Guidelines for correct use of delimiters in classical titles?


There is some sort of consensus on how the title of a classical track should be constructed.
It should not only contain the title of the specific track, but also the work, movement, scene, etc. it is a part of.

There is also some agreement on the delimiters to be used for that.
E.g. as described in the iTunes style guide.
(comma, colon, hyphen for: work, act - scene)

Especially the placement of the colon is important.
It should be placed right behind the work title, or (when present) the

Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492: Act I - Scene I. No. 2 Duettino “Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama”

La Belle Excentrique: Marche franco-lunaire

Yet, I find that a lot of releases on MusicBrainz don’t follow these guidelines on using those delimiters.
You’ll often find the colon not located in between the work/ and the rest of the title.

I wasn’t able to find much info on this subject on the MusicBrainz websites.
Only this:

I was curious what kind of focus/importance MusicBrainz has on this matter, and if there is some intention to get more consistency in it?


It’s nice to have, but not something we can realistically ask people to just go look for and fix everywhere. Mostly because they would die of boredom. So: if you see errors, please do fix them (that’s what I usually do for example), but unless you really want to, don’t just go through a ton of releases in search of colons to fix :slight_smile:


I understand it is completely unrealistic to fix ‘errors’ on this in the current database by hand, or by volunteer editors.
Such a task could probably only be done by a programmer/administrator using some clever search&replace algorithms and additional human control of it.

But personally I find it a pity that MusicBrainz has no clear guideline on this at all.
Else new contributions would have a much better chance to be entered in a ‘correct’ way in the first place.

And it could then also be an item to ‘fix’ when a ‘community cleanup’ project is performed.


Is not clear? I thought it was! If it isn’t, what do you thing needs fixing?


To me, it indicates mainly (and it puts the emphasis on) that contrary to popular music, for classical music the full title (including work, scene etc.) must be entered as ‘full title’.

It doesn’t indicate, or explain much about the importance of using ‘correct’ delimiting.

There could be an explanation on how commas, colons and hyphens are recommended to be used.
Possibly with some real world examples added.


It does specify “add the full work title (as listed on the release) to all tracks from the work, separated with a colon”. Stuff like commas depend on the specific language, but the English classical guidelines do specify that “catalogues should always be preceded by comma and space.”

I don’t think there’s any recommendation about hyphens anywhere, other than “if the key name contain the words “sharp” or “flat”, they should be in lower case and a hyphen should be used as delimiter” from that same guideline, but I don’t think we mandate hyphens anywhere else either.

Edit: keep in mind I’m not claiming the guidelines are perfect, and I would like to make them more clear when possible, but I also don’t want to go overboard in mandating things that deviate too much from the cover.


I didn’t know that usage of the comma before depended on English language.
That’s a pity.
Hyphens are indeed pretty much impossible to regulate/recommend.
But one reason for me raising this (for some personal objectives that I have), is that I was hoping that hyphens could at least be an indicator for the different levels of the compositional structure.
E.g. separating acts from scenes, movements from parts etc.


Honestly, I wouldn’t bother to try to extract compositional structure from track titles. It would make the guidelines much more complex, and would still fail a lot of the time. That said, I’d say we usually use colons for multiple levels too (so Opera: Act 1: No. 1. “Sing sing sing I sing a lot” or something like that) and hyphens to separate multiple same-level parts (so Opera: Act 1: No. 1. “Sing sing sing I sing a lot” - No. 2. “I sing too, sing sing”).


Clear. Thanks for explaining.


It is because of the inconsistency in naming that I built the Classical Extras plugin. If you want to use the title as the basis for the work/movement name and derive the right structure for it, the way the plugin works is to use the work structure in MusicBrainz to infer the structure in the title by looking for the text that repeats within a work level. Of course this only works if there is more than one movement. For single-movement works it has to fall back to looking for a colon, but then the structure is of less importance. Using the MusicBrainz work names rather than the titles as the basis for the work/movement name will give you the right structure every time (assuming MB is correct), but probably more verbose. The plugin gives this as an alternative plus an option to include selected additional text from the title (useful if it is in a different language).


Act and scene are usually separated by a comma not a dash, but otherwise this is how most editors format opera titles.
When multiple sections are present in the one title, the sections are usually separated by / or or

Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492: Act I, Scene I. No. 2 Duettino “Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama” / Act I, Scene II. Recitativo “Or bene, ascolta e taci!”


I understand it might be impossible to get an overall working guideline on this, and it’s also not a very important issue for most user cases.
Yet I think it is a pity that there is not some uniform delimiter for at least indicating the contents of the specific track.
Thus apart form possible agreed delimiters between works,, scenes, acts, etc. at least an agreed delimiter that shows what part of the full title is exactly contained in that track.
(what’s usually called ‘the lowest level’ here if I am correct)
Since that lowest level might differ between releases.
On one album a specific work might be divided in 20 tracks, and on another album perhaps in 28.
But I’m sure (like everything related to classifying classical music) it’s probably not that simple.