Audio: MuseScore's Full Potential
Audio: MuseScore's Full Potential
DISCLAIMER: This tutorial is based from MuseScore version 1.1. Do not use information from this tutorial unless working with MuseScore version 1.1 or higher.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: As of now, I am only fifteen. And though I may know a great amount about MuseScore, I do not know everything (despite having also done some research).
-MuseScore's potential vs MuseScore.com's potential
-Saving a file as midi, WAV.
-What is a SoundFont?
-Ways to use MuseScore to its fullest audio potential
- -The Interface
- - -Volume Gauge
- - -Volume Control
- -Room Size
-Extra Sound-Boosting features
- -Channel change mid song
- -Manual Dynamics balancing
MuseScore is a wonderful freeware. It give any individual all of the tools that he or she needs to create potentially wonderful music. However, when it comes to quality of sound, it may at first seem that MuseScore falls a little short. But do not be fooled by MuseScore's default sound quality, for the user can greatly improve so and use MuseScore to its fullest audio potential.
MuseScore's Potential vs. MuseScore.com's Potential
Unfortunately, to save on storage space, scores uploaded to MuseScore.com have default synthesizer settings. while MuseScore can do so much, the only thing that can be uploaded to the MuseScore.com databases are the user's custom mixer settings. This can be part of the deception that MuseScore does not have a good audio potential. On the other hand, users of MuseScore can perfect sound quality and keep a permanant record of it by saving the score as a Wave audio file (See section: Saving a file as a Standard MIDI or Wave audio file )
Saving a file as a Standard MIDI or Wave audio file
One of the best features of MuseScore is that it allows the user to save his or her score as a Standard MIDI (.mid) or wave audio (.wav) file. When saved as a WAVE AUDIO file, MuseScore's full potential is fully recorded and preserved.
To save a score as a standard midi or wave audio file:
1) Select File → Save as or File → Save a copy from the drop-down menus in the upper-left corner of the MuseScore Interface.
2) Change the value of the combobox object labeled "Save as type:" to either "Wave audio (.wav)" (HIGHLY recommended) or "Standard MIDI File (.mid)."
3) Select file location and save.
IMPORTANT: Before saving the score as a wave audio or Standard MIDI file, be sure that the "Play repeats on/off" toggle is switched on. If it is not toggled on, then MuseScore will save a copy of the score without any repeats!
WARNING: Saving a file as a wave audio or Standard MIDI file may cause MuseScore to stop responding for a while. If this happens, leave MuseScore idle until the file has been saved.
What is a SoundFont?
The MuseScore handbook defines a SoundFont as "a special type of file that tells MuseScore how to play each instrument sound," (File extension: ".sf2"). The SoundFont is the key to unlocking the full audio potential of MuseScore. MuseScore uses a default soundfont labled, "TimGM6mb.sf2". This is a small, light-weight, and thus, low quality SoundFont that MuseScore uses as a default. Bigger SoundFonts have higher quality, but can be too big to run on your computer. One can get a hold of many SoundFonts through the web, as many are free and are available for download. When looking for a sound font, look for the term "General Midi" or "GM," as general midi soundfonts cover all 128 basic sounds of General Midi. My personal recommendation for a high quality SoundFont is Merlin_Gold.
One can switch the SoundFont used by MuseScore by Selecting Display → Synthesizer (see section: The Synthesizer) from the drop-down menu in the upper-left hand corner of the MuseScore interface, then, selecting the load icon next to the textbox object labeled, "SoundFont" and loading the SoundFont of his or her choice. More about the Synthesizer will be covered later in the tutorial.
For more information about SoundFonts, log on to musescore.org/en/handbook/soundfont or check the section in the MuseScore handbook (Shortcut = F1 in MuseScore interface) labeled, SoundFont.
Ways to use MuseScore to its fullest audio potential
First and foremost, GET A GOOD SOUNDFONT. Using good SoundFonts are the most important thing that a MuseScore user can do to improve sound quality (see section: What is a SoundFont?)
2) The Mixer
a) The interface
One can access the Mixer by selecting Display → Mixer from the drop-down menus in the top-left corner of the MuseScore interface.
One can use the Mixer to balance, change, and improve the overall sound coming from MuseScore. Also, custom Mixer settings ARE uploaded to MuseScore.com, meaning that any changes one makes using the Mixer will be audible in the MP3 file that MuseScore.com generates for each uploaded score. The Mixer interface is divided into rows called channels. There is at least one channel for every instrument in a particular score. Every channel of the Mixer contains the following objects:
-Voices (labled, "Sound:")
By experimenting around with these objects, one can balance, change, and improve the overall sound coming from MuseScore.
b) Checkbox objects: Mute, Solo, and drumset
Mute: Checkbox that defines whether or not the channel is played in MuseScore. If this value is checked (or grayed, see Solo), then MuseScore will not play any sound from this channel.
Solo: Checkbox that defines wheather or not the channel has a solo. If this value checked, then all of the Mute checkboxes in all channels will be grayed and MuseScore will only play sound from the channel(s) with the Solo value checked.
Drumset: Checkbox that defines whether or not the instrument has pitch. If this value is checked, then the instrument has no pitch and the options for voices (see Voices) are changed. MuseScore automatically sets this value, so the user should not need to worry about this value.
NOTE: MuseScore has automatically checked the drumset checkbox for the channel, “Tambourine,” however, MuseScore has left the drumset checkbox unchecked for the channel, “Glockenspiel.” This is because the glockenspiel is a pitched instrument, despite being a percussion instrument. The tambourine has no pitch to it, so the drumset checkbox is checked.
c) Combobox objects: Voices, (labled "Sound:")
With any soundfont, instruments can have different voices. Voices are basically different sounds that can be used for any instrument (varies if pitched or unpitched, see Drumset). MuseScore always plays the voice corresponding to the channel, so a channel for trombone can have the voice of a church organ, and the voice of a church organ will play instead of the voice of a trombone. Different voices have different properties, so choose the one that you think is best.
Note: When a score is uploaded to MuseScore.com, the instruments listed on the website will be the Voice of the instrument's channel in the mixer, as opposed to the instrument name. So if one were to "dubb in" the voice of a church organ for the trombone channel, then the instrument listed on the website will be a church organ instead of trombone.
d) Dial objects: Volume, Panning, Reverberation, and Chorus
Note: One can change the value of dial objects by clicking the object and dragging. To move the dial to the right (clockwise), click the dial and drag the Mouse UP; to move the dial to the left (counter-clockwise), click the dial and drag DOWN.
Volume (Vol): Dial that controls the volume of the channel. Moving the dial to the left(counter-clockwise) will increase the volume, while moving the dial to the right (clockwise) will increase the volume
Panning (Pan): Dial that controls the channel's stereo balance between left and right. Moving the dial to the left (counter-clockwise) will make the channel's sound louder in the left speakers than that of the right speakers. Moving the dial to the right (clockwise) will make the channel's sound louder in the right speakers than that of the left speakers.
Reverberation (Rev): Controls the amount of reverberation generated by the channel. Reverberation, also known as echo, is the effect of sound reflecting off of flat surfaces such as hard walls. Moving the dial to the right (counter-clockwise) will increase the amount of reverberation. Moving the dial to the left (counter-clockwise) will decrease the amount of reverberation.
Chorus (Cho): Dial that controls the channel's chorus effect. A chorus effect is a computer-generated sound effect that imitates the sound of more than one instrument is playing at once. If the chorus is increased, then it will seem as if more instruments are playing, and if chorus is decreased, then it will seem as if fewer instruments are playing. Moving the Dial to the right (clockwise) will increase the chorus and moving the dial to the left (counter-clockwise) will decrease the chorus.
3) The Synthesizer
a) The interface
One can access the Synthesizer by selecting Display → Synthesizer from the drop-down menus in the upper-left corner of the MuseScore Interface.
One can use the Synthesizer to change SoundFonts, edit overall volume and reverberation, change the artificial room size, damp, and width, and edit chorus settings. However, I don't know very much about chorus settings, so I will not cover them. The Synthesizer Contains the following objects:
-Volume Gauge (VU meter)
-Room Size control
-Room Size control
Command Button objects:
-SoundFont Load Button
One can make some of the final touches to MuseScore's sound using the Synthesizer.
b) The Volume Gauge (VU meter)
The Volume gauge will react upon entering MuseScore's “play mode,” in which, MuseScore plays back your score. If you look at the diagram above, you may notice that the gauge is divided into two columns. This deals with properties of stereo audio. The column on the left displays the volume of sound from the left speakers and the right side of the gauge deals with the sound from the right speakers.
The Volume gauge measures volume in Volume Units (VU). The VU on this gauge ranges from slightly under -50 (negative number) to slightly above zero VU. It is best to adjust the volume (See Vscrollbar objects) to make sure that neither of the [left or right] VU levels rise above zero VU. Once this happens, the sound will become distorted.
c) Vscrollbar objects: Volume Control, Chorus Control, and Reverberation Control
Volume Control (Vol): This scrollbar controls the overall volume that MuseScore produces. Scrolling this bar upward increases the overall volume, while scrolling this bar downwards will decrease the overall volume.
Chorus Control (Cho): This controls the overall amount of chorus that MuseScore produces (for definition of Chorus, see section: The Mixer). Scrolling this bar upwards will increase the overall Chorus, while scrolling this bar down will decrease the overall Chorus
Reverberation (Rev): This controls the overall amount of reverberation that MuseScore produces (for definition of Reverberation, see section: The Mixer). Scrolling this bar upwards will increase the overall reverberation, while scrolling this bar down will decrease the overall amount of reverberation.
d) Hscrollbar objects: Room Size control, Damp control, Width control.
Room Size control: Controls the artificial room size. Connected to the listbox object, “Room Size control.” Scrolling this bar to the left will decrease the artificial room size, while scrolling this bar to the right will increase the artificial room size.
Damp control: Controls the overall dampness of MuseScore's sound. Connected to the listbox object, “Damp control.” Scrolling this bar to the left will decrease the overall dampness, while scrolling this bar to the right will increase the overall dampness.
Width control: I'm not quite sure what “width” means in this situation, but this object controls width. Connected to the listbox object, “Width control.” Scrolling this bar to the left will decrease the width, while scrolling this bar to the right will increase the width.
e) Listbox objects: Room Size control, Damp control, Width control, and Master Tuning control
Room Size control: Minimum value = 0.00; Maximum value = 1.00; Default value = 0.50. Controls the artificial room size. Connected to Hscrollbar object, “Room Size control.” Increasing this value will increase the artificial room size, while decreasing this value will decrease the artificial room size.
Damp control: Minimum value = 0.00; Maximum value = 1.00; Default value = 0.50. Controls the overall dampness of MuseScore's sound. Connected to Hscrollbar object, “Damp control.” Increasing this value will increase the overall dampness, while decreasing this value will decrease the overall dampness.
Width control: Minimum value = 0.00; Maximum value = 1.00; Default value = 0.50. I'm not quite sure what “width” means in this situation, but this object controls width. Connected to Hscrollbar object, “Width control”Increasing this value will increase the width, while decreasing this value will decrease the width.
Master Tuning control: Minimum value = 300 Hz; Maximum value = 600.0Hz; Default value = 440.0Hz. This object controls the tuning of every single note played in MuseScore. MuseScore calculates the frequency of every single note it plays relative to the frequency of the note, middle A (Master Tuning control value). If you want MuseScore to play frequencies as they are written, then leave this value at the default (440.0Hz). This object can be used to listen to a transposed version of one's score or save a transposed WAV or MIDI. However, this does require a bit of math.
WARNING: If you do not like math or want to deal with math then skip this section.
KEEP IN MIND THE MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM VALUES. To transpose a piece using master tuning, use this equation:
So, for example, if one wants to transpose his or her piece up 3 half-steps from the default, then the equation would look like this...
Also, if one wants to transpose his or her piece down 3 half-steps from the default, then the equation would look like this...
NOTICE: the exponent is -3 over 12
f) Valuebox objects: Current SoundFont
Current SoundFont: Displays the location of the current SoundFont
g) Command Button objects: SoundFont Load Button
SoundFont Load Button: Click this button to load a different SoundFont.
3) Extra Sound-Boosting Features
Invisibility is a wonderful tool that hides certain effects from the score. This means that invisible objects are visible in MuseScore, but if the score is printed out, or saved to a PDF file, or uploaded to MuseScore.com, invisible objects will NOT be visible.
To set an object to be invisible, right-click the object and select, “Set Invisible.” To make an invisible object visible, right-click the object and select, “Set Visible.” Not all visible objects can be set invisible or visible.
This can be used to hide channel changes (see Mid-song channel change), tempo changes, notes, just about anything. Plus, every invisible object is uploaded and does have effect on MuseScore.com! Using invisibility (and perhaps some other features), the MuseScore user can create ritards, accelerandos, and fermatas, by using invisible tempo changes, or change channels of the mixer (see Mid-song channel change) by using invisible staff text. These are only a few examples of what invisibility can do.
b) Mid-song channel change.
Certain instruments have more than one channel in the mixer. If you refer to the Mixer interface (see section: The Mixer), you may notice that the Bb Trumpet instrument has two channels; one is for standard Bb Trumpet, while the other is for muted Bb Trumpet. These are separate channels with separate voices and separate settings and ect. MuseScore will, by default, play the channel “Bb Trumpet” channel for the Bb trumpet instrument. However, it can be changed so that MuseScore switches to the “Muted Bb Trumpet” channel mid-piece. Follow these simple steps to do so:
1) Create any staff text above the first note that you wish to change. One can create staff text by first selecting a note, and then selecting Create → Text → Staff Text from the drop-down menus in the upper-left corner of the MuseScore interface (Shortcut = Ctrl+t).
2) Right-click the staff text and select “Staff Text Properties...”
3) Check the checkbox labled “Channel” and select the channel from the list.
One can change the channel back to normal using the same method, and selecting “normal” from the previous list. This staff text can be turned invisible as well.
c) Manual Dynamic Balancing
Manual Dynamic balancing is a way to manually set the volume of a dynamic level. Dispite the Synthesizer's VU volume gauge, MuseScore measures volume using a property known as MIDI velocity. MIDI velocity is a scale of zero to 127; the higher the number, the louder the sound. When a user adds a dynamic level to a staff, all of the notes after the dynamic marking obtain a certain MIDI velocity. The default velocities for different dynamic levels are listed in the table below: