Daily usage of the term voice refers to a musical line or part which can have its own rhythm. Musescore Voices is different, it refers to the software feature that provides automatic stem direction function, allows individual stem direction within a chord, and allows easier playback control. It has nothing to do with pitch range. Voices is also known as "layers" in other notation software.
For each staff that contains a clef symbol, Musescore offers exactly 4 Voices for composers to assign notes to.
To demonstrate the Voice feature better, this article use:
- Voices 1, Voice 2, Voice 3, Voice 4 (the word Voice with captial letter V) to indicate MuseScore Voice,
- S (Soprano), A (Alto), T (Tenor), B (Bass) to indicate four voices in any four-part harmony composition (wikipedia).
Read on to learn about this feature, or jump to section below to see tips on writing SATB scores and common pitfalls.
How Voices are displayed
Selecting a section of the score highlights each Voice in a different color: Voice 1 blue, Voice 2 green, Voice 3 orange and Voice 4 purple.
Why do you need to use Voices
- You have multiple musical lines that have different rhythm, that is, notes of different note lengths playing at the same time. A common case is a chord composed of notes of varying duration.
- You want to write polyphonic music easily with the automatic stem direction function.
- You plan to generate and print separate scores for voice singers using the MuseScore Parts function. Also see Separate chords into Voices below (jump to).
- You plan to convert SATB open score to and from short score easily. See Manipulations below (jump to).
- You need stems pointing in opposite directions within a chord, on a single staff. See also Glossary: Shared note head.
- You need to mute musical line separately in the Mixer.
- You need to use a plugin such as Check for parallel fifths and octaves.
If you are not sure, use Voice 1 only.
Why you may not need Voices
- You simply want to write notes with one fixed stem direction. For example, when you are creating a single line cantus firmus (wikipedia) in a part-writing exercise only. In this situation, you should use Voice 1 only and use Inspector: Chord: Stem direction instead, choose the direction as requied and press the S symbol to set as default.
Limitations of Voices
- You cannot apply dynamics symbols to individual Voice.
- You cannot change volume of individual Voice with a slider in the Mixer, you can mute though.
How to enter notes in different Voices
The following instructions show you how to notate a passage of music using Voice 1 and Voice 2:
Enter Voice 1 notes first: Make sure you are in note input mode : the Voice 1 button becomes highlighted in blue in the toolbar. Always enter lower numbered Voice first, in this example Voice 1. On inputting, some notes may have down-stems, but these will flip automatically when the Voice 2 is added.
The following excerpt shows a treble staff with just the Voice 1 notes entered:
Move cursor back to start of section: When you have finished entering a section of Voice 1 notes, press the ← key repeatedly to move the cursor, note-by-note, back to the first note of the section; or alternatively use Ctrl+← (Mac:Cmd+←) to move the cursor back one measure at a time. Or else you can simply exit note input mode (press Esc) and click directly on the first note.
Enter Voice 2 notes: Make sure you are in note-input mode and that the Voice 1 note at the beginning of the section is selected. Click on the "Voice 2" button (on the right of the toolbar), or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+2 (Mac: Cmd+Alt+2). Enter all the lower Voice notes (down-stem).
The following image shows the above example after the addition of Voice 2 notes:
Features of MuseScore Voices
Automatic stem direction
- Notes in Voice 1 and Voice 3 have upward stem ; Voice 2 and Voice 4 have downward stem. Use this function to write polyphonic music easily. This feature will not activate in any measure where Voice 1 is used but Voice 2 is missing.
- You can always override and set each note's stem direction directly using Stem direction property under Chord section in Inspector, or press X.
- If you do not want this function at all, use only Voice 1 in each staff whenever you can.
- Beginner's error: for a Close/Closed score SATB, beginners often use Voice 1 for B (bass), this will not activate the automatic stem direction function, jump to tips
Rests are automatically added to Voices of lower number if they contains no notes. It may come as unfavorable sometimes, you should consider adjusting your usage of MuseScore Voices:
- Your composition may not need Voices at all.
- Your composition may not need as many Voices as you think,
- Avoid automatic rests by using lowest Voice number possible in each staff,
- Beginner's error: for a Close/Closed score SATB, beginners often use Voice 3 for T (tenor) or Voice 4 for B (bass), this will create unwanted rest symbols. jump to tips.
- If your composition requires more than one Voice,
Deleting and hiding rests
All rests can be made invisible, if required: select the desired rest(s) and press V, or uncheck the "Visible" checkbox in the Inspector. Rests in Voices 2, 3 or 4 (but not Voice 1) can also be deleted (by selecting them and pressing Delete) but it is not recommended: make them invisible instead.
Restoring deleted rests
If a rest has been deleted in Voices 2-4, you will need to restore it before you can enter a note on that beat in that Voice (the problem may arise, for example, in imported XML or MIDI files). The easiest way to fix such a measure is to exchange that Voice with Voice 1 twice. For the exact method, see Exchange Voices of notes (below).
Manipulations on Voices
Exchange Voices of notes
To swap the notes between any two Voices:
- Select one or more continuous measures (or a range of notes);
- From the Menu bar, select Tools → Voices;
- Select the option for the two Voices you want to exchange.
Notes: (a) The selection can encompass content of any Voice, but only two will be processed at once. (b) If you select a partial measure the operation will still apply to the whole measure.
Move notes to another Voice (change notes' Voice but not swap)
You can also move notes from one Voice to another (without note-swapping):
- Ensure you are not in note input mode.
- Select one or more noteheads (in any Voice).
- Click on the destination Voice in the Note Input toolbar or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+1–4 (Mac: Cmd+Alt+1-4).
Note: For a successful move, the following conditions need to be met:
- The chord in the destination Voice must be the same duration as the note to be moved there.
- Alternatively, if the destination Voice is occupied by a rest, it must be of sufficient duration to accommodate the moved note.
- Notes should not be tied.
Navigate between Voices
To select a note in a higher-numbered Voice than the current one:
- Use Alt + ↓, to move the selection to the bottommost note in the current Voice;
- Press Alt + ↓, to move to the higher-numbered Voice;
- Repeat any of the above steps, as necessary, until the desired note is selected.
To select a note in a lower-numbered Voice than the current one:
- Use Alt + ↑, to move the selection to the topmost note in the current Voice;
- Press Alt + ↑, to move to the lower-numbered Voice.
- Repeat any of the above steps, as necessary, until the desired note is selected.
Separate chords into Voices
- Press the toolbar button to assign Voice to selected notes as required.
To further separate into staffs, see Tools: Explode
Merge Voices into chords
Chord inside Musescore has a stricter definition than in daily usage, constituent notes of a chord must have the same duration. You cannot merge Voices of varying duration into one chord (of one Voice).
See Tools: Implode
Assign different sounds to Voices
Tips for writing SATB scores
- In Open score SATB (where four staves are used for the four voices separately), use Voice 1 in each staff.
- In Close/Closed score SATB (where two staves are used for the four voices, e.g., as in hymnals),
- use Voice 1 and Voice 2 only, for both upper and lower staves: in the upper staff use Voice 1 for S (soprano) and Voice 2 for A (alto) ; in the lower staff use Voice 1 for T (tenor) Voice 2 for B (bass)
- Beginner's error: use Voice 3 for T (tenor) or Voice 4 for B (bass), this will create unwanted rest symbols, jump to automatic rests.
- Beginner's error: use Voice 1 for B (bass), this will not activate the automatic stem direction function.
- There is usually no need to use Voice 3 and Voice 4, jump to Why do you use voices
- Keyboard shortcuts: Voices
- Tools (Implode, Explode)
- Glossary: Shared note head
- Noteheads: Shared noteheads
- How to merge/combine/implode two staves in one with two voices (MuseScore HowTo)
- How to input multiple notes on a staff with different durations (MuseScore HowTo)