Moving Notes

• Aug 5, 2011 - 03:37

I've run into several instances in which it would be very handy to move notes around in a score or insert them. I was working on a score today and discovered that it would have been better to have started it with a half rest instead of a note. I've also had problems in which I discover that I used a longer note, say a ½, when it should have been an ⅛ instead. But when I change it I’m left with a rest I can’t seem to get rid of. I can't find any way to insert a note at the beginning of a score without deleting everything else or starting all over again, which strikes me as being a needlessly complicated way to fix the problem.

I’m not trying to be argumentative here, but I posted a comment like this before, and with all due respect the responses I got seemed to be saying that I simply didn't want to be able to do this, or didn’t understand enough about music, even though I do. I politely say that there needs to be some kind of insert mode. I’m aware of the problem of pushing the entire score around, but this could be avoided with some thought. I’ve worked with several other scoring and sequencing packages and they all allow something like this. Thoughts?


The solution seems to be to cut and paste at the note level. This should re-configure the relationship between the notes and the bar lines. I'll have to give it a try, I've heard that there are some bugs in this area.

-- J.S.

In reply to by John Sprung

Funny how recently this was discussed here: A few beginner questions

Andacar, you may find some useful insights in that discussion thread -- and apparently the insert/overtype matter has come up on numerous occasions in the past, too, if you wish to search for past conversations about it.

Re the 'bugs' that John Sprung mentioned: On the occasions when I've needed to cut/copy and paste to move notes, it's been most successful when the music is plain 'vanilla' -- e.g., without complications like changes in time or key signatures. In my experience, it's unpredictable whether system text, staff text and dynamics will move correctly. And I know I've had trouble result from moving music containing tuplets, though I don't presently have documentation of a problem that could be reproduced.

My advice would be to move music in chunks that are relatively short ... a few measures at a time, if possible. My experience with moving music around (i.e., cut/copy and pasting) is limited, though, because at this point (1) I'm so used to the measure-based paradigm of MuseScore and the fact that we're always operating in Overtype mode; and (2) I only use the program to re-typeset music from old scores. I'm guessing that people who use MuseScore for composing would have a greater need to rearrange the music they've entered on a regular basis.

John Sprung, could you (or anyone else!) elaborate about the bugs you've heard of, even if the evidence is just anecdotal?

In reply to by John Sprung

Indeed, cut and paste is the simple and direct solution to the occasional situations where this is necessary. Not that another mode couldn't be invented, but given that cut and paste works, I personally think any effort spent introducing new features would better be spent implementing things that cannot already easily be accomplished. But I would agree that fthe reliability of the paste operation could be improved. Seems thee ae often issues when triplets are involved, or when copying regions that start and/end on fractions of beats.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Cut and paste does not work with rests. So, I'm a new user, but still... when i ctrl+x, nothing happens. When I choose edit-cut, nothin happens. When i right-click and choose cut, nothing happens. How come?

Also if I want to shrink note length, the rest goes after the note always. What if I want it before???

In reply to by Nicolas

I have this situation: my sequence goes like 16th-32th-32th rest-16th-32th-32th rest. It shouldgo like: 16th-32th rest-32th--16th-32th rest-32th. I accidentally put the rests in wrong place.

Now I can remove the rest by making 32th a16th note, making it 16-16-16-16. But I cannot place 32th rest after first 16th note. When I make second 16th 32th, the rest goes third in secuence. When I make 1st 16th 32th, I cannot move the rest.

When I select the 32th rest and try to cut it, nothing happens. The rest is selected.

In reply to by Hoomoilanen

If you currently have 16th, 32nd-rest, 32nd and you want to have 16th, 32nd, 32nd-rest, simply select the last 3nd and cut and paste it on top of the existing rest. [EDIT: At least, that's how it should work. Apparently, there is a bug with cut and paste of 32nd notes, because I got a quarter when I tried it].

Rests *are* markings like notes, and hence can be moved visually (double click, arrow keys), but deleting a note doesn't magically change the time position of other notes, either. If you want to change the time position of notes, just move them using cut and paste as I described - don't try to trick MuseScore into moving notes for you by deleting something that came before them.

You're thinking of music like text, where deleting a word *does* magically move everything else, but music is not text. Text is just one word after another, with no specific time position associated with each, so words can be freely and automatically moved visually with no ill effects. And it toally makes sense that deleting a word would move the other words, because there is absolutely no case in the world where you'd want a hole left in your text just because you deleted a word. But music has a specific time position associated with each note. In most cases, once you've entered a note, you definitely would *not* want MuseScore changing its time position just because you're editing something that came earlier. Again, if you want to change the time position of the note, just move the note directly using cut and paste.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

You are making assumptions about my mental processes you have no idea about. So why not to keep it out of personal level, huh?

So what would be the problem if one would be able to move rests and notes around, switching their relative position in a measure? This way you can keep your musically correct way of thinking and I can keep my ways of thinking, be them whatever they are.

In reply to by Hoomoilanen

Like I said, if you're a programmer and have ideas on how to design and implement an alternate input method that you think would have value, by all means, I think you should contribute. MuseScore is, after all, open source. I'm not saying alternate input methods are a bad idea. I'm simply trying to help you understand how MuseScore works currently, so you can use it more effectively. The things you say you want to to do *can* be done, and quite easily.

In reply to by Hoomoilanen

Then it's a new note. A note has two important time-related properties: when it starts and how long it lasts. The second and can easily be changed for a note, but changing the first is really creating a new note. So if you have a half note that you wish to turn into a quarter rest followed by a quarter note, you can shorten the half note to a quarter note (followed b a quarter rest) by selecting it and pressing 5, and then cut and paste it onto the second beat. The key being, don't think about "moving" an existing note. Moving is cutting and pasting - deleting a note from one location and adding it to another.

A: I'm well aware of the difference between words and notes, but nevertheless the editing analogy is apt.

B: I think the "then it's a new note" bit is arguing semantics. What difference does it make except in a music theory course? I see no practical benefit to considering it one way or the other. It isn’t going to change a thing about how I use the software every day. The bottom line is that I'm trying to compose using this software, not just copy existing scores. In my humble opinion it is unnecessarily difficult to do so because there is no easy way to simply move notes or phrases over or insert a new note between existing ones. I will use the move rests method, thanks for that, that at least helps. I’ve read several examples posted by various people of why I wouldn’t want to do thyis, and for every one I can think of five reasons why I would. It's evident that the general opinion is against this idea, so let's just drop it and move on, as there's not much point in continuing.

In reply to by Andacar

I'm not saying one couldn't invent a completely different method of not entry, and by all means, if you are a programmer, I'm sure the developers would welcome your contributions. I'm just trying to explain how things work so people can understand how to get things done with the program as it is. It actually works quite well once you get the hang of it. And for the record, I'm a composer too. Moving notes *is* easy, the moment you accept that, just as in many, many other program, it is accomplished by cut/copy and paste. Instead of trying to come up with five reasons not to use cut and paste, it is much easier to simply use the facility.

In reply to by Andacar

1. How does MuseScore compare to commercial programs like Finale and Sibelius with respect to this particular functionality?

2. What is the experience of other composers as regards this perceived limitation in MuseScore?

These are sincere questions. As a humble copier of existing scores with no aspiration whatsoever to compose, I honestly have no idea how composers perceive and use notation software, and I'm genuinely curious.

In reply to by stevebob

In Finale, there is no "insert mode" per se, but if you change the length of a note or rest, it does shift the rest of the contents of that measure (and that measure only) to accommodate the change. Similarly if you delete a note or rest.

One reason this seems to make sense in Finale is that, unlike MuseScore, Finale doesn't actually care if a measure has the right number of beats in it or not. So you can delete a quarter note from a 4/4 measure and have a measure with only 3 beats, or change a quartet to a half and end up with five beats in the bar. The layout and spacing is messed up if you do this, though. MuseScore would want to adjust the length of other notes to accommodate the change.

The Finale facility in question ends up not being all that useful, though, because when you shift notes, the rhythm will no longer be written correctly. For instance, if you have "quarter, half" and then shorten the quarter to an eighth, the resulting rhythm "eight, half" is *incorrect* you are not allowed to have a half note to begin on the "and" of one. You need to rewrite it as a dotted quarter tied to an eighth in order to properly clarify beat three, and Finale doesn't do this for you. So you end up having to manually delete the half and re-enter it anyhow. Between that and having to manually adjust the length of the measure, it ends up being at least as much work as the corresponding operation would be in MuseScore.

Anyhow, I could certainly see MuseScore adding a mode where shortening a note shifted everything in the measure left and added a rest t the end (to preserve the correct measure length), and shifted everything in the measure right and stole time from the last note of the measure when lengthening a note. But you'd still end up having to delete the notes and rewrite them in order to have it notated correctly most of the time. That is one reason why it's hard for me to excited by the prospect. I guess if MuseScore added the smarts to rewrite your rhythms for you when in this mode that could be cool. Still, note entry is *so easy* that on the occasions when I want to change how something is written, it's usually dead simple to just reenter it.

In reply to by stevebob

First of all: I don't know how the "other" programs do it. (I've been very satisfied with MuseScore and have not yet had any particular need to use other tools. Also, I do this for pleasure.)

Second: every music scoring program is going to have to deal with these issues somehow, and that "somehow," I think, will always be somewhat of a compromise. You want to give the composer a great deal of control over exactly what appears on the page, so you don't want to "assume too much." Although the software is able to provide a plausible musical rendition of what's been written, and to do that in real-time, the primary focus is still "the printed page" ... maybe even to the point of preparing an input file for an engraving system. The author might be willing to invest considerable time into making fine changes, and it is imperative to give them that level of control over the result.

There needs to be "a way that consistently works," that you can learn and that you can subsequently learn to rely upon. Everyone might not say that it's "ideal," and they might wish in some way that it were different, but as long as the software is rugged and reliable in whatever way it does work, it's a usable tool for its purpose. And I believe that MuseScore does achieve that objective. It is very plain to see that considerable thought has gone into its design. (And as a software-designer myself, that's a "hats off to you." Well do I appreciate what a complex piece of software this must be.)

In reply to by Andacar

What I've used as a sort of clean-slate approach to shuffling things around is to insert some temporary measures right after what I want to work on as a scratch storage area. For clarity, I put in two more than the length of the problem, say 4 to hold 2 measures worth. Then I copy what I have into the middle of the temp area, and replace the confused part with short rests.

Each rest is a place where you can enter the time line and paste something, so use a conveniently short value. Eighths in 4/4 usually work well for me. Then re-build the mixed up measures by copying and pasting from the temp storage back into the score. Finally, clean up by deleting all the temp measures. Honest, it's not as complicated as it sounds.

-- J.S.

In reply to by John Sprung

/me nods...

What I do is similar. I insert a couple of new measures (just in case). Then, i click on the whole-rest and select whatever note-value key I need. Then I copy the phrase to the clipboard, click on the desired rest, and paste. After verifying that the resulting measure is written correctly and sounds correctly, I save the document(!) and then clean up the detritus: consolidating sequences of short rests into longer ones, then finally, removing the extra measures.

Sometimes, I simply re-enter the new phrase from scratch, using (typewriter-) keyboard data input, then delete the measures that it replaces. The process really does not take long, and once again, what I am looking for in the end is very precise control of the printed result, so I am quite willing to invest the time.

(Oh yeah, I save the document, then click the Time Machine icon on my Mac and wait for it to stop spinning ... "backup complete" ... then I begin the procedure aforementioned. Yes, I am quite confident that the process will work perfectly, but I still cover my asterisk.)

There are cases where several simultaneous notes of different voices have different lengths. Depending on it's height the notes can overlap making the reading difficult. Usually to facilitate the reading the overlapping note is slightly shifted to the right or to the left. Is there a way to do that in MuseScore?


Thank you for your help.


I just found the solution on the forums: just double clicking the note to enter the edit mode, it can be manually moved with the arrow keys.

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