Visually Impaired People and MuseScore (.XML vs. .MUSICXML and braille music software)

• Dec 10, 2019 - 21:04

Is it possible to recover/add again .XML extension for export?…

For compatibility issues between programs .musicxml extension is giving many problems.
I am a teacher and sometimes I work in the classroom with blind students. The availability of braille displays allows us to use formats such as MusicXML and BMML (Braille Music Markup Language) with programs such as Braille Music Reader (also free) and Braille Music Editor 2 (for a fee). Braille Music Reader does not allow you to import XML files but there is an online service that converts XML (but not .MXL or .MUSICXML) to BMML.

Online converter (free)

Braille Music Reader (free)

Braille Music Editor 2 (proprietary software, only Braille, without traditional musical notation unhelpful for sighted people)
Demo download

The trick of changing the extension .musicxml to .xml for some reason does not work. (At least doing it on Mac which is where I usually work at home) It is not the only program that does not read .musicxml files even if they are renamed to .xml

That is why it would be good to keep the possibility of exporting files with the .xml extension of a lifetime, which would facilitate this exchange of files for blind people and teachers. Although it may not seem like it for a blind student to deal with file extensions and different programs to open a score is an important challenge in time and learning. MuseScore can make it much easier.

Many of the Braille-based programs have slow development or are virtually abandoned, so it is useless to expect them to be updated with new file formats or extensions.

Could MuseScore export to BMML?

MuseScore is a great program for sighted people, Braille Music Editor 2 is a great program for blind people. But in Braille Music Editor I can not see and edit traditional notation so I must know braille music. Likewise, MuseScore does not export points. Yes, there are online services to convert the notation but it is still a little intuitive and time-consuming process.

It is likely that Braille Music Editor and MuseScore developers can collaborate in producing this format since it is only possible to read and edit in Braille Music Editor 2 and another handful of programs for blind people. This would facilitate file sharing between both groups of people and allow MuseScore to be the connector program, even without exporting directly to Braille that seems like a more complicated task.

The MusicXML page contains this information

"The Braille Music Markup Language is an extension of the MusicXML format with features to support Braille music scores. The Music for Visually Impaired People (Music4VIP) project has online converters to go from MusicXML to BMML and from BMML to MusicXML."

Speaking as a user with little knowledge of software development it seems possible to adapt the export to the extension of musicxml that is bmml. It would be great news that it was.

Thanks in advance ;)


Hello! While it's not impossible that we would add the ability to export files using the obsolete ".xml" extension, changing the extension really does work - I do it all the time. The file format is the same, it really is just a matter of the name. If you have a specific file that isn't being read by some specific program even after changing the name, then there must be something else going wrong. I can confirm it doesn't work with the online converter you mention, but I suspect that's because it only supports an obsolete version of the format itself.

There are more up-to-date converter like BrailleMUSE (which handles the ".musicxml" extension also): But I don't think it does BMML - just regular Braille formats like BRL. But that's the format used by the Braille Music Notator ( and should also be compatible with Braille displays and embossers.

I am not so familiar with BMML, I've heard of it and see a few references online, but it doesn't seem to be an actively supported format any more from what I can tell? I would think having MuseScore export to an actual Braille format like BRL would make more sense, and that's something that is being looked into. But if BMML is really something that is being actively supported now, and there is active development of tools that can read this format, and it has some advantage over BRL, it could be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, be aware that MuseScore itself is now almost fully accessible, and can be used by blind musicians to read and write scores (on Windows, using NVDA). I just completed a semester teaching a theory class with a blind student who used MuseScore successfully to complete all homework and exams.

Also, for reading Braille from MusicXML, check out the IBOS MusicXML Reader if you haven't already - it works directly from MusicXML, no conversion to another format required. Both it and Braille Music Notator are under active development and are usable by sighted and blind musicians.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Mark, very interesting information. I really appreciate the answer and my insistence is only to give my point of view on this matter. I don't have a braille display so I will have to wait until Friday to try IBOS. Braille Music Notator seems complicated to me since web-based programs limit usage a lot if you have problems accessing the internet, something quite common in schools in Spain.

Nevertheless, it is much more complicated for a blind person to deal with all those formats and converters. Something that would be much simpler for them if MuseScore directly re-exported the .XML extension.

I don't know the BMML development status but Braille Music Editor 2 is a program that seems to have active development. The number of people to whom it is addressed is very limited, very specialized, so I don't think it will generate great income for its developers. The ONCE (National Organization of the Blind of Spain) recommends its use and provides licenses to its associates. Here it is quite familiar among blind musicians and ONCE uses it as braille transcription software in its service to its associates.

Version 2.4 I think it has been released a few months ago. (2019/10/26)

I know that MuseScore is currently an accessible program for the visually impaired, but for them it is more comfortable to read music in a braille display than to listen to it in a voice reader. I guess that MuseScore doesn't produce braille information, so being usable is not the most comfortable for them.

That said, if returning the .XML format as an alternative to the most appropriate .MUSICXML is possible it will allow many people to simplify their work. For me it is not impossible to perform the BMML conversion with patience (perhaps by opening the renowned .XML in a program like Notion that exports simpler XML). But many music teachers do not have the knowledge in programs, nor time to investigate all this specific information.

If, in addition, musescore could export to BMML or other formats for braille display it would already be a great help impossible to find in other programs.

Anyway, grateful to have been heard.

In reply to by AlvaroBuitrago

I want to make it clear that I am all in favor of adding the option of the XML extension again. But again: I don't think it will help. Those older programs that can't handle a file after you rename it yourself apparently cannot read modern MusicXML period, regardless of the extension. That is, if a program can't read the file when you rename it yourself, they won't be able to read it if MuseScore renames it for you. There's no difference in the contents of the file. The problem, as far as I can tell, isn't the extension, it is the content, and those older programs apparently only understand older MusicXML. Changing MuseScore to put the ".xml" extension onj the file is simple but also, I think, not helpful. Changing MuseScore to export old-style MusicXML is a huge underrtaking and realistically not very likely. More likely that someone might write a standalone convert from new to old format.

So, as for BME2: if it is under active development, then I assume they can handle the modern MusicXML, if they import MusicXML at all. But that's not clear to me - see only references to BMML import. And I'm still unclear on the status of BMML and its relationship to BME2 or any other programs. If BME2, as a program under active development, can import this but not ordinary MusicXML, that is interesting to me, and if BMML is a publicly-documented format, we could certainly look at exporting it. But I can't seem to find a specification of BMML itself to understand what might be involved in our exporting it.

On another note: I actually think it would be not too hard to create a Braille output in MuseScore, - very possibly even as a plugin - if it didn't need to be a complete and fully-optimized file but could instead just read the individual notes and symbols as you navigate the score. I think, what IBOS does as well - it presents things in the same order as the MusicXML, which is not necessarily the same order they would be in Braille itself as far as I understand.

Also: Braille Music Notator can run locally as well as on the web, so it works even when there is no Internet. We relied on that during the first couple of weeks of this fall semester as our university got hacked and we had to start classes with no Internet at all the first couple of weeks.

Anyhow, I am extremely interested in this topic and on finding the right things to do that will benefit the most people. So let's keep talking!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I am really grateful for the interest you show in this matter.

I have written a message to the developers of Braille Music Editor requesting information about the BMML development status, as well as requesting that they implement the import of the .musicxml file extension.

Since MuseScore 1 still works on my Mac (10.13) I have tried to import files created in MuseScore 3 .XML. The online converter to .BMML seems to work correctly with this files. So I will use this earlier version of MuseScore as a temporary solution.

It will be great news if MuseScore can develop an export to Braille Music notation.

Thanks Marc

In reply to by AlvaroBuitrago

Unfortunately, it does appear to me that the online MusicXML-to-BMML convert at Music 4 VIP can only handle older MusicXML formats (pre MusicXML 3.1, anyhow). If they handle 3.0 but not 3.1, that might be an easier job for them to update, but if they don't handle 3.0 at all, it's probably a big job to update the converter. This is when we'll learn just how active their development is!

Again, just changing the extension will not help. I fear I somehow still haven't made that clear. The problem is not the extension, it's the version of MusicXML itself - the content of the file. What I am seeing is that the convert only works with older MusicXML format. That's why changing the name of a file exported by MuseScore 3 doesn't work - regardless of the name, it's still using MusicXML 3.1. Nor will it help if they start accepting the ".musicxml" extension if they still can't accept MusicXML 3.1.

It is unfortunate indeed that so many older tools are not being actively updated, it means that gradually they stop working when the other tools they depend on do get updated and incompatibilities get created. That's why I believe it import to focus as much effort on the tools that are still under active development, as these will be the ones that are most likely to also work five or ten years from now - and to work better than any tools ever have in the past.

Furthermore, open source tools beat non-open source tools in this respect, because if a tool is open source, it means even if the original developer stops updating it, others can continue the work. It also means we more easily share data - it's very difficult to export or import data in a format that isn't openly documented.

With these factors in mind, I believe the future of accessible music notation is in the hands of MuseScore, Braille Music Notator - and also, something I haven't mentioned yet: music21, which is an actively developed open source Python-based music programming toolkit for that does understand both MusicXML and Braille. If I were trying to write a tool today to convert between MusicXML and Braille, or to MusicXMl and BMML, I'd probably start with music21.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Sorry Marc, I've been clumsy explaining myself. Although the online converter does not support XML 3.x, Braille Music Editor 2 does. I have been doing some tests on my daughter's computer and the files with the changed extension in Windows open correctly. (They are 3.1 files and it works perfectly)…

I guess it's a Mac issue since it only happens to me with some files and it never happened to me if I rename them in Windows. Sometimes files with the changed extension simply do not open, not only in BME2 but in Sibelius (2019.12) or Notion 6. I have not been able to find the reason. The same file exported from MuseScore with the extension .MXL works perfectly in Sibelius or Notion. (Unfortunately BME2 does not support the .MXL format.)

Therefore, I suspect that recovering the .xml extension would avoid problems of this type. Although changing the extension in Windows is an easy task it consumes too much time since there are dozens of small files every week, time that would also be saved with direct export from MuseScore.

I have no special interest in working with BME2 but it is the program whose license is provided free to blind students and recommended by the ONCE.

Although I have tried to contact BME2, I have not yet received any response. So I have more hopes to improve the situation from the side of MuseScore.

I will follow your advice and try to familiarize myself with Braille Music Notator and Music 21 to explore its usefulness.

Thanks Marc, a very interesting thread, and very hopeful that MuseScore works on it.

In reply to by AlvaroBuitrago

My guess is the files that aren't working have some other issue within in them that prevents the BME2 from understanding the file - either an actual error, or just some MusicXML feature that BME2 doesn't accept. If you can find such a file, feel free to attach it here - it's possible it contains an error we need to fix.

Again, though, there is quite simply no way that having MuseScore rename the file would produce different results from you doing it yourself. It's just not possible. The issue has to be something else.

Now, if BME2 supports MusicXML 3.1, and it is still in active development, then absolutely they should be supporting the correct extension, ".musicxml". Claiming to accept MusicXML 3.1 but not accepting the ".musicxml" extension is a bug, plain and simple. Independently of that, though, again, I am not opposed to us also supporting use the XML extension. Still, all it does it save a couple of seconds when exporting the file, it won't change whether the file is actually accepted by BME2 if the manually-renamed file isn't accepted

If they only accept 3.0, though, and not 3.1, that could be the problem right there. The ".musicxml" extension is the correct extension for 3.1 files, and that is what we export. Perhaps one fo the newer 3.1 features is what is causing BME2 to not accept the file even when given the old extension.

I've never used BME2 so I can't compare it to Braille Music Notator (BMN), My guess is that today BME2 is more full-featured, but that over time BMN will become the program of choice in the same way that ten years ago, MuseScore was not considered a serious competitor to Finale or Sibelius but now it totally is. On the other hand, I get the sense that BME2 and BMN are taking somewhat different approaches such that neither is necessarily a full replacement for the other. What I like about BMN is that as a sighted person with very little Braille knowledge, I can read and write Braille music. It's the only tool I have tried that really accomplishes that. But I could imagine that if I were fluent in Braille already, the features BMN has to make it friendlier to musicians not as familiar with Braille would be no so important, and then the features in BME2 that presumably make it a more powerful editor overall (?) would make it more attractive.

After the holidays I think I will install the trial of BME2 and start familiarizing myself with it more.

music21, BTW, is a great tool, but it's a tool for programmers, not for the end user. Sorry if I didn't make that clear. So it's not something I would expect you or any of your students to be able to use directly. But it's the the kind of tool I'd use as a programmer if I wanted to write my own standalone MusicXML-to-BMML converted, for example. A MusicXML-to-Braille converter can already be written in music21 in probably 2 minutes, by someone familiar with music21 - it's really just a question of asking music21 to read the input file in MusicXML format (which it knows how to do already) and then writing it back out in Braille (which it also knows how to do already). So, literally two lines of code, if you know the right syntax. I learned enough of it to create a simple MusicXML browser (like IBOS without the Braille support) like 10 years ago, but I've forgotten almsot everything I learned., So that's something else I want to revisit in the coming year.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.