MuseScore and MIDI

• Feb 21, 2012 - 00:54

Hello all, I'm new to MuseScore but have been a long-time casual user of music notation software. Whereas I believe most notation software users are interested in the exact representation of music for printing, my main objective is to have the ability to recreate music exactly as it is written on the score with MIDI. I have reproduced many scores over the years and found that the best MIDI results could be gotten using 'Encore', notation software that I see no mention of on your forum. I have just completed a Sousa march (The Liberty Bell) using Musescore 1.1 in sixteen instruments (I chose this march because it's not too complicated and I have done it with Finale and Encore), It's my pleasure to say that MuseScore shows a lot of promise but still falls short in some respects, especially articulation. I do see some references to some of the shortcomings in your "Issue Tracker" so I believe that others are as interested as I am in faithful MIDI output. So, reguardless of what other discussions there are about the visual correctness of the score for printing, here is my suggestion (wish list) for MIDI implementation:

If you could complete the MIDI association of all or most of the items in the palett for "Lines", "Arpeggio & Gliss" and "Tremolo" and implement the articulations in "Articulations & Ornaments" this would make a huge difference. I found it extraordinarily easy to enter articulations and was sorely dissapointed to find they had no affect on MIDI playback. This seems like a 'no brainer' if you're going to do MIDI output anyway but I just don't find these items listed on your hot-list-of-things-to-do-next so here they are.

The documentation is unclear about which particular function has an effect on MIDI playback. It would be immensly helpful to those of us that are primarily interested MIDI playback for there to be a clear indication with each function of its association with MIDI. The palettes could also show (perhaps by color) whether a particular feature will affect MIDI playback.

It's obvious to me that a lot of effort has been placed in the MIDI functionality already and I see some work in progress on some of these items already. I hope to see progress soon as I see mention of version 2.0 on the horizon.

Thanks for some really nice software.


(Caveat: I am a MuseScore user like you and I am not entitled to speak for anybody in the MuseScore community, so the following are mostly my ideas and perspectives; however, they take some advantage of my frequentation of the community and of some familiarity with the code and its recent history.)

Thanks for your comments and for highlighting some of the areas in which further development would be useful.

There is a sizeable part of the community (including some/most of the core developers) which sees MuseScore primarily as a notation program, i.e. a program to create written scores to print, distribute and so on.

Playback is perceived as a rather secondary tool, useful for aural check of the input music and perhaps as a teaching support, but not much more than that. Priority is given to correcting, completing and improving the notation part. This is why you have seen relatively little discussion about MIDI support in these fora.

This does not mean that there will be no develoment on the MIDI part; in fact, I think the next major version (2.0) will include some aural support for some of the articulations; it mostly means that MuseScore will never become a MIDI sequencer and the notation part will (always?) have the priority.



I agree that 'most notation software users are interested in the exact representation of music for printing'; and to that end, it largely determines the method that is chosen to transcribe notes into or from a performance. Many people use realtime input, to then use various software features to remove musical performance characteristics in order to get 'accurate' transcriptions of notes - the subtleties of 'musical' performance to which I refer generally include: not playing in time, not playing in tune, not playing note durations precisely and so on - all the qualities that humanize the blobs and sticks on a page and make them 'musical'. For this reason, step-time is considered by many to be an especially efficient method of transcribing notes.

To look at this another way, a conventional way of teaching staff notion is to sustain the myth that certain symbols such as crotchet/quaver (whole/half note, etc) determine the duration of a sound, when in most cases, they generally determine when the next note occurs. To illustrate, two different instruments (clave, cymbal) might play a succession of crochets at the same speed but the 'sound' bears no resemblance - the cymbal sound is actually stopped by the start of another note ... Between these two extremes are innumerable various that may be determined by the nature of: the instrument, the sound it makes, the player, the expressive articulations that may be given to any particular note or phrase, the style and interpretation of a piece of music, etc.. For this reason, when using music technology to capture, transcribe or realise a musical performance, it is wise to consider them as quite different - for the sake of quality of output, efficiency (time and effort) ... and maintaining one's sanity.

So, real-time software provides features (such as quantize) to ensure input becomes transcribed into something 'readable' even though what is played back from the score then, doesn't perhaps, sound as musical; score writers such as sibelius/finale work the other way round by allowing performance articulations to be ascribed to notations so that the realisations do not sound robotic/machine-like. Digital Performer can do both in that a score transcription from realtime input is an approximation - the score can be corrected to 'look right' without necessarily changing the performance / note data and vice versa.

In defence of MuseScore, what you are asking is (at this stage perhaps) unreasonable given the current development time, and the number of other features that have a greater priority, particularly as you say 'most notation software users are interested in the exact representation of music for printing'. For such capabilities you we are talking about require massive investment in: time (eg Motu released V1 around 1986; Coda not long after that); and money (you know what sibelius costs) and customers have grown to expect 'value for money' .... Indeed, if you were really concerned about articulation, perhaps you wouldn't be writing scores for MIDI but for real people playing real instruments! I also create much of my stuff using MIDI but your reference to 'faithful MIDI output' can not be applied to all MIDI equipment. This is in part due to the different interpretations and implementations of the MIDI spec by manufacturers and the various models they create; but also in the way that the MIDI data can be radically transformed from instrument to instrument according to the nature and quality of the sound chosen to play that MIDI note data. I could painstakingly focus on precise MIDI note data (or to use your term - note articulations) to no avail because of inappropriate selection of a sound on a MIDI device.

I agree with you that all things considered it would be nice to wish for technology to be increasingly expressive and hope that the developers will present use with increasingly clever tools to harness our musical creativity. However, we shouldnt overlook the fact that the fallibilities do not solely rest with the technology (or the programmers!). At best, musical notation is never more than an approximation - its one of its most important qualities ....

In reply to by

First of all, I love and appreciate MuseScore, and secondly, I hear all the well reasoned and practical reasons that MS is not prioritizing being a Midi Sequencer. The reasons are justifiable and sensible, and MS is a great program.

But it would be awesome to have Midi Out. Incredibly awesome, both for the reasons I have already seen in other posts on other threads, and for one very personal reason. I work with microtonal music, and writing compositions for it is very difficult, BUT it wouldn't be if MS had Midi Out. You see, I have a microtonal synthesizer so once I "load" a scale, the musical notation isn't so important, as long as I can send midi both ways (Into and out of the notation program). My notation is an "A" if the key I play on my keyboard is an "A", whether it's 220 or 221 or 234 or 277 Hz. But in MS, because it doesn't have Midi Out, I can't replay the score without it being "normalized".

I admit, it's an odd reason, but we all have odd reasons for what we do. For me, and apparently many others, MIDI OUT would really be Wonderful. But again, I thank you for all you have already done.

In reply to by lasconic

Lasconic, Thank you for reading my post and responding. I see in the notes of the plugin that you are the original creator of this plugin, so I owe you twice the thanks. For many uses, your suggestion should address this kind of problem.

For me, the issue is that I am interested in the scales themselves, so I am constantly changing them. I built a software instrument that does this and you can see it working on youtube at So my problem is that I am constantly changing scales, and the scales are very strange. I won't go into the details (but you'll probably understand if you look at the video) but the plugin will be most useful once I've decided on a scale, and for that, I am very grateful. For trying out different scales and rearranging the composition, it's too laborious. If MuseScore accepted MTS messages (System Exclusive Tuning Change Midi Messages) or could open .mtx files, that would be one solution.

So thank you for pointing me toward the Scales Plugin, I know that will help a lot of people out, including me -once I decide on a scale for a piece. For the ongoing experimental side of my work -and for all those weirdos for whom hearing a composition in progress through their own synth is important- I still want to add my name to the list of people wishing for Midi Out.


In reply to by jawnypants

While it's not a replacement for direct MIDI out, I just wanted to make sure you are aware you can Save As a MIDI file and thus play your scores back on your synth. Also, depending on your OS and hardware cnfiguration, you may be able to get MuseScore to play it via JACK, but that's all kind of a foreign world to me. If you are not familiar with it, you might at least do a search to see if it can meet your needs.

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