Jazz music encoding for education: the collaboration between MEI and TEI.

Authors: García-Iasci, Patricia / Merchán Sánchez-Jara, Javier

Date: Wednesday, 6 September 2023, 2:15pm to 3:45pm

Location: Main Campus, L 2.202 <campus:measure>


The representation of the musical message has varied according to the period, the media, the musical genre and the method of composition or at least the context of notation. These systems of musical representation are based on a code composed of several symbols, letters and numbers that represent something, in this case it has a musical meaning. In order to understand the relationship between musical meaning and code, an interpretation is necessary and this interpretation must have its rules.

In Jazz, the American, Anglo-Saxon, English or modern cipher is used as the reduction to the minimum expression with meaning; a “musical common minimum”. Roughly speaking, it consists of capital letters, which are used to represent the root note. The absence or not of certain numbers accompanying this letter provides information about the type of chord, and symbols such as -, +, b, or # and dimensions such as aug, min, dim, give more information about the types of chords (Peñalver Vilar. J.M, 2010).

Each cipher is oriented to certain objectives: the American cipher provides the minimum musical information for a performance based on improvisation. The functional cipher provides harmonic information for compositions and chord progressions and tonal centres for compositional purposes. Both ciphers are represented by alphanumeric characters and have a musical meaning without the need to be located on staves, as is the case with notes.

By combining TEI and MEI, we could make a multi-purpose musical representation. With TEI, the more “literary” part of the American and functional cipher can be encoded. With MEI, we can make a complete musical representation of the harmonic notes of Jazz on the staff with melody and rhythm. This results in a representation composed of a Standards representation of the RealBook, FakeBooks, or lead-sheet and annotations for interpretation and functional analysis annotations that can be very useful for questions of adaptations in interpretation or beneficial information for improvisation and composition (Young. H, 2017).

In order to carry out this research, use has been made of selected works from the University of Alicante to train an OMR tool. These are selected Jazz Standards by authors such as Django Reinhardt, Ella Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, etc… There are a total of 226 examples that we hope will be enough to create an effective sample.

The purpose of this idea is a larger project that aims firstly to recognize handwritten jazz standards by means of the OMR, and secondly to extract semantic information about how these chords work. (Calvo-Zaragoza et al. 2020) Thirdly, to use this information to create music, practice it and study it for educational purposes. This paper focuses on the second part mentioned above, on the search for the extraction of this semantic information and its representation (Harte et al. 2005).

In this way, together with functional analysis, we would approach the possibility of creating a grammar for multiple applications, such as harmonic progressions, melody creation and accompaniment (Steedmann, 1984). These applications would then be placed in the educational field, in order to integrate coding and digital media into the pedagogical practices of musicians and musicologists (Duguid, 2020).


Calvo-Zaragoza, J., Jr, J. H., and Pacha, A. (2020). ‘Understanding optical music recognition’. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 53(4), 1-35.

Duguid, T. (2020). ‘The forgotten Classroom? Bringing Music Encoding to a New Generation’. In: Music Encoding Conference 2020, 26-29 May 2020.

Harte, C. C, Sandler, M. B, Addallah, S. A, & Gómez, E (2005, September). ‘Symbolic Representation of Musical Chords: A proposed Syntax for Text Annotations’. In: ISMIR (Vol. 5, pp. 66-71).

Peñalver Vilar, J. M. (2010). El cifrado armónico en el jazz y la música moderna: un recurso imprescindible para la notación musical. Universitat Jaume I de Castelló.

Steedman, M. J. (1984). ‘A generative grammar for jazz chord sequences’. In: Music Perception, 2(1), 52-77.

Young, H. (2017). ‘A categorial grammar for music and its use in automatic melody generation’. In: Proceedings of the 5th ACM SIGPLAN International Workshop on Functional Art, Music, Modeling, and Design.

About the authors

Patricia García-Iasci is a PhD student at the Salamanca University. She holds a master degree in Digital Humanities, focusing specifically on music. She is working in PolifonIA and researches and collaborates in projects related to optical music recognition and music encoding with the University of Alicante and University of Salamanca.

Javier Merchán Sánchez-Jara is a Doctor Professor in the Department of Didactics of Musical, Plastic and Corporal Expression and is a Responsible Researcher GIR DIDEROT. And Coordinator of the Music specialty of the MUPES Master at the University of Salamanca.

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