While lyrics are not yet used in sound generation, they are included in Standard MIDI files, so we will discuss them here with the other MIDI-compatible features of MusicXML.
Lyrics in MusicXML use an optional syllabic element to indicate how a syllable fits into a word, rather than having conventions based on hyphens and spaces as some other formats do. The values for syllabic can be “single”, “begin”, “end”, or “middle”. We saw earlier that the E-flat starting the third measure had a syllabic value of “end”, since “meil” was the end of a two-syllable word. The “ma” syllable in “image” has a syllabic value of “middle”. In the second measure, the notes are:
<note> <pitch> <step>G</step> <octave>4</octave> </pitch> <duration>24</duration> <lyric> <syllabic>single</syllabic> <text>Dans</text> </lyric> </note> <note> <pitch> <step>C</step> <octave>5</octave> </pitch> <duration>24</duration> <lyric> <syllabic>single</syllabic> <text>un</text> </lyric> </note> <note> <pitch> <step>D</step> <octave>5</octave> </pitch> <duration>24</duration> <lyric> <syllabic>begin</syllabic> <text>som</text> </lyric> </note>
The actual text of the lyric is specified in the text element. A note may have multiple syllables, in which case the multiple syllabic/text element pairs should be separated by an elision element. Word extensions may be indicated by using the extend element, as in the “meil” syllable above.
Multiple verses are indicating using multiple lyric elements. The number and name attributes can be used to distinguish them: <lyric number="1"> for the first verse, <lyric number="2"> for the second.
MusicXML has end-line and end-paragraph elements to support Standard MIDI File Lyric meta-events specified in RP-017. These are used for karaoke and similar applications. Elements for humming and laughing may also be included, though they do not have MIDI equivalents. These lyric elements have not yet been implemented in MusicXML software.