Adding notes and rests to a staff requires four basic steps:
- Select your starting position for note entry
- Select Note Entry mode
- Select the duration of the note (or rest) you want to enter
- Enter the pitch (or rest) using keyboard shortcut, mouse or a MIDI keyboard
To add notes that overlap in time, but start or end at different times, see Voices. For chords, continue reading here.
Step 1: Starting position
First, select a note, or rest on the score as your starting position for note entry. Note entry in MuseScore replaces the existing notes or rests in a measure with your new notes (i.e. overwrites rather than inserts). However, you can insert new measures at any point (see measure operations, "Insert"), or use copy and paste to move a passage of notes.
Step 2: Note Entry mode
The "N" button on the Note Entry toolbar indicates whether you are in Note Entry mode or not. Besides clicking the button, you can also use the following keyboard shortcuts:
- N: Enter Note Entry mode
- N or Esc: Leave Note Entry mode
Step 3: Duration of the note
After entering Note Entry mode, select the duration of the note you need from the Note Entry toolbar, or use the corresponding keyboard shortcut.
The keyboard shortcuts for selecting the note duration are:
- 1: 64th note (hemidemisemiquaver)
- 2: 32nd note (demisemiquaver)
- 3: 16th note (semiquaver)
- 4: Eighth note (quaver)
- 5: Quarter note (crotchet)
- 6: Half note (minim)
- 7: Whole note (semibreve)
- 8: Double whole note (breve)
- 9: Longa
- 0: Rest
- .: A period (dot) changes the selected duration into a dotted note/rest
Step 4: Enter pitch
For all instruments (except unpitched percussion), you can add note pitches using the mouse by clicking directly on the staff. (For instructions specific to percussion see Drum notation). However, you may find it quicker to use a MIDI keyboard (see below), or your alphabetical computer keyboard. The following examples use the latter.
Enter pitches by typing the corresponding letter on your keyboard:
C D E F G A B C
0 (Zero) creates a rest: for example C D 0 E. Notice that the duration you select for the notes (quarter/crotchet notes in this example) also determines the duration of the rest (quarter/crotchet rest).
During note entry, MuseScore automatically advances in the score. If you want to add a chord note to your previous entry, hold Shift⇑ and enter a note name: C D Shift⇑+F Shift⇑+A E F
To create chords with notes of different durations, see voices.
If you want to create a dotted note, press .. For example 5 . C 4 D E F G A
When you type a note on the keyboard, MuseScore chooses the octave closest to the previous note entered. To shift your note up or down by an octave, use the following keyboard shortcuts:
- Ctrl+↑ (Mac: ⌘+↑): Increase the pitch of a note by one octave.
- Ctrl+↓ (Mac: ⌘+↓): Decrease the pitch of a note by one octave.
Other useful editing keyboard shortcuts available in Note Entry Mode:
- ↑ (Up): Increase the pitch of a note by a semitone (uses sharps).
- ↓ (Down): Decrease the pitch of a note by a semitone (uses flats).
- R: Duplicate the last entered note
- Q: Halve the duration of the last entered note
- W: Double the duration of the last entered note
- Backspace: Undo last entered note
- X: Flip direction of note stem
- Shift⇑+X: Move note head to opposite side of stem
You can also insert pitches using a MIDI keyboard.
- Connect your MIDI keyboard to the computer and switch your keyboard on
- Start MuseScore
- Create a new score
- Click to select the rest in measure 1 to indicate where you want note entry to begin
- Press N to begin Note Entry mode
- Select a note duration such as 5 for quarter notes (crotchets), as described above
- Press a note on your MIDI keyboard, and notice that the pitch is added to your score
Note: The MIDI keyboard enters one note or chord at a time. This mode of note entry (often called "step-time entry") is fast and reliable. Some notation software try to interpret "real-time entry", in which the musician plays a passage and the software tries to produce notation. However, the results are generally unreliable. MuseScore focuses on more reliable forms of note entry.
If you have multiple MIDI devices connected to your computer, you may need to tell MuseScore which one is the MIDI keyboard. Go to Edit → Preferences... (Mac: MuseScore → Preferences...). In the preferences dialog, click on the I/O tab and select your device under the section labeled "Choose PortMidi input device".
Coloring of notes out of an instrument's range
Notes within the playable range of an instrument or voice part appear appear black, whilst notes extending beyond the normal range of an instrument, are marked red. For some instruments, the range depends on the skills of the musician (such as string, wind, or voice). For these instruments, notes outside the range of an early amateur appear dark yellow, and notes outside the typical range of a professional appear red.
The colors are informational and appear on the computer screen but do not appear on printed copies of your scores. To disable note colors, choose Edit → Preferences... (Mac: MuseScore → Preferences...), click on the Note Entry tab, and unmark "Color notes outside of usable pitch range".