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Openscore’s plans to liberate sheet music

Open Culture

This is a guest post from Peter Jonas of Openscore, a recently Kickstarted initiative to open up sheet music under CC0. Learn more about CC0 and its powerful role for cultural heritage organizations and be sure to sign up for our email list for more great content.

OpenScore is a new crowdsourcing initiative that aims to digitize classical sheet music by composers whose works are in the public domain, like Mozart and Beethoven. Massive crowdsourced projects such as Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg and OpenStreetMap have done wonders for the democratisation of knowledge, putting information and power in the hands of ordinary people.

OpenScore hopes to transform history’s most influential pieces from paper music into interactive digital scores, which you can listen to, edit, and share this will hopefully benefit orchestras, choirs, ensembles, and individuals looking for materials from which to practice music. All OpenScore sheet music editions are freely distributed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). In doing this, we want to maximize the benefit to music education and research, and inspire composers and arrangers to produce new content.


Beethoven – Für Elise (Bagatelle No. 25, WoO 59) by OpenScore


OpenScore is the result of a partnership between two of the largest online sheet music communities: MuseScore and IMSLP. Since 2006 the IMSLP community has been searching for out-of-copyright musical editions, scanning and uploading them to create one of the world’s largest online archives of public domain sheet music in PDF format. MuseScore has a dedicated community of millions of people around the world who use MuseScore’s website and open source notation software to compose, arrange, practise and share digital sheet music. OpenScore will draw on these communities to transcribe the IMSLP editions, which are currently just pictures of pages, into interactive digital scores by typing them up, one note at a time, into MuseScore’s sheet music editor.

OpenScore’s digital scores are available in the popular MusicXML format, which can be opened in most notation programs, and is readily converted to guitar tablature or other forms of notation. The scores can also be parsed by software tools for research and analysis purposes, and even turned into artistic visualisations, such as this visualization of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Nicholas Rougeux. Nicholas is a digital artist and web designer based in Chicago, and he has agreed to create a unique cover image for each OpenScore Edition based on the music in the score.

Visualization of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Nicholas Rougeux

We’ve had a number of people reach out to us who are interested in transcribing, and thanks to them we’ve been able to publish the very first OpenScore Editions. If you are interested in joining our campaign as a transcriber, please see this post on the MuseScore forums.

Posted 30 June 2017