Layout and formatting

You've finished your score and you want to print it out. However, you want to improve how it looks. This page describes many different ways, and how they work together.

Ways to affect layout

  • LayoutPage Settings...: Change global settings such as page size, how big a "Staff space" is (under "Scaling"), and how big page margins are. Staff space is used in other settings (example: "5.0sp"), so changing "Staff space" will change most other settings.
  • LayoutIncrease Stretch, Decrease Stretch: Adjust spacing—stretch or squash measures you specifically select.
  • StyleGeneral...Page: Change global settings that affect how close staves are and systems are, how much margin lyrics have, and so on.
  • StyleGeneral... System: Adjust System bracket thickness and distance, or the Brace thickness and distance.
  • EditToolsAdd/Remove line breaks: Fix the number of measures per system.
  • StyleGeneral...Score: Change score details, such as whether there are multimeasure rests or hidden empty staves.
  • StyleGeneral...Measure: Set measure spacing, key to controlling number of measures per line.
  • Palette → Breaks & Spacers: Break a line at a particular measure, a page at a particular line, or add space between measures.
  • StyleGeneral...Sizes: Set the proportional size of "small" and grace notes. Changing this would be unusual.

Note: Here, options will almost always apply to all objects you refer to in your score, some options may be individually done with inspector and other object properties for one, or a selection of objects...

Layout → Page Settings...

See Page settings.

Layout → Increase Stretch, Decrease Stretch

Menu: Layout

To increase or decrease the horizontal spacing of notes within a measure or measures, you can select the measures you want to affect, then use the "Increase Stretch" command (}, Mac: Ctrl+Alt+9) to widen them so that fewer are on a line, or "Decrease Stretch" ({, Mac: Ctrl+Alt+8) to squash them to fit more on a line. You can also access the exact same property from Measure Properties, where you can precisely edit the exact percentage of additional space (or negative stretch). To reset a measure's stretch to the default spacing of 1, use the "Reset Stretch" menu command.

Style → General... → Score

Dialog: Style / General... / Score

Here you can choose whether to create multimeasure rests and whether to hide empty staves. Both of these can affect score size greatly; Hide empty staves is used for creating condensed scores. You can also specify the minimum size and minimal duration for multimeasure rests.

"Hide instrument name if there is only 1 instrument" can also be a good space saver in your parts (or in solo score), as it won't write the instrument name at the beginning of the line.

You can also change the musical font for text and symbols. There are 3 musical fonts available (for symbols used in the staves): Emmentaler, Gonville, and Bravura. There are 4 musical text fonts available (for use in texts like dynamics, tempo markings, etc.): Emmentaler, Gonville, Bravura and MuseJazz. Of these Emmentaler is the default and Bravura the most complete one.

(To change text font and properties see Text style)

Some options are specific to early music, and swing playback.

Style → General... → Page

Dialog: Style / General... / Page

The options available here affect the overall layout of your score on the page. You can:

  • Adjust the distance between one system and the next, and between staves.
  • Change the spacing between lyric lines and adjust the height of their top and bottom margins.
  • Change the space at the top and bottom of the page between the music staves and page margins.
  • Change the overall top and bottom margins of vertical frames.
  • Control the display (on/off) of key signatures, time signatures and clefs including courtesy elements.

Distance to page margins

  • Music top margin: the distance between the top staff line of the first staff on the page and the top page margin.
  • Music bottom margin: The distance between the bottom staff line of the last staff on the page and the bottom page margin.

Distance between staves

  • Staff distance: The space between staves which are not part of a grand staff (see below).
  • Grand staff distance: The space between staves that share the same instrument—such as the piano, organ, or those of a guitar staff/tab pair.

Note: To alter the space above one particular staff see Extra distance above staff (Staff properties).

Distance between systems

  • Min. system distance: The minimum distance allowed between one system and the next.
  • Max. system distance: The maximum distance allowed between one system and the next.

Lyrics Margins

  • Lyrics top margin: The height of the margin above the top lyrics line (in a system).
  • Lyrics bottom margin: The height of the margin underneath the bottom lyrics line (in a system).
  • Lyrics line height: The distance between lyrics line (in a system), expressed as a percentage of the line height associated with the lyrics text style.

Vertical frame margins

  • Vertical frame top margin: The default margin height above a vertical frame.
  • Vertical frame bottom margin: The default margin height below a vertical frame.

Last system fill threshold

  • If the last system is longer than this percentage of the page width, it gets stretched to fill that width.

Style → General... → Header, Footer, Numbers

Dialog: Style / General... / Header, Footer, Numbers

You can show the content of a score's meta tags (see Score information) or show page numbers in a header or footer for your score. To create a header or footer for a score with linked parts, make sure the main score is in the active tab. To create a header or footer for an individual part, that part needs to be the active tab.

If you hover with your mouse over the Header or Footer text region, a list of macros will appear, showing their meaning, as well as the existing meta tags and their content.

You can create different Headers and Footers for even and odd pages, such as putting page numbers on the right for odd-numbered pages and on the left for even-numbered pages.

You can also edit whether and how often measure numbers appear.

Style → General... → System

Dialog: Style / General... / System

Bracket and Braces
See Bracket

  • Distances
    You can set distance between the system and the Brackets and Brace
  • Width
    You can set the width of Bracket and Brace.

Style → General... → Measure

See General style: Measure.

Style → General... → Barlines

Dialog: Style / General... / Barlines

  • Control whether to show barlines at the beginning of a staff or multiple staves.
  • Scale barlines to staff size affects "small" staves only. See Barline adjustment possibilities (external link) for details.
  • Control proportion of thickness and distance within double barlines, including repeat barlines.

Palette → Breaks & Spacers

See Breaks and spacers.

Style → General... → Notes

Dialog: Style / General... / Notes

This page can also be accessed direct from the score by right-clicking on any note and selecting "Style…" Here you can adjust the distance and thickness of note-related objects (stems, ledger lines, dots, accidentals). Changing these would be unusual.

Style → General... → Clefs

Dialog: Style / General... / Clefs

You can choose between Serif and Standard clef for your tablature sheet.

Style → General... → Arpeggios

Dialog: Style / General... / Arpeggios

Here you can change the thickness, spacing and hook height of the following arpeggio and strum symbols:

Arpeggio and strum symbols

Changes to these properties would be unusual.

Style → General... → Beams

Dialog: Style / General... / Beams

Style → General... → Slurs/Ties

Dialog: Style / General... / Slurs/Ties

Style → General... → Sizes

Dialog: Style / General... / Sizes

Sets the proportional size of "small" and grace notes, as well as small staves and clefs. Changing this would be unusual.

Style → General... → Hairpins, Volta, Ottava

Dialog: Style / General... / Hairpins, Volta, Ottava

The Reset value button returns the setting to the original value.

Style → General... → Pedal, Trill

Dialog: Style / General... / Pedal, Trill

Style → General... → Chord Symbols, Fretboard Diagrams

Dialog: Style / General... / Chord Symbols, Fretboard Diagrams

This section allows you to adjust the format and positioning of chord symbols and Fretboard diagrams.

Appearance: Chose a default chord symbol style—Standard, Jazz or Custom.

Note Spelling: Chose the spelling convention for chord symbols and whether to use capital or small letters.


  • Default vertical position: The default vertical distance in space units (sp.) between a newly-applied chord symbol and the music staff. Negative values may be used.
  • Distance to fretboard diagram: The distance (in sp. units) from a chord symbol to a fretboard diagram when both are applied to the same location on a staff. This value overrides the above "Default vertical position" setting. The user can chose to place a chord symbol below a fretboard diagram by entering a negative value.
  • Minimum chord spacing: The minimum space to allow between chord symbols.
  • Maximum barline distrance: Increases the distance between the final chord symbol in a measure and the following barline. You may wish to adjust this value if there is a recurring problem in the score with overlap between the final chord symbol in one measure and the following chord symbol.

Capo: Enter the number of the capo position at which you want to display substitute chords, in brackets, for all chord symbols in the score.

Fretboard diagrams:

  • Default vertical position: the distance in sp. units from a newly applied fretboard diagram to a staff. A negative value may be used.
  • Scale: Increase or decrease the size of the fretboard diagram in the score.
  • Fret offset number font size: Increase or decrease the size of a fret number displayed next to a diagram.
  • Position Left/Right: Display fret number to the left or right of the fretboard diagram.
  • Barre line thickness: Make barre lines in fretboard diagrams thicker or thinner.

Style → General... → Figured Bass

Dialog: Style / General... / Figured Bass

Options about figured bass font, style and alignment.
See also Figured bass

Style → General... → Articulations, Ornaments

Dialog: Style / General... / Articulations, Ornaments

Position of articulation with respect to the notes and staves

Style → General... → Accidentals

Dialog: Style / General... / Accidentals

Options about naturals at key signature changes

Style → General... → Tuplets

Dialog: Style / General... / Tuplets

Apply and OK buttons

With the Apply button you can see (without closing the window) what the changes you make are like.
OK will save the changes you made in your sheet and close the window.

Apply to all parts in one go

When in a part tab while changing layout and formatting, you can use the Apply to all Parts button to apply all changes (either in LayoutPage Settings.... or StyleGeneral...) to apply the new settings to all parts in just one click.

Save/Load style

It is easy to transfer a complete set of styles (all General Style settings, all text styles, and page settings) from one score to the other using the Save/Load Style functions.

To save a customized style:

  1. Go to Style → Save Style....
  2. Name and save the style file (the default folder is set in your Preferences). Styles are stored as *.mss files.

Note: You can also define a preferred style for scores and parts in the Score section of MuseScore's Preferences.

To load a customized style:

  1. Go to Style → Load Style....
  2. Navigate to and select the the Style file (.mss) and click Open (or double click on the file).

All existing styles in the score should update automatically.

See also