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Music Notation: Preferred Preservation Formats for Digital Scores

Music Encoding Initiative (MEI)

The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) schema is an extensible open standard mark-up language for music notation. It is a flexible format that uses text to represent musical elements. MEI is readable by machines and humans but utilizes a different schema than MusicXML.

  • Interoperable with no software dependencies. Can be encoded on open-source (example: BBEdit) or commercial text-writing software (example: oXygen). 
  • Can encode performance markings and composer's sketches.
  • Opens music to new forms of study gaining prevalence in the digital humanities, in which researchers use automation to explore and interact with collection materials and descriptions as data. One example of this is the text encoding initiative (TEI), which was influential on the development of MEI.
  • Not limited to modern standard notation. Neumes, tablature, and mensural notation can be encoded as well.
  • The Music Encoding Initiative's online tool Verovio provides instant rendering from MEI to notated music and conversion from MusicXML to MEI. In Verovio, the MEI file can also be converted to a PDF. 
  • Supported by an international community that develops MEI tools.
  • MIDI-compatible.
  • Sibelius notation software has the ability to export files in MEI format; MuseScore (as of version 4.2) supports MEI basic.
  • Some programming language knowledge is helpful to take full advantage of MEI's capabilities.
  • Does not convey engravings distinguishing one publisher's music from another that would visually match a published score, though these characteristics can be encoded.
How to
  • Export file as MusicXML, upload to Verovio website, export file as MEI.
  • Sibelius users download the MEI plug-in from the Sibelius website and export the file as MEI.
  • MuseScore users can import MEI files and export MuseScore files as MEI from within the software. See the link in the Resources section for more information.