Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Music

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This page of the Wikipedia:Manual of Style (MoS) for music-related articles and writing about music encourages editors to follow consistent usage and formatting. Other MoS subpages are linked in the menu to the right. If the MoS does not specify a preferred usage, please discuss the issue on the talk page.

Music articles vary in their intended readership: some articles are written for the widest audience of general readers; others, especially those on technical subjects (e.g., Metric modulation), are for readers with specialized knowledge. Whenever possible, aim for a broad readership.


When marking up musical accidentals, either use their designated Unicode characters, or spell their names out. Do not use common substitutes, such as b in place of . The {{music}} template is recommended for this purpose. For example, {{music|natural}} produces , and {{music|doublesharp}} and {{music|doubleflat}} produce double sharp and double flat. {{music|halfsharp}}half sharp may be used to notate half-sharps, and either {{music|halfflat}}half flat or {{music|flatstroke}}flat stroke may be used for half-flats. To maximize compatibility, the template currently uses SVG instead of the designated codepoints when displaying these less common characters. Examples:

  • Key signature:
    • Right: E-flat major[1]
    • Right: E major
    • Wrong: Eb major
  • D major triad:
    • Right: D, F, A
    • Right: D, F-sharp, A
    • Wrong: D, F#, A
  • D major triad:
    • Right: D—Fdouble sharp—A
    • Right: D-sharp—F-double-sharp—A-sharp
    • Wrong: D#—FX—A#
    • Wrong: D#—Fx—A#
    • Wrong: D#—F##—A#
    • Wrong: D—F—A


  • Standard English-language text formatting and capitalization rules apply to the names of bands and individual artists (see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biography § Text formatting, and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Trademarks).
  • For titles of works and releases, descriptive phrases in parentheses or after dashes, such as "remix", "acoustic version" and "remastered", should not be considered part of song titles and should not be capitalized.
  • The first letter in the first and last words in English-language titles of works and releases is capitalized. The first letter in the other words should also be capitalized, except in words that are short coordinating conjunctions, prepositions, and articles ("short" meaning those with fewer than five letters), as well as the word to in infinitives (although if the artist has chosen to capitalize short conjunctions, prepositions, etc. then the article title may follow the artist's choice). For more details (including subtitles, hyphenation, incipits, etc.) see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Titles § Capital letters. Exceptions are not made to mimic logo/cover stylization, even if such mimicry is common in the music press.
  • The vast majority of music genres are not proper nouns, and thus should not be capitalized.
  • Use lowercase, not capitals, for instruments (piano, guitar, vocals, etc.) in personnel lists.

Chords, progressions, and figured bass[edit]

Conventional chords are indicated through the use of upper and lowercase Roman numerals, or letters with a key signature provided, indicating root and quality, separated by en dash (–, renders as "") without spaces on either side. For example:

Arabic numerals (Nashville notation) and letters (diatonic function) indicating function should be avoided:

  • 2–5–1
  • SpDT

When part of a chord progression, chords should be spaced equally if they take an equal portion of the progression's duration. Vertical lines may indicate bar divisions:

  • iii7–VI7 | ii7–V7 | I   ||

or, in C:

  • e7–A7 | d7–G7 | C   ||

Rather than lowercase letters to indicate minor, uppercase letters followed by a lowercase "m" may be used:

  • in C: Dm–G–C

The degree symbol, "°", indicates a diminished chord. It can be copied and pasted or inserted from the menus above or below Wikipedia edit boxes on desktop web browsers. It can also be produced by typing &deg;, or (on Windows PCs) Alt+0176 on the numeric pad / (Mac) Option+Shift+8. A superscript lower case "o" (<sup>o</sup>) may be used instead. The dedicated symbol for a half-diminished chord may not display correctly for all readers, so a "ø" can be superscripted instead—it can be produced by typing &oslash;, Alt+0248 (Windows), or Option+o (Mac). For both of these there is an application of the {{music}} template: {{music|dim}} becomes o and {{music|dimslash}} becomes ø (e.g. Co and Cø).

Superscript and subscript may be combined, as in figured bass, in math markup, <math>\mathrm C_4^6</math> renders as , or <chem>C4^6</chem> renders as . {see: Help:Displaying a formula or m:Help:Displaying a formula; also: Template:SubSup). {{music}} also allows this functionality.

To markup notation for chord qualities and inversions, write:

  • vii{{music|dim}}, I{{music|6 chord}}

which renders as:

  • viio, I 6

If a chord has multiple extensions, they may all be written in superscript, with extentions after the first written in brackets and separated by slashes. For instance, A7 sus4 add9 would be written:

  • A7(sus4/add9)

Classical music titles[edit]

Generic titles are not specific to one musical work. These titles typically take the name of a musical form such as concerto, overture, quartet, sonata, suite, symphony, etc. Titles of liturgical works (such as agnus dei, kyrie, mass, requiem, etc.) are considered generic titles. Generic titles should not be italicized.[2]

  • Piano Concerto No. 5
  • Sixth Symphony
  • Requiem

True titles are specific to a single work. These are titles given by the composer, much as an author titles a novel. True titles are always italicized:

  • From me flows what you call time
  • Pelléas et Mélisande

When true titles are mixed with generic titles, as is often the case in overtures and suites, only the true title is italicized. The generic portion of the title is not italicized and should always be in English even if the true portion of the title is in a foreign language.

  • Overture to The Bartered Bride
  • L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1

There are a few rare instances where a work has what appears to be a generic title but is actually a true title. Generally, if a symphony is referred to by name and not also numbered, the title is actually a true title given by the composer. These should be in italics as well.

  • Symphonie fantastique
  • Copland's Dance Symphony
  • Beethoven's Battle Symphony

Often, works with a generic title and / or a true title are also known by a common title or nickname. Avoid using the common title with the true title. Acceptable methods for specifying the nickname after the generic title are:

  1. in parentheses: Symphony No. 9 (New World Symphony)
  2. quoted in parentheses: Symphony No. 9 ("New World" Symphony)
  3. italics in parentheses: Symphony No. 9 (New World Symphony)
  4. quoted set off by a comma: Symphony No. 9, "New World" Symphony
  5. italics set off by a comma: Symphony No. 9, New World Symphony

When referring to a work by nickname alone:

  1. quoted: "New World" Symphony
  2. italicized: New World Symphony
  3. unadorned: New World Symphony

Note that the generic portion of the common name or nickname—"Symphony", in this case—is not italicized.

Any of these methods may be used; however, usage should be consistent within an article.

Song titles are enclosed in quotes. True titles of song cycles are italicized. Foreign-language song titles are not italicized.

  • "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh'" from Dichterliebe—note that the trailing apostrophe and the ending quote are handled using the {{'"}} template, to insert some spacing between the characters without using an unsemantic space character: ... Augen seh{{'"}} ...

Generic movement titles (such as tempo markings or terms like minuet and trio) are capitalized with a single initial capital—that is, only the first word is capitalized—and are not italicized. Often, movements are described by multiple tempo markings. In this case, the tempo markings should be separated by en dashes set off by spaces (consider using the {{spaced en dash}} template), and the first letter of each tempo marking should be capitalized. True movement titles are enclosed in quotation marks. Once again, foreign language terms are not italicized.

  • Un poco sostenuto – Allegro from Brahms's First Symphony
  • "Von der Wissenschaft" from Also sprach Zarathustra
  • Kyrie from Mozart's Requiem

The formal title of a work from the classical repertoire includes its genre or performing force, key, and index number. For modern works, the key or index number may not exist, but the genre or performing force should always be specified. There is no requirement to use formal titles on Wikipedia. However, in an article about a single composition of classical music, all the information one would get from a formal title should be included in the lead. Often, using the formal title to introduce the work is the most elegant way to convey this information.

Opus, work, and measure numbers[edit]

Opus and work numbers are used to identify specific compositions within the catalogue of specific composers. Measure numbers are used to identify specific parts of compositions. If used on Wikipedia the terms should not be italicized and not capitalized.[3] If the number specifies a particular work (is used restrictively rather than simply providing additional information) it should not be set off by commas[4] (thus measure numbers should be set off by commas since they provide additional information about a work). The following three examples all convey the same information:

The en dash rather than the hyphen must be used for ranges of numbers (measures 1–4 rather than measures 1-4). While "Op." may remain unlinked, specific catalogue designations should be linked: "BWV 1079".


Some abbreviations are always used in music articles. These forms are standard:

  • Op.<non-breaking space><number> for opus (Op. 31)
  • No.<non-breaking space><number> for number (Op. 31, No. 2)
  • Opp.<non-breaking space><numbers separated by commas and spaces> for the plural of Opus (Opp. 51, 82, and 93)
  • Op. posth.<non-breaking space>, or Op. posth.<non-breaking space><number> for opus posthumous

Use a non-breaking space (&nbsp; or {{nbsp}} between the abbreviation and number, instead of a regular space.

Note: , and signs should not be used in article titles or headings; use the word equivalents (flat, sharp, natural, respectively).

See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Abbreviations § Song-writing credits, for usage of composition and performance credit abbreviations, including "arr.","trad.", and "feat."


  1. Pages on artists, groups or works should have recording and discography sections as appropriate. These should be subdivided into albums and singles, audio and video recordings, or other simple systems as required.
  2. If the discography of an artist, group, or work becomes disproportionately large in relation to the rest of the article, it should be split into a subpage list (preferably titled "<Name> discography").
  3. Do not use album, record or DVD covers in discographies, as this is an unnecessary use of images and is not compatible with Wikipedia's fair use policy.
  4. The discography section typically only contains studio albums. Live albums, compilation albums etc. are always included in the discography subpage for the particular band or artist. However, significant non-studio albums can be included on the artist's main page with consensus from other editors.

Equivalent terms in different varieties of English[edit]

An article in Wikipedia should use one national variety of English consistently. This principle applies to music terminology: use musical terms from the variety of English in which the article is written. Consider showing alternative terms from other English varieties in parentheses on their first appearance. Example: "The first crotchet (quarter note) in the bar is loudest." See Manual of Style: National varieties of English.

Images and notation[edit]

  1. On Wikipedia, it is preferable to use free images whenever possible. Fair-use images are acceptable only in certain, well-defined circumstances. Copyrighted images, such as album covers, can only be used in an article if an appropriate fair use rationale – that is specific to that article – appears on the image page.
    1. The {{Non-free album cover}} template establishes fair use only in an article about the album in question.
    2. Fair-use images cannot be used purely for decoration.
    3. Fair-use images cannot be used in discography sections.
    4. Fair-use images should be used sparingly. Each image must contribute specifically, uniquely, and irreplaceably to the article.
  2. Images should be laid out in an unobtrusive manner.
    1. Start the article with a right-aligned image.
    2. When using multiple images in the same section of an article, they should be staggered right-and-left (Example: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).
    3. Avoid sandwiching text between two images facing each other.
  3. Music-related images on Wikipedia include icons, examples, and illustrations. Icons include File:Musical note nicu bucule 01.svg as displayed on Portal:Music. Small images giving examples should be displayed in text, without framing. For example, an image accompanying the mention of "bass clef" in a different article is displayed well this way. Medium images giving examples should be displayed in thumbnails to the right (or stagger right and left if frequent). For example, most images of chords should be displayed this way, while their motivic elaborations should be displayed as illustrations. Large images giving segments of music or depicting features of music should be displayed in thumbnails on the left or center of the page at 550px for visibility. For example, most melodies and scales should be displayed this way, while chords and simultaneities should be displayed to the right as small as reasonably visible. Images of chords should generally not include octave repetitions. Images of scales must include the repetition of the octave to indicate octave equivalency. Sections of music should follow Wikipedia:Uploading images including the use of Wikipedia:File copyright tags and copyrights. See also: Wikipedia:No original research. Images and the display of musical notation should follow the following guidelines:
    1. Graphics of musical examples should be large enough to be legible but not so large that they overwhelm the text of an article. They also should not contain inordinate space between the notes.
    2. When creating a graphic in a musical notation program, keep the score as large as possible (through the layout or display setting in your notation program). If your example is short (three measures or less), you may increase its size on the page and decrease the page margins. That way, the example will be as large as possible, but will not contain large spaces between the notes. Example of large image size with little space between notes:
    3. Save the file in the SVG format, which is supported by most music notation programs. The score can then subsequently be cropped in vector graphics editors like Inkscape (note that objects may have to be converted to paths to display correctly on the web). If SVG export is not possible, PNG is preferred, to preserve transparency. Trim the image so that it only contains the example (no blank space or large margins) and upload it to Wikipedia, or to Wikimedia Commons if appropriate.
    4. When you display that image in an article, then you specify the desired size between pipes (| symbols) as follows: [[File:Example.png|550px|Example image]]. Images larger than 600 pixels may not be conveniently displayed on mobile devices.
  4. Use {{Commons}} to link to images on Commons wherever possible.
  5. Use an informative and concise caption and alternative text for each image.
  6. The sharp (♯) and flat (♭) signs are {{music|sharp}} and {{music|flat}}, respectively. A natural (♮) can be entered with {{music|natural}}. As noted above, these symbols should not be used in headings or articles titles.
  7. Superscript and subscript may be combined, as in figured bass, in math markup: <math>C_6^4</math> = . See Wikipedia:TeX markup and m:Help:Formula.
  8. A superscript circle (degree sign), which indicates a diminished chord, can be produced with {{music|dim}} or {{music|dimdeg}}. A superscript lower case "o" (<sup>o</sup>) may be used instead. The slashed o, "ø", which may not display correctly for all readers, is produced by {{music|halfdim}} or {{music|dimslash}}.
  9. For inversions and the degree sign, superscript and subscript may be done thus: vii<sup>o</sup>, I<sub>6</sub>. This looks like: viio, I6.

Italian music terms[edit]

Many musical terms that are commonly used in English are Italian in origin. These terms should not be italicized. For example:

  • attacca
  • aria

However, bear in mind that not all readers will understand the terms. If in doubt, provide a hyperlink to Italian musical terms used in English. For example:

The second section is marked as Adagio

There is no hard rule on plurals of Italian terms being anglicized.

  • cellos or celli
  • concertos or concerti
  • tempos or tempi

However, use a consistent scheme within a single article.


  1. Short lists (of compositions, recordings, etc.) may be useful in biographies and articles about works of music; however, when they become disproportionately long in relation to the main article, they should be split into dedicated subpages.
  2. Music genre articles should not contain lists of performers. A separate list page may be created.
  3. Lists should not generally include musicians who do not have an article.


  1. Copyrighted lyrics can only be used under the WP:Non-free content provision. Thus, they should only be used to illustrate specific points that are documented by relevant sources.
  2. Lists of quotes from songs or other compositions or recordings are inappropriate, as are any sections consisting entirely or primarily of quotes.
  3. Uncopyrighted lyrics can be used freely. However, they should be incorporated into an article only to illustrate specific points, and documented by relevant sources.

Major and minor[edit]

Treat "major" and "minor" as regular words; i.e., the first letter should be lowercase, unless it starts a sentence. Abbreviated key signatures and chord spellings (such as "Cm" and "BM", or "c" and "B") should be avoided in prose.

In prose, rather than analysis, always use the capital letter, adding the words major or minor if necessary,[5] for example, "the piece is in D minor" or "the B major concerto".

Names (definite article)[edit]

When the word the is sometimes or consistently used at the beginning of a band's name, a redirect (or disambiguation) should be created with the alternative name (with or without "the").

Mid-sentence, per the MoS main page, the word the should in general not be capitalized in continuous prose, e.g.:

Similarly, for duos and individual musicians, a leading the is not capitalized mid-sentence in a nickname, pseudonym, stage name or other alias. Exceptions include grammatical articles from foreign languages, and stylized forms such as thee, tha and da. Examples:

However, the, a, or an should be capitalized mid-sentence when it begins the title (or subtitle) of an album or other artwork:

For more detail on titles of compositions, albums, and other works, see WP:Manual of Style/Titles.

Drop the where it is awkward, as when the band name is used as a modifier:

  • a Moody Blues song
  • several Beatles albums

Names (foreign language)[edit]

For classical music, the letters, accents and diacritics in the original language should be preserved when referring to works by their original language title (provided that language uses the Latin alphabet), e.g. Schöpfungsmesse not Schopfungsmesse nor Schoepfungsmesse, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune not Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune. For non-classical foreign-language recordings, usage of capitalization found in English-language reliable sources is recommended, but when such sources use different capitalizations there is some leaning towards the capitalization rules valid for the language of the creator.

The names of works, and other terms, should be marked up with the {{lang}} template, using the appropriate two-letter language code. For example, to link to the article for the work "Deutschlandlied", use "{{lang|de|[[Deutschlandlied]]}}", which will appear as "Deutschlandlied".

Names of organizations and institutions[edit]

Names of organizations and institutions (e.g. orchestras, musical ensembles and groups, concert halls, festivals, schools, etc.) should follow official usage (i.e. the spelling, punctuation, etc. used by the organization's own publications). In the case of non-English names, we use official English versions if and when they have been established by the organization itself. If not, we use the native name. Original English names, translated from other languages, should not be created.

Nationality (biographies)[edit]

The nationality of composers, historical singers, etc. has sometimes been controversial. Here are three guidelines:

  1. Nationality should refer to national identity; in other words, to the national group with which the person identified, not the state of which the person was a citizen or subject.
  2. Nationality should not be anachronistic or retrospective; i.e., for historical figures, it should be defined by the borders and states contemporary with the figure, not by those of the present day.
  3. Nationality should be inclusive: if there is any doubt about the nationality of an individual, use a double designation (e.g. Anglo-German) both in the introduction and in the categories.

Popular music[edit]

In popular music, album, mixtape and EP titles should be italicized and song and single titles should be in quotes: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles was included on their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The names of concert tours are not formatted beyond ordinary capitalization.

Per the overall MOS guidance to use logical quotation, punctuation should be placed outside the quotation marks (title formatting) of songs: Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album includes the songs "Like a Rolling Stone", "Ballad of a Thin Man", and "Desolation Row". Of course, if the song title itself contains punctuation, it goes inside: "Help!" by the Beatles was featured in both a film and an album.

For titles of works and releases, purely descriptive phrases in parentheses or after dashes, such as "remix", "acoustic version" and "remastered", should not be considered part of song titles and should be placed outside quotation marks. Particularly in prose, consider re-ordering these phrases to improve the sentence flow: the remix of "Despacito", rather than "Despacito" (remix).

Avoid referring to an artist's second album or single as "sophomore", as this term is not widely understood outside of the United States.

Stringed instrument tunings[edit]

For details, examples, and rationale, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Stringed instrument tunings

In articles on stringed instruments and related topics, information on the tuning of the strings is very often included. The formatting of this information needs careful thought as the conventions used by major critics, encyclopedias, and journals are not consistent with each other on all points.

When describing the tuning of a stringed instrument:

  • Always list the closest (normally bass) string first, so that the standard guitar-tuning is E–A–D–G–B–E.
  • Always number the furthest (normally treble) string as "one," so that the second string of a standard guitar-tuning is the B string.
  • In other matters, be consistent within the article.


Tables are appropriate for lists with three or more fields. Sortable tables are appropriate for longer lists that may be reordered according to title, genre, date, place, etc. Sorting should always ignore definite and indefinite articles, so sorting tags will usually be required.

Track listing[edit]

It is not a standard practice to include track listings as a separate section in song articles when the song was released as a single with an A-side and B-side.[6]

Types of music articles[edit]

Types of music articles include biographical articles about musicians; articles about compositions, songs, or albums; and informative or documentary articles about theory or practice.

For example, articles about musical intervals on Wikipedia currently feature an interval infobox on the top right, listing information such as name and size, followed by a picture of music notation of the interval on C. These articles conclude with the interval template listing other intervals. Most articles describe the names, ratios, cents, and uses in fairly standard order, and if not, it would be preferable that they do so.


Some musical terms have multiple possible meanings. Unless a different meaning is obvious from the context (e.g., in a quote), use the same terminology as Wikipedia titles. The use of titles within articles should follow the same conventions as for titles. see Wikipedia:Naming conventions and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (headings).

  1. Popular music is a broad category usually used in contrast to classical music or folk music; it need not be particularly popular. Pop music is mainstream, commercial, chart-topping music.
  2. Usage of the expression classical music is context-dependent:
    • Without context (as in the Classical music article title), it is usually understood as a broad term for mainstream Western tradition art music dating from the Medieval period onwards. Modern classical can be used to refer to such music from the Modernist era onwards (which originated around the fin de siècle of the 19th century), but this music is far from always understood as included in classical music.
    • In the Western tradition, the term classical music did not exist before about 1836, when it was used to refer to the music of the Classical era (of roughly 1750–1820). Avoid ambiguity by adding context, or by using a more precise expression (e.g.: music of the Classical era) when referring to this type of music. This music is different from Baroque music, of the preceding era, and Romantic music, of the subsequent era – these are however rough distinctions, without the delineations being always very clear, e.g. galant music belongs to both the end of the Baroque era, and the early stages of the Classical era.
    • Many cultures have a period or style of music that for various reasons is termed classical, e.g. Indian classical music. When writing about the variant of the Western tradition, it can be phrased as Western classical music (the link is a redirect to the Classical music article) to avoid ambiguity.
  3. Folk music is orally transmitted and generally informal and non-commercial. Traditional music and roots music are assumed synonyms. Music such as that of Bob Dylan should be described as and linked to something more specific, such as roots revival.
  4. Hip hop music is a music genre. The act of rapping is performed by rappers. When referring to a genre, "hip hop" should be used, except in circumstances such as "gangsta rap". The word hip hop is, like most music genres, not capitalized; it is also not hyphenated.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Wingell 2009, pp. 93–94.
  2. ^ Wingell 2009, p. 91.
  3. ^ The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2003. sec. 8.204. Cited in Wingell 2009, p. 92.
  4. ^ Wingell 2009, p. 92.
  5. ^ Wingell 2009, p. 93.
  6. ^ Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Music/Archive 8#RfC on Track Listing sections in song articles