of its contents.
When using the tie, slur or phrase elements, the curvature of the line may be described using the curvedir, bulge and bezier attributes. Whereas the first attribute allows only specification of the slur’s vertical
placement, the others give increasingly more precise control of the curve.
If the encoder wishes to draw attention to the appearance of a slur or tie in a given
source, the facs attribute may be used instead of (or in addition to) the curve description attributes
to point to a graphic image or a zone within an image (see 12.1 Facsimiles).
4.3.3Dynamics in CMN
Common Music Notation provides two different methodologies for expressing the volume
of a note, phrase, section, etc. The first is a verbal instruction providing such
information in human language, possibly in an abbreviated form. An example is the
word piano, indicating a quiet volume, often abbreviated as p. In MEI, verbal instructions like this are encoded using the dynam element from the Shared module (see chapter 2 Shared Concepts in MEI):
By convention, dynam elements, like slur and other elements belonging to the model.controlEventLike class, are encoded at the end of the measure to which they belong. This requires dynam to be assigned to a certain staff using the staff attribute, whose value refers to the target element’s n attribute. In the absence of other information, all layers within the staff are assumed
to have the same dynamic marking.
However, when the layers of a staff have different dynamic indications, the layer attribute may be used to associate a dynamic marking with a particular layer:
A suitable MIDI value may be assigned to a dynamic marking using the val attribute:
The location of a dynamic marking in relation to a staff may be specified using the
place attribute, which may be given as above, within, or below the staff:
Dynamics must also be associated with a particular time point in a measure, using
the tstamp, or with a particular event, using the startid attribute. Linking a control event with measures and events is discussed in section
4.2.6 Timestamps and Durations:
Dynamics which do not have an explicit endpoint are often referred to as ‘instantaneous’.
On the other hand, some dynamic directions indicate a continuous change that must
have a defined end point. It is possible to specify the logical scope of continuous
dynamic marks using the attributes tstamp2, dur, dur.ges, or endid. Additionally a corresponding ending value for MIDI output may be given in the val2 attribute.
To capture the fact that the crescendo in the example above continue until the first beat of the next measure, they may
Any combination of tstamp, startid, tstamp2, and endid attributes may be used to define the scope of a dynamic, although the tstamp and tstamp2 or the startid and endid combinations are the most logical combinations. For example, the following alternatives
are all possibilities for encoding up a crescendo. The choice of attributes is often
task or processor dependent.
All musical elements affected by the dynam may be explicitly specified using the plist attribute, which contains xml:id attribute value references:
It is recommended that the list of references in plist include all participants in the dynamic marking, including the first and last notes
as in the preceding example, even though they are duplicated by startid and endid attributes.
In addition to verbal instructions, Common Music Notation uses graphical symbols to
indicate ‘continuous’ dynamics. These crescendo and decrescendo (or diminuendo) symbols
are encoded in MEI using the hairpin element. It also is a member of the model.controlEventLike class, which means it too is used just before the close of a measure element, following the encoding of all staves. The required attribute form specifies the direction of the symbol by taking one of two possible values: cres (growing louder) or dim (getting softer).
Marking the logical extent of hairpins is possible using the same attributes as for
The following example from Béla Bartók’sMikrokosmos, Sz.107 shows a diminuendo between two staves that begins on the first beat (in the current measure) and ends
on the first one in the penultimate measure. The duration is highlighted with a dashed
line, which can be indicated with the extender attribute.
Tuplets indicate a localized change of meter; that is, a given duration in the regular
meter is divided between a group of notes with irregular (according to the current
meter) rhythmic values. The most common tuplet is a so-called ‘triplet’, in which
three notes take the time normally occupied by two.
The relation of the tuplet to the underlying meter is specified using the num and numbase attributes, where num specifies the number of replacing notes and numbase specifies the number of notes of the same duration to be replaced. For example, when three eighth notes replace one quarter note in
common time, num takes a value of "3", whereas numbase reads "2", because a quarter note in common time is normally divided into two eighths.
When three quarters replace two in the same meter, numbase also reads "2". The combination of these attributes may be read as "3 in the time
of 2" in either case.
The duration of the entire tuplet may be encoded using the usual ‘power of 2’ values,
e.g., 1, 2, 4, etc., in the dur attribute if necessary.
Tuplets are often highlighted using brackets above or below the affected notes. The
presence and position of these brackets can be encoded using the bracket.place (above / below) and bracket.visible (true / false) attributes.
Usually, however, tuplets are rendered with a bracket (bracket.visible="true") and a single number (num.format="count" and num.visible="true"), as seen in the example above. However, the number-to-numbase ratio may be
provided in addition to, or in some cases as a replacement for, the bracket. The num.format attribute indicates whether a plain number (the value of num) or a ratio (comprised of num and numbase, e.g., "3:2") should be displayed and num.visible indicates the general presence of such a number.
Further visual control comes with the num.place and bracket.place attributes, that allow specific placement of the number and the bracket above or below the staff.
In addition to note elements, tuplet may contain other elements, such as rest or space, to match the content of a source document or an intended rendering. In particular,
the beam element is allowed so that custom beaming may be indicated, e.g., a septuplet may be divided into a group of three plus a group of four notes.
The tuplet element may also be used for repetition of the same pitch; that is, a single note
or chord may be the only content of the tuplet. In some cases, optical music recognition
software may treat these instances as bowed tremolandi due to the knowledge of the
complete semantics of the notation at the time of recognition. However, marking these
as tuplets is the recommended practice.
In some situations, a tuplet is made up of events in different measures. As this raises
the issue of non-concurrent hierarchies, it is not possible to encode such situations
with the tuplet element described above. Therefore, MEI offers the tupletSpan element, which is member of the model.controlEventLike class. It is nested inside of measure, following all the measure’s staff children. It uses the same attributes as tuplet to describe tuplets, but instead of nesting all affected notes inside itself, it
references the xml:id values of all affected notes in its plist attribute and the initial and terminal notes of the tuplet using startid and endid attributes. This configuration allows tuplets to cross beams or measure boundaries.
The following example demonstrates a typical example of such hierarchy-crossing tuplets:
4.3.5Articulation and Performance Instructions in CMN
This section introduces elements and attributes which may hold CMN-specific performance
instructions. The functionality described herein is related to the artic attribute and artic element introduced in 2 Shared Concepts in MEI. The following elements are relevant in this context:
An indication placed over a note or rest to indicate that it should be held longer
its written value. May also occur over a bar line to indicate the end of a phrase
Sometimes called a 'hold' or 'pause'.
An indication that a passage should be performed one or more octaves above or below
18.104.22.168Arpeggio and Glissando
In CMN, the notes of a chord are sometimes performed successively rather than simultaneously.
This behavior, called arpeggiation, is normally indicated using a vertical wavy line
preceding the chord. MEI offers the arpeg element to describe arpeggios. This element is a member of the model.controlEventLike.cmn class and, like other members of this class, uses the staff, layer and tstamp or the startid and plist attributes to connect it to the affected chord.
For arpeggios that involve chords spanning multiple staves as a continuous arpeggio
(instead of two separate arpeggios), the plist attribute should be used to point to all affected chord and single note elements’ xml:id attributes. Therefore, the use of the plist attribute is sufficient in many cases, so that other attributes from above may be
The usual direction for the performance of an arpeggio is from lowest note to highest,
but this is not always the case. The customary signal of an downward arpeggio is an
arrowhead added to the bottom of the wavy line. The indication of the presence of
an arrowhead and the direction of the arpeggio are handled separately, however. The
arrow attribute indicates the presence of an arrowhead in the arpeggiation sign, while
the order attribute records the preferred sequence of notes. Béla Bartók uses a wavy line behind the chord to indicate a downward arpeggio. In such cases,
the ho attribute can be used to indicate the offset from the usual position.
The following examples illustrate various ways in which the arrow and order attributes
may be employed. The default visual rendition and performance are assumed in the absence
of both attributes, while the typical downward arpeggio is indicated by the presence
of both attributes. The last two possibilities occur less frequently, but are sometimes
appropriate: The presence of the arrow attribute without the order attribute may be
used in those cases where the arrowhead is redundant but is added to the symbol for
the sake of consistency or when the direction of successive arpeggios changes frequently.
The last possibility, an order attribute without an arrow attribute, is ambiguous;
however, it can be used as an encoding shortcut since a downward arpeggio must have
a visual indication of its direction to distinguish it from the upward arpeggio; therefore,
the presence of the arrowhead can be implied.
A third, and somewhat counter-intuitive, value for order, nonarp, indicates that no arpeggio shall be performed. Normally rendered as a bracket instead
of a wavy line, this form of arpeggio is used to indicate a non-arpeggiated chord
intervening in a sequence of arpeggiated ones. This is common in music for the harp,
where arpeggiation is the usual method of performing chords and deviation from the
norm must be explicitly indicated.
Whereas an arpeggio ‘staggers’ the onset times of the notes of a chord, a glissando
denotes a situation where the pitch ‘slides’ from one note to another. It makes no
difference whether this slide produces distinct intermediate pitches (as on the piano)
or not (as on the trombone), though the latter is sometimes referred to as portamento.
The visual appearance of a glissando, which MEI encodes as gliss, is normally a line connecting two notes in the glissando.
The gliss element is a member of the model.controlEventLike class and therefore, like other control events, it occurs inside a measure after
the staves and uses its staff, layer, tstamp, tstamp2, startid and endid attributes to connect it to the affected notes or chords. It is a semantic error
not to specify a starting point attribute. The visual appearance of the indicating
line may be recorded in the lform and lwidth attributes.
A bend is a variation in pitch (often microtonal) upwards or downwards during the
course of a note. Typically, the performer attacks the note at ‘true’ pitch, changes
the intonation, then returns to true pitch. The bend element can also be used for so-called scoop, plop, falloff, and doit performance
effects. It should not be used for laissez vibrer (l.v.) indications. As with other elements in the model.controlEventLike class, the starting point of the bend may be indicated by either a tstamp, tstamp.ges, tstamp.real or startid attribute. It is a semantic error not to specify a starting attribute.
CMN has two slightly different concepts which are both called tremolo. The first is
a rapid repetition of a single pitch or chord, whereas the second is a rapid alternation
between two different notes or chords. In addition, either species of tremolo may
be measured or unmeasured. A measured tremolo is an abbreviation for written-out notation;
that is, the tremolo is intended to be perceived as notes with distinct rhythmic values.
On the other hand, in an unmeasured tremolo no specific number of alternations is
For the repetition of a single note or chord, MEI offers the bTrem (bowed tremolo) element, which is a member of the model.eventLike.cmn class, meaning it is encoded following the normal course of musical events within
a layer. It holds exactly one note or chord element that is to be repeated.
The unitdur attribute value indicates the exact note values in an aural rendition of a measured
tremolo, i.e., quarters, 8ths, and so on. The stem.mod attribute must also be explicity set on the child note or chord element for a complete visual representation. The example above shows a short excerpt
from the second movement of Franz Schubert’sString Quartet in G major, D. 887).
However, the number of slashes present on the note may disagree with the number of
slashes that should be present according to the unitdur attribute, especially in music manuscripts.
Note that within beams the number of slashes should be adjusted anyway.
The bTrem element can be used as shorthand for a tuplet consisting of repetitions of a single
note or chord. This kind of markup may be the result of an optical music recognition
process in which complete semantics cannot be determined a priori. When used this way, the num attribute on bTrem can record a number to be rendered along with the pseudo-tuplet. In spite of this
capability, the tuplet element is preferred. This makes the following examples’ visual appearance equal,
but not necessarily their semantics.
In the case of alternating pitches, MEI offers the fTrem (fingered tremolo) element. While it mostly behaves the same as bTrem, a fingered tremolo requires exactly two child elements, either being a note or chord. The unitdur attribute value indicates the exact note values in an aural rendition of a measured
tremolo, i.e., 4ths, 8ths, 16ths, etc. The number of beams present in the source is captured by
the beams attribute.
Similar to bTrem, here the number of beams present may disagree with the rhythmic value indicated
by the unitdur attribute, especially in manuscript sources. The number of so-called ‘floating’ beams,
which are not attached to stems, may be encoded in the beams.float attribute.
A very common feature of music notation from the CMN period is the so-called ‘fermata’
(or ‘corona’ in Italian). It is usually written as a dot above or below an arc. It
may stand above or below the staff it affects with its ‘open’ side usually facing
towards the staff. A fermata indicates that a related note or rest should be held
longer than its written duration would normally require. Sometimes, a fermata occurs
over or under a bar line to indicate a pause or even the end of a phrase or section.
In MEI, fermatas may be encoded using an attribute on elements like note, chord or rest. This attribute allows placement of a fermata above or below the element to which
However, if there is further (visual) information about the fermata that should be
addressed in the encoding, MEI offers the fermata element. This element, which is a member of the model.controlEventLike.cmn class and therefore requires the use of such attributes as staff, layer, tstamp and startid, allows specification of the orientation of the fermata using its form attribute. In addition, the shape attribute may be used to indicate whether the fermata is rendered as the common semicircle
("curved"), a semisquare ("square"), or a triangle ("angular"). If the fermata should be rendered using some other symbol, a user-defined
symbol may be referred to using an altsym attribute or the glyph.name and glyph.num attributes respectively.
An indication that a passage should be performed one or more octaves above or below
its written pitch is represented by the octave element.
Its dis and dis.place attributes record the amount and direction of displacement, respectively. The lform attribute captures the appearance of the continuation line associated with the octave
displacement. The starting point of the octave displacement may be indicated by either
a tstamp, tstamp.ges, tstamp.real or startid attribute, while the ending point may be recorded by either a tstamp2, dur, dur.ges or endid attribute. It is a semantic error not to specify one starting-type attribute and
one ending-type attribute.
4.3.6Instrument-specific Symbols in CMN
CMN contains a number of symbols which are closely related to a specific instrument.
MEI offers elements for three of these symbols, namely breath marks, harp pedal diagrams,
and piano pedals.
A breath mark indicates a point at which the performer of a wind instrument or singer
may breathe. It is sometimes also used to indicate a short pause or break for instruments
not requiring breath, which allows it to also serve as a guide to phrasing. In MEI, breath
marks are encoded using the breath element, which is a member of model.controlEventLike.cmn. It is a semantic error not to specify a starting point attribute.
The usual sign for the breath mark is a comma; however, other visual forms of the
breath mark may be indicated using the altsym attribute (see chapter 2.4 User-defined Symbols for further details).
Modern harps have seven pedals which allow adjustment of their strings to different
pitches. The settings for these pedals occur at the beginning of the harp notation
and/or whenever it is necessary to change the harp’s tuning. These settings may be
rendered using letter pitches (in the order of the pedals from left to right) or in
a diagrammatic fashion, such as the form invented by Carlos Salzedo.
The musical intention of the element is described using the c, d, e, f, g, a and b attributes, which affect the corresponding strings of the harp. All of these attributes
may take the values f (flat), s (sharp) or n (natural), where a natural is the default value, which is assumed when one of these
attributes is not specified.
In the first diagram of the preceding example, the B, and E pedals are in the flat
position, while the C pedal is in sharp position. The other, non-specified pedals
are in the natural position.
Music for piano also often includes indications of the use of pedals. In MEI, these
symbols are encoded using the pedal element. As a member of the model.controlEventLike.cmn class, it is located within measure and refers to a staff, layer and timestamp using the staff, layer and tstamp attributes. Alternatively, the startid attribute may be used to identify a note or chord to which the mark should be assigned.
The meaning of the mark is captured using the dir attribute, which provides the following values:
depress the pedal
release the pedal
release, then immediately depress the pedal again
depress the pedal half way
To specify the pedal, that has to be used, the func attribute allows the following values:
The sustain pedal, also referred to as the "damper" pedal, allows the piano strings
to vibrate sympathetically with the struck strings. It is the right-most and the most
frequently used pedal on modern pianos. (Often marked with: )
The soft pedal, sometimes called the "una corda", "piano", or "half-blow" pedal, reduces
the volume and modifies the timbre of the piano. On the modern piano, it is the left-most
The sostenuto or tone-sustaining pedal allows notes already undamped to continue to
ring while other notes are damped normally; that is, on their release by the fingers.
This is usually the center pedal of the modern piano. (Often marked with: )
The silent or practice pedal mutes the volume of the piano so that one may practice
quietly. It is sometimes a replacement for the sostenuto pedal, especially on an upright
or vertical instrument.
A common feature for keyboard music is fingering, indicating the finger, which should
be used to play a single note. Basic fingering can be encoded in MEI using the fing element, which is a member of the model.fingeringLike class, and thus part of the model.controlEventLike class.
The term ossia, Italian for "or", denotes an alternative for a certain passage which
is provided by the composer without any preference of one alternative over another. An ossia often provides a simpler (easier to perform)
version of the original content. Another frequent use case for ossia is the provision
of indications about performance practice, such as an alternative version with ornamentation
written out in full. In all cases, it is up to the performer to choose between the
Most often an ossia is rendered above the main staff on a reduced-size staff. Sometimes,
however, the alternate material occurs on the same staff as the primary text, but
in a separate layer. In this case, the alternative material is usually rendered in
small-sized notation on the normal-sized staff. For both situations, MEI offers the
ossia element, which may be nested either inside measure to reflect an ossia on a separate staff, or inside staff to reflect an inline ossia in a separate layer. The following example demonstrates
an ossia on a separate staff:
The example above demonstrates that only one of the two staff elements within ossia has an n attribute. This mechanism allows one to distinguish between the "regular" and the
"alternative" content: The one bearing the n attribute goes in line with the preceding measure’s staff, the other one is printed
in reduced size above. In this case, the vertical order of staves follows document
order: The top-most staff is encoded as the first child, the lowest comes last. In
combination with the presence of the n attribute, this allows the capture of multiple simultaneous ossia staves.
All staves within ossia, even the alternative ones without a direct reference, obey the definitions of the
associated staffDef, which can be derived from the value of the n attribute. Alternatively, a separate staffDef may be given at the beginning of the contained layer element(s).
In case of an inline ossia, the whole setup of elements moves down one step in the
hierarchy, as seen in the following example:
Cue notes are smaller notes that usually occur in an orchestral or vocal part and
are not to be played or sung by the corresponding musician, but by other instruments
or singers. Cue notes are used for orientation, i.e., to follow the music during longer pauses and to find the correct re-entry point
more easily. In MEI the cue attribute is available to indicate such notes.
Most often cue notes occur in a group rather than one by one. This is because usually
a whole layer of another part is inserted as a cue. Therefore, a complete layer can also be marked as cue.
If the voice from which the cue notes originate is also encoded, they should refer
to their sounding counterpart with the corresp attribute.
Cue notes must not be confused with other small notes such as grace notes or fiorituras.
4.3.9Directives and Rehearsal marks
In CMN scores, there is often a large number of natural language instructions. Some
of them concern the loudness and the speed of the performance, in which case MEI offers
the elements dynam (described at 4.3.3 Dynamics in CMN) and tempo. In other cases, however, they provide other instructions for the performer. Instead
of providing separate elements for all possible types of such directions, MEI offers
the generic dir element. Although this element is not CMN specific (it is defined in 2 Shared Concepts in MEI), it is frequently used in this repertoire.
22.214.171.124Tempo changes and other directives
A tempo or character indication is often provided above the topmost staff of the first
measure of a score, movement, or section. This indication, such as "Allegro moderato"
or "Andante maestoso", may be regarded as a label. Though it is possible to label
the movement, etc. using a label attribute attached to the enclosing structural entity (that is, on mdiv or section), it is often required to capture the exact position, spelling, or other features
of the label as found in the underlying source material. In these cases, an element
Labels which address the tempo at which the music should be performed should be encoded
using the tempo element, which is a specialized form of dir. tempo is a member of the model.controlEventLike class and as such occurs as a child of measure, following all staff children. Its staff, layer and tstamp attributes are used to ensure correct semantic positioning, and place indicates a visual position with respect to the staff.
Rehearsal marks are another specialized kind of directive. Consisting of letters,
numbers, or a combination of both, rehearsal marks are used in scores and corresponding
performer parts to identify convenient points to restart rehearsal after breaks or
interruptions. For this reason, they are often visually emphasized by placing them
within a square or circle. In MEI, they are encoded using the reh element, which holds the textual content of the rehearsal mark. It is a member of
the model.controlEventLike.cmn class. The visual rendition of the rehearsal mark, including the surrounding shape,
may be captured using the rend element described in chapter 9.2.2 Text Rendition.
The following detail from an edition of Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique shows a typical example:
As rehearsal marks usually are placed at the beginning of a measure the tstamp attribute may be omitted. To place it anywhere else the startid, tstamp or even ho attributes could be used.
The following example demonstrates how rehearsal marks often apply to more than one
staff. In this instance, the rehearsal mark is placed above staff 1 and below staves
7 and 11.
4.3.10Repetition in CMN
Repetition is a characteristic feature of music. Many musical forms rely on repetition
(sometimes with modification) of distinct sections of the music. Repetition in this
sense can be thought of as ‘structural’. At the same time, composers and engravers
of music often use local symbols for repeating smaller portions of music instead of
writing them in full more than once. In this case, the repetition is better defined
as a species of abbreviation.
In addition to repetition at the section level, CMN includes a number of different
symbols for measure-level repetitions. Many of these symbols are found in manuscripts
and may be regarded as personal conventions of their respective authors. Some signs,
however, have been widely adopted. For example, it is common to indicate the repetition
of a single beat or an entire measure with one or more diagonal lines, sometimes with
dots at the upper left and lower right, much like a percent sign. The illustration
below contains the most common signs:
In general, MEI places primary emphasis on the capture of the semantic meaning of
symbols, not their visual rendition. In this case, the focus is on the material being
repeated, for example, a beat, a measure, a 2-measure fragment, etc. The following
elements are provided for this purpose:
The beatRpt element is used to represent a single repeated beat. Its visual rendition can be
recorded using the slash attribute. This attribute indicates the number of slashes required to render the
appropriate repeat symbol, which, as demonstrated in the preceding figure, depends
on the rhythmic content of the beat being repeated. When a beat that consists of a
single note or chord is repeated, the repetition sign is typically rendered as a single
thick, slanting slash; therefore, the value 1 should be used. The following values should be used when the beat is divided into
even notes: 4ths or 8ths=1, 16ths=2, 32nds=3, 64ths=4, 128ths=5. When the beat is
comprised of mixed duration values, the symbol is always rendered as 2 slashes and
In addition to its indication of a repeated beat, the beatRpt element is sometimes
used in popular music notation, especially in guitar or percussion parts, to indicate
a repeated rhythmic pattern. The beatRpt element can be used, but when these parts require durations longer or shorter than
a beat, note elements with appropriately-shaped note heads should be employed instead.
The mRpt element is available for repetition of an entire measure. Like mRest, it must be the sole child of layer, no other events should be used. The n attribute of mRpt should not be used to record the number displayed above the measure in the figure
below. Instead, the numbering of repetitions of the written-out measure can be enabled
using the multi.number attribute available on the scoreDef and staffDef elements.
The halfmRpt element represents the incorrect, but frequently found, use of the measure repeat
(or similar) sign to indicate repetition of half of a measure. This practice mostly
occurs in hand-written notation and usually involves the repetition of the second
half of a measure in duple time. This element is necessary because the function of
the symbol, not the visual symbol itself, is of primary importance. The following
example from the beginning of Beethoven’s Waldstein sonata illustrates such usage:
As seen in the example above, it is possible to continuously repeat half measures,
even across bar lines.
The mRpt2 and multiRpt elements (like the multiRest element) never occur in scores, only in performer parts, where it is often necessary
to abbreviate the notation due to page size limitations.
The mRpt2 element represents repetition of a 2-measure fragment, while multiRpt is for repetition of fragments longer than two measures. In modern publishing practice,
repeats of more than two measures are written out using repeat signs. This element
is provided, however, for handling non-standard practices often found in manuscripts.
The num attribute on multiRpt records the number of preceding measures to be repeated.
All elements described above allow for association of the sign with a symbol in a
digital facsimile (via the facs attribute) and with a user-defined symbol (using altsym). See 12.1 Facsimiles and 2.4 User-defined Symbols for further details. In addition, the expand attribute is available on the foregoing elements to inform a rendering process whether
to use the repeat symbol or the full content represented by it. A value of true indicates that the content should be displayed, while a false value means to show only the repeat symbol.
4.4Common Music Notation Ornaments
This module includes elements and attributes for the encoding of ornaments typical
of ‘Common Music Notation’ (CMN). Ornaments are formulae of embellishment that can
be realized by adding supplementary notes to one or more notes of the melody. In written
form, these are usually expressed as symbols written above or below a note, though
some have a more complex written expression, such as those that involve multiple notes
and/or include grace notes.
These symbols may have different resolutions depending on a large number of factors,
such as historical context, national boundaries, composer, scribe, etc. The elements
described here, therefore, are not bound to a specific symbol; they are, instead,
meant to encode the encoder’s interpretation of a symbol and its position on the staff.
Nonetheless, in order to establish common ground, the guidelines suggest commonly
accepted symbols and realizations for the ornaments supported by MEI.
The following sections will introduce each element in detail for all types of ornaments
4.4.1Encoding Common To All Ornaments
When encoding CMN, ornaments should be encoded within a measure, following the staff elements, and connected to events on the staff via attributes. The startid attribute is used to refer to the xml:id of the starting note. Additionally, if the ornament involves more than one events
on the staff, the endid attribute can be used to anchor the ornament to a concluding event.
The following example demonstrates the encoding of a mordent over a middle C:
Alternatively, the relationship of an ornament to a note can be expressed in terms
of beats with the attribute tstamp. If the ornament involves more than one event on the staff, the tstamp2 attribute can be used to indicate the ending time stamp, as is explained in section
4.2.6 Timestamps and Durations. These methods may also be utilized simultaneously.
The following example shows the use of tstamp for an ornament. Assuming that the following measure is in 2/2, the ornament (in
this case, a mordent) is related to the note on the second beat.
The relationship between an ornament and the notes on staff must always be encoded.
It is, in fact, a semantic error not to specify a starting event or time stamp for
In their resolution, ornaments will involve auxiliary notes, which typically follow
the key signature or the scale of the current key. When the ornament involves other
chromatic auxiliaries, an accidental is expressed next to or above the ornament sign.
The attributes accidlower and accidupper, available on all ornaments described in this chapter, can be used to record this
accidental. The attribute values ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ indicate whether the accidental
is associated with an upper or lower auxiliary note, not the position of the accidental
126.96.36.199Overriding Default Resolutions
The symbols and sounded resolutions suggested for each ornament in this chapter are
to be considered defaults. Nevertheless, because of the great historical and geographical
variance in the notation of ornaments, the encoder is given methods to override the
It is possible, for example, to specify in the meiHead a new default sounded resolution for an ornament. As discussed in the section 3.4.2 Encoding Description, the element encodingDesc holds a description (optional, but recommended) of the methods and editorial principles
which govern the transcription or encoding of the source material. Let us take a trill
as an example. The section regarding 4.4.3 Trills does not set a specific number of alternations between the principal and secondary
notes; the encoder, however, may specify an exact number in the encoding description.
Alternatively, resolutions can be defined on a case-by-case basis by encoding a specific
resolution using the choice element. See the section 188.8.131.52 Special Cases below for an example of a specific resolution of a trill.
A mordent is an ornament that involves an auxiliary note a step above or below the
principal note. The presence of a mordent is encoded with the mordent element and its attributes:
Records the written accidental associated with an upper neighboring note.
It is recommended, but not required, to use the attribute form to encode the typology of mordents. Two common types are supported: those mordents
that involve a note lower than the principal note, and those that involve a note higher
than the principal note.
The attribute form accepts the following values:
usually corresponding to the symbol: . This mordent is commonly performed as the principal note, followed by its upper
neighbor, with a return to the principal note.
usually corresponding to the symbol: . This mordent is commonly performed as the principal note, followed by its lower
neighbor, with a return to the principal note.
The following example demonstrates the encoding of simple mordents:
Occasionally, mordents can be longer, employing five notes instead of three. The long attribute can be used to identify mordents of this type. The following example shows
the encoding of a long mordent:
Trills are a type of ornament that consists of a rapid alternation of a note with
one a semitone or tone above. A trill is encoded with the trill element and its attributes:
Records the written accidental associated with an upper neighboring note.
Trills in modern notation are usually expressed with the abbreviation "tr" above a
note on the staff. Often the abbreviation is followed by a wavy line that indicates
the length of the trill.
The following example demonstrates the encoding of simple trills:
It has been specified earlier that it is a semantic error not to encode a starting
event or time stamp for an ornament. This starting point of a trill can be expressed
with the startid attribute and/or with the tstamp attribute. Specifying the end point is not required, although the tstamp2 or endid attribute may be used to imply the use of a wavy line extender as shown in this example:
When giving an end point to trills, the extender attribute should also be added, to indicate the presence or absence of a line extender.
Notice, that the note referenced in endid is not part of the trill itself, just like in glissandos.
Chromatic alterations of auxiliary notes are occasionally expressed on the staff using
small notes enclosed in parentheses, as shown in the example below. However, the attribute
accidupper is still to be used to encode the alteration. Display of the auxiliary note in this
‘cautionary’ manner is left to down-stream rendering processes.
Some trills may be introduced by a turn or followed by an inverted turn leading to
the next note (see Le garzantine, Musica 2003, p. 911). In such cases, the trill is
encoded as in previous examples and associated with the principal note. Starting or
concluding turns are notated on the staff (in layer) as 184.108.40.206.2 Grace Notes.
The following example, from a keyboard sonata by Joseph Haydn, shows a trill with
concluding grace notes (called Nachschlag):
Symbols and abbreviations for trills have changed and evolved considerably throughout
history. Strategies to clarify the encoding and interpretation of ornaments have been
discussed in section 220.127.116.11 Overriding Default Resolutions above. However, in order to aid the encoder in making educated choices in the encoding
of non-standard trills, this section shows two examples diverging from modern standard
The abbreviation "tr" followed by a wavy line spanning multiple notes is sometimes
used to indicate multiple trills:
The encoding of this kind of trill may vary depending on the purpose of the encoding.
For representation of the source, a single trill is sufficient:
To support analytical and aural rendering applications, however, each trill may be
explicitly encoded, as the following example demonstrates:
However, when it is necessary to support multiple outputs, use of the choice element and appropriate sub-elements is recommended. In this case, the orig and reg elements can be used to represent the original source and a regularization provided
by the editor, respectively:
Another situation that requires disambiguation of an ornament’s name and its potential
rendition is due to the fact that the symbols for trills and mordents have been often
used interchangeably in the past. The following example, taken from Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1720), shows a trill (Trillo) identified by the symbol associated with a mordent in modern practice. Nonetheless,
J.S. Bach’s suggested resolution should be encoded with a variant of the procedure
In the example below, the child elements of choice; that is, orig and reg, represent non-exclusive options; that is, both may be processed by applications
that aim to support both visual and aural renditions.
Depending on the purpose of the encoding, it may be more convenient to encode the
regularized text within the stream of events, along with a corresponding choice with
regard to the existence of the trill marking, as in the following example:
The orig element contains the single-note-with-trill transcription of the original text, while
the reg element represents the realization-without-trill version.
This approach facilitates substitution of the realization of the trill for the original
written note (as well as the opposite procedure) and is therefore the recommended
markup for applications where exchange of this kind is desirable.
A turn is an ornament that typically consists of four notes: the upper neighbor of
the principal note, the principal note, the lower neighbor, and the principal note
The presence of a turn is encoded with the turn element and its attributes:
Records the written accidental associated with an upper neighboring note.
It is recommended, but not required, to use the attribute form to encode the typology of the turn.
The attribute form accepts the following values:
usually corresponding to the symbol: . This turn is commonly performed beginning on a note higher than the principal note.
usually corresponding to the symbol: . This turn is commonly performed beginning on a note lower than the principal note.
The following example shows the encoding of a simple turn:
Turns can sometimes be performed after the principal note (usually on the second half
of the beat, see Read 1979, p. 246) and leading to the following event. To indicate
this, the turn symbol is typically written in between the principal note and the next.
These kind of turns are encoded with the attribute delayed.
The following example from Beethoven’s piano sonata no. 1 in F minor, op. 2, no. 1,
mvmt. 2 demonstrates the encoding of turns with the delayed attribute. Note that the tstamp attribute indicates the actual starting point in time, while startid points to the principal note.
CMN ornaments that are not mordents, trills, or turns can be encoded with a generic
This element allows the encoder to represent ornaments as textual strings (e.g., with a Unicode symbol) or with a user defined symbol. Chromatic auxiliaries can
be represented with accidlower and accidupper. The ornam element can also be a control element. That is, it can be linked via its attributes
to other events. The starting point of the directive may be indicated by either a
tstamp, tstamp.ges, tstamp.real or startid attribute, while the ending point may be
recorded by either a tstamp2, dur, dur.ges or endid attribute. It is a semantic error
not to specify a starting point attribute.
For example, Johann Sebastian Bach used non-standard ornaments in the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach:
The ornament for (5) doppelt-cadence could be encoded in the following way, by adopting
the Unicode code-points defined by the SMuFL standard:
Particularly in baroque keyboard music, but also in the early classical period, various
combinations of ornaments can be found. Despite being written vertically above the
same note, they are to be performed in sequence.
When encoding the example above, both ornaments will be positioned above the same
note. The encoded order of the elements, moreover, may correspond to the performed
sequence, which in this example is top to bottom: first the turn, then the mordent.
As every renderer deals differently with such combined ornaments it is best practice
to encode the performed sequence additionally with next and prev attributes. The visual order can be specified globally with aboveorder in the preceding scoreDef.