Music Enhanced Text Fonts
In recent years the adoption of the Unicode standard has revolutionised computer font design and production. Before Unicode, fonts were limited to 256 characters (or in some cases fewer); now a single font can contain a vast number of characters. The same font can include Latin alphabets (complete with diacriticals), Greek, Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and a plethora of other symbols. Unicode defines a 'code point' for each of thousands upon thousands of different characters, symbols, and signs
Text accompanying music
However, designing an attractive and coherent set of glyphs is a skilled and time-consuming business, and no font found in practice will contain every symbol which Unicode defines. And music applications often require symbols which are omitted from fonts, because, in a wider context, they are considered rare.
If you want to entitle your piece of music
"Sonata in A♭"
then you'll have to look quite hard to find a font containing the flat symbol. There are a few, but they are in the minority. And when you find one, it might not be proportioned compatibly with the text, or it might not space itself appropriately from the previous letter.
If you want to write a story about the chord
then you may be in similar trouble, though a font containing a Greek capital delta may help with the major 7th.
And when writing lyrics under music, if two words are sung under the same note, they are often marked with an elision, for example:
The Unicode 'undertie' symbol does the job nicely, though you might look in vain for a font containing it!
Finally, if you want to write a 'half diminished' chord, eg
you may have real problems, as, as far as we can tell, Unicode does not define the half-diminished symbol.
Music Enhanced Text Fonts - definition
We shall define a 'Music Enhanced Text Font', therefore, as one containing (in adition to a Latin alphabet) a number of specific symbols which make writing about music possible. Important: this is not a musical symbols font, but a text font with a few symbols which are commonly inserted in text when writing about music. In the following, Unicode code points are defined in the standard way with "U+" followed by a 4 digit hexadecimal number - as we're restricting attention to the basic multilingual plane (BMP).
A "Level 1 Music Enhanced Text Font" is one which contains the characters:
|U+00B0||°||degree sign||for diminished chord names|
|U+0394||Δ||Greek capital delta||for major 7th chord names|
|U+203F||‿||undertie||for word elision in lyric lines|
|U+266D||♭||musical flat sign||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+266E||♮||musical natural sign||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+266F||♯||musical sharp sign||for note, chord, and key names|
For many purposes these will be enough, but some more are occasionally needed. We therefore define:
A "Level 2 Music Enhanced Text Font" is one which contains all of the above characters and also the following in the 'private use area' of Unicode's basic multilingual plane:
|U+E260||||flat||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+E261||||natural||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+E262||||sharp||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+E263||||double sharp||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+E264||||double flat||for note, chord, and key names|
|U+E870||||diminished||for chord names|
|U+E871||||half diminished||for chord names|
|U+E872||||plus||for chord names|
|U+E873||||major 7th||for chord names|
|U+E874||||minus||for inclusion in chord names|
The 'level 2' symbols introduce the double sharp, and double flat, and duplicate the other accidentals for convenience. The half-diminished symbol is also introduced, and the other chord symbol components allow symbols which are different from degree, delta etc, should the distinction be desired.
These points in the private use area are designed to conform to the code point allocations of the SMuFL (Standard Music Font Layout) specification, though the metrics of our 'Music Enhanced Text Fonts' may be different from other SMuFL fonts.
Creating Music Enhanced Text Fonts
At time of writing there are essentially no commonly available fonts conforming to this standard. Fortunately, these days, anyone with a font editor can create some! There are now quite a large number of fonts available (eg from 'Google fonts') under an Open Font Licence (OFL). The OFL allows one to add these characters to a font, give it a different name, and distribute it freely under very reasonable conditions (including acknowledging the copyright of the original authors).
Music Enhanced Text Fonts now available!
Here at Mozart Music Software we have created a few. They are available on our text fonts download page. They are usable in Mozart notation software from Mozart 10 onwards.