Working with multiple voices
A "voice" is a musical line with its own rhythm independent of other voices on the same staff. They are normally indicated using opposing stems—an upper voice with stems up and a lower voice with stems down. Although the term "voice" comes from vocal music, the concept applies equally well to keyboard or guitar music in which there are multiple rhythms happening at the same time:
MuseScore allows up to four voices per staff, but each staff should always start with voice 1, and the next voice should normally be voice 2. Voices 3 & 4 are needed only if there are more than two voices on a single staff, which is not common.
So for example, in a four-part SATB arrangement on two staves, you would use voices 1 & 2 on the top staff for soprano and alto, and voices 1 & 2 on the bottom staff for the tenor and bass:
When there is only a single voice on a staff, the default stem directions are determined by pitch—notes above the center line have stems pointing down, while notes below the center line have stems pointing up. However, when there are multiple voices on a staff, the stem directions are determined according to the voice—up for voices 1 and 3, down for voices 2 and 4. You can change the stem directions if desired using the Flip direction button on the toolbar or the keyboard shortcut X.
Entering notes and rests in multiple voices
By default, notes are entered into voice 1. To enter notes into a different voice:
- Select your starting point in the score.
- Click the pen icon on the toolbar or press N to enter note input mode.
- Select the desired voice using the toolbar icons or press one of the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Alt+1–Ctrl+Alt+4
- Enter notes and rests normally as described in Entering notes
You can repeat these steps to enter notes into other voices.
Note: be sure to enter note input mode before selecting the desired voice. Pressing one of the voice buttons while in normal mode will change the voice of any currently-selected elements. This can be a useful editing technique, however. For more information, see the section on Changing voice in normal mode.
Note: the note toolbar only displays voice 1 and 2 icons by default. You can make all voice icons visible using the controls that appear when you click the gear icon on the toolbar. For more information, see the section on customizing the note input toolbar.
Editing notes and rests in multiple voices
Normally, each voice should include any necessary rests to show all beats for the measure. This can lead to a cluttered appearance, however. MuseScore automatically positions rests to avoid notes in other voices, but in some cases, you may wish to adjust the position of these rests. In other cases where the rhythm is sufficiently clear, you may wish to hide or delete some of the rests.
Hiding or deleting rests
Rests may be hidden by selecting them and unchecking the Visible box in the Properties panel or using the keyboard shortcut V.
Rests in voices 2-4 may also be deleted by selecting them and pressing Delete. However, this leaves a "hole" in the voice that can be difficult to edit later. To restore missing rests from a voice, you can use the commands in Tools→Voices to exchange the contents of the voice with those of voice 1, which will fill the holes with rests again. You can then use the same command to move the contents of the voices back where they were.
Note: to ensure the correct duration of each measure, voice 1 rests can be hidden, but they cannot be deleted.
While MuseScore will normally avoid collisions with other voices, it can sometimes be helpful to move rests up or down to create more space or to clarify which voice they apply to.
To move a rest vertically, select it and press Up or Down to move it a staff space at a time.
For more information on manual positioning, see Changing position of elements.
Changing voice of existing notes
Notes originally entered into one voice can be moved into another voice. For more information, see Changing voice in normal mode.
Combining voices into chords
In cases where the rhythms match, notes originally entered as multiple voices can be combined into chords in a single voice. For more information, see the Implode command.