Working group releases its first MusicXML update


For the first time since the development of the MusicXML and SMuFL formats were formally placed under the auspices of the Music Notation Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2015, the group has released an update to MusicXML. MusicXML 3.1 is the latest iteration of the music interchange format invented by Michael Good and previously owned by MakeMusic which enables files created by applications that support the format to open and save files that are used by other applications.

In that time, MusicXML has seen ever wider adoption across platforms and applications — some 231 products incorporate MusicXML in some way, according to the latest count on the official MusicXML site. Some products, like the major desktop scoring programs Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, and Dorico, save scores in formats proprietary to each program, but support importing and exporting the scores in MusicXML format — crucial to being able to collaborate and share files among a large number of users. Other products, such as Newzik and Komp, eschew proprietary formats entirely, instead totally relying on MusicXML to generate music notation.

According to Michael Good, MakeMusic’s vice president of MusicXML technologies and co-chair of the W3 group, MusicXML 3.1 resolved 65 substantive issues. They fall into four major categories:

  • Better support for the Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL);
  • Documentation improvements;
  • Packaging;
  • Appearance and semantics.

Michael said that “Daniel Spreadbury’s invention and advocacy of the SMuFL font standard provided the main impetus for this release. MusicXML needed to improve its SMuFL support in order to maintain its current level of interoperability. SMuFL also provided the technology needed to solve formerly difficult problems such as the mixture of text with arbitrary musical symbols.”

A more complete accounting of all of the items in the MusicXML 3.1 update can be found by reading the group’s final report, and by perusing the GitHub issue list.

MusicXML 3.1 has been supported in Finale since the 25.4 update back in June. , and further improvements were included in the 25.5 update in November, along with an update to Dolet 7.1 for Finale. In June, Michael said that “for Finale users, one of the nicest changes is being able to export expressions with a descriptive mix of musical symbols and text in a standard, interoperable way.”

MusicXML preferences in Finale

Future projects for the W3 group include the release of a SMuFL Community Group Report early next year, and continued work on a next-generation music interchange project called MNX.

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