Help:Format choice

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What formats should I choose for my editions?

When you contribute an edition to CPDL, and particularly if you choose to make your edition available under the CPDL License, in addition to uploading a PDF version, you should consider uploading the source files for your edition, both in the native format of your music notation software, and in the MusicXML interchange format.

What is MusicXML?

MusicXML is the de facto standard for the interchange of music notation information between more than 200 different music applications. MusicXML was developed by Michael Good of Recordare, LLC and is currently owned by MakeMusic Inc., the developers of the Finale music notation software.

From the MusicXML web site:

MusicXML was designed from the ground up for sharing sheet music files between applications, and for archiving sheet music files for use in the future. You can count on MusicXML files being readable and usable by a wide range of music notation applications, now and in the future. MusicXML complements the native file formats used by Finale and other programs, which are designed for rapid, interactive use.

MusicXML allows music notation data to be shared between most of the scorewriters currently in use, including Sibelius, Finale, MuseScore, Capella, and dozens of others.

Why should I include a MusicXML format version of my score or provide my score in MusicXML format?

There are two major advantages to providing your edition in MusicXML format: firstly, it allows users who do not have access to your scorewriter to edit and produce derivative works based on your edition (as permitted by the CPDL License); and secondly, it allows the creation of accessible scores for people with a range of disabilities, including visual impairment and dyslexia. Part of CPDL's goals is to increase access to vocal music, and making music available in an accessible format is a crucial part of this mission.

Depending on their level of visual impairment, users may require the use of Modified Stave Notation (which you can think of in general terms as "large print music", though there are specific guidelines about how MSN should be prepared, per the UK Association for Accessible Formats), braille music, and talking scores.

Modified Stave Notation

Modified Stave Notation is generally tailored for an individual user, since users with partial sight have a wide variety of impairments, and there is no "one size fits all" approach for MSN. Typically MSN is produced by entering the music into one of the existing scoring programs, modified by way of importing a house style or set of libraries that modify many parameters of the music's appearance (stave line thickness, stem thickness, stave size, rhythm dot size, choice of text fonts, choice of paper size, etc. etc.), and then printed out. Due to the unique needs of each user, it is very important that a user should be able to access the music in an interchangeable representation, so that it can be opened in the scoring application available to them, and modified to meet their needs. You can read more about MSN in the UKAAF publication that describes the format as an accessible PDF, here.

Braille music

Braille music is made using a variety of tools, to lesser or greater degrees of success. The Freedots project is an Open Source MusicXML to braille tool, while the VIP MusicXML to BMML online converter is one outcome of an EU-funded research project and is free to use. Probably the most successful braille music toolset is to open music in Lime and then send it to Goodfeel, a commercial toolset developed by Dancing Dots. If no interchangeable source music is available, then the music must first be input into Lime or another scoring application; given the poor state of accessibility in most scoring software, this generally requires the assistance of a sighted person, and thus immediately reduces access to this music.

Talking scores

Talking scores are useful for people with severe enough visual impairment that MSN is not useful for them, but for whom learning braille music is difficult or impossible, especially for people who lose their sight later in life. No matter your age, learning braille is a daunting challenge. only around half of all blind people can read literary braille, and a smaller proportion still can read the music braille code. UKAAF is working on a new set of guidelines to specify a system for the automatic, computerised transcription of music notation into an accessible verbal description that can be read by assistive technologies such as screen readers and Voice Over on iOS devices. In the past, talking scores have been produced as "scores on tape", transcribed by a sighted person onto an audio cassette. The RNIB, for example, has produced around two dozen talking scores on tape, which are available to borrow from their Music Advisory Service, but the amount of labour required to produce each one is so large that the process of creating them does not scale. Again, a blind person cannot reasonably produce a talking score on his or her own, but if the music is available in an interchangeable format such as MusicXML, then that person can use a software tool to produce a talking score without sighted assistance.

MusicXML as the enabler of accessible formats

The single technology that links all of these different accessible formats is MusicXML. Most of the applications used by contributors to CPDL are capable of exporting MusicXML files. As a contributor to CPDL, you do not need to produce MSN versions, or braille music editions, or talking scores (although if you have the means to do so, please do upload such accessible editions as well). However, if you share your edition in MusicXML, you are enabling users who have need of accessible formats to produce them for themselves, or to have sighted people assist in producing them.

How do I make a MusicXML file?

Most scorewriters allow you to export a MusicXML file directly. Please refer to the documentation for your software if it is not listed below.

Important: If your scorewriter supports the export of compressed MusicXML files (which have the file extension .mxl rather than .xml), please export and upload compressed MusicXML files to CPDL. These files are much (up to 20x) smaller than uncompressed MusicXML files, so consume fewer resources, and are faster to upload and download. If your scorewriter does not export compressed MusicXML files, please compress your MusicXML files into .zip archives before you upload them to CPDL – see below for assistance.


In Preferences, Export Tab, check Export Layout and Do not export system or page breaks; click OK. Then choose File > Export, and from the Files of type drop-down at the bottom of the Export dialog, choose Compressed MusicXML File (.mxl).

Finale 2012 or later

Choose File > Export > MusicXML, and from the Format drop-down at the bottom of the Export MusicXML dialog, choose Compressed MusicXML 3.0.

Sibelius 7 or later

Click the File tab in the ribbon, then choose the Export page, and from the list of formats, click MusicXML. Ensure the Compressed (.mxl) choice is selected under File Type, then click Export to choose where to save the resulting MusicXML file.

Sibelius 6 or earlier

Sibelius 6 and earlier cannot export MusicXML files directly, but a free plug-in is available from the MusicXML web site that enables the export of MusicXML files. If you have Sibelius 5.1 or later, you require the Dolet 6 plug-in. If you have Sibelius 4 or earlier, you require the Dolet 1 plug-in.

Note that the Dolet plug-in cannot produce compressed MusicXML files, so you should compress any MusicXML files exported by the Dolet plug-in using the instructions below, before uploading them to CPDL.

Compressing an uncompressed MusicXML file

If your scorewriter cannot export compressed MusicXML files directly, please compress your MusicXML files using the .zip archive format before you upload your edition to CPDL.


  • Locate the file or folder that you want to compress.
  • Right-click the file or folder, point to Send to, and then click Compressed (zipped) folder.
  • A new file with a "compressed folder" icon is created in the same location. To rename it, right-click the compressed folder, click Rename, and then type the new name.

For more information, including a video of this procedure, see Microsoft's web site.


  • Select the file you want to compress in a Finder window.
  • Right-click the file, point to Compress "filename.xml".
  • A new file called is created in the same location. To rename it, single-click the filename such that it becomes editable, and then type the new name.

For more information, see OS X Daily's tutorial.

This page is part of the CPDL Help system.
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