MPEG SMR reference page
MPEG Symbolic Music Representation, standard
music notation into MPEG as shown in the logo

Please contact: Pierfrancesco Bellini, Paolo Nesi (DSI)
last change: 24-06-2008

The music market is currently characterized by several products that present some form of integration of music notation/representation and multimedia (see some examples in the following, and also on slides). For example in the area of music education (integrating multimedia), music management in library (integrating with multimedia for navigation and for synchronisation), karaoke (synchronisation based integration), etc.

The integration of music notation in MPEG can cover the needs of these tools and much more adding: interoperability, porting them on i-TV and on mobiles, supporting scalability of format complexity, etc., permitting to these tools to integrate the powerful MPEG model for the multimedia modeling and play.

The integration of music notation with MPEG will open the way for a large number of new applications and markets, for instance the: multimedia electronic lecterns, music education via i-TV, multimedia content integrated with music notation on piano keyboards, mobiles, PDAs, etc. This action will increase the present market for music notation integrating it with that of Multimedia and Entertainment. The present market of Music Notation is mainly dominated by sheet production for professional and educational purposes, and may open the path to create very interesting new applications, renewing present applications that already use some integration between multimedia and music notation on slides.

The support of the whole MPEG specification will of course not be necessary to be compliant with the resulting SMR standard. MPEG provides a profiling mechanism which allows defining suitable technology subsets for a well specified application domain, i.e. Profiles; a subset may range from a very limited number of tools (SMR only + necessary systems info) to a very large one (covering a large spectrum in multimedia functionality), provided an evidence from the industry in terms of planned products and business.

FCD version of the standard and many new information about SMR model and usage :

SO/IEC 14496-23:200x specifies Symbolic Music Representation (SMR). A symbolic representation of music is a logical structure based on: (i) symbolic elements representing audiovisual events, (ii) the relationship between those events, and (iii) aspects related to how those events can be rendered (visually as music notation or audibly) and synchronized with other media types.

The Symbolic Music Representation enables the development of a huge number of completely new applications in several domains of entertainment, edutainment, infotainment, etc., from education and distance learning, to rehearsal and musical practice at home, from consumer electronics like set-top boxes for interactive TV to personal computers and mobiles systems. The SMR may be used to represent many kinds of symbolic music including different styles of Chant, Renaissance, Classic, Romantic and 20th Century styles, Korean notation, simplified notations for children, Braille, etc..

ISO/IEC 14496-23 specifies (Public version only as a DRAFT: w8632-MPEG-SMR-part-23-rev-public.pdf)

MPEG-4 technology covers a huge media domain through the concept of synthetic and natural hybrid coding (SNHC) audio, and "symbolic" audio (like e.g. MIDI) content can be rendered and synchronised with other forms of media: images, video, graphic animations, etc. It further allows structured descriptions of audio content through a normative algorithmic description language associated with a score language more flexible than the MIDI protocol (MPEG-4 Structured Audio, SA). All these tools, though allowing to derive in someway a symbolic representation out of the information they carry, are to a large extent not enough to guarantee a correct coding of music notation as they lack for instance all kind of information about visual and graphic aspects, many symbolic details, a thorough music notation modelling, and many necessary hooks for a correct human-machine interaction. MPEG-7 also provides some symbolic music related descriptors; but they are not meant to be a means of coding symbolic music representation as a form of content. On the other hand, MPEG SMR content stream contains a complete Symbolic Music Representation. It may be rendered in synchronisation with other audio-visual elements, video, audio, images, animations, 2D and 3D scenes, etc.

MPEG SMR permits the realization of new applications in which multimedia and music notation may take advantage and enrich each other in terms of functionalities. For example in the areas of edutainment, entertainment, courseware production, music notation subtitles during concerts and operas, music rendering in archives, piano keyboards with symbolic music representation and audiovisual capabilities, mobile devices with music display capabilities, etc.

Snapshot from an SMR editor; Score, video, performance & tempo control

Snapshot from an SMR editor; Conductor Score view

The tool represented in the last image is a real tool realised with MPEG-4 BIFS and the MPEG SMR decoder, you can download it HERE. You can access to the MPEG SMR decoder source code by means of accessing to the MPEG SMR standard. The source code of the decoder is part of the MPEG SMR standar. In addition, other tools for authoring SMR and using MPEG SMR are also available for free such as: editor, authoring tools, viewer tools for using SMR into Active X, viewer and editor tools to use SMR into MAX/MSP.



Symbolic Music Representation and Multimedia

MPEG-4 permits the encoding of multimedia content, including many different kinds of object types and a scene description allowing precise synchronization among them and specifying object composition rules. This Call is for MPEG-compatible technology to support symbolic representations of music (Symbolic Music Representation) synchronized with other MPEG object types.

At the same time, MPEG tools do not include yet a systematic support of symbolic forms of music representations. Symbolic music representation is a multi-layered piece of information, which may be used for a wide range of different purposes: from coding and entertainment to music sheet production, music teaching, music analysis, content query, provision of enhanced or adapted music for consumers with specific needs, etc. It is understood that Symbolic Music Representation in this document means all kinds of symbolic music including different styles of Chant, Renaissance, Classic, Romantic and 20th Century styles, simplified notations for children, Braille and other forms yet to be considered.


Symbolic representations of music have a logical structure consisting of: symbolic elements that represent audiovisual events; the relationship between those events; and aspects of rendering those events. There are many symbolic representations of music including different styles of Chant, Renaissance, Classic, Romantic, Jazz, Rock, Pop, and 20th Century styles, percussion notation, as well as simplified notations for children, Braille, etc.


Many music-related software and hardware products are currently available in the market. Some integrate symbolic representations of music with multimedia content. Examples include:

·         Interactive music tutorials

·         Play training, performance training

·         Ear training

·         Compositional and theory training

·         Multimedia music publication

·         Software for music management in libraries (music tools integrating multimedia for navigation and for synchronization),

·         Software for entertainment (mainly synchronization between sound, text and symbolic information),

·         Piano keyboards with symbolic music representation and audiovisual capabilities,

·         Mobile devices with music display and editing capabilities.


Current products generally utilize proprietary and incompatible technologies. Therefore content must be recreated for each product, and information exchange between products is difficult if not impossible. The lack of standardized tools to enable the symbolic representation of music results in each developer implementing their own solution. These solutions will necessarily vary in efficiency, scope, features, quality, and complexity.


MPEG Symbolic Music Representation (SMR) will enable the synchronization of symbolic music elements with audio-visual events that are represented and rendered using existing MPEG technology.

The breadth of MPEG standards for multimedia representation, coding, and playback, when integrated with symbolic representations of music will provide content interoperability and an efficient high quality, peer reviewed, standardized toolset for developers of these products. This will open the way for a large number of new applications with increased power and flexibility, as well as new markets for these kinds of applications. The repercussions may have a wide effect on music education, music entertainment and on the development of music as a whole.


To be compliant with the MPEG SMR standard will not require compliance with all MPEG-4 standards. In MPEG, there are mechanisms to cope with the complexity of the standard by means of Profiles.
If you have intention to respond with your valuable work at the call for proposal, you an do it even if your solution does not meet all requirements. The process for the standardisation will take into account any valuable solutions to identify that an be more attractive for the market and better solve the problem posed: MUSIC and MULTIMEDIA INTEGRATION for educational, cultural, archival acpplications and entertainment applications.

This means that if you have a market valuable solution please verify it against the call for proposal and interact with us in order to adjust the Call to make it more general to cover more cases and thus to make it more acceptable as a world wide standard.

WHY working with the AHG is important for your business

The requirements developed should be taken into account for producing a call for technology for including a Music Notation Model into MPEG, in addition, they could be used for determining the criteria for assessing the proposals, to verify that the potential standard meets the specified requirements, and to specify the conformance point for the standard. If you have tools that use similar technology:

You are surely interested in working with the AHG in MPEG to guarantee that your needs will be included into the MPEG standard, and thus that the tools that you are developing and delivering will be compliant with the standard. This is also a strong advance since your tools could be integrated in several multimedia aplications from I-TV, PDA players, Piano Keyboards, etc., and if you are an integrator you will have the possibility of selecting among several different standard implementations of Music Notation Decoders, all compliant with the same Music Notation format.

People acknowledgments in the order of writing:

This list has been started since 03-11-17.
To be included in the list please send an email to explicitely requesting to make your name and company visible.
To be in the list means to support the activity of the work of the AHG for the introduction of the Music Notation into the MPEG:


Some links to related tools/products and company (in alphabetic order):

Some Links to Music Learning tools

Some referred Projects and tools: Links to list of Music Notation resources

References to Organisations:

Please send to us any other links to tools, organisations, formats, etc. that can be useful for providing information in this sector.

service provided by

return to the Nesi's Home page.