Note input

Updated 5 months ago

    MuseScore allows you to enter music notation from any of four input devices: computer keyboard, mouse, MIDI keyboard, or virtual piano keyboard. The default input mode is step-time, in which notes or rests are entered one at a time. However, other input modes are also available.

    After exiting the New Score Wizard, your new score will consist of a series of measures filled with measure rests:

    Empty score

    As you enter notes in a measure, the measure rests are changed to appropriate rests to fill the remainder of the measure:

    Entering notes

    Notes of different durations on the same beat are entered by using voices:


    Basic note entry

    This section introduces you to the basics of entering notes and rests in step-time from a computer keyboard. It is also recommended that you work through the tutorial, "Getting Started: An introduction to note entry in MuseScore". This is available from the Start Center.

    Step 1. Select a starting position

    Select a starting position for note input by clicking on a note or rest, or selecting a measure, with the mouse. If you don't select a starting point, the cursor automatically defaults to the beginning of the score when you enter Note Input mode ("Step 2" below).

    Step 2. Enter Note Input mode

    To enter Note Input mode, use either of the following options:

    • Click on the "N" icon (on the extreme left of the Note Input toolbar).
    • Press N on your computer keyboard.

    To exit Note Input mode, use any of the following options:

    • Press N.
    • Press Esc.
    • Click on the toolbar "N" button.

    Step 3. Select a duration

    Still in Note Input mode, select a note duration using either of the following:

    • Click on a corresponding note icon in the Note Input toolbar (directly above the document window):
      Note Input toolbar in Advanced Workspace
    • Enter the keyboard shortcut for that duration (see below).

    Step 4. Enter the note or rest

    • To enter a note pitch from A–G, simply press the corresponding letter on your computer keyboard or place it using your mouse/touchpad (and a 'normal' left-click).
    • To enter a rest, press 0 (zero) or right-click your mouse.

    This method of entry also works if you are not in Note Input mode—as long as you have a note/rest selected, or the score is newly-created (in which case note entry will default to the beginning).

    Select a note/rest duration

    The following keyboard shortcuts are used to select note/rest duration in Note Input mode:

    • 64th (hemidemisemiquaver): 1
    • 32nd (demisemiquaver): 2
    • 16th (semiquaver): 3
    • Eighth (quaver): 4
    • Quarter (crotchet): 5
    • Half (minim): 6
    • Whole (semibreve): 7
    • Double whole (breve): 8
    • Longa: 9
    • Dot: . (changes the selection into a dotted note/rest)

    See also: Tuplets.

    Additional durations

    • Double, triple and quadruple dots: Apply from the note input toolbar in the advanced workspace or via a custom shortcut.
    • 128th note: Ditto.
    • 256th, 512th or 1024th durations: First enter a 128th note (or longer), then half it as many times as needed using the shortcut Q or, as of 3.5, via a custom shortcut, or via the corresponding entries on the note input toolbar in a custom workspace.

    Input devices

    Music notation can be entered by:

    Computer keyboard

    This section expands on "Basic note entry" (see above) and introduces you to the full range of commands available for entering notes or rests from the computer keyboard.

    Enter notes/rests

    You can enter a note by typing the corresponding letter on your keyboard. Thus, after entering Note Input mode, type: 5 C D E F G A B C.

    Notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

    Note: When you enter a note using the keyboard, MuseScore places it closest to the previous note entered (above or below).

    To enter a rest, type "0" (zero). Thus, after entering Note Input mode, type: 5 C D 0 E.

    C, D, rest, E

    Note: The duration selected in the toolbar applies to both notes and rests.

    If you want to enter a dotted note, press . (period/full stop) after selecting the duration.

    For example, after entering Note Input mode, type: 5 . C 4 D E F G A.

    Dotted quarter note: C, eighth notes: D, E, F, G, A

    If you want to enter a tuplet (such as a triplet): see Tuplets.

    If you want to write music with two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody on the same staff, see Voices.

    Move notes up/down

    To move a note up or down by a semitone:

    • Press the or arrow.

    To move a note up or down diatonically:

    • Press Alt+Shift+ or Alt+Shift+.

    To move a note up or down by one octave:

    • Press Ctrl+ (Mac: Cmd+) or Ctrl+ (Mac: Cmd+).
    Add accidentals

    When a note is moved up or down with an arrow key (see above), any accidental required is automatically generated by the program. Accidentals can also be added manually—see Accidentals.


    If you want to add a chord note to your previous entry:

    • Press and hold Shift, then enter a note from AtoG.

    Thus, typing C, D, Shift+F, Shift+A, E, F results in:

    C, D minor triad, E, F

    To add a note at a specific interval above or below one or more notes:

    1. Ensure that one or more notes are selected;
    2. Use one of the following options:
      • From the menu, select AddIntervals and choose an interval from the list;
      • Press Alt+1-9 for intervals above (intervals below are also possible by adding relevant shortcuts to the list in Preferences).

    Note: To create chords with notes of different durations, you will need to use more than one Voice.

    Insert notes

    Normally, when you enter music in MuseScore, any existing notes or rests are overwritten. There are, however, several ways to insert notes:

    • Insert extra measures into the score.
    • Cut and paste a section of the score forward, then enter music into the gap.
    • To insert a note, press Ctrl+Shift (Mac: Cmd+Shift) + the note name (AtoG). This will insert a note of the selected duration and move the rest of the notes to the right in the same measure. If the measure exceeds the duration of the time signature, the blue plus will appear above the measure as in Insert Mode.
    Delete notes

    To delete a single note:

    • Select the note and press Del (Mac: Backspace).

    To delete a chord:

    1. Press Esc to ensure that you are in Normal mode.
    2. Press Shift and click on a note to select the chord.
    3. Press Del (Mac: Backspace).

    The delete command can also be applied to a range of notes/chords.

    Keyboard shortcuts

    Here is a list of useful editing shortcuts available in Note Input mode:

    • (Up): Increase the pitch of a note by a semitone (uses ♯).
    • (Down): Decrease the pitch of a note by a semitone (uses ♭).
    • Alt+1-9: Add interval (unison to ninth) above current note.
    • J: Change a note up or down to its enharmonic equivalent (e.g. D♯ to E♭). This alters the spelling in both concert pitch and transposed modes. See Accidentals.
    • Ctrl+J (Mac Cmd+J): Change a note up or down to its enharmonic equivalent. This alters the spelling only in the current mode. See Accidentals
    • Alt+Shift+: Increase the pitch of a note using key signature
    • Alt+Shift+: Decrease the pitch of a note using key signature
    • R: Repeat the last entered note
    • Q: Halve the duration of the last entered note
    • W: Double the duration of the last entered note
    • Shift+Q: Decrease duration by a dot (for example, a dotted quarter note/crotchet becomes a quarter note/crotchet and a quarter note/crotchet becomes a dotted eighth note/quaver).
    • Shift+W: Increase duration by a dot (for example an eighth note/quaver becomes a dotted eighth note/quaver and a dotted eighth note/quaver becomes a quarter note/crotchet).
    • Backspace: Undo last entered note
    • Shift+: Exchange last entered note with the note before it (repeat to keep moving note earlier)
    • Shift+: Exchange note moved with Shift+ with the note that follows it
    • X: Flip direction of note stem (can be reset to Auto position in Inspector)
    • Shift+X: Move note head to opposite side of stem (can be reset to Auto position in Inspector)
    • Ctrl+Alt+1-4: Switch to corresponding voice)


    It's easy to enter notes with the mouse, but it is not the fastest way to enter lots of notes.

    1. Click on the desired note duration symbol in the Note input toolbar.
    2. Click on the score to add a pitch of the selected duration.
    3. To add more notes to an existing chord, simply repeat step 2.
    4. To replace an existing chord (rather than adding to it), press Shift before clicking.
    5. To add a rest, right-click.

    Note: If you hover the cursor over the score in Note Input Mode it will show you a preview of the note or rest you are about to add.

    MIDI keyboard

    You can also insert pitches using a MIDI keyboard.

    1. Connect your MIDI keyboard to the computer and switch the former on
    2. Start MuseScore (this must be done after the keyboard is switched on)
    3. Create a new score
    4. Click the rest (selecting it) in measure 1 to indicate where you want note input to begin
    5. Press N to enter note input mode
    6. Select a note duration such as 5 for quarter notes (crotchets), as described above
    7. Press a note on your MIDI keyboard.

    The pitch should be added to your score. If the pitch does not appear, either use the toolbar and click 'Toggle MIDI Input' or follow these steps:

    1. From the menu, select EditPreferences... (Mac: MuseScorePreferences...).
    2. Click on the Note Input tab and check "Enable MIDI Input".
    3. Click OK to exit. You will need to restart MuseScore to apply the change.

    Note: The default method of entry, Step-time allows you to enter one note at a time. Other note input modes are also available: see Note input modes.

    If you have multiple MIDI devices connected to your computer, you may need to inform MuseScore which is the MIDI keyboard:

    1. From the menu, select EditPreferences... (Mac: MuseScorePreferences...).
    2. Click on the I/O tab and select your device under the section labeled "MIDI input".
    3. Click OK to exit. You will need to restart MuseScore to apply the change.

    Virtual Piano Keyboard

    You can also input notes using the on-screen piano keyboard.

    • To toggle the display on and off: Press P (or select ViewPiano).
    • To resize the keyboard: Position the mouse pointer over the piano keys, hold down Ctrl (Mac: Cmd) and move the mouse scroll wheel up (larger) or down (smaller).

    The method of note entry is similar to that for a midi keyboard:

    1. Ensure that you are in Note Input mode.
    2. To enter a:
      • Single note: Click on the appropriate piano key.
      • Chord: Select the note you wish to add to, press and hold Shift, then click on a piano key (in versions before 2.1, use Ctrl (Mac: Cmd). Repeat as required.

    Note input modes

    MuseScore offers a variety of note input modes in addition to Step-time. All can be accessed by clicking the small arrow next to the "N" button on the left of the Note Input toolbar:

    Note input modes

    • Step-time (default): The default mode of note entry. See Basic note entry (above).
    • Repitch: Replace pitches without changing rhythms.
    • Rhythm: Enter durations with a single click or keypress.
    • Real-time (automatic): Perform the piece at a fixed tempo indicated by a metronome beat.
    • Real-time (manual): Perform the piece while tapping a key or pedal to set the beat.
    • Insert: (Called "Timewise" until version 3.0.2) Insert and delete notes and rests within measures, automatically shifting subsequent music forwards or backwards.

    Coloring of notes outside an instrument's range

    Depending on the skill of the musician, certain notes are considered beyond the range of a particular instrument. For informational purposes, MuseScore optionally colors notes red if they are outside the range of a "professional" player, and olive green/dark yellow if outside the range of an "early amateur." The colors appear on the computer screen, but not on printed copies.

    Notes out of range

    To enable/disable note coloration and to set "professional" and "amateur" ranges, see Usable pitch range (Staff properties: all staves).

    Small notes/small noteheads

    1. Select the note(s) you want in small size.
    2. Check the "Small" checkbox in the Inspector. The one in the Note section is used to only change the size of the individual notehead; the one in the Chord section will change the note head, stem, beam, and flag sizes all together.

    By default, the small size is 70% of the normal size. You can change that setting in FormatStyle…Sizes.

    Change notes or rests already entered

    Change duration

    Version 3.3.3 and above
    1. Make sure you are in Normal mode.
    2. Select one or more notes/rests, or note-stems/hooks. Apply the desired duration shortcut (listed above), or click on the equivalent duration icon in the toolbar.

    Prior to version 3.3.3
    1. Make sure you are in Normal mode.
    2. Click on a note or rest. Apply the desired duration shortcut (listed above), or click on the equivalent duration icon in the toolbar.

    Note: Increasing the duration will overwrite the notes or rests that follow it; decreasing the duration will add rests between it and the notes or rests following.

    For example, to change three sixteenth rests into a single dotted eighth rest:

    1. Click on the first sixteenth rest.
    2. Hit 4 to turn it into an eighth rest.
    3. Hit . to turn it into a dotted eighth rest.

    As the duration increases, it overwrites the other two sixteenth rests following it.

    Change pitch

    To change the pitch of a single note:

    1. Make sure that you're not in note input mode and that you have no other notes selected.
    2. Select the desired note and use any of the following methods:
      • Drag the notehead up or down with the mouse;
      • Press the keyboard arrows: (Up) or (down);
      • Type a new note letter name (A…G). Use Ctrl+ or Ctrl+ to correct the octave, if necessary (Mac: Cmd+ or Cmd+). This will automatically turn on note input mode.

    To change the enharmonic spelling of a note, select it and use the J command. For more information, see Accidentals.

    To change the pitches of a passage of music by a constant interval, you can use Transposition.

    To change the pitches of a passage of music to a different melody, while keeping the rhythm unchanged, use Re-pitch mode.

    If your score contains a lot of misspelled accidentals, you might try the Respell Pitches command (see Accidentals: Respell pitches).

    Change voice

    To change one or more notes to a different voice, see Voices.

    Change rest to note and vice versa

    To change a rest to a note of the same duration:

    1. Make sure you are not in note input mode (press Esc to exit).
    2. Select the rest.
    3. Enter the desired pitch by entering a note letter, AtoG.

    To change a note to a rest of the same duration:

    1. Make sure you are not in note input mode (press Esc to exit).
    2. Select the note.
    3. Press 0 (Zero).

    Note properties

    See also

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