French in classical music (proposal draft) / Usage du français dans la musique classique (ébauche)

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Following the discussion here,
I thought it would be nice to have a French classical style guideline. So here’s something I put together to start the discussion…

Suivant la discussion ici,
J’ai pensé que ce serait bien de doter MusicBrainz de règles pour le français dans la musique classique. Voici une ébauche que j’ai entamée pour partir la discussion…


Help with French release

Not sure where the best place to discuss is — here or the wiki — but since we already started here…

Remember, I know no French, so I’m reading the English translation. And I apologize if any of this is obvious to anyone who speaks even a lick of French.

Comments about specific sections

Number abbreviation

Numbers should always be lower-cased and abbreviatedand: nᵒ (There should be a space before the number).

If a release writes out “Symphonie numéro un” or “Symphonie numéro 1” (Google Translate gave me those), is the (proposed) guideline to normalize that to “Symphonie nᵒ 1”? It doesn’t seem like it should; we generally follow the release. Didn’t we recently decide against doing that normalization for volume numbers (vol. 1 vs. volume 1)? [Well, it was 2015, see]

Also, do we want to specify spacing? Presumably those should be non-breaking spaces around it.

I think changing all abbreviations to “nᵒ” would be fine. Probably should have an ASCII version too, for people who can’t type ᵒ. Maybe:

If the release abbreviates numéro (number), abbreviate it as “nᵒ” if possible. “no.” is acceptable but not preferred. There should be spaces (non-breaking if possible) before and after the nᵒ/no.


The word “in” should always precede the key name.
The key “ut” should never be used. Instead use “do”.

I presume “in” is a translation mistake. What is the key “ut”? Is there some reason it shouldn’t be used, if that’s what the release does? And as a non-French speaker, is s/en ut/en do/g safe?

The symbols ♯ or ♭ should never be used. Use instead “dièse” or “bémol”.

Seems to be standardization that we don’t typically do.


English titles in general should follow MusicBrainz’s standard capitalization for French.

I presume that was a copy-and-paste error, and you should have said “French titles in general…”

General comments

Parts of titles

We also need to figure out what we’re going to do with mixed-language titles. Classical has tons of them—you can easily get:

Symphony no. 42 in C-sharp major, “Un nom en français”: 1. (tempos in Italian, English, German, …) “First line of lyrics in Latin”.

It’s common to have at least two different languages in a classical title—titles in English, tempos/loudness in Italian. A work title in another language is pretty common, too. And mixing Italian and German or English in the tempos/loudness happens too (though maybe “Adagio” is used so much you don’t consider that Italian anymore).

A title like: “English” « French » «Italian» „German“ or »German« looks more like a ransom note than a title.

It’s also, just as a practical matter, potentially a lot of language guidelines to try to understand and apply to one title.

(A lot of this, of course, would go away if we just followed what’s printed on the release.)

Missing stuff?

Your examples show spacing around colons, which the other thread let me know is the norm in French typography. With some suggestions on the types of spaces to use. Same with spacing around double chevrons (which I’m not sure that’s always the norm — shows it without some places).


Great idea.

I would give examples with first line of lyrics, in general with opera (with act and scene numbering).

Maybe a generic template would help, something like:

< : [roman number]. [movement title]>

and for opera

<, act number><, scene number>< n° XX>< : « lyrics »>

Also, I would specify where to put not breaking spaces, maybe with a coloring.


Thank you for your feeback / merci pour les commentaires.

Added your suggestion in a grey box but changed “no.” to “no” (see 1.1.3, - In french we don’t use the period for abbreviations when the middle letters are removed and the last letter is kept)

Suggestion ajoutée dans une boîte grise mais j’ai changé no. pour no (voir 1.1.3,

Ut is an old word used for do (Which is C in english). It was suggested in a french guide to not use it (

Ut est l’ancien nom de la note do. Il est suggéré dans ce guide de ne pas l’utiliser dans les titres (

Do et ut : Comme on solfie do et non ut, il n’existe aucune raison d’utiliser la forme ancienne ut pour désigner la première note de la gamme de do, nom beaucoup plus euphonique.

Translation mistakes/erreurs de trtaduction
Fixed them / corrigées

Parts of titles
I’m relatively new to editing classical but imho, we should just try to use proper language guidelines for parts of title in their according language.

Missing stuff?
In french we put space before and after quotation marks
ref :

and we put non-breaking space before a colon (and a regular space after)
ref :�cable&i=1&cur=1&nmbr=&comencsrch.x=0&comencsrch.y=0


Do you mean for work titles ?
I think I was in another post that the usage of unicode roman character is not preferred (we should use normal letters for those).



  1. For the abbreviation “no” of “numéro”, it might be useful to insist (in parenthesis) on the lack of ending period, just for the English version.


  1. La traduction me semble erronée, il s’agit plutôt ici de la tonalité (par ex. do dièse mineur) qui est caractérisée par une tonique (qui est en effet une note au sens restreint de hauteur tonale, par ex. do dièse) et un mode (par ex. mineur).

  2. La note ut n’est certes plus solfiée, mais la clef d’ut est toujours utilisée (et je n’ai jamais entendu parler de clé de do). Aucun de ces deux cas ne correspond tout à fait à la tonique qui n’est ni solfiée ni une clé. Je ne vois pas très bien l’avantage de normaliser le nom de la tonique alors qu’il correspond généralement à l’époque de l’œuvre.

Capitalization/Usage des majuscules

  1. La section devrait s’intituler Antisèche typographique ou Rappels de typographie car primo, elle ne couvre pas que l’usage des majuscules, mais aussi celui des guillemets et potentiellement celui des espaces; et secundo, contrairement aux recommandations précédentes, ces usages ne sont pas spécifiques à la musique classique.
    (The same remark applies to the CSG for other languages: “Capitalization” should be a subsection of a broader section titled “Typography cheatsheet” or “Typography basics” .)

@Lotheric: Pour plus de clarté, est-ce possible de déplacer ton ébauche vers une page isolée, comme par exemple ?


Musicbrainz moved more and more from heavy standardization to “use what is on the release”. In my opinion, this is the right way. We should not expect normal users to memorize long specification lists. And no matter how detailed a standardization ruleset is, there will always be border cases.

So I think for release/track level, the general guideline should be:
Use what is written on the cover/tracklist. However, correct things which are clearly wrong or inconsistent.

For recordings and works the situation is different and a higher level of standardization might make sense.


J’ai créé la page et modifié le lien dans le post original… Je suis au travail en ce moment. C’est un wiki alros si vous voulez faire des modifications, allez s’y! :slight_smile:

I created the page and changed the link in the original post… I’m currently at work. It’s a wiki so if you want to change something, you can go ahead ! :slight_smile:

EDIT: I’ve made some changes to the wiki page with your suggestions.