nCoda Lychee Docs

Lychee-MEI (LMEI)

Lychee-MEI (LMEI) is the internal document encoding Lychee uses. LMEI is based on MEI, currently version 2.1.1. LMEI restricts MEI to optimize for speed and safety in the use cases for which Lychee is optimized.

The additional rules of LMEI continue to evolve as development progresses. Once we reach a stable set of rules, we will formalize Lychee-MEI using the MEI customization tools, making it possible to validate whether a file is valid LMEI.

File Layout

  • Every MEI <section> is kept in its own file, to ease version control.
  • Clients are therefore encouraged to use sections generously.
  • An “all_files” MEI file holds references to all sections and metadata, in an arbitrary order.
  • A “score” MEI file holds cross-references to “active” section files, in score order.
  • Every LMEI file MUST include a @version attribute from the Lychee namespace on the root element. This will be the three-part version number of the Lychee version that saved the file. For example:
<section xmlns:ly="" ly:version="0.3.2">
    <!-- musical content -->

File Management

Every LMEI document requires a central all_files.mei file, in which cross-reference links are kept for all other LMEI files in the document. The cross-references use the <ptr> element.

  • The @target attribute holds a URL to the other file, relative to all_files.mei
  • @targettype may be "section", "score", or "head", as appropriate.
  • @xlink:actuate shall be "onRequest".
  • @xlink:show shall be "embed".
        <ptr targettype="head" target="meihead.xml" xlink:actuate="onRequest" xlink:show="embed"/>
        <ptr targettype="score" target="score.xml" xlink:actuate="onRequest" xlink:show="embed"/>
        <ptr targettype="section" target="Sme-s-m-l-e4837298.mei" xlink:actuate="onRequest" xlink:show="embed"/>
        <ptr targettype="section" target="Sme-s-m-l-e9376275.mei" xlink:actuate="onRequest" xlink:show="embed"/>


I’m not entirely sure this is valid MEI. If it’s not, we should change the LMEI specification here to follow MEI if possible.


  • The <multiRest> element is not allowed; use multiple <mRest> elements.
  • <mRest> elements must have a @dur attribute (and @dots if relevant).
  • The <dot> element is forbidden in favour of @dot attributes. (We may need <dot> when dealing with particular repertoire or critical editions, later, but for now it’s an unnecessary complication to support).
  • When the @accid attribute appears on an element, the @accid.ges attribute must be used too. Using @accid.ges doesn’t require @accid, however. (NB: accidental encoding was changed in MEI 3, and will therefore change soon in Lychee-MEI).


A “spanner” is a single notation element that groups several temporal events, such as a beam, slur, tie, or tuplet. The following restrictions eliminate rare but possible ambiguities and, more importantly, eliminate the need for multiple-pass parsing.


be more specific about which elements are required in a @plist attribute

  • Given the choice between a spanner container (like <tuplet>) and a spanner pointer (like <tupletSpan>), the pointer must be used.
  • The @plist attribute is required, containing a list of the @xml:id attributes of all affected music events. An “affected music event” has a different meaning with or without the spanner in question. The meaning of <accid> elements is not affected by slurs, so they need not be included in @plist attributes. Likewise, nesting slurs does not affect their meaning (at least, not in a definite and consistent way). On the other hand, nesting tuplets has a significant impact on the meaning, so the highest-level <tupletSpan> would include all the nested tuplets and every notes and rests.
  • Spanners must indicate either @startid and @endid or @tstamp and @tstamp2.
  • Prefer @startid and @endid over @tstamp and @tstamp2 when possible. An example “not possible” situation is a laissez vibrer tie, the end of which is not attached to a note or rest.
  • A spanner element should be a sibling of the first spanned element, as close as possible before that element.
  • Nested spanners must appear in hierarchic document order (that is, with the highest level first in the document).

Tuplets Only

  • Both @num and @numbase are required on every <tupletSpan>.

“n” Attributes

These rules specify extra precision for which standard MEI would otherwise require attributes such as @prev and @next, and some level of assumption.

  • For containers that require an @n attribute, the values begin at 1, increment by 1, and start with the top-most or left-most sub-container, as applicable. Therefore the first <section> will have @n="1", the next @n="2", and so on. The top-most <staff> will have @n="1", the next @n="2", and so on.
  • An inactive <section> (not part of the current “score”) should not have an @n attribute.
  • For layers, @n="1" is the first “upper voice” and @n="2" the first “lower voice,” with subsequent upper voices receiving odd @n values and lower voices receiving even @n values. This follows the practice established by several point-and-click music notation editors.
  • When a sub-container is added or removed from a container (e.g., a <layer> removed from a <staff>) the @n values of the following sub-containers must be adjusted in order to maintain the “incremented by 1” stipulation.
  • The @n attribute of an element must equal the @n attribute of a corresponding element in other contexts (e.g., the principal flute’s <staff> would be @n="1" in every <measure>). Because of the “increment by 1” rule, an @n value missing from a container signifies a deliberate absence of content. For example, in a score with fifteen parts, omitting the @n="3" <staff> in one <section> indicates that the @n="3" part has no music in that <section>.
  • Corresponding metadata elements must also share @n attributes, such as <staffDef> and <staff>.
  • The LMEI-to-MEI converter should add @prev and @next attributes to ease round-trip conversion.

Nesting of Measures and Staves


We are considering alternatives to this rule. We would prefer a solution that is a strict subset of MEI, whereas this solution is strictly incompatible.

Lychee-MEI reverses the nesting order of <staff> and <measure> elements. This rule is the most significant difference from standard MEI. The LMEI document hierarchy looks like this:

        <measure>  <!-- optional -->

We use this nesting order for two principal reasons:

  1. It more closely reflects the document hierarchy used in other formats, such as LilyPond, MusicXML, music21, and others. Conversion between these formats is faster when LMEI uses the same hierarchy.
  2. It allows greater consistency between mensural and non-mensural representations. In standard MEI, converting a piece between mensural and non-mensural representations would require a significant change to the document hierarchy. With the measure-inside-staff nesting of LMEI, the change is less dramatic.

The second point, about converting between mensural and non-mensural representations, may seem like an esoteric item of concern only to contemporary composers. However, this is about (non-)mensural representations, not scores. Every score coming from LilyPond, for example, necessarily uses a non-mensural representation because LilyPond syntax has no means to encode measures. Verovio, on the other hand, currently requires <measure> elements in its input. We predict therefore that converting between mensural and non-mensural representations will happen often.

ScoreDef and StaffDef

  • Whenever possible, every <staffDef> must be contained in a <scoreDef>.
  • Whenever possible, <staffDef> and <scoreDef> must be the first element in a <section>.
  • Every <staffDef> element must have an @n attribute that is the same as the corresponding <staff> elements.

Semantic XML IDs


We are considering alternatives to this rule. If semantic XML IDs are unnecessary for the views module’s diff implementation, we will abandon this rule.

The @xml:id attribute of musical elements contained within a <section> must use the following scheme to encode the element’s position within the document hierarchy.

  • The @xml:id concatenates the element IDs for the section, staff, measure, and layer that contain the element. Each portion is separated with a hyphen. Each element ID is preceded by a single-letter reminder of its tag.
  • If an element is a section, staff, measure, or layer, its place in the @xml:id is marked with “me”.
  • Every element has a seven-digit “element ID.”
  • The element IDs of missing or irrelevant hierarchic elements are omitted.
  • The generic @xml:id is @xml:id="SX-sX-mX-lX-eX", where X is an element ID.

Consider this example:

<section xml:id="Sme-s-m-l-e1234567">
    <staff xml:id="S1234567-sme-m-l-e8974095">
        <measure xml:id="S1234567-s8974095-mme-l-e8290395">
            <layer xml:id="S1234567-s8974095-m8290395-lme-e7389825">
                <note xml:id="S1234567-s8974095-m8290395-l7389825-e7290542"/>
            <slur xml:id="S1234567-s8974095-m8290395-l-e3729884"/>


This poses a unique problem for conversion to and from proper MEI documents where the document hierarchy may be different. We have yet to determine how to handle this situation.

MEI Headers

These rules apply to child elements of <meiHead>.

  • All title parts must be contained in a single <title> element. Use of the @type attribute is mandatory, with the possible values being those suggested by the MEI Guidelines: main, subordinate, abbreviated, alternative, translated, uniform. This means every <meiHead> element contains at least two <title> elements.
  • The <respStmt> element contains <persName> elements referring to Lychee users. Contributors who have not used Lychee (or a Lychee client application) may be identified with a more specific child element in the <titleStmt>.
  • The <persName> in <respStmt> should use child elements with @type="full", @type="given", @type="other", and @type="family" attributes to encode name parts. Use as many as possible, but only with values provided specifically by end users. That is, if a user provides only their full name, it should not be automatically encoded as parts; likewise, if a user only provides their name in parts, it should not be automatically encoded as a full name. This reduces the possibility of inadvertently using an incorrect name.
  • A <persName> element may contain a <ptr> that links to a an externally-hosted image to be used as an avatar representing that person. In this case:
    • The @targettype attribute MUST be “avatar”.
    • The @target attribute MUST be an HTTPS or HTTP URL to the image.
    • The @mimetype attribute MUST be a MIME type as specified in RFC 2046 or omitted.
    • The @xlink:actuate attribute MUST be “none” or omitted.
    • The @xlink:show attribute MUST be “none” or omitted.
  • The @xml:id for header elements should be some sort of UUID-like value, and should not follow the semantic @xml:id scheme used for musical elements. However, this value must be an NCName, and must therefore start with a letter.
  • If the arranger, author, composer, editor, funder, librettist, lyricist, or sponsor elements identify someone who is also represented in the <respStmt>, then the <persName> in the specific identifier should use a @nymref attribute with the @xml:id value of the <persName> in the <respStmt>.

Metadata Currently Supported by Lychee

The following document excerpt shows all the metadata fields that Lychee will support. Only the fields with a <!-- required --> comment must be in the <meiHead> of every Lychee-MEI document. The Document class automatically filles in placehlder values for all required header fields.

Additional metadata will very likely be added in the future.

    <fileDesc>  <!-- required -->
        <titleStmt>  <!-- required -->
            <!-- NB: having all title parts in a containing <title>, and using the @type attribute,
                are required for Lychee-MEI, and optional in standard MEI
                NB: the @xml:lang and @translit are optional; their use will be specified later
            <title xml:lang="??" translit="?"> <!-- required -->
                <title type="main"/>  <!-- required -->
                <title type="subordinate"/>
                <title type="abbreviated"/>
                <title type="alternative"/>
                <title type="translated"/>
                <title type="uniform"/>
            <!-- NB: the following <titleStmt> child elements are not required -->
                <!-- this is for users who worked on the document -->
                <!-- users may wish to credit Abjad; translatable string -->
                <name type="process">Abjad API for Formalized Score Control</name>
                <persName xml:id="p8109850029">
                    <!-- NB: use as many of the @type="full", @type="given", @type="other", and
                        @type="family" child elements as possible, according to what the person
                        responsible wishes
                        NB: the @xml:lang and @translit are optional, and will be specified later
                    <persName type=""/>
                    <!-- if you want to include a link to the user's avatar -->
                    <ptr targettype="avatar" target=""/>
            <!-- NB: the following are what is written on the engraved score; if they correspond
                to a person in the <respStmt>, this should be done with a @nymref on the <persName>
                <!-- for an arranger who isn't a Lychee user -->
                <persName xml:id="p12341234">
                    <persName type="full">Robert W. Smith</persName>
                <!-- for an author who is a Lychee user -->
                <persName nymref="#p8109850029"/>

        <pubStmt>  <!-- required -->
            <!-- NB: all Lychee scores are considered unpublished for now -->
            <unpub>  <!-- required; text content is translatable -->
                This is an unpublished Lychee-MEI document.

    <workDesc>  <!-- (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <audience/>  <!-- e.g., "beginner bands" (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <classification/>  <!-- like "keywords" (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <contents/>  <!-- a description of doc contents (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <context/>  <!-- socio-historical context (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <history/>  <!-- (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <key pname="" accid="" mode=""/>  <!-- (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <langUsage/>  <!-- related to @xml:lang elsewhere (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <mensuration/>  <!-- (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <meter count="" sym="" unit=""/>  <!--  (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <notesStmt/>  <!-- for score-wide notes left by users (NB: not yet implemented) -->
            <perfMedium/>  <!-- intened performers of this version (NB: not yet implemented) -->

        <!-- NB: not implemented; will contain data from the Mercurial revlog -->