Open Opus Style Guide

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Perhaps the most important decision on any database is about styling: how to name and categorize the information we collect. That's why Open Opus has, since its creation, a Style Guide. It's based primarily on the Classical Metadata Style Guide by the [Music Business Association], which is used by most streaming services and online retailers. We also took in consideration many points from the Wikipedia naming conventions for classical music.

Basic naming conventions

The Open Opus databases has two title fields for compositions: title and subtitle. The title is the main field and should contain all relevant information about the work, such as numbering, catalogue, key and nickname. The subtitle field is optional and is reserved for additional information such as instrumentation, version and edition, only when necessary.

Title order

Name no. # in K major, op. # no. #, C.#, CC.#, “Nickname”


Symphony no. 3 in F major, op. 90 Symphony no. 3 in E flat major, op. 55, "Eroica" Symphony no. 41 in C major, K.551, "Jupiter" Piano Trio no. 5 in D major, op. 70 no. 1, "Ghost"

On keys

  • "Major" is always explicit (e.g. "Symphony no. 38 in D major" and not "Symphony no. 38 in D"), except when the key has become part of the piece "trademark" title (e.g. Gershwin's "Concerto in F")
  • "Flat" and "sharp" always fully written (e.g. "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, op. 83" and not "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭ major, op. 83")
  • There is no need to include key information in titled works (e.g. "Tragic Overture, op. 81" and not "Tragic Overture in D minor, op. 81")
  • Sacred music: only masses and requiems should receive key information (e.g. "Mass in C major, op. 86"); more strongly titled works such as "Te Deum", "Stabat Mater" don't need keys in their titles

Additional notes

  • There is either a dor or a space between the catalogue abbreviation ("K", "BWV" etc) and its numbering (e.g. "K.551", "BWV 1024")
  • Small pieces sets (etudes, variations, preludes etc) should not begin with a number (e.g. "Preludes, op. 28" and not "24 Preludes, op. 28"). Exception: when the numbering has become part of the piece "trademark" title (e.g. "Four Last Songs", "Five Orchestral Pieces")


The subtitle is primarily reserved to describe, when needed, instrumentation and genre, in the format:

Genre, for soloist, soloist, chorus and orchestra


Genre should be always explicit when the work has a title which doesn't disclosure the genre by itself.

Examples of mandatory subtitles:

Siegfried Idyll, WWV 103 Symphonic poem

Le nozze di Figaro, K.492 Opera

Egmont, op. 84 Incidental music

Examples of titled works that don't require subtitles:

Symphonie fantastique, op. 14 Quatuor pour la fin du temps Academic Festival Overture, op. 80


Instrumentation should be explicit only when the work is clearly different from the standard. Usually, pieces in these genres don't require explicit instrumentation:

  • Sonata
  • Symphony
  • Symphonic poem
  • Concerto
  • Quartet (and Trio, Quintet etc)
  • Opera
  • Cantata
  • Mass (and Requiem etc)
  • Song


  • Titled chamber works
  • Sinfonias concertantes (or double, triple concertos)
  • Orchestral songs


Quatuor pour la fin du temps For violin, cello, clarinet and piano

Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K.364 For violin, viola and orchestra

Triple Concerto in C major, op. 56 For violin, cello, piano and orchestra

Four Last Songs, TrV 296 For soprano and orchestra

Versions and arrangements

Versions, editions and arrangements are not considered different works. This kind of information should be part of the recording, not part of the composition. Therefore, it's registered on the player itself (Concertmaster, Concertino), in the following format:

Version for instrument (abbreviated verb by Complete Name)

Version verbs
  • Solo arrangements are “transcriptions”, abbreviated “tr.”
  • Chamber arrangements are “arrangements”, abbreviated “arr.”
  • Orchestral arrangements are “orchestrations”, abbreviated “orch.”


Version for piano (tr. Franz Liszt) Version for orchestra (orch. Arnold Schoenberg) Version for nonet (arr. Alan Boustead) Version for 2 pianos (tr. Max Reger)


  • Don’t use “piano duo” - it’s ambiguous! Use the more precise “2 pianos” and “piano 4 hands”).
  • Alternative versions by the original composer may omit authorship

Part/Collection from the genre (arr. Complete Name, if not the original composer) Suite from the ballet Overture from the opera Prelude to the 3rd act of the opera Overture from the incidental music Medley from the opera (arr. Robert Russell Bennett)

Part/Collection from the genre, version for formation (arr. Complete Name, if not the original composer) Suite from the play, version for clarinet, violin and piano

Year [first] version (ed. Complete Name)
1874 version (ed. Leopold Nowak) 1905 first version

Version edited by Complete Name Version edited by Gustav Mahler Version edited by Nikolai Rimksy-Korsakov

Original version (if an arrangement by a third party is more famous than the original work)

Version completed by Complete Name Version completed by William Carragan Version completed by Franz Xaver Sussmayr

Translations of operas etc

Language language version of the genre German language version of the opera English language version of the theatre piece

Open Opus Multiedit Syntax

  • +7766>>Double Concerto in A minor, op. 102[Double Concerto, Doppelkonzert]<<For violin, cello and orchestra


  • +0>>New work<<