You can have up to 4 Voices on each staff line. A voice is a musical line or part which can have its own rhythm independently of other voices on the same staff. Voices are sometimes called "layers" in other notation software.
In a polyphonic measure, voice 1 usually takes the up-stem notes and voice 2 takes the down-stem notes.
Note: The feature called "Voices" should not be confused with "vocal staves," which can be added from the Instruments dialog (accessed by pressing I). When creating a closed SATB score, use Voices 1 and 2 for Soprano and Alto parts on the top staff, and use Voices 1 and 2 on the bottom staff for Tenor and Bass parts—do not use Voices 3 and 4 for Tenor and Bass.
When to use voices
- If you need stems pointing in opposite directions within a chord, on a single staff.
- If you need notes of different durations within a single staff, played simultaneously.
How to use voices
Make sure you are in note input mode: the Voice 1 button becomes highlighted in blue in the toolbar. Enter the notes in the top voice first (for an example, see the illustration below). When inputting, some notes may have down-stems, but these will flip automatically when the second voice is added.
When you have finished entering a section of voice 1 notes, press the ← key repeatedly to move your cursor, note-by-note, back to the first note of the section (or alternatively use Ctrl+← to move back measure-by-measure). Or else you could simply exit note entry mode (press Esc) and click directly on the first note.
To enter the voice 2 notes, make sure you are in note-input mode and that the voice 1 note at the beginning of the section is selected. Click on the "Voice 2" button (on the right of the toolbar), or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+2 (Mac: Cmd+Option+2). Enter all the lower voice notes (down-stem). The final result might look something like this:
Hidden spacer rests
Only the rests of voices 2, 3, and 4 can be deleted, but those of the main voice (1 - blue) can be hidden.
To hide a rest, select it and press V or uncheck the "Visible" checkbox in the Inspector, which can be enabled from the View menu or with the shortcut F8 (Mac: fn+F8). If you have Show Invisible turned on in the View menu, the rest still shows in gray on your screen. The hidden rest will not appear if you print, or export as PDF, PNG, SVG, etc.
Exchange voices of notes
To swap the notes between any two voices:
- Select a range of notes.
- From the Menu bar, select Edit → Voices
- Exchange any two voices from the list.
Note: The selection can encompass content of any voice, but only two will be processed at once.
Move notes to another voice (without swapping)
You can also move notes from one voice to another (without note-swapping):
- Ensure you are not in note input mode.
- Select one or more noteheads (in any voice).
- Click on the destination voice in the Note Input toolbar or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+1–4.
Note: For a successful move, either of the following conditions should apply:
- The chord(s) in the destination voice must be the same duration as the note(s) to be moved there.
- There is enough rest duration in the destination voice to accomodate the new notes.