New features in MuseScore 3

Updated 3 years ago
This page shows old instructions for MuseScore 3.
For MuseScore 4 users, see New features in MuseScore 3.

MuseScore 3 includes a number of new and improved features. For a brief summary, see the Release notes for MuseScore 3. More details can be found in the summaries below and by referring to the relevant pages of the handbook.

Automatic Placement

MuseScore initially places elements in the score according to (a) the properties specified in style defaults and (b) any manual adjustments made. For elements that have automatic placement enabled, however, MuseScore will attempt to avoid collisions by moving one or more of them as needed.

See Automatic placement.

Default position

The default position for most elements is controlled by settings in Format → Style. You can either change the default there, or, in the Inspector, apply a manual adjustment (see below) and then use the "Set as style" control (the S to the right of the value you wish to set).

The specific properties you can set vary by element type but include:

  • placement (whether the element appears above or below the staff by default)
  • position above/below (specific positions when placed above or below)
  • offset (same as position above/below, for which placement is the default)
  • autoplace min distance (minimum distance from other elements when autoplace is enabled)

See Automatic placement.

Manual adjustments

Many elements can be placed either above or below the staff. To flip an element from above to below or vice versa, use the "Placement" setting in the Inspector, or press the shortcut "X".

Manual adjustments to position can be performed by dragging or by changing the offsets in the Inspector. Neither method will allow you to position an element in a way that causes a collision, however. To take full control of the position of an element, you can disable automatic placement for it.

See Automatic placement.

Disabling automatic placement

To disable automatic placement for an element, untick the "Automatic placement" box in the Inspector. The element will revert to its default position, and it will no longer be considered when automatically placing other elements.

See Automatic placement.

Stacking order

The "Stacking order" setting in the Inspector controls which elements overlap which in the cases where they actually do overlap and are not moved due to autoplacement.

See Automatic placement.

Text Formatting

Formatting of text is controlled by three factors:

  • The text style associated with the element sets the defaults for properties such as the font, alignment, and frame.
  • Changes to these text properties can be applied to selected elements via the Inspector.
  • Custom formatting can be applied to specific characters within the text using the text toolbar.

See Text basics, Text styles and properties.

Text Styles

Each text element has a text style associated with it. The default style for an element is determined by the type of the element itself - staff text defaults to the Staff text style, dynamics to the Dynamics text style, etc. This text style determines the default font face, size, style (bold/italic/underline), alignment, and frame properties.

You can change the defaults for any of these text styles using Format → Style → Text Styles. For instance, you can make rehearsal marks bigger, or change lyrics to be italicized. This will affect all existing elements using that style as well as elements you add later. Some elements also contain a limited set of text style controls in their own sections of the Format → Style dialog (although this might not be the case in the final release). The settings are linked: you can change the font size for measure numbers in either Format → Style → Measure Numbers, or in Format → Style → Text Styles: Measure Number. The effect is the same: all measure numbers in the score will take on this size. You can also change the defaults for a text style using the Inspector; see Text Properties below.

For most text elements that you create directly (like staff text, rehearsal marks, and lyrics), you can apply a different text style using the Style control in the Inspector. This will cause them to display using that style instead of the "native" style for the element. For example, you can select one or more staff text elements and give them the Tempo style to force them to display as if they were tempo markings.

See Text basics, Text styles and properties.

Text Properties

The text style controls the default properties for elements using that style, but you can override any of these properties for selected elements using the Inspector. For example, you can select a handful of staff text elements using Ctrl+click, then use the Inspector to make them larger. The Reset to Default button next to each property control returns it to the default. You can also click the Set as Style button to change the style to match. So another way to change the size of all measures numbers is to select one, change its size in the Inspector, then click Set as Style.

See Text basics, Text styles and properties.

Custom Formatting

Custom formatting is applied to text using the toolbar at the bottom of the main window in the same manner as in previous releases. Thus, you can embolden one word in a sentence while the rest is normal, or superscript a particular character etc. You can also remove all custom formatting from select text elements using the "Remove Custom Formatting" button in the Inspector. This returns the text to the settings currently shown in the Inspector.

See Text editing.

Staff Type Change

You can change various staff properties mid-score, including staff size, notehead scheme (e.g., for pitch name noteheads), generation of time signatures, and others. The staff type change element is found on the Text palette (currently, but see #278205: Move Staff Type Change to another palette (it is not text) - it may move). Add it to the measure where you want the change to occur, then use the Inspector to change properties of the staff type change element.

See Staff Type Change

Temporary and Cutaway Staves

To create a temporary staff that appears on certain systems only: first add the staff normally (Edit / Instruments), then add notes, then right-click the staff, click Staff Properties, and set "Hide when empty" to "Always". This will cause the staff to show only where needed even without needing to turn on "Hide empty staves" for the whole score (in Format / Style). The default for "Hide when empty" is "Auto", meaning the staff will be hidden when empty if "Hide empty staves" is enabled. Additional values include "Never" (the staff will not be hidden when empty even if "Hide empty staves" is enabled) and "Instrument" (for instruments containing multiple staves, the staff is hidden only if all staves for that instrument are empty).

To create a cutaway staff in which only the measures containing notes are visible (for ossia or cutaway scores, for example), right-click the staff, click Staff Properties, and enable the "Cutaway" option. This can be used independently of "Hide when empty" or "Hide empty staves".

System Dividers

System dividers are a set of short diagonal lines that are used to visually separate systems on a page. MuseScore can add these to your score automatically. In Format → Style → System, you can enable dividers on the left, right, or both, and you can set their default position. You can also adjust the position of individual dividers in your score manually or mark them invisible (this currently does not survive saving).

Staff Spacing

As part of the automatic placement in MuseScore, staves are now spaced automatically, so you can set a comfortable minimum distance and depend on MuseScore to open up more space where needed. You can use staff spacers as in MuseScore 2 to increase distance between staves, but MuseScore 3 now also provides a way to decrease it—the "fixed" staff spacer, found on the Breaks & Spacers palette. Just add the spacer and adjust its height. This will also prevent MuseScore from automatically adding more space to avoid collisions, allowing you to manage this yourself.

See Spacers.

Don't Break

Currently disabled

In addition to the system, page, and section breaks familiar from MuseScore 2, the "Breaks & Spacers" palette now contains a new "Don't Break" element. This allows you to force two measures to be kept together, for example, if there is some complex passage that spans the measures and you want to make sure they are adjacent. If both measures don't fit on a system, MuseScore moves them both to the next system. (currently, this leaves a "hole" at the end of the first staff - is this a bug or is there some purpose behind it?)

Parts from Voices

In addition to the ability to generate parts from the different instruments in your score, you can now also associate a part with a specific staff within the instrument or even a specific voice within a specific staff. This allows you to combine multiple parts (e.g., Flute 1 & 2) onto a single staff in the score while still generating separate parts.

The Parts dialog now contains two sections at the bottom, Instruments in Score and Instruments in Part. Once you have generated a part (or all parts) using the New and New All buttons, you can select any part at the top and use the controls at the bottom to control not only what instrument is in the part, but also which staves and voices within the instrument are included.

To add an instrument to a part, select it from "Instruments in Score" and press "+". To remove an instrument from a part, select it from "Instruments in Part" and press "-". To customize the part at the staff or voice level, click the arrow next to the instrument in "Instruments in Part" to expand the listing to show all staves and voices of the instrument. You can remove a staff by selecting it and pressing "-", or remove a voice by unchecking it.

Limitations: If you select only voice 1 for a given staff, then only the content in voice 1 for that staff will be included in the part. Thus, in order to share flute 1 & 2 on the same staff, you will need to enter all notes onto both voices, even in passages where they share content. You also cannot enter the two parts as chords in the passages where they share rhythms.

Explode and Implode

Explode has been updated to allow separation of voices as well as notes. See Explode.

The implode tool (Tools / Implode) works in one of two modes.

With a single staff selected, the implode command merges notes in different voices into chords where possible (when notes are on the same beat and have the same duration). This is the same as recent versions of MuseScore, although some bugs have been fixed.

With multiple staves selected, the implode command combines the content of the first four non-empty voices (on any staves) into multiple voices on the top selected staff. This is different from MuseScore 2, where notes would be combined into chords rather than using multiple voices, and thus required the rhythms to match. The MuseScore 3 approach preserves the original rhythms even where they differ, and is intended to produce the expected results when combining two different parts onto one staff for use with the parts from voices feature, or when reducing an open (four-stave) SATB score into a closed (two-stave) version. To further merge the voices into chords where possible, simply run the command again.

See Tools.

Insert mode

You can insert and delete notes and have the measure automatically expand or contract to accommodate the change. This can be useful in creating unmetered music or in ordinary editing.

To insert a note before the currently-selected note, press Ctrl+Shift while adding the note normally. For example, in note input mode, Ctrl+Shift+click will insert a note of the currently-selected duration at that location. Ctrl+Shift+B will insert a B of the currently-selected duration before the note at the current cursor position. You can also switch to Insert mode using the dropdown menu next to the note input button on the toolbar. In this mode, all notes you add act as if you were pressing Ctrl+Shift - they are inserted rather than replacing the existing notes or rests at that location.

To delete notes, you must be in normal (not note input) mode. Select either a single note or a range and press Ctrl+Del.

See Note input modes, Remove selected range (Tools)

Split/Join Measures

To split a measure before a given note, simply insert a barline from the palette at that point while holding Ctrl. For example, you can select the note, and Ctrl+double-click the barline in the palette, or Ctrl+drag the barline to the note. You can also use Tools → Measure → Split Measure Before Selected Note/Rest.

To join two measures, Ctrl+Del the barline between them. You can also use the menu command Tools → Measure → Join Measures.

See Measure operations.


The Timeline presents a graphical overview of your score. To access it, use View →Timeline (F12). The top portion of the Timeline shows the location of tempo, key, and time signature changes as well as rehearsal marks, repeats, and double barlines. The bottom portion shows the staves of your score, with non-empty measures highlighted. You can click anywhere within this view to jump to the corresponding spot in the score.

See Timeline

Score Comparison Tool

The Score Comparison Tool (View / Score Comparison Tool) allows you to compare two versions of a score to find the differences between them. Select the two scores you want to compare and whether you want to compare the current version or the last saved version (note you can compare the current version of a score against the last saved version of the same score to see what you have changed since the last save), then click the Compare button. A list of differences will be displayed to the right. The score view will automatically change to Documents Side by Side, with the two scores you have selected displayed within. Double-click on a difference from the list and both score views will automatically pan to show you the changed element, which will also be highlighted.

Normally you would want the default Intelligent comparison, which displays the differences in human-readable format (e.g. "Measure 1: Note: property pitch changed from B4 to C5"). There is also a Raw mode to show the results according to the actual XML code.

See Score comparison.


See Mixer.

Piano Roll Editor

See Piano roll editor (preliminary page).

Capo changes

Capo changes are now a property of staff text, and can be used to automatically change the pitch of all notes that follow them, up until another capo change.

See Capo playback.

Fretboard Diagrams

New UI. See Fretboard diagrams.

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