Basic note entry
Adding notes and rests to a staff requires the following basic steps:
- Select your starting position for note input
- Enter note input mode
- Select the duration of the note (or rest) you want to enter
- Enter the pitch (or rest) using a keyboard shortcut, mouse, MIDI keyboard, or the on-screen piano keyboard (P).
To add overlapping notes that start/end at different times (polyphony), see Voices. For chords, continue reading here.
Step 1: Starting position
First, select a note or rest on the score as your starting position for note input. If you don't select a starting point, the cursor will be at the beginning of the score when you begin
note input (see below). Note input in MuseScore replaces the existing rests or notes in a measure with your new notes (i.e. overwrites, rather than inserts). However, you can insert new measures at any point (see Measure operations: Insert), or use copy and paste to move a passage of notes.
Step 2: Note input mode
The "N" button at the left on the
Note Input toolbar indicates whether you are in
note input mode. To enter or leave
note input mode, you can click on the button, or you can use the shortcut N. To leave
note input mode, you can also hit Esc.
Step 3: Duration of the note (or rest)
note input mode, select the duration you need from the
Note input toolbar, or use the corresponding shortcut.
Note that if you have an irregular rhythm division (such as three eighth notes in the time of two), see Tuplet
The shortcuts for selecting the duration are as follows:
- 1: 64th (hemidemisemiquaver)
- 2: 32nd (demisemiquaver)
- 3: 16th (semiquaver)
- 4: Eighth (quaver)
- 5: Quarter (crotchet)
- 6: Half (minim)
- 7: Whole (semibreve)
- 8: Double whole (breve)
- 9: Longa
- .: A period (dot) changes the selected duration into a dotted note/rest
Step 4: Enter pitch (or rest)
For all instruments (except unpitched percussion), you can add note pitches using the mouse by clicking directly on the staff. (For instructions specific to percussion see Drum notation). However, you may find it quicker to use a MIDI keyboard (see below), or your alphabetical computer keyboard. The following examples use the latter method.
Enter pitches by typing the corresponding letter on your keyboard: C D E F G A B C
0 (Zero) creates a rest: for example, typing C D 0 E gives the result shown below. Notice that the duration you select for the notes (quarter/crotchet notes in this example) also determines the duration of the rest (quarter/crotchet rest).
During note input, the cursor automatically advances in the score. If you want to add a chord note to your previous entry, hold Shift and enter a note name: C D Shift+F Shift+A E F
To create chords with notes of different durations, see Voices.
If you want to create a dotted note, press . after selecting the parent note (or duration shortcut). For example, 5 . C 4 D E F G A gives the following:
When you type a note on the keyboard, MuseScore places it closest to the previous note entered (above or below). When entering chords, though, the new notes are added above the current note (bottom-up).
If either of these leads to a note ending up in the wrong octave, move it up or down by using the following shortcuts:
- Ctrl+↑ (Mac: ⌘+↑): Increase the pitch of a note by one octave.
- Ctrl+↓ (Mac: ⌘+↓): Decrease the pitch of a note by one octave.
Other 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 note up to enharmonic note (e.g., E# to F)
- Shift+J: Change note down to enharmonic note (e.g., F to E#)
- 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
- 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)
You can also insert pitches using a MIDI keyboard.
- Connect your MIDI keyboard to the computer and switch the former on
- Start MuseScore (this must be done after the keyboard is switched on)
- Create a new score
- Click the rest (selecting it) in measure 1 to indicate where you want note input to begin
- Press N to enter
note input mode
- Select a note duration such as 5 for quarter notes (crotchets), as described above
- Press a note on your MIDI keyboard.
The pitch should be added to your score.
Note: The MIDI keyboard enters one note or chord at a time. This mode of note input (often called "step-time entry") is fast and reliable. Some notation software try to interpret "real-time entry", in which the musician plays a passage and the software tries to produce notation. However, such results are generally unreliable. MuseScore focuses on more reliable forms of note input.
If you have multiple MIDI devices connected to your computer, you may need to inform MuseScore which is the MIDI keyboard. Go to Edit → Preferences... (Mac: MuseScore → Preferences...). In the preferences dialog, click on the I/O tab and select your device under the section labeled "PortAudio".
Piano Keyboard (virtual)
You can also input notes using MuseScores own virtual piano keyboard. To toggle the display on and off use P (or select View → Piano).
The method of note entry is similar to that for a midi keyboard. Single notes are entered by clicking on the appropriate keys. To enter chords, click on any note in the chord, then press and hold Ctrl and click on the other notes.
Coloring of notes out of an instrument's range
Notes within the playable range of an instrument or voice part appear black, while those extending beyond the normal range of an instrument are marked red. For some instruments, the range depends on the skill of the musician. For these instruments, notes outside the range of an early amateur appear dark yellow, and notes outside the typical range of a professional appear red.
The colors are informational and appear on the computer screen, but not on printed copies. To disable note colors, choose Edit → Preferences... (Mac: MuseScore → Preferences...), click on the Note Input tab, and unmark "Color notes outside of usable pitch range".
Small notes/small noteheads
- Select the note(s) you want in small size.
- Check the "Small" checkbox in the Inspector. The one in the
Notesection is used to only change the size of the individual notehead; the one in the
Chordsection 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 Style → General → Sizes.
Change notes or rests already entered
To change the length of a single note or rest:
- Make sure you are not in note input mode (press Esc to exit) and have no other notes selected.
- Click on the note or rest and use the duration shortcuts listed above, or the duration icons in the toolbar, to change it to the duration of your choice.
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:
- Click on the first sixteenth rest.
- Hit 4 to turn it into an eighth rest.
- Hit . to turn it into a dotted eighth rest.
As the duration increases, it overwrites the other two sixteenth rests following it.
To change the pitch of a single note:
- Make sure that you're not in note input mode and that you have no other notes selected.
- Select the desired note and use any of the following methods:
- Drag the notehead up or down with the mouse;
- Press the 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+↑).
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 rest to note and vice versa
To change a rest to a note of the same duration:
- Make sure you are not in note input mode (press Esc to exit).
- Select the rest.
- Enter the desired pitch by entering a note letter, A–G.
To change a note to a rest of the same duration:
- Make sure you are not in note input mode (press Esc to exit).
- Select the note.
- Press 0 (Zero).
- To adjust the horizontal position of a note/chord: see Offsetting notes.
- To edit note properties in general (spacing, offset, size, color, notehead direction, playback etc.): see Inspector and object properties.
- To adjust the layout of all notes in the score: see Layout and formatting, especially the sections about notes, accidentals and tuplets.