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Music Notation: Preferred Preservation Formats for Digital Scores


MusicXML is a flexible format using text to represent musical elements—it is the open interchange format for sharing music notation data among multiple software platforms. MusicXML is readable by both machines and humans. XML is an acronym for "eXtensible Markup Language."

  • Interoperable, therefore highly shareable. MusicXML can be read and used by multiple music notation and audio software programs.
  • Facilitates collaboration between users with different software. Over 200 software applications can read and/or write MusicXMl files.
  • Both open-source and commercial software can import and export music notation files in MusicXML.
  • Users need no knowledge of coding or XML to save or open MusicXML files. If the software has MusicXML read/write capabilities, it can open and/or create files in this format.
  • Ability to export files as MusicXML is available on commercial and non-commercial software, audio-editing software, tablature notation programs, and music scanning programs.
  • Open-source music websites, such as IMSLP, offer downloadable sheet music in MusicXML.
  • MIDI-compatible.
  • Some software plug-ins are not yet open-source.
  • Does not convey engravings and other characteristics distinguishing one publisher's music from another.
  • Advanced transformation in XML requires some programming knowledge but is not required for preservation.
How to
  • Export the file as a MusicXML file or compressed MusicXML file from the software's Save or Export options.
  • If exporting to MusicXML is not an option, visit the MusicXML website (below) to check for a plug-in for your software.