New features in MuseScore 3.6

Updated 2 weeks ago

    New score setup and layout features

    MuseScore 3.6 introduces a new music font, Leland, a new default text font, Edwin (a version of New Century Schoolbook), and many new default settings. It also introduces a number of new features which are available in all newly-created scores by default, and which can also be applied automatically or manually to existing scores.

    The three main features, which are interrelated, are:

    • Automatic instrument ordering
    • Automatic brackets and braces
    • Vertical justification of staves

    The first two features apply at score creation time and are available in the New Score Wizard, though they can also be accessed later in the Instruments panel. Previously, it was up to the user to arrange instruments and add brackets manually once the score was created. The aim of these new features is to save time and give a better default result in the majority of cases, but it is not intended to accommodate every possible score setup. For unusual layouts, the results can be customised after the score is created, the features can be turned off completely, or a template could be used.

    Automatic instrument ordering

    Dialog: New Score Wizard / Add Instruments

    When creating a new score via 'Choose Instruments', there is now an 'Ordering' dropdown showing the current system of instrument ordering. 'Orchestral' is the default. As instruments are added to the score, they will be added in the correct position according to the select ordering. (Previously, each instrument would appear below whichever was currently selected in the right-hand list.) This also makes it easy to, for instance, add a double wind section, by selecting Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon in the left-hand list, and clicking 'Add to score' twice.

    Each ordering defines a position in the score for solo instruments. For example, in an orchestral ordering, this is above the strings. With an instrument selected in the right-hand list, the 'Make soloist' button will move it to that position. You can designate multiple soloists; within the soloist 'section' the overall ordering will apply. Solo instruments will have "solo" added to their name by default, and will be numbered separately from non-solo instruments, where relevant. Note that the soloist designation is a score layout feature only and has no impact on playback.

    One quirk is that, for now, only a single soloist position is defined per ordering, so a work with a chorus plus both vocal and instrumental soloists will place the instrumental soloists above the chorus. These will need to be moved manually.

    As before, instruments can be moved up and down manually with the buttons that are now to the right of the list. In the dropdown the ordering will have '(Customised)' appended to its name. The customised ordering is saved with the score. You can reset the order by selecting the original ordering (or a different one) from the dropdown.

    Selecting the 'Custom' ordering disables this feature entirely, as well as the automatic bracketing.

    Automatic brackets and braces

    The predefined orderings assign instruments families (flutes, oboes, clarinets, etc.) and arranges those families into sections (woodwind, brass, percussion, etc.). Brackets are added automatically according to these simple rules:

    • A heavy bracket is applied to all adjacent instruments of the same section, assuming there is more than one
    • a thin square bracket is applied to all adjacent identical instruments (four horns, for example)
    • a curly brace is applied to each single instrument which is notated on more than one stave (piano and harp, most commonly)

    Again, while this should provide reasonable defaults for most scores, it won't give perfect results for every possible style or layout. Fortunately, it is easy to make adjustments once the score is created.

    Vertical justification of staves

    There is a new algorithm for vertically justifying staves to properly fill the page, which is turned on by default for new scores in MuseScore 3.6. To turn this off, untick Format > Style > Page > Enable vertical justification of staves.

    Dialog: Edit Style / Page

    The basic principle of the algorithm is to try to make the space between staves equal, subject to two settings (all in Format > Style > Page):

    • The space either side of a system may be increased proportionally by adjusting the "Factor for distance above/below bracket" setting to a value greater than 1. For example, if this is set to 1.5, the algorithm will attempt to make the space either side of a bracket 1.5 the 'standard' space used elsewhere.
    • The same thing can be applied to braces with the "Factor for distance above/below brace" setting.

    The space between a brace and bracket will be determined by the larger of these two values. The "Max. great staff distance" setting is used to limit the amount of distance between staves joined by a curly brace. This is useful as these staves generally need to be read at once in a single glance by the player.

    The "Max. system distance" and "Max. stave distance" should have reasonably large values to enable the routine to fill even quite sparse pages. Sometimes a page will not have enough staves for it to make sense to justify. In this case, once the algorithm first equalises the space as described above, then adds extra space between the staves up to a maximum of the setting given in "Max. page fill distance" (multiplied by any relevant factor setting). If you find many pages are not fully justified, but you'd like them to be, try adjusting this setting. In general, a low value is likely to be best for a score with a small number of staves per system, and a larger one for larger numbers of staves.

    The vertical justification is dynamic, and not tied to the section assignments of instruments used to determine the score order at the setup stage, so if you add or remove brackets the spacing will change accordingly. In the same way, if empty staves are hidden on a given system, the spacing will be determined only by the brackets which are present on that system.

    Hopefully the default settings give good results in most cases, but it might take a bit of experimentation with the settings depending on the makeup of a score. If you are used to using spacers to achieve similar results, it is best to try to find settings which give a good result for the majority of the score, and use spacers only where local adjustments are necessary. It is planned for future versions to make this more configurable. For example, extra space could be suppressed for a specific bracket, or the value might be increased or decreased for a particular page or system.

    Indentation of first systems

    This new option, which is turned on my default, is found in Style > Score > Enable indentation on first system. As the name suggests, it will indent the first system of a section in the customary way for classical scores. (The old workaround of using a frame for this is no longer necessary.) If there are instrument labels present, the maximum of either the value given for this setting or the length of the labels will apply.

    Applying new features to existing scores

    When opening an old score, a dialog box gives the option to apply either the new notation font Leland, or the new text font Edwin, or both. Each of these applies a subset of the new default 3.6 style settings beyond just the font changes, for example line widths and text sizes, but does not apply every one of the the new defaults, in the interest of minimising disruptive layout changes.

    Dialog: Import

    To apply all of the new defaults, including these text and notation font changes, open the Format > Style window and click the "Reset All Styles to Default" button at the bottom. This was formerly the Format > Reset Style menu option. The button behaves the same way, except that it no longer resets the page layout options which are set in the Format > Page Settings window; that window now has its own equivalent button, which will reset only those settings it contains. This means that the new style options can be tried out without completely ruining the layout of the score, though a few settings in the Score and Page settings of the Style window may need to be re-set manually.

    If it is an option, delete any non-essential system and page breaks, then select the whole score and select Format > Stretch > Reset Layout Stretch. Also delete spacers if you want to see the default results of the new vertical justification algorithm (see below).

    Edwin has wider character sizes in general than FreeSerif (though slightly smaller default point sizes are used) so it is quite likely that the Edwin option will cause layout changes, particularly in scores with lyrics. Leland will affect the spacing less radically, but some adjustments may still be necessary.

    Text items which have local style overrides applied will not have those customisations removed, either as part of the score migration process, or via the Reset Styles options. This may result an inconsistent score where some text retains its old font face or size. The new menu option Format > Reset Text Style Overrides will remove these customisations, resetting all text items to match the currently defined text styles. (This is equivalent to clicking 'Reset to style default' for each attribute in the Text area of the Inspector.) Note that this does not remove Custom Formatting, which must be done manually if required.

    Applying new automatic instrument ordering and bracketing

    Press I to open the Instruments panel, or choose the Edit > Instruments menu item. Assuming the score was created pre-3.6, the selected ordering will be 'Custom'. If you wish to apply a standard ordering, select one from the menu, for example 'Orchestral'. The instruments in the score will be reordered according to that definition, and have brackets and braces applied accordingly. Note that any existing brackets and braces will be deleted.

    Applying vertical justification of staves

    If you want to use this feature but have previously been using spacers to create extra or fixed distance between staves, it would be best to delete all those spacers first, as they will distort how the new algorithm works. A quick way to do this is by right-clicking any spacer, choosing Select > All Similar Elements, and pressing Delete.

    Turn this feature on by selecting Style > Page > Enable vertical justification of staves. Then you can reintroduce spacers if there are specific places where the default spacing needs adjustment.

    Other engraving changes in 3.6

    In the process of investigating style settings, engraving issues and creating a new music font, many issues were uncovered which needed to be corrected and which may have a small impact on the appearance of existing scores. In some cases is possible to undo these manually.

    Beam spacing

    A long-standing error in the interpretation of the beamDistance setting that is defined alongside SMuFL fonts meant that this value was frequently half as big as it ought to be in MuseScore, including with Emmentaler and Bravura. (MuseScore defines the distance between beams as a percentage of the thickness of a beam, but for SMuFL the setting is an absolute distance in stave spaces. The normal thickness of a beam is 0.5sp, and the standard distance between beams is also 0.25sp, which MuseScore interpreted as 25% of 0.5sp, i.e. 0.125sp.)

    The new correct interpretation of this value, 50%, will be applied even to existing scores, unless this value had been explicitly overridden. The extra space is added inwards, so the position of the outermost beams remains the same. If you really want the old, very-tight spacing, set Style > Beams > Beam distance manually to 25%.

    Before (beam distance 25%):
    Beams (before)
    After (beam distance 50%):
    Beams (after)

    Ledger line length

    In a similar way, MuseScore interpreted this SMuFL value as the total extension of the ledger line beyond the notehead (i.e. x/2 at each side), when the value is meant to be the extension at each side. This error was also masked by a square cap being used for the line, rather than a straight cap, thus also adding half of the line thickness at each end.

    As with beam spacing, if this setting was not explicitly overridden in the file, a new default will be applied even in old scores, but this will give identical results. If you did adjust this value, this value will be preserved, but will produce ledger lines that are too long. You can convert the value manually with the formula:

    new value = (x / 2) - (y / 2)

    where x is the previous 'Ledger line length' value, and y is the 'Ledger line thickness' value. Or, just use the now correctly-interpreted default settings for each font:

    • Leland: 0.35sp
    • Bravura, Gonville, Petaluma: 0.40sp
    • Emmentaler: 0.38sp

    Stem caps and flag positions

    Round caps were previously drawn on stems. This has been replaced with a flat cap. Partly this is to make the length of the stem more exact, but mainly it is so that the round cap does not obscure the design of the tip of the flag symbols in each font. Emmentaler's flags, for instance, are designed with a flat tip; Bravura and Leland have rounded tips which are not exactly symmetrical.

    The placement of flags was also previously at odds with SMuFL fonts: a calculation was made of how much to extend the stem for a given number of flags, and then the flag symbol was drawn with the top or bottom of its bounding box at the end of the stem. Now, the presence of flags does not affect stem length (i.e. a normal length stem is used for a note according to its vertical position and stem direction) and the flag symbol is then placed with its y=0 at the end of the stem. Any 'extension' of the stem is thus determined by the extent to which the flag symbol extends above or below y=0. The flags in Emmentaler, as used within MuseScore, have been repositioned to reflect this, and to match other SMuFL fonts.

    The result of this is that flags may appear slightly lower or higher than they did previously; however, their positioning now reflects the intentions of the designers of each of the available fonts. Beamed notes are not affected.

    Before (Bravura, in 3.5):
    Flags (before)

    After (Bravura, in 3.6):
    Flags (after)

    Bracketed accidentals

    Previously MuseScore did not add any space between the bounding boxes of accidentals and brackets around them. Now a small amount of padding is added, which can be customised via Style > Accidentals > Padding inside parentheses.

    Before (Bravura, in 3.5):
    Bracketed accidentals (before)

    After (Bravura, in 3.6):
    Bracketed accidentals (after)

    Accidentals in Emmentaler

    These have been replaced with those taken from Parnassus. For details, see PR #6747.

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