Percussion Notation and Voicing

• Dec 10, 2013 - 18:04

First, thanks to the authors and community for a really nice program overall. I hope my following comments and suggestions improve what has been started here. The notes contain general suggestions as well as those specific to percussion notation. So far I've found the following issues challenging to working with the software in this manner:

Text-Lyrics work well with snare drum to indicate sticking, as long as you know to use the space bar to skip from note to note. With rudimental snare drum, however, sticking is very important and the grace notes used for flams and drags, while notated properly, need a SUPERSCRIPT and/or SUBSCRIPT option as a tool to change their appearance in LYRICS text to what is normal and expected for drums. When all the sticking is the same size, things get muddy and visually confusing very quickly.

When working with drum set in particular, the limitation of voices forces the many instruments that a drum set player might be playing into only a few voices. In attempting to notate even simple four-part charts, the hi-hat quarter notes were truncated in and around the snare drum rhythms as 'one voice'. This changed the long quarter note rhythm I preferred for that instrument. I'm experimenting now with assigning different instruments to different voices, but there only seem to be 4 voices available. Drum set players in particular are going to run short of voices to which to assign all the instruments that they play.

In related notation, when notating bass drum rhythms, rests are always bounced to the middle of the staff requiring that I drag each of them down to the line of notes with which they are included. Is it possible to align them on the same 'pitch' as they are notated?

Also, when notating the bass drum rhythms, some rests disappeared and were HIDDEN. To get the proper notation I had to delete all the notation in the measure and start over so that I was certain of the rhythms that were already claiming space within the bar to get the software to notate my composition properly.

When notating staff or system text, it would be helpful to have temporary guidelines available on the page so that you can line up text guides evenly without having to 'eyeball' them all the time. A snapping function might also be helpful.

Some of the labels of the input dialog boxes are not always clear. Having a tool tip or more elaborate descriptions or a visual example pop up so we could 'see' what we'll be changing in the score would make things a little more user friendly.


Could post an example where you think more than four voices would be required? I think you may perhaps be misunderstand the purpose of voices. Used correctly, it should be rare to ever need more than 2 in a drum part. For instance, the most common convention in my experience is to combine all up stem notes into voice 1, all downstem in voice 2.

I have a feeling your confusion over the purpose of voices may also explain whatever it was you perceived as rests disappearing. But if you can produce an example - a specific score and a specific series of steps to follow to reproduce the problem, please feel free to post it.

Rests can be moved using the cursor keys. The next version with align rests better automatically.

Regarding guide lines for text, in the next version you'll be able to align text easily using the cursor keys. Also a number of other ways.

As for tool tips, any particular ones you find lacking?

An example would also help regarding the notations where you feel superscripts would help.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

First, thanks for the detailed reply and the quick response.

For instance:

Granted, I'm a new user so I'm still looking for answers, some of which may exist, though; in the interest of making what I find to be a pretty nice program with a good community better, I'm posting the issues that I'm finding.

When I'm laying out drum set exercises, it's common to start with the subdivision or ostinato that is often played on cymbal or hi-hat. When I do this with both HH and SD in one voice, the imput of the second instrument voids or replaces all the notes that I programmed for the first instrument. That's really frustrating since having that constant rhythm around which to program makes counting through the other instrument notation much simpler. When I assigned the SD to another voice, it seems to work smoother, but produced other issues with how the rhythms of HH and SD were notated. Still playing with it and looking at options.

SEE ATTACHED: The .jpg I attached illustrates an issue that I still have with HH and SD in one voice. The HH part is to be 4 quarter notes over a semi-open HH. Notated in ONE VOICE, the HH rhythm (it's own instrument) is notationally and rhythmically (playback) influenced by the rhythm in the snare drum part. When I move the SD to another voice, I solve this problem, but am faced with how the SD and HH are notated with both stems up and how they join to the beaming overhead.

I see that you can move the rests to where you want them, it's just really tedious when the instrument is assigned to a specific line and the rests that help define that rhythm all need to be moved manually. It would be a time saver to have them align with the notes automatically.

Text alignment upgrades will be a welcome addition; thanks much.

As for tool tips, generally everything under Style > Edit General Style and Edit > Preferences would benefit from some additional information when a new user is looking to customize the experience for their own purposes. Every musician, instrument, and composer works differently, and we're talking about artists here... the more quickly they can orient your 'tool' to their vision, the more they'll enjoy the experience.

For instance, I searched extensively for the ability to move the accent (<) I needed for percussion notation to the space OVER the note stem rather than near the note-head. I was able to find it, but it took more searching, experimentation, and time to find it than I felt it should have. There are other situations like this that I'm still looking to solve.

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DrmSet_muse_1.JPG 28.92 KB

In reply to by dpan

I think more helpful would be a picture of what you are trying to achieve - how yopu would like it to look. Then we can explain better how to achieve it. I'm not understanding what you mean about wanting to have HH and SD in the same voice. Same voice = same rhythm. Not just in MuseScore; that's what "voice" means in music notation in general. So are you saying you want both the HH and SD to be four quarter notes sharing a single stem? That's simple to do if you have defined keyboard shortcuts for the relevant notes. For instance, right click the staff, edit drumset, click the HH, assign it the shortcut "A". Now click any snare drum note and press Shift+A - this adds the HH to the same stem. Not sure how you'd do it by clicking because I prefer to do everything by keyboard, but I assume there is a way.

Anyhow, without seeing a picture of what you're trying to do, I'm kind of just guessing here. Maybe you don't really want the HH and SD to both be quarter notes on the same stem - in which case, you don't want them in the same voice. But I'd need to better understand what you actually *do* want. But again, it would be practically unheard of to need more than 2 or 3 voices to notate even the most complex drum parts.

When entering the lyrics just use the bottom toolbar and the arrows up down button in the toolbar to have superscript and subscript. I agree the buttons are not good. It's changed in next version. Also a shortcut should be provided.

4 voices should be enough for most of drumset notation.
See some (extreme) examples

You might want to change the drumset properties to put each instrument of the kit in the right voice before you start. Click on a drum staff -> Drumset properties. The problem with disappearing rests looks like a default voice problem. Maybe try to read Voices again.

Regarding the rests, you can double click them and use the up / down arrows on your keyboard. It's easier and more precise.

It's a popular request but not implemented indeed. Next version will let you move text with the arrow keys to be more precise.

In which places in particular?

In reply to by Nicolas

If I understand your answer, there is already the means to adjust the font for Super and Sub script. I'll look for it, though I'm not familiar with a 'bottom toolbar'. Thanks for the hint. Found it! Thanks much, that will work well... now, keyboard shortcut to save time and we're a happy camper on that score!

I did find a tutorial video that dealt with how to change the assignment of the instruments among the voices (one of the things I like about the community, lots of info), I just haven't found the solution that gives me what I'm looking for yet.

Thanks for the examples, though they don't directly pertain to what I'm trying to notate. The Black Page example is written much like a marimba part might be, one player over many notes, tones or sounds. MuseScore seems very well adapted to this. The Drum Set examples were pretty simple examples, and in once case I noted that the snare drum and bass drum were rhythmically notated together rather than the traditional HH/SD. It's a simple solution, though is not what I've seen as 'common notation' in many method books on the subject. I'd like to stick with the notational conventions within the pedagogy and find a way to do that with MuseScore.

In each of the examples there is a HH note in unison with every instance of a SD note. MuseScore handles this perfectly fine. When the two instruments are not in unison, there are rhythmic adjustments to notation where HH or Cym can have a long note and its value is truncated at the entrance of a SD note. Separate voices is how I've found to deal with it, though still having some notational issues with that also.

I had used an earlier version of Finale, and while it was NOT userfriendly and took an inordinate amount of time to learn to use, once I got a handle on it the options existed to make the software notate exactly what I needed. You had to dig to find the customization options, but they were there.

For instance: Yesterday I was notating drum rolls, and while I located a number of stem slashes, the location of the stem slashes were not customizable under Style > General Style > Articulation - Ornaments as I expected them to be. They crowd the note head and I'd like them higher on the stem. I tried highlighting them and dragging them but this wysiwyg option wasn't available as it is with other things on the screen.

Am I being picky? Perhaps, but when you notate things for students, anything that looks different throws them. The more I can conform to conventional notation within my instrumentation, the less issues I'll have with students and readers of my publications reading what I've written.

Tool tips: see my reply to first answer.

In reply to by dpan

The problem here is that there is more than one standard for how drum notation should look. You are apparently familiar with one that differs from the ones others of us are familiar with. So a picture of exactly what you mean is really needed here. I'm sure there is a way to do it, but without seeing what it is you mean, it's really hard for us to guess.

BTW, tremolo bars can be moved - double click and arrow key, just as with most other element types.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I was searching for a way to adjust the blue highlighted trill or drum roll marking selected. SnrDrm_muse_4.JPG

Dragging it doesn't work, arrow keys don't work, and I don't see the means to adjust it's relation to the note head or stem under Style > Edit General Style > Articulations and Ornaments.

Am I missing it somewhere?

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SnrDrm_muse_4.JPG 18.58 KB

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ok, that worked. And yes, it's 'sort of' documented but not easily identified. Thanks for the heads up on how to access the customization.


This is how it should look... now that I can make it look that way, it's an improvement and I appreciate the ability to customize it.

As for those of us that use this type of notation often, it would certainly be much more convenient to be able to adjust this in General Style and have it appear the same way each time I apply it (which is likely to be often) than having to adjust every instance manually.

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SnrDrm_muse_4B.JPG 16.48 KB

In reply to by dpan

I have recently also noticed that changing the stem length through Style > Edit General Style > Notes > Shortest Stem also tends to move the hash-marks farther from the note head. It seems the placement of the hash marks are determined by the stem top rather than bottom or in relation to the note head.
It would be nice to have a 'general style' option to set where this trill articulation appears so that it need not be customized for each instance. While this fix works for how I'm applying it, it might cause issues for someone who didn't want to change stem lengths but wants control over the trill marking.

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SnrDrm_muse_4C.JPG 12.03 KB

Here are a few examples of the issues I'm currently struggling with:

SnrDrm_muse_2A.JPG Illustrates how the line is truncated, shortened before the end of the line.

When I add measures for the next exercise for this study, the software automatically extends the previous line (3/4) to the margin, spreading out the notes as in the next example: SnrDrm_muse_2B.JPG

Also shown in the examples is the automatic spacing of the last quarter rest in example 2A which is crowding the quarter note on count 2. Maybe I set something that caused this in my attempts to get measures to compress to one line; I'm not certain.

I'd like to be able to decide where the staff ends on the page, regardless of whether it is the last staff or not.

Another issue I haven't mentioned before is the extension of beams across the bar line. I see the tools that allow you to extend beams and break beams, but they only seem to be useful 'within the measure'. In percussion its often helpful to the reader to group notes, even across the barline, according to the rudiment so that the reader can see more readily that these notes are one musical thought, even when written over the bar line.

With a rudiment as simple as paradiddles it isn't a big deal... it gets more difficult to catch visually with something like a flam-paradiddle-diddle or double drag when it's split over a bar line.

Other issues for which I'm seeking answers:

Related to the last issue, more intricate control of beaming notes together on a count would be helpful, and for the same reasons. Snare drummers learn complex 'vocabulary' in rudiments, and when you can group notes according to their particular rudiment, it can aide sight reading greatly.

I guess what I'm asking for here is control over each of the rhythmic beams, to break some and to hold others rather than to break or hold them all. SnrDrm_muse_3.JPG

I was trying to group beamed sets of 16th notes in 6/8 into 4 groups of 3 (3 note flam accents) rather than a standard 2 groups of 6. If I split the 4 groups of 3, it's fine, but joining the first set of 6 and the last set of 6 together with the top beam makes it easiest to read and recognize the specific rudiment more quickly.

It also looked as if there were the means by which you could ADD your own articulation marks and other things to the tool pallet; thought I haven't been able to expand the available tools for several days of looking / experimenting. I thought that would be a very handy feature and to also have the adjustments so you can control the articulations appearance in terms of font size, location to the note head, etc...

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SnrDrm_muse_2A.JPG 61.14 KB
SnrDrm_muse_2B.JPG 80.08 KB
SnrDrm_muse_3.JPG 34.43 KB

In reply to by dpan

To make a line end where you want, add a horizontal frame after it, then size the frame to take up however much space you need it to take up.

Regarding the crowding of the quarter rest, it's usually better to post an actual score rather than just a picture of it. It's impossible to say just from the picture what might causing that crowding. It's definitely not the normal behavior, so it must be something unique to your score - probably something you inadvertantly caused in your experimentation.

And as mentioned, you can control beaming however you like, including at least some forms of across the barline. Other forms of across the barline beaming can be faked by creating one large measure then inserting the barline graphically. Your example can be created by applying the "middle of beam" property to both the last note of the first measure and first note of second measure.

Again, if there are specific things you are not sure how to do, feel free to continue to post pictures. Here, of course, since it's something you don't know how to do, a picture is all you'd be able to post). The last example you post where you have six sixteenths grouped in two groups of three with a single beam connecting the two groups - that's called a sub-beam, and it will be supported in 2.0.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Like I said, I've been messing with every setting I can find to try to see how it affects the parameters I was trying to control. Likely I tweaked something that threw off the quarter rest.

Thanks for the cross bar-line hints, I'll look into that.

and the sub-beam info destined for v2.0 will be welcome indeed. Thanks for noting the upgrade and kudo's to your team for identifying it and implementing it!

I'll continue to post examples with keywords so that other percussionists can track what we discussed. I appreciate your efforts!

Now... to go find something called a 'horizontal frame'... 8-D

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The insertion of horizontal frames is working precisely for what I was looking for,

thought it's implementation was less than straight forward:

1. The horizontal frame seems to be inserted only BEFORE a selected measure. In my 'end of line' scenario, this lead to issues.
2. I had to insert a blank measure at the end of the line that I wanted to control
3. insert a horizontal frame before this 'dummy bar'
4. then delete the dummy bar I had inserted.
5 to control that no measures jumped up to the end of that line, I added a 'return' to the horizontal frame as if it were a measure.

... and I got what I was looking for... Thanks for the hint.

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SnrDrm_muse_2C.JPG 42.33 KB

In reply to by dpan

Yes, that's basically it. You don't normally need the dummy measure, though - just add the frame before that *actual* next measure. Sometimes this feels and works naturally, other times not, so realistically, the dummy measure trick is still nice to have.

But in the future, if you add these as you go instead of after you've already gone on to the next, you can use "append" instead of "insert". So the need to deal with this "insert" issue shouldn't come up often.

In reply to by dpan

I hadn't noticed that, but you should be able to work around using regular line break and then a spacer to force the page break. You might on a nightly build of 2.0 to see if that is fixed (see Downloads link at right).

Style -> Edit General Style -> Page -> Last System Fill Threshold:
Set this to a lower value and the line will spread out more frequently. Set it to 0 if you want it to spread out even if there is onle one measure.

You can beam across a barline - click on the first note in the next bar and then double-click on the Beam icon that shows a note with a beam coming out either side.

In reply to by dpan

As an added note for anyone searching the forums to solve these similar problems, I noticed at times (v1.3) that just adjusting beaming for the first note in the second bar didn't connect beams across the barline. I had to also alter the beaming on the last note of the previous bar to get the beam to jump the barline and appear as it does in SnrDrm_muse_2D.jpg above.

In reply to by underquark

I've found a way to solve this issue, but it's a 'one-at-time' fix... highly time and labor intensive.

I'd like to move the grace note for the flam closer to the note head with which it's associated. While I can do that by double clicking the grace note head and either > or < (arrow keys) or Ctrl + < or > for finer adjustment, it's one note at a time. The same goes for the ultra tiny tie from the grace note to the main note... must be adjusted piece by piece.
What are the chances of having this added to Style > Edit General Style options somewhere so that I can set the default distances of grace note to main note and tie to note head?

As it stands now, the grace notes at the interior of the measures are closer to preceding notes than they are to the notes to which they are assigned.

Included image shows both default and edited instances.

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SnrDrm_muse_7C.JPG 24.04 KB

In reply to by dpan

They coexist peacefully. I don't recommend trying to use a nightly build for actual work, but any time you encounter a bug or limitation or have an idea for a new feature, it's a good idea to check and see if it's already addressed. There's really a pretty incredible number of improvements. But also new bugs, of course.

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