Entering notes and rests

    Overview

    inputting music via the computer keyboard is both quick and easy. To enter a note or rest, simply choose a duration, then type its pitch name (A-G), or a 0 (zero). You can also input notation using a mouse, MIDI keyboard or MuseScore's own virtual piano keyboard (see below for details).

    MuseScore supports virtually unlimited undo, so you don't have to worry too much about making mistakes. Just click the undo button on the far right of the toolbar, or use the standard keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Z (Mac: Cmd+Z), any time the result of doing something is other than what you wanted.

    Entering notes

    The information in this page refers primarily to music notation on standard staves. See also tablature and percussion notation.

    The most common input method (and the one assumed on this page) is step-time in which notes and rests are entered one at a time. For other modes of entry see Alternative note input methods.

    Selecting a start point

    To add a note or rest to the score, start by selecting a location to begin entry. You can use the mouse or the keyboard navigation commands.

    Entering note input mode

    Next, enter note input mode by pressing the note input icon on the toolbar or using the keyboard shortcut N. A note input cursor appears, showing you where the next note you enter will be added.
    Cursor
    If you forget to select a starting location first, MuseScore will place the cursor at the last input position or some other logical place, so be sure the cursor is where you intend.

    Once in note input mode, you will enter notes left to right by first selecting a duration and then entering a pitch or rest. When you are done entering notes in this location and are ready to do something else—entering notes at a different location, adding other markings, or performing other operations like copy and paste—you can leave note input mode and return to normal mode by clicking the note input button or pressing N again. You can also press Esc to return to normal mode from note input or any other mode.

    Selecting duration

    While in note input mode, select a note value for the next note to be entered using either of the following:

    • Click on a corresponding note icon in the Note Input toolbar (directly above the score window).
    • Enter the keyboard shortcut 19 corresponding to the desired duration

    The keyboard shortcuts are designed to be efficient and easy to remember. The most common note values are eighth, quarter, and half (UK: quaver, crochet, minim) and these are represented by the keys 4, 5, and 6 respectively (the middle row of a numeric keypad). Shorter note values are represented by smaller numbers, longer values by larger numbers. The full list is as follows:

    • 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)

    Other durations including double dots and 128th notes can be selected if you first customize your toolbar and/or define your own keyboard shortcuts.

    Note: it is also possible to select duration using a MIDI keyboard, if you set up the keys you wish to use for this in advance..

    Selecting pitch

    Once you have selected a duration, you can enter pitches using the computer keyboard, mouse, MIDI keyboard, or virtual piano keyboard.

    Selecting pitch using the computer keyboard

    This is normally the most efficient way to enter notes in MuseScore.

    To enter a note of a given pitch using the computer keyboard, simply press the corresponding letter (AG) on your computer keyboard.

    Notes entered in this way will replace any rests or notes that were already present at the cursor location. To add a note to an existing note or chord, press Shift while entering the note. See the section on chords below for more information.

    When entering notes by letter name, MuseScore will choose the octave that is closest to the previous note on that staff. This works well for passages that move mostly by steps and small leaps. If you need to change the octave for a larger leap, use Ctrl+ and Ctrl+ (Mac: Cmd+ and Cmd+) to raise or lower the pitch of the note just entered by an octave.

    Selecting pitch using the mouse

    To enter a note of a given pitch using the mouse, position your mouse on the desired line or space in the staff, then click. The mouse cursor will show you a preview of the note you are entering to help you place it accurately.

    If any notes already exist at the location where you are entering a new note, the new note will be added to a chord. To replace the existing notes rather than adding to a chord, press Shift while entering the new note.

    It can be difficult to enter notes very far above or below a staff with this method, because MuseScore may interpret clicks far from the intended staff as an attempt to enter notes onto the previous or next staff. Instead, try entering the note an octave lower or higher, then using Ctrl+ and Ctrl+ (Mac: Cmd+ and Cmd+) to raise or lower the pitch of the note just entered by an octave.

    Note: although one would normally enter notes left to right, the mouse entry method actually allows you to enter a note at any location where there is an existing note or rest to replace.

    Selecting pitch using a MIDI keyboard

    If you have a MIDI keyboard connected, you can enter notes by simply pressing the corresponding keys.

    When playing notes on a MIDI keyboard, they are entered consecutively if you release each key fully before pressing the next. If you press a key before releasing the previous key, the new note is added to the previous note to form a chord.

    Notes entered via MIDI keyboard that are outside of the current key signature will have accidentals applied automatically, but the spelling of the accidental may not be what you intend. To change the enharmonic spelling of a note, press J.

    Selecting pitch using the virtual piano keyboard

    You can also input notes using the on-screen Piano keyboard window. To display this, use ViewPiano keyboard or press the shortcut P. The window can be closed the same way.

    To enter a note of a given pitch, simply click the appropriate piano key.

    As with the computer keyboard, notes entered in this way replace any existing notes or rests. To create chords instead, press and hold Shift while entering notes.

    Note: to resize the keyboard, position the mouse within the window and hold Ctrl (Mac: Cmd) while scrolling up or down with the mouse wheel or two-finger swipe.

    Entering chords

    For the purpose of this section, chords are any combinations of multiple notes all starting at the same time, all sharing the same duration, and all sharing a single stem.

    If you wish to enter notes that sound together but start at different times, have different durations, or have separate stems, see Voices.

    Text of the form "Dm7" is a chord symbol, discussed in Chord symbols.

    Just as for individual notes, chords can be entered by computer keyboard, mouse, MIDI keyboard, or virtual piano keyboard. Except for MIDI keyboard (where you can play multiple notes at once), the notes are still entered one at a time, but in a way tells MuseScore to combine them into a chord rather than add them sequentially.

    • To add a note to a chord using the computer keyboard, press and hold Shift while entering the note
    • To add a note to a chord using the mouse, click the location where you wish to add the note
    • To add a note to a chord using a MIDI keyboard, either play all the notes at the same time, or play them one at a time but do not release one key before pressing the next
    • To add a note to a chord using the virtual piano keyboard, press and hold Shift while entering the note

    When using Shift+AG to add a note to a chord, the note will be added above any notes already present at the cursor location. You can also specify the note to be added based on the interval above or below the currently-selected note.

    • To add an interval above the selected note, use one of the following:
      • From the menu, select AddIntervals and choose an interval from the list;
      • Press Alt+1-9.
    • For intervals below the selected note, you will need to apply a custom shortcut of your own (see Preferences).

    Entering rests

    Rests can be entered using the computer keyboard or mouse. The duration is selected in the same way as for notes (e.g., using the toolbar or keyboard shortcuts 19). Then instead of entering a pitch as you would for a note, choose one of the following options.

    • From the computer keyboard: press 0 (zero)
    • From the note input toolbar: click the rest icon, then click in the score
    • Using a mouse: right-click in the score

    Accidentals

    Standard accidentals (flat, natural, sharp, double flat, double sharp) can be entered either by selecting one before entering the pitch it applies to or by adding them to a note already entered.

    Selecting an accidental before entering a pitch

    To specify an accidental to be applied to the next note entered, you can use the buttons on the Note input toolbar above the score or the corresponding keyboard shortcuts. This can be done either before or after selecting the duration.

    Unlike selecting duration—which applies to all subsequent notes until you change it—an accidental is applied only to the next note entered. But the usual rules of music notation apply, so if you apply a flat to a given note, any subsequent notes you enter of that same pitch within the same measure will be flatted as well, even though no explicit flat sign will be added in front of them.

    Adding an accidental after entering a pitch

    Appropriate accidentals are automatically added to a note when you increase or decrease its pitch:

    • : move pitch up a semitone (spells with sharps).
    • : move pitch down a semitone (spells with flats).

    You can also apply an accidental to a note by clicking the appropriate icon in the Accidentals palette. This palette also contains a large number of microtonal and other special accidentals.

    Adding courtesy/cautionary accidentals

    Although the rules of music notation say that a barline cancels an accidental and that any note on the same staff line or space in the next measure returns to the pitch indicated by the key signature, it is considered good practice to add a courtesy (also called cautionary) accidental anyhow. These do not change the pitch of the note, so they cannot be added with the and keys. However, any of the other methods described above work.

    While parentheses or brackets are not required for courtesy accidentals, some editors do choose to use them. To add parentheses or brackets around an accidental, you will need to temporarily leave note input mode, select the accidental, then either use the Properties panel to select a bracket type, or click the parentheses or brackets in the More section of the Accidentals palette.

    Note: there are also a set of plugins pre-installed with MuseScore that can automatically add courtesy accidentals as needed.

    Ties

    A tie is a curved line between two notes of the same pitch, indicating that they are to be played as one combined note. Ties should not be confused with slurs, which join notes of different pitches and indicate legato articulation.

    MuseScore makes it very easy to enter ties. Because ties are always between notes of the same pitch, you do not need to enter the pitch for the second note—just select the duration and enter the tie. After entering the first note, follow these steps to create the tie:

    1. Select the duration for the second note
    2. Click the tie button on the toolbar or use the shortcut +

      Note input: tie

    The tie command adds the second note and ties it to the first in one step. If the first note you entered is part of a chord, then the tie command actually creates an entire second chord with the same pitches as the first and ties all of the notes.

    Note: ties normally connect adjacent notes in the same voice, but MuseScore also supports ties between non-adjacent notes and between notes in different voices as described in the section on editing.

    See also