MusicXML is a standard open format for exchanging digital sheet music, supported by a large number of music applications. Version 3.1 is the first version to be released by the W3C Music Notation Community Group.

It’s a complex format, aiming at capturing both presentation and playback information for a piece of music. That makes it tricky to parse, and tricky to generate. This short note presents a recipe to easily validate MusicXML 3.1 files using open source tools.

MusicXML validation on the console

MusicXML ships with XSD and DTD files that describe the document structure. We can use the widely-supported tool xmllint (included in libxml2 on most platforms) to validate MusicXML files against the official XSD. As always, a bit of fiddling is needed to get things right :sweat_smile:

First, download and extract the latest MusicXML package from W3C’s GitHub. Because the current XSD contains invalid xs:import links, it is necessary to apply a patch before proceeding with validation. The patch is very simple; you need to change:

<xs:import namespace="http://www.w3.org/XML/1998/namespace" schemaLocation="http://www.musicxml.org/xsd/xml.xsd"/>
<xs:import namespace="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" schemaLocation="http://www.musicxml.org/xsd/xlink.xsd"/>

to refer to correct locations, either w3.org:

<xs:import namespace="http://www.w3.org/XML/1998/namespace" schemaLocation="http://www.w3.org/2001/xml.xsd"/>
<xs:import namespace="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" schemaLocation="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink.xsd"/>

or, since the MusicXML package ships with those files, simply:

<xs:import namespace="http://www.w3.org/XML/1998/namespace" schemaLocation="xml.xsd"/>
<xs:import namespace="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" schemaLocation="xlink.xsd"/>

You are now ready to use xmllint to validate your MusicXML files:

$ xmllint --schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd valid.musicxml --noout
valid.musicxml validates
$ xmllint --schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd invalid.musicxml --noout
invalid.musicxml:3: element score-partwise: Schemas validity error : Element 'score-partwise', attribute 'bad-attribute': The attribute 'bad-attribute' is not allowed.
invalid.musicxml fails to validate

The difference between local and external links to xml.xsd and xlink.xsd is twofold:

  • The time taken for validation is significant. For local files:
$ time xmllint --schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd valid.musicxml --noout
valid.musicxml validates

real	0m0.043s
user	0m0.038s
sys	0m0.005s

whereas for external files, it takes 15 seconds:

$ time xmllint --schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd valid.musicxml --noout
valid.musicxml validates

real	0m15.478s
user	0m0.038s
sys	0m0.005s
  • Secondly, in some environments, it may be necessary to run without an Internet connection, i.e xmllint --nonet. Here’s what happens in this case:
$ xmllint --schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd valid.musicxml --noout --nonet
valid.musicxml validates

versus

$ xmllint --schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd valid.musicxml --noout --nonet
I/O error : Attempt to load network entity http://www.w3.org/2001/xml.xsd
warning: failed to load external entity "http://www.w3.org/2001/xml.xsd"
musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd:24: element import: Schemas parser warning : Element '{http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema}import': Failed to locate a schema at location 'http://www.w3.org/2001/xml.xsd'. Skipping the import.
I/O error : Attempt to load network entity http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink.xsd
warning: failed to load external entity "http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink.xsd"
musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd:25: element import: Schemas parser warning : Element '{http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema}import': Failed to locate a schema at location 'http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink.xsd'. Skipping the import.
[..]
WXS schema musicxml-3.1/schema/musicxml.xsd failed to compile

MusicXML validation programmatically

If you application imports or exports MusicXML files, it’s a good idea to validate them before processing, to avoid tripping your code or exporting invalid files. On my iReal Pro to MusicXML converter, I use the JavaScript module validate-with-xmllint in the tests to ensure that the converter module generates valid MusicXML. Since this needs to run at build time, and not on production, I only need to install xmllint on the CI server.

That’s it! Hope you find this useful :raised_hands: