OpenScore: Join the transcription effort!

Exactly one month ago we introduced OpenScore to the MuseScore community, and one week ago we announced it to the world at FOSDEM, Europe’s largest open source software conference. OpenScore is a new initiative to digitise public domain music, including the works of the great classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.

Introducing OpenScore at FOSDEM 2017

YouTube video: Introducing OpenScore at FOSDEM 2017

Getting involved

OpenScore is only possible with your help. We would be extremely grateful if as many people as possible could back the Kickstarter campaign when it goes live in a month or two, or work with us to produce the OpenScore transcriptions. We really want OpenScore to be a success, so to help galvanise the community we will be offering rewards to those who choose to take part. Kickstarter backers will be able to have a say in which pieces get transcribed, and transcribers will be rewarded with PRO membership of

If you are interested in taking part then you can sign-up to register your interest here:

Answers to questions

The first blog post generated a huge number of comments and questions about OpenScore, and so I will try my best to respond to them here.

Which pieces will be transcribed for OpenScore?

The initial transcription effort will concentrate on a specific set of pieces selected by the Kickstarter backers, with a few additional pieces that we think will be of greatest interest to the general public and the wider music community. At some point we would like to expand OpenScore to all public domain music, but this depends on the success of the initial campaign.

When can we start transcribing?

The transcription effort will begin in earnest once the Kickstarter has been successfully funded and the pieces selected. However, we are currently in the process of creating demonstration scores to show to potential backers, so if you sign up now then there might be something for you to do before the Kickstarter.

How can I submit transcriptions to OpenScore?

Many of you were keen to know about the process for submitting transcriptions. We don’t currently have the resources to check all scores being uploaded to, so for the time being we will be approaching individual users with pages for them to transcribe.

Can I submit transcriptions I have already done?

You can tell us about any existing transcriptions when you sign up, but we can’t promise to be able to check all of them immediately. We will contact you individually if we think your existing transcription will be of interest to the Kickstarter backers. Other transcriptions may be considered at a later date.

What is the goal for OpenScore transcriptions?

The goal of OpenScore is not to produce the ultimate critical (or “urtext”) editions, nor is it to produce a beautiful engraving. Instead, the goal for OpenScore is to produce digital editions that are semantically accurate transcriptions of the original public domain editions, which will be fine for the vast majority of users. Furthermore, the OpenScore editions will provide a starting point for creators and arrangers to produce ultimate editions of their own. We will refresh the OpenScore editions with each MuseScore release to take advantage of improvements to MuseScore’s layout rules.

How will the Braille scores be produced?

We are partnering with RNIB to get advice about Braille and MSN notation, and we invite Braille readers in the community to offer their feedback on the Braille we produce. (Our advisors at RNIB mentioned that reading the Braille can even be a valuable way of spotting mistakes in the MusicXML that would otherwise go unnoticed.)

The conversion from MusicXML to Braille will be done with the open source Music21 toolkit. The Music21 developer assures us that, with the exception of piano scores (for which Braille conversion is notoriously difficult) the output will be correct and perfectly readable, though it may not take advantage of all the repeat markings and abbreviations that are available in Braille notation. We expect that the mere existence of OpenScore’s Braille and MSN scores will raise awareness of accessibility needs and create demand for better conversion tools, thereby driving their open-source development. Again, we will be sure to refresh the OpenScore Braille files to take advantage of these improvements as they arrive.

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Introducing OpenScore shoogle's blog


Related to "Can I submit transcriptions I have already done?", will transcriptions that others have already done (with no expectation of personal gain) and shared freely on be eligible for nomination to the OpenScore library?

The short answer is "no", but you could contact the user yourself and suggest they sign up for OpenScore.

The reason is that the focus for the Kickstarter will be on making new scores available that were not available before, or that were not available under an open license, or where the quality of the available scores was not high enough. We may decide to include a very small number of existing transcriptions with the Kickstarter, or use them as example scores to show to potential backers. Where we find a suitable existing transcription we will approach the user directly.

This policy may change in the future, but in the short term at least, OpenScore is meant to contain new content. It is not meant to be a showcase of existing content.

I have so far avoided commenting on this but here goes:

Isn't this initiative trying to kick open doors that are already open? It seems to me that this initiative duplicates part of what IMSLP is already doing and I do not see any need for it. Also the focus on Musescore (among a large set of available screenwriters) is hardly helpful to the larger musical community.

On thing I learned in college is this: Never try to re-invent the wheel!

I recommend volunteers work for IMSLP instead!

Hi azumbrunn,

Thanks for your comments. Please allow me to address your points in turn.

  1. While people can contribute engraving files to IMSLP, they do not do so on anything like the scale we envision for OpenScore, which is why Edward Guo, the founder and leader of IMSLP, is fully on board with OpenScore. All OpenScore files will be hosted on and on, so everyone will benefit.
  2. When people do contribute engraving files to IMSLP, they are usually Sibelius files or Finale file rather than MusicXML, so they only work in a single notation program. So by insisting on MuseScore (which gives you the MusicXML for free) we are actually opening up the scores to every notation program. Furthermore, using only one program ensures consistency, and MuseScore is already the most popular notation program in the world. Finally, MuseScore is free, so there is no real barrier preventing users of other programs from joining in.

What do you mean by "new content?"

You say "including the masterworks by Mozart etc". Those are certainly not new content; they are available commercially in countless editions and are almost completely represented on IMSLP.

There seems to be a small contradiction here...

By "new content" I meant "not already available on". Clearly it is possible to get hold of those works in paper or PDF formats, on IMSLP and elsewhere, but OpenScore will make them available in MSCZ and MusicXML format for the first time.

Thanks for this more detailed information. Since this is coordinated with IMSLP I am ready to join in--provided the works you will choose interest me.

Personally I still think we should focus away from the great classics. They are really easy to access as it is. And .pdf--the standard format on IMSLP--is even more universal than .xml.*

I have presently 19 scores (and parts too in most cases) on IMSLP (here:,_Albrecht). They are all of lesser known but IMO worthy pieces with no commercial access (at least at the time I did the typeset), typeset off sources that are in most cases already on IMSLP but are in various ways not well suited to serve players of the present age (bad quality print of first editions from the early 19th century; no score available--only parts; handwritten sources). Check them out if you want. If you want any of them for OpenScore let me know; I'll revise, re-proofread and reformat the earlier ones that were made with version 1.x.

*There will be a time when everybody has a "music-Kindle" to play from and music on paper will rarely or never be used. At this time though I am not convinced that tablets are superior to paper for players (e.g. I believe pencil notes are still more efficient than notes in the tablet) not to mention the steep prices for suitable tablets. (Also I don't want to play from backlit screens and even less be the audience of an orchestra with hundred backlit screens all over the stage such that the players have brightly lit blue or green faces!). But when the technology is mature and affordable we will prefer something like .mscz over .pdf. For now I believe IMSLP is correct to insist on .pdf format.

You are correct to say that most people still use PDF, but that is simply because they are not aware that a better alternative exists, and even if they do know, MSCZ and MusicXML scores are much harder to find than PDF files. OpenScore will solve both of these issues by raising awareness of the alternative formats and by creating lots of scores in those formats.

But the point is we don't have to choose between MSCZ or PDF, you can have both! MSCZ can be easily converted into all these other formats:

  • MusicXML
  • MIDI
  • PDF
  • Braille
  • ABC
  • Image (PNG, JPEG, SVG, etc.)
  • Audio (MP3, OGG, WAV, etc.)
  • Video (MP4, MOV, MKV, etc.)

So in other words, if we make the scores available as PDFs available then we just get PDFs, but if we make the MSCZ files available we get all those other formats for free, including PDF!

If you have a look at any score on and click "Download", you will see that you can choose whether to download in PDF or MSCZ.

I suggest you take a closer look at the presentation video.

Also as an incentive to participate, part of the reason in the initial blog post included "The aim is to digitise and liberate the works of Mozart, Beethoven and other famous classical composers by making their scores freely available in MuseScore’s MSCZ format. This enables convenient sharing, adaptation and playback across a range of devices, including computers, phones and tablets." The music XML format allows for this much easier than PDF.

Here is the problem with XML: You export your score to XML, then re-import it into Musescore. You'll have to redo the entire formatting, page turns and all. This is by no means a small task. The only downside of pdf is the fact that it requires paper. But the formatting is firm and will never change.
I am not at all a fan of playback (except fur purposes of checking a score). Human musicians are so much superior, especially when it comes to classical music. But if people like it then XML is a good choice of format.
But as long as you want singers and instrumentalists to use the scores pdf is a good choice for the above reason--until the day we have good and affordable tablets.

We make the original MuseScore MSCZ files available as well as MusicXML. MSCZ preserves all information, including formatting information, so we suggest that all MuseScore users keep to this format. The MusicXML files are mainly there for users of other notation programs.

There should never be cause for exporting MusicXML from MuseScore and then re-importing it back into MuseScore, any more than there would be with MIDI, as long as the MSCZ files are still available.

I am sorry; I did not mean that there is any reason to do an export - import sequence. I just wanted to point out that in the export all formatting is lost and hence not available to users of scorewriters other than MuseScore. I have formatted quite a few scores (and parts!) for IMSLP and it is not a small task. And without that task the music is practically useless for human players. Hence my preference for Pdf (especially as some formatting information is still not entirely stable in MuseScore: Hairpins, voltas, pedal lines and other markings walk away from their locations under some as yet not precisely defined but quite common circumstances).

In the planned cooperation with IMSLP: Have they agreed to host works with no PDF files? That would be a major policy change on their part.

BTW another problem: As MS issues new versions it is anticipated that files produced with older versions won't open in the new version any more. Is there a plan to deal with this issue?

Newer versions of MuseScore will be able to open (MSCZ) files created with older versions, just the opposite is not possible (i.e. older version of MuseScore won't open MSCZ files produced with newer versions). The problem with wandering hairpins is not with the current 2.x, or is it?
Once a score is stored in, you can get the PDF from there (along with XML, MIDI MP3, and MSCZ), build at the time of the upload, hence not subject to change any time later.

We are making PDFs available, so if you just want to read the music you will be fine. The scores will be hosted on and available to download in every format that is currently supported on (MSCZ, MusicXML, PDF, PDF + parts, MIDI, MP3) and also in Braille, so you won't need to download them and convert them yourself.

It's up to IMSLP to decide which files they want to mirror on their site, but they will most certainly want the PDF files, and probably the MusicXML and MIDI files too.

Please remember, the files are freely available under CC-BY, so anyone is free to take them and upload them to any website, in any format.

Regarding future versions of MuseScore, the current plan is that each version of MuseScore will open files created by the previous version, but not the version before that. So MuseScore 3 should be able to open files created by MuseScore 2, but not files created by MuseScore 1.

In any case, we will keep the OpenScore files up-to-date with the latest version of MuseScore, to allow us to take advantage of improvements to MuseScore's layout engine, audio rendering, etc.

That might have been plan, but master (which is supposed to become 3.0 one day) currently does have all the compatibility code needed to read 1.x files, along with other compatibility code needed to read 2.0 files.

Phew wipes sweat from forehead so please keep this intact…

Not being able to open MuseScore 1.x files will be supremely annoying once operating systems have progressed enough for people to be unable to even run MuseScore 2.x to do the initial conversion.

Please re-think this and keep the ability to open any old MuseScore format files!

(What to do otherwise? I can’t just use MusicXML as storage/archive format because that loses information, and my own decision on a storage/archive format won’t change other people sending me (old) files to load. So, no other way.)

No worries, this is still working. And if one day in the far distance there are OSs that are not capable of running MuseScore 1.x or 2.x, there's always VMs that should be able to do that, and These far futrur systste will be powerfull enough to handle this easily

I think the community of music, except old and established works, need for modern compositions and contemporary composers. Should there be a "reward" for free pro account for those composers deposit their works in the MuseScore community.

I think you are suggesting that contemporary composers who share their works via should be rewarded with a free PRO account. If you know of any established composers that would be interested in this then please let us know! Smaller composers and hobbyists are welcome to earn a free PRO account by transcribing for OpenScore.

Thanks for the reply.

About the term "established composer":

Each country has a well-established Union of Composers, which is a member of the international ISCM For example, in Greece we have the Greek Composers Union (member of ISCM) Any Composers Union accepts members by setting strict criteria. You could try to make an open invitation to members of these associations and provide free accounts to these composers-members who wish to offer their works. I think that contemporary composers will be more useful for their works than as copyists. But .... this is my own oppinion :)

In addition, an authentic original modern composition, filed by the composer himself, is an accurate score, which does not need to be inspected by supervisors for errors or omissions.

Anyway, I think we should be thankful for the existence of MuseScore and much more grateful for its prospects.

Thank you for this suggestion, but having discussed it internally, we have decided to keep OpenScore purely for public domain content.

Thanks again for your reply. Your decision is respected.

From what I understand, OpenScore scores will be published under the CC-BY licence, so I don’t see a reason why contemporary scores under CC-BY should not also be added.

This needs more critical review, of course — but then, so does Public Domain…

It would be CC0, not CC-BY, I believe. It was Public Domain before, so you just can't restrict copyright down any step, which CC-BY would do?

No, it was CC-BY:

And yes, you can apply a new licence iff you add enough new creativity to pass the threshold of originality (“Schaffenshöhe”). If not, it’s PD no matter what’s attached to the text, so it’s safer to put a formal licence on anything newly created anyway.

(As for me, I put stuff under MirOS anyway, which is more permissive and easier to read than CC-BY (which, in my eyes, could be read as weak copyleft), but I’d be happy to dual-licence… whatever small contributions I’d have in OpenScore anyway besides the original scores.)

Edit: actually, the “engraving” usually does count, so yes, we (transcribers) would have copyright-relevant material in the stuff published on OpenScore.

Ah, I see. It is not any 'personal' BY though, but the MuseScore community

Without any personal, the MuseScore community cannot be credited either ;-)

personal != personell

Hello! Congratulations for the excellent work and the spirit of making open access to musical knowledge! I'm already a fan of MuseScore, and made it the official music editor program in my classroom since 2010. May I make some comments about the "OpenScore" project?

First, I suggest that this project may focus on the open access to "traditional music" rather than the "great composers". There is an actual discussion in Musicology that we must improve the focused ("canonical") repertoire estalished in Western music. It would be very great if this project also helps to allow other composers less known from 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to have their works accessed easily through the project. And also note that the "great composers" are also included in this new approach. If so, this will be another important characteristic that differentiates the OpenScore from other similar projects already in the internet.

Second, I suggest that the project should focus only on the MSCZ format. There is no need to mention MusicXML or PDF format, since there are already excellent projects based on these formats (this also lets some people think that OpenAccess is a "concurrent" from Petrucci Music Library and others, which of course is not). However, the compatibility should be reinforced, so the MuseScore user is able to work with any of these formats. Then, I suggest that OpenScore should focus on the special characteristics of MuseScore: 1) the possibility to preserve the formatting and aesthetics of the score, also allowing the user to change it freely (and, possibly, publishing his own edition); 2) the possibility of modify easily the score formatting (such as defining new page turns) and create parts as desired for a specific performance, filling better the multiple purposes of music editing for each context; 3) the possibility to add fingering, bow attacks and other instrumental and idiomatic indications in the score, such as in the revised editions - we could also think about a database of various revised editions of the same work, and it will be very helpful for interpreters and a great differential of OpenScore; 4) and the possibility of export these scores to MusicXML, PDF and other important formats such as Music Braille - a specific objective of the project, since there are already other projects based on these formats.

Third, I suggest that OpenScore should have some information about the scores it receives: from what specific edition (or editions) the digital score took as reference; what is the purpose of the digital edition (practical, musicological study, etc.); if it's a transcription, adaptation or arrangement; what are the instruments of the score; who made the fingering and other idiomatic aspects reviews (if done), and so on. These informations should be available on the download page of the MSCZ file. If we have these worries in mind, the project would be much more useful both to the general public and the specialists. Also, it will be interesting to think about making references to the scores based on the RISM catalog, the international standard for musical archiving ( Also, MuseScore have another special characteristic: it allows to play the theme of the score through a plugin, making the database much more interesting. However, looks that you'll need some musicologists in the working staff.

So, I hope these suggestions may be of any help. Feel free to contact me anytime: Thanks again for the excellent work with MuseScore!

OpenScore will only feature verbatim transcriptions, no arrangements etc. but they will be liberally-ish enough licenced (CC-BY) for others to make their own arrangements from it. (Marking the source is, however, a good idea.)

From what I understand, interoperability is a core focus of the project, as it goes much further than MuseScore. I’m loathe to recommend watching videos to others, but really do look at the FOSDEM presentation, they had impressive references to e.g. visualisation and video synchronisation.

Just a reminder: If you make an arrangement you can publish it on IMSLP; they accept them. Provided you want to do it under a CC license.

Does the transcribing process also include making parts (eg. flute, oboe, horn, etc.) from an orchestral score and/or transposing parts (such as providing Bb trumpet parts for a score that originally called for C trumpets)?

This is a really good question. One can argue this both ways.

A. Everybody who has Musescore or another scorewriter can make parts or transpose them for B flat rather than C trumpets. Hence no need for parts.
B. We want to provide music ready for use; parts included.

I am voting for B. Producing parts is not quick and easy. They need to be individually formatted and arranged for good page turns. Titles or title pages need to be added to each part. If properly edited parts are included the music is then available to every musician regardless of proficiency with the software (especially regarding transposing instruments).

What is the official position on this (if any)?

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