What is SMuFL?
SMuFL is a specification that provides a standard way of mapping the thousands of musical symbols required by conventional music notation into the Private Use Area in Unicode’s Basic Multilingual Plane for a single (format-independent) font.
Most fonts containing musical symbols use a glyph layout that was first introduced in 1985 with Adobe’s Sonata font, which accommodates fewer than 200 basic symbols. In the last three decades, individual software vendors and font designers have built upon this de facto standard in an uncoordinated and haphazard fashion, leading to significant inconsistencies between different music font families. Furthermore, all existing music font families make use of many separate font files containing different subsets of symbols, not taking advantage of the capabilities of OpenType and Unicode.
In 1998, a range of 220 glyphs for musical symbols was added to the Unicode standard, but this range does not significantly expand upon the initial set of symbols contained in Sonata, and has not yet been widely adopted.
The goal of SMuFL is to establish a new standard glyph mapping for musical symbols that is optimised for modern font formats and that can be adopted by a variety of software vendors and font designers, for the benefit of all users of music notation software.
Who needs SMuFL?
You may be interested in SMuFL if you are:
- developing software that displays music notation;
- developing fonts for music notation software; or
- interested in how music notation can be encoded or represented in intermediate formats, such as MEI or MusicXML.
For information about existing software that implements SMuFL, start here.
Since it is merely a standard and not itself a font, SMuFL is probably not useful for individual users of music notation software, though such people might find it useful to refer to the documentation for information about the meaning of individual music symbols. If you are looking for SMuFL-compliant fonts, start here.
Contributing to the development of SMuFL
SMuFL is a living specification and is still under active development. Whether you are a software vendor, a font designer, an academic, an end user of notation software, or indeed any other interested party, you are welcome to contribute to the development of SMuFL.
The best way to get involved is through the W3C Music Notation Community Group, which provides an open forum to discuss considerations of how symbols should be encoded, which symbols should be included, and so on.