Documentation on "Reading & Translating Mensural Notation"

• Oct 3, 2015 - 21:20

Renaissance-Notation to be entered to MuseScore

Assumed, you are familiar with "Modern Classic Notation" (as used in Recorder-, Guitar- or Piano-lessons)
(and you really should be, as reading note-scores might open up 90% of all musical treasures for you - worldwide. But that's not matter to this script.)
Now imagine, you do some Internet research on Renaissance Music and find some notice that says: "... that was first printed in Harmonice Musices Odhecaton."
Any Internet-search-engine should show you the link to
... Publisher Info.: Venice: Ottaviano Petrucci, 1501.
... Reprinted: Harmonice musices odhecaton A: Venezia 1501. Bologna: A. Forni, 2003 (#267487)
Well, there it is, and you may download it complete (at no fees.) But then there's a BIG surprise for You. View as an example Page ( ) (or load attachment)
... Uhhhh ... What's that?
Well, that might be something that was no matter to your musical education in the past. Old, but completely new - for You (as it was for me...) The ancestor of the notation we use nowadays. A musical Dinosaur called "Mensural Notation" - but still alive... - fresh from "Jurassic Park".
So, this should be the theme of a discussion thread: How to translate Black- or White Mensural-Notation and use it with MuseScore

As an example of that music of that time, I attach "Giorgio Mainerio (ca.1535 — May 1582) - Tedescha & Saltarello" That's the kind of music to "reenact" from Mensural Notes.
INVITATION TO ANY USER WHO HAS INTEREST: If you have knowledge about this - share it with the public, please! Here, in the Forum or in further Discussion at:

Net-Resources, .PDF-Documents, Links, Demo-Scores - all might be worth to be discussed.
Target: To develop some documentation for the Public
The language for this should be "school-english", as it is to be presumed, that most users (even some french) can follow.

Further Discussion at:, some further links to internet-ressources there.


This intent is not new, indeed, it began on MuseScore on April 25, 2012, I presume.

> Posted by ChurchOrganist on April 25, 2012 - 4:11pm
> I have now opened an official feature request in the issue tracker.....
> #16245: Provide Scholarly Notation Support

Well, since MuseScore 2,x there is - some - support for that, declared to be an "Experimental Feature"
As far as I see - not for Input, only as "new, old tapestry for export to .PDF or printout."

No support for "input" . . . B^(

I believe, it really would not make much sense to use Mensural Notation as Input. But there is need - for users with interest in "Renaissance-Music" - for some Background-Information and some "How To" as public support, to "help him Translate" himself. Might possibly end up as "addendum to the online Handbook"?

Let me know, what you think!


Feel free to contact me at


A number of transcriptions from Renaissance scores (and other less ancient) made with MuseScore can be downloaded for free from my score site .

Each can be downloaded as a PDF and as MuseScore engraving files (.mscz); I suggest anybody interested in the topic to get both, in order to compare the two; also the PDF files include front matters with useful informations. Note that some score have been created with MuseScore 1.x and not updated to 2.0 yet.

As described in the site home page, my goal is to provide modern editions as faithful to the originals as possible; in general, it is possible to reconstruct the original text from the transcription itself (round trip).

They do not go much back; the earliest original transcribed is dated 1558, but some pieces date from the first half of the XVI c. (like Rore's madrigals). Notation from before (approx.) late XV c. is a specialist field and usually does not lend itself to plain, or uncontroversial, rendition in modern notation.

The reproductions of the original sources of all (most?) scores are also available from free from the institution holding the source itself (quoted in the PDF front matter), easing the collation between the original and the transcription; simply search the institution web site.

Hoping it may be of some use to somebody...

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