History:Classical Track Title Discussion

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Style Guideline > Classical Style Guide > Classical Track Title Style

Style for Classical Track Titles

  • Alert.png This is work in progress and not official yet. The aim of this style guide is to impose some kind of order in the entries to achieve a consistent style, so as to have clean data for an eventual text sensitive tagging.

The TrackTitle should contain the overall work (name of the symphony etc.) followed by ':' and then the actual name of that movement.

See also: OperaTrackStyle.


  • Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125: II. Molto vivace
  • Theodora: Act II. "But why art thou disquieted"
  • Don Giovanni: Act I, Scene II. "Madamina! Il catalogo è questo"
  • Cantata, BWV 138 "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz": II. "Ich bin veracht"
  • Cantata, BWV 17 "Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich": Part II, V. "Welch Übermaß der Güte"
Attention.png I left out the The Lark Ascending (feat. violin: Tasmin Little) example. This will be added later. (It doesn't have to be me, though). (2006-12-11, leivhe)
Attention.png The formatting of the opera tracks is *not* flamebait. I'll happily change it if the current, more complex style should be used. (2006-12-11, leivhe)

Examples containing extra, optional information

  • Cantata, BWV 17 "Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich": Part II, V. Aria "Welch Übermaß der Güte" <explanation here>
  • Cantata, BWV 17 "Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich": Part II, V. Aria (Tenor) "Welch Übermaß der Güte" <explanation here>

Structure of Classical Track Titles


  • []: optional information
  • |: logical XOR (English either...or). Concerto | Cantata means "Concerto" or "Cantata"
Attention.png We should be _very_ careful with not making this too technical. Everybody understands that it cannot possibly mean "Concerto and Cantata". At the very best, the XOR belongs in a footnote, but I'd prefer to leave it out altogether. (leivhe 2006-12-12)
  • " by "OR" below? --MLL
    • " will be helpful. And coloring could help at some point. (2006-12-12 leivhe)
It might be a good idea to extract optional stuff (voice indication, common name?) and keeping only the mandatory stuff here.


A common structure lies beneath the track titles. Rather informally, this can be defined as

  • Classical_track_title
  • Work_title
  • Genre_title
  • should be: Symphony | [ Instrument ] Concerto | Cantata | Sonata | Quartet...
  • What comes after the genre word? What about numbers, e.g. "Concerto no.1", "Symphony no.9"? What about instrumentation, e.g. "Concerto no.1 for violin and orchestra"? What about opus numbers, e.g. "BWV 17"? --JimDeLaHunt 2007-11-12
  • Key_and_chord
  • consists of:
(what about a good-looking table with _all_ English keys here. Chord part in second column. German and French in columns 3-6? leivhe)
  • I agree, but I'd put it in a separate page, in order to keep this one reasonably small --davitof 2006-12-13
    • Here's a list, as I needed one, whatever we decide to do with it. No idea on correct translations for the enharmonic keys. -- BrianSchweitzer 09:02, 08 January 2008 (UTC)
      • There is an article on Wikipedia regarding key signature names and translations. Would it be more appropriate to simply link there rather than include the table here? --ToastySailor 2008-01-08
        • Wish I'd known about that page yesterday - it wasn't coming up when I was searching wiki. But I do think we stil have a reason to want our own list, rather than just using wiki... namely, wiki's got the common languages (plus Russian, that may come in handy!). However, we have some 350+ languages that are covered. Classical in those languages is rare, but I have already seen some few of those releases in the database. I get the sense that if we tried to edit Wiki to add, say, Chinese, Japanese, or Turkish keys, they'd be removed for some reason or another. Here, though, we actually do have a reason that those would be welcomed as additions to a table. I think, generally, Wiki is great for reference (so long as you take it with the grain of salt you ought to), but our mission and theirs, when it comes to breadth of very specific music-related info like this, differs enough that even if the tables start as nearly identical (ours has Spanish and major/minor, theirs has Russian), ours can be expected to grow over time to be more comprehensive, while theirs doesn't have quite that same expectation. Also, with regard to major/minor capitalization, that's an additional issue the Wikipedia list ignores, while in ours, it's something being specifically addressed in at least three of the CSG proposal discussions. -- BrianSchweitzer 23:37, 08 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Part_title
could someone provide an example of this (especially with the subsection) --davitof 2006-12-13
  • I found a recent example Here, but from what was agreed, [ Subsection COMMA ] should be in Work_title after Catalog_number like this: [Catalog_number] [COMMA Subsection] --MLL 2006-12-15
    An alternate structure I'm using for a 1940's symphony, where the composer gave names to the movements as well as tempo markings, is: Part_title consists of [ Subsection COMMA ] Part_number DOT [ Part_name DOT ] [ Tempo ]. See Vaughn Williams "Sinfonia Antartica". --JimDeLaHunt 2007-12-29
Although this is true most of the time, sometimes it is not. Operas follow a different scheme. Maybe it would be better to put them in a completely diferent place? --davitof 2006-12-13
  • - Part_title here is stillIdea.png what was in my original email on mb-style. (http://lists.musicbrainz.org/pipermail/musicbrainz-style/2006-December/thread.html#004261)
    Since then, there were the (to me) eye-opening discussion on strictness regarding formatting (http://lists.musicbrainz.org/pipermail/musicbrainz-users/2006-December/thread.html#15066)
    - I think maybe you're right, davitof:
    Although I haven't laid it out in any details, I suspect displaying info on slack and optional stuff (common name) in a formal-like way, will be hard to write, and harder to read and follow than a series of examples with some prose on extrainfo and slack. I think davitof's suggestion (different pages for operas, symphonies etc. as needed) is a good idea.
    - That being said, it would be nice to start thinking on what we could want from a "text sensitive tagger" for classical music, as the new CSG should be in accordance with it.
    (leivhe 2006-12-15)
@Leivhe: I don't understand your last formatting modifications. I am sure you are trying to express something and I would gladly comply, but for this I need to understand! I agree we need this page to structurate our ideas. I even think that we will always need both. A theoretical model such as this one is important to allow us to check everything is as coherent as possible (which is after all one of our main goals here), but the end-user explanation pages are important for the main user. This is the technical reference, the other will be the "how to". --davitof 2006-12-15
  • @davitof: I forgot to add an edit note saying: Putting discussions and comments in boxes, so as not to clutter it up with the contents. If someone prefers it like it was, it can be reverted.
    • I think it is a good idea. In your previous edit, you forgot to put my "could someone provide an example of this (especially with the subsection) --davitof 2006-12-13" in a box, so I was not sure what you were aiming at. But the box style has a problem, it prevents from using links in the comments :-( I am checking if there is another format we could use... --davitof 2006-12-13
      • (1) What about this? Smaller, but I feel comments being smaller is logical. And at least links are preserved --davitof 2006-12-13
        • (2) Or this? It seems right too. And links are preserved too --davitof 2006-12-13
          • (3)Or this ? --MLL My preference: (3), second rank is (1) ((2) can be confused with examples)
            • You are right about (3). Let's forget about it. I still prefer (1), but here is what I suggest: Let's use (3) as long as this work is in it's active phase. When our changes are more or less set and this page shifts from a work page to a reference page, then we can use (1) for the few comments we will want to keep. BTW, (3) has a small limitation: each editor who adds his comment will have to create a new box, you can't put the double pipe characters on a separate line. --davitof 2006-12-13

Just something I threw together in an hour of free time, but perhaps it can help some people... attachment:CSGOperaThing.html (note: Right-click save this, then load the local file - don't try to load it directly from here, it won't work.) -- BrianSchweitzer 05:54, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Re Genre_title. My feeling is that restricting the first part to be purely the genre title would not allow many natural, useful and common titles. What about the composer's work numbering? In 'Symphony No. 4', the 'No. 4' would not be allowed. A Brandenburg Concerto would be something awkward like 'Various Instrument Concerto, BWV ... "Brandenburg Concerto No. 1' - technically more correct of course but not easy to understand for users. Do we really want 'Opera, KV 527 "Don Giovanni"'? As to the suggestion to move operas elsewhere, CSG is already complex enough, we shouldn't have different styles for different genres. --joseba 2007-01-12
  • You are right that there are cases where we should admit other formulations. Leivhe's suggestion is a programmer's point of view. I think it will be a good thing if it is implemented in CSG (a "hard" hierarchical structure). This will allow us for example to find all the operas from different composers, which we can't currently do. This will also allow ordering the works from a composer by catalogue number, which for some composers is useful because the catalogue reflects the composition date. I suggest that WorkAliases would allow us to access the data in a more natural way when applicable. In the meanwhile, we must accept more natural formulations when these can't be avoided. About the Opera, I think the current rules already are very different from the rest of classical repertoire: no catalogue number, no key indication, no movement indication, we allow for differences in how the title is formulated (how many of the words are used), the track splitting varies wildly from one release to another... So I feel that rather than complicating CSG with all these exceptions, it would much more user-friendly to put them in a separate page. I am not convinced there would be other separations to implement, but opera is definitely special IMO.--davitof 2007-01-14
    • I strongly believe Making operas separate will alienate and confuse many users. I don't see convincing reasons for this either; what we need is a careful formulation of CSG rules that are flexible enough while maintaining consistency. Catalogue numbers: could be added to operas too. Key indications: easy to say "add where available". Movement indication: give alernatives for numbers ("I" vs. "Act I, Scene I" vs. No. 42 (how do you number the St. John Passion?)). Track splitting is possible anyway and there should be a generic way of dealing with this. Once you start to split out opera, the next question is cantata, and then oratorio, ... -- joseba 2007-02-09
      • Greetings, I'm a recent arrival at MusicBrainz and this discussion. I'm in favour of making the style guide for Opera separate from the CSG. joseba says "I don't see convincing reasons for [Making operas separate]". But davitof gave a reason that convinces me: "the current rules [for opera] already are very different from the rest of classical repertoire: no catalogue number, no key indication, no movement indication, we allow for differences in how the title is formulated (how many of the words are used), the track splitting varies wildly from one release to another...". Also, we may find common ground between style guides for opera, operetta, and musical theatre. Looking at how complex it is for this page to capture the rules for classical (concert) music, I can only expect that trying to fold in different rules for Opera will make this page difficult to read and follow. That will alienate new users -- and I sympathise with them, I'm one of them now. --JimDeLaHunt 2007-11-12
        • Personally, I think CSG and Opera styles are so much more different than the same, combining them into a single set of rules is a BadIdea(TM). Re: librettos, oratorios, etc, there's always going to be a grey zone for which style fits best, but I think the two different sets of guidelines give enough flexability - where needed, and where it makes sense to do so, the two can be combined easily. CSG mostly covers the left side of the colon, with "extra stuff" on the right. OperaStyle basically has only the opera title and cat # on the left, with all the important stuff on the right. It's pretty easy to see where the two would combine for, say, an oratorio, using the revelant parts of CSG on the left side, and the relevant parts of Opera style on the right. If we try to combine the two, however, we just get a mess of rules on each side which, for any given work, would seem to simply add a whole bunch of "ignore this, you don't need it for this tracktitle" complexity. What we would gain in making oratorios, librettos, songs, etc, clearer, we'd lose in making the other 95% of classical more complicated. -- BrianSchweitzer 05:54, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Forbidden symbols to comply with device file system idiosyncracies

Colons and slashes and perhaps other symbols are not recognised in some mp3 ogg player filesystems e.g. iriver, OSX. This can make ripping very awkward as titles' and files' tags have to be manually edited to delete the offending symbols before being recognised by the device.

  • I think I was just bitten by this, in Exact Audio Copy v0.99beta, on Windows (a bit surprising to me). Still, I think we have to be careful about limiting what we put in MusicBrainz for reasons like this. First, the MusicBrainz data goes to form tags inside music files, which aren't limited like filenames are. We shouldn't cripple the tags. Second, the filenames don't need to be the same as the track titles -- any software that writes files should simplify the track title to make it a safe filename. If the software which writes music files doesn't do this, it ought to. Third, whatever the limitations of current versions of software, those will change over time. But the MusicBrainz data won't change without effort. It would be a shame to bake distortions into our data, for the sake of temporary limitations in today's software. -- JimDeLaHunt 2007-11-12.

Part numbering in cantatas and oratorios: arabic numerals?

This example track title (from the top of this ClassicalTrackTitleStyle page) seems to say that the individual parts of cantatas should be numbered with roman numerals:

  • Cantata, BWV 17 "Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich": Part II, V. "Welch Übermaß der Güte"

But consider this part title from a Händel oratorio. I used arabic numerals for it.

Israel in Egypt is an oratoria with 31 scenes, identified by arabic numbers, grouped into "Part the First" and "Part the Second". [per the librettos hosted at Wikisource and opera.stanford.edu ]. Händel's Messiah has 53 scenes, grouped into three parts [per the librettos at Wikisource and opera.stanford.edu ].

The Bach Canata BWV 17 in the example has seven scenes. But the Messe in h-Moll BWV 232 has 27 scenes.

I argue that it's reasonable to list movements of symphonies and concertos with roman numerals, since aren't usually more than five. It's also reasonable to list the major parts of oratorios and canata with roman numerals. However, when there are as many as 20 or 30 scenes in a cantata or oratorio, I think that arabic numberals are much easier to follow. Where is the tipping point? I'm not sure, but I think it's somewhere near five or seven -- when there are more items than that, it's better to use arabic numerals.

Thus I propose these two ClassicalTrackTitleStyle guide changes to the definition of Part_number within Part_title. Let's pick one:

  1. Part_number is an upper-case roman numeral (e.g. "IV"), except for works which have seven or more parts, in which case it is an arabic number (e.g. "25").
  2. Part_number is an upper-case roman numeral (e.g. "IV") for most classical works. An exception is for cantatas and oratorios, where it is an arabic number (e.g. "25"). (Rationale: cantatas and oratorios typically have seven or more parts.)

-- JimDeLaHunt 2007-12-15


  • I prefer arabic over roman numerals and I strongly regret we have decided to use roman numerals. Roman are unsortable, and this is a major problem for me. So if there is a good reason to go my way, even slightly good, I won't disagree with you ! -- davitof 2007-12-16


Keys in multiple languages:

English German French Italian Spanish
A major A dur La majeur La maggiore La mayor
A-flat major As dur La bémol majeur La bemolle maggiore la bemol mayor
A minor a moll la mineur la minore la menor
A-flat minor as moll la bémol mineur la bemolle minore la bemol menor
A-sharp minor ais moll la dièse mineur do diesis minore la sostenido menor
B major H dur Si majeur Si maggiore Si mayor
B-flat major B dur Si bémol majeur Si bemolle maggiore Si bemol mayor
B minor h moll si mineur si minore si menor
B-flat minor b moll si bémol mineur si bemolle minore si menor
C major C dur Ut majeur Do maggiore Do mayor
C-flat major Ces dur Ut bémol majeur Do bemolle maggiore Do bemol mayor
C-sharp major Cis dur Ut dièse majeur Do diesis maggiore Do sostenido mayor
C minor c moll ut mineur do minore do menor
C-sharp minor cis moll ut dièse mineur do diesis minore do sostenido menor
D major D dur Ré majeur Re maggiore Re mayor
D-flat major Des dur Ré bémol majeur Re bemolle maggiore Re bemol mayor
D minor d moll ré mineur re minore re menor
D-sharp minor dis moll ré dièse mineur re diesis minore re sostenido menor
E major E dur Mi majeur Mi maggiore Mi mayor
E-flat major Es dur Mi bémol majeur Mi bemolle maggiore mi bemol menor
E minor e moll mi mineur mi minore mi menor
E-flat minor es moll mi bémol mineur mi bemolle minore mi bemol manor
F major F dur Fa majeur Fa maggiore Fa mayor
F-sharp major Fis dur Fa dièse majeur Fa diesis maggiore Fa sostenido mayor
F minor f moll fa mineur fa minore fa menor
F-sharp minor fis moll fa dièse mineur fa diesis minore fa sostenido menor
G major G dur Sol majeur Sol maggiore Sol mayor
G-flat major Ges dur Sol bémol majeur Sol bemolle maggiore Sol bemol mayor
G minor g moll sol mineur sol minore sol menor
G-sharp minor gis moll sol dièse mineur sol diesis minore sol sostenido menor
Enharmonic Keys
English German French Italian Spanish
A-sharp major
B-sharp major
B-sharp minor
C-flat minor
D-flat minor
D-sharp major
E-sharp major
E-sharp minor
F-flat major
F-flat minor
G-flat minor
G-sharp major