Import MP3 to play alongside score

• Jul 4, 2018 - 03:06

Apologies if this has been proposed elsewhere. Is it possible (or could it be possible) to import an MP3 into MuseScore to play alongside your track? Akin to what does with video scores - only with audio. It would really help with transcription so you could play one measure over and over until the notation and the audio lined up.


You can actually achieve this result using 2.3 + MuseScore Drumline.

You are not importing the audio file, but you able to play it back synchronized with the score.

Here's how to do it.

STEP 1 - Install MuseScore Drumline

STEP 2 - Add Sampler Instrument

Create a new score and add the instrument MDL Sampler (or add to existing score).

STEP 3 - Set Up A Rig

Using one of a number of different virtual rigs (Mainstage 3, Ableton LIve, etc.) import your audio file to create a sample and assign to a specific MIDI pitch.

STEP 4 - Configure MIDI Out in MuseScore

Go to Preferences > I/O

From the MIDI Output dropdown select the output that corresponds your rig connection (could be direct or through intermediary, depending on your particular MIDI setup)

Make sure the PortAudio checkbox is checked.

STEP 5 - Configure the MDL Sampler

a) Select the MDL Sampler staff in note entry mode.
b) Select Edit Drumset
c) Create a note that corresponds to the MIDI pitch assigned to the sample in your the rig

STEP 6 - Using the Samples

In the MDL Sampler staff, simply enter the note that corresponds to the desired sample at the appropriate count in the score.


You can break the samples up into segments that correspond to different rehearsal numbers or key phrases. Simply create additional samples on distinct MIDI pitches in the rig and create additional notes in the drumset palette that correspond to each MIDI pitch.

Only now I'm seeing this request, after a little over a year, but anyway, the solution I see posted here, dealing with MuseScore Drumline seems so complex and with so many complicated steps! I've just tried a much simpler solution, which I know works fine, because it worked fine for me.
The problem is: how to play an MP3 file alongside with the score that is loaded in MuseScore?
My solution is:
step 1 - Create an SF2 soundbank containing just ONE sample, ONE instrument and ONE preset. This can be done easily using for example the Viena (with ONE "n", not the Creative Vienna, which requires a Creative sound board to be present in the computer). Make your MP3 file be the only sample of that bank.
step 2 - Open MuseScore and load the score you want to play with.
step 3 - load the SF2 bank you created into MuseScore, using the syntheziser panel.
step 4 - Add a new staff to the score and assign your instrument to it (use the mixer - F10)
step 5 - In the staff, add the note corresponding to the preset that was created (normally it would be C3), in the measure, or note where you want the MP3 to start playing. Make the length of that note match the length of your MP3 file, so that the sound will be played entirely. That can be one or more measures, of course.

I've done this - it's quick and easy and it works fine - it did to me.
Now, one piece of caution: the MP3 sound (assuming it's a piece of music) will have a tempo value that is already fixed, so it should be inserted into a score that has the same tempo figure, or else there will not be the necessary sincronism between the MP3 sound and the rest of the score. Of course if you need to obey the score tempo, you can reduce or increase the MP3 length to adapt it to the score tempo, before creating the sound bank. Any reasonable wave editor allows you to do that.

In reply to by luizcrodrigues

One thing to note is that doing this will cause other patches to move down the list which causes all instruments in your score to use whatever is in their place.
This is not a problem with sfz instruments though. It would mostly be better to convert the audio into an .ogg file and create an .sfz for it.

In reply to by luizcrodrigues


Thanks for this nice tutorial.

All worked out just fine, except one thing:
"Make the length of that note match the length of your MP3 file, so that the sound will be played entirely".

The longest note I can create is a "along 9ç". That seems to span 4 bars of 4/4.
In that case, I hear the WAV playing for ... yeah exactly 4 bars :-).

Thanks for your time!
Attached screenshot.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Hi, thanks for the quick reply! Unfortunately, I did not succeed with an organ either. What actions should be taken to increase the length of the note (i.e. span it over multiple bars)? First insert a note and than ... ? (the note length selection bar on top is not sufficient).

1. I'm quite new to music notation
2. I'm very new to musescore (but did go through quite a bit of reading in the manual).


In reply to by luizcrodrigues

Hey Luiz,

I've been trying desperately to get an mp3 sample in my musescore files, and I'm glad someone figured out a way to do it! Seems like a huge oversight to be missing this functionality, but whatever, it's a free program. I went and made an .sf2 file of my sample (just went with whatever Viena defaulted to for the Instrument and Preset stuff, I didn't look at the manual), and was able to install the .sf2 into the SoundFont folder for MuseScore, but when I try to add it in via the Synthesizer, it gives me an error saying it cannot load it. I'm still trying to fix it now, but so far nothing's worked. Any chance you can shed some light on the issue?

In reply to by dennisptimmon

Got it to work! Just had to use PolyPhone instead. Now I've got the strange issue of my sample being sped WAY up! I've got tied whole notes stretching for what (should) be the length of the song, but for some reason it goes at nearly 2x speed, and then for the remainder of the score it's silent. Why might that be? I checked, there's no spot that's missing a tie/note or anything.

In reply to by dennisptimmon

Just as a slight comment on the "huge oversight".
MuseScore is a score writer, not a DAW.

We implement basic playback so a composer can get a decent audio validation of what is written on paper. The number of scores that say, "now play this mp3" is quite limited compared to all other scores out there.

However when you then wish to mix, tweak and work with audio MuseScore allows you to export to a number of playback formats to allow for easy import into other programs tailored for such a purpose.

In reply to by jeetee

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that MuseScore is composition software and designed to support the workflows of modern composition?

In that case, why shouldn't MuseScore support workflows that are generally more common to DAWs if those are common workflows for composers?

Why should there be a line in the sand here regarding notation software vs. DAW?

Shouldn't composition software simply support the needs of a composer, whatever those may be?

In reply to by Daniel

There should be line because we can't do everything (and definitely not all of it at a decent level of quality). A composer needs to e-mail his work as well; but we won't include an e-mail client.

The line is not written in stone, but it is a matter of priorities and main focus.

In reply to by Daniel

Shouldn't composition software simply support the needs of a composer, whatever those may be?

Wait a second... whatever those may be?
Every support feature has to be carefully planned, coded, tested and implemented beforehand.
"Whatever those may be" doesn't just happen.
(That's why this feature request forum exists. Wishes made here can come true.)

On the lighter side (and more extreme) realize that...
...all choices to include features in any software must be made precedently. Hopefully, they are intelligent choices. If not, simply catering to composers' needs - "whatever those may be" - can lead to:

Larger image here:…

Didn't we discuss "provide audio backing, just as does with video" under other threads, one of which I started, and there was dispute over whether it was useful, what the use case was, or whether I could do it by running another app in parallel? Why are we discussing how to do this with drumline and soundfonts and extremely long notes instead of the obvious, what was asked for by the OP (and myself) in the first place (although the OP's use case is much more compelling, i.e., facilitating incremental transcription).

If these explanations of how to fake it with soundfonts, drumlines, and very long notes are worthy of consideration, than the goal itself is implicitly worthy of consideration, and the easiest way to walk from here to there is to put one foot in front of the other, i.e., "import mp3 to play alongside score" as per the title of this thread.

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

I'm totally in favor of having a solid solution, but would be happy with any reasonable workaround that does the job.
My use-case: I play a rather boring sounding instrument (drums), and want a backing track to play on ... while seeing the notes that actually need to be played.
Currently I'm using Melodics to learn to play the drums, but that service does not allow to import songs.
That's why I was looking into the musescore. So far: impressed!
Kind regards,

In reply to by maartenvd84

Are we talking about having MuseScore create a score from an mp3? No, it sounds more like have an mp3 play along with a score. Not sure I see the value for learning to play drums. Especially a drum set. Especially if you already to have a score with a drum part. What am I missing?
Or is the score you have only the drum part? If so, where did it come from?
The other way to match playback to your mp3 would be to change the playback tempo. Then you still have to start two things.
No, I seem to remember that making a video seemed to be the best solution that was suggested in that other thread. And not difficult. Really.

In reply to by bobjp

No, no, no, and no (in answer to your questions). This is about being able to have a pre-created sound track provide the sound for a score in the desktop application the exact way it does on the site, where you can select a given measure and hear it from there, but without the use of YouTube, video, or any web site at all. This has zero to do with drums. The most obvious use is debugging by-ear transcriptions. The second most obvious use is to debug composite audios intended to be posted to the site via the YouTube kludge.

In reply to by bobjp

I think we're on the same page; let me just state for the record that by "transcription", here, I mean the process of trying to write down a score by listening to it, a completely manual process I used to do with cassette tape....which would be 1000 times easier if you could associate measures and audio position ...

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

This is an old thread, but I'd like to put my vote in for this feature too. My use case is that I am an arranger that does a lot of work adding instruments to existing recordings, for example horn parts to a pop song. So I want to hear the Musescore playback along with the original song I'm adding to. My current system for doing this involves playing the original from my DAW (Reaper), then starting Musescore playback at the same place in the score, hitting play at just the right time, including compensating for the lag in Musescore starting playback. So needless to say, it is a pretty cumbersome and error prone process! Adjust the start location in 2 different pieces of software, start one a bar early, switch to the other and start it at the appropriate time to sync everything up, ....
If Musescore could just play an MP3 or wave file along with its playback, starting it at time 0, that would be a great help to my workflow! (Finale, Sibelious, and others do offer this feature, though I realize they are paid vs. free software.)
The work-arounds suggested here have the fatal flaw that they only work if you start at the beginning of the song. That is obviously a non-starter (pun intended) for me since I need to preview the song at aribtrary locations without sitting through minutes waiting for it to happen.

In reply to by jeetee

I agree it should, but my experience with JACK is awful. I have spent hours trying to make it work. There doesn't seem to be anything in the handbook on any detailed set up either. If there is, I certainly stand corrected. I only found one tutorial on the JACK set up, and still no luck. Really messes with the workflow not to be able to sync with a DAW.

In reply to by jon_harris7

I would just like to add one more voice for this feature!
Quite often I was in a situation where I need to arrange song that is originally written for piano, for guitar. At the moment, I use some mp3 player, play a few bars and then write them down once I figure out on the guitar how to play it. But, unfortunately I'm not able to play back those bars in-sync with the mp3.

Although some people wrote here that it's daw functionality and it shouldn't be implemented in MuseScore I would strongly disagree. In fact, it seems to me that anybody who is doing transcribing and composing would benefit from such functionality.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for pointing that out.
I haven't checked that thread, and I must say that I'm not really interested in adding DAW-like functionality to MuseScore. Personally, just importing and playing back audio files along with the score would be good enough for me. It would really help in a lot of situations, and if it's possible to implement just that in some update before the version 4, that would be excellent.

Oh yes, one more functionality regarding that would also be very nice. Sometimes audio files are not really in standard tuning, therefore it would really help if we could fine-tune imported audio file. I mean raising or lowering the pitch without changing the audio speed.

Thanks! :-)

In reply to by MarinR

Currently there aren't any plans to have any more 3.x updates. As for including audio files, that would require the same sort re-engineering of the playback system that would be required to implement other DAW-like features that are actually considerably more in demand. You personally might prefer the audio file over anything else, but as per results of surveys and the sheer length of the aforementioned thread attest, other features things many more people are clamoring for. So you can expect things will be prioritized accordingly. On the other hand, once the playback system is re-engineered, adding audio file playback is probably easier than some of the other features.

All of which is to say, it's too early to say when you can expect such a feature, but it's likely to come at some point in the 4.x release cycle.

In reply to by scherepanov

See Contribute / Development in the menu at top of this page, that's where all the information on this kept. And be sure to join on the Discord channel and discuss your ideas with the team there - it may well be there is already work going on that you should know about it, and in any case, you will need to get design input to make your method of implementing this fits in with the overall UI plans.

Although I would use this feature often, it would have to be done in such a way that precluded the output going to "Upload Audio", or the ground rule of the site vis-a-vis royalties would be violated hourly and the copyright enforcers would shut down the site.

As a school teacher, I'd love to see this addition. I'd use it for creating classroom resources. Importing the chord images to the score and having the full song (including vocals) playing along with it, with the option to export as a scrolling movie file... That would be a perfect scenario. :)

I discovered this post today after preparing to post the same question. I too write sheet music in MuseScore by listening to an existing mp3 recording of a song, identifying what instrument I want to focus on, writing the notes from that instrument into musescore for one measure, returning to the song mp3, focusing on the next instrument, writing down those notes in musescore on a separate instrument stave, returning to the mp3 song, listening to the next measure, and repeating everything over and over again. In the last song I adapted to musescore, it was an entire symphony orchestra, I created 20 separate instrument tracks, and I had to listen to the mp3 over and over again hundreds of times. It took me most of a month to write into musescore.

I would love to be able to import the mp3 song into musescore without having to change from my computer mp3 player to musescore, then back again, then back again, etc. I like the idea of it being its own "instrument" track so I could mute it via the mixer whenever I wanted to, but the instructions for how to make an MP3 its own instrument via Polyphone are still eluding me. If I could get this down, however, I could then play both the mp3 and musescore together. What a great sound that could produce. As mentioned, removing the mp3 (deleting the instrument) when the song is done and ready to export to would obviously have to happen so copyright issues don't crop up, but ... it sure would be nice.

Perhaps a sub-routine could be written to do all this, for inclusion in musescore 4.0. I hope so. I'd try it myself but I am no coder (sadly). Anyway, just my thoughts.

In reply to by fsgregs

I can certainly relate to the cumbersome task of back and forth. I am not doing this with an audio file per se, but with a DAW where the tracks (whether audio file or VSTi) have been recorded, isolating each track, and editing. My request was even "easier" to accomplish, simply by synchronizing playback between Muscscore and a DAW (any DAW), which could be accomplished using Midi Time Code protocol. If you have a DAW of any kind (some are free) you would simply import the file and it would have the ability to sync. MuseScore would not have to import audio at all, and if you were working with multitrack, you wouldn't have to create the additional task of importing each audio file into MuseScore. But unfortunately as I understand it, version 4 will also not be offering MTC synchronization.

Even if the option to set playback from the start of the last cursor were available (without having to deal with the looping function) that would be incredibly helpful. When editing a measure or section, one doesn't always want the playback to advance, but once they finally do, they simply select the next measure to edit and proceed. But apparently, this doesn't seem to be something anyone else is interested in.
Personally, without synchronization, not being able to start from the last cursor placement makes my editing work take at least twice the time.

In reply to by knoxharringten

Gosh, I wish I could understand most of your post. I have never heard of DAW and have no idea what it is, or how to use it. I also do not use MIDI and would shudder at the idea of having to dig into it and make all sorts of edits to musescore or some other program to be able to import an MP3 into musescore to play along with the other tracks. Aahh! It would be so so much easier if in musescore 4.0, there is a tab or icon to click that says, "Import MP3 into new stave", or something like it. A few clicks, and voila ... the mp3 appears and plays within the score.

In reply to by fsgregs

I apologize for not clarifying....a DAW (digital audio workstation) is a fancy name for a computer that runs software for multitrack recording (being able to have several tracks with individual instruments for recording and mixing). You may be familiar with programs like Garage Band, Cuebase, Logic....etc, these are all referred to as DAWs. Anyway, so the idea here is to synchronize play from either a DAW to Musescore, or from Musescore to a DAW. So, you would hit play on one, and both programs would "chase" (playback simultaneously). If an mp3, or any audio file were imported into the DAW, it would ideally follow the score precisely in MS.
Also, someone mentioned not being able to import midi into MuseScore, and that is not at all true.
I use that function all of the time. It is not going to be useful with your application, however.

In reply to by knoxharringten

Seems like a DAW function synced to musescore would work well, although I would have to buy the DAW program (maybe there is a free DAW program out there). Read my reply to Bob below. Would a DAW feature work to solve my issue? If so, did I understand that DAW syncing is being considered for MS 4.0?

In reply to by fsgregs

No, as I understand it, they are not considering any synchronization in 4. I was hoping that there might be others on the forum that needed the same feature, and in addition as I mentioned before, the option for a preference to have the cursor return to the last starting point instead of always stopping in place. That doesn't appear to be in the works either. I guess beggars can't be choosing, though I am donating because Musescore is an excellent program. They deserve the love.

In reply to by knoxharringten

I can verify a statement above that Sibelius can load an audio file and sync it to a score. It does exactly what people seem to want. And yes, it is paid software.
I'm not interested in transcription, but I think if I were to use MuseScore to do it I might use one of two methods.

  1. I would definitely use two devices. One with the MuseScore file I'm working on. And the other with the Mp3 (or other audio file) loaded into something like Audacity. In Audacity I can loop playback a number of ways to listen to whatever section however many times I need. In an ideal setup, the output of both devices would route through an interface so that I can hear both in my headphones or speakers. A "Y" adapter might work also. I might use one device if I didn't mind switching back and forth.

  2. I spent the afternoon thinking about alternatives. There really aren't any good ones. It just depends on what you are trying to transcribe. I had an mp3 of a simple piano part. I went to and tried the demo. The midi file it made was a notational mess. But all the pitches were there. This made me think that what we should be pushing for is something that converts audio to MXL or Midi that MuseScore can import. There are sites that claim to be able to convert to mxl, but I couldn't get them to work.

And after beating my head against this, I have a headache. So I'm done.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob: Thanks much for the effort and comments. Here is the problem that I encounter. Let's say I am listening to an MP3 recording of Mary Had a Little Lamb. It is in 4/4 time. I start the MP3 going and listen to a grand piano playing the 1st measure (Mary had a ...). I then stop the recording, switch to musescore, take a guess what the tempo is, perhaps using the metronome, activate the virtual piano, find the key the song is playing in, listen for the 4 treble notes in measure 1 (Mar E had a ). find the notes on the piano, & enter them in musescore (MS). Then, return to the MP3, replay the measure, listen for the bass notes, return to MS, write them down, then do it all again for what comes in measure 2 ..., pause the MP3, return to musescore, find the notes on the piano for measure 2 (lit tel lamb), enter them in musescore, ditto for bass clef, return to the mp3 and continue through the song, starting and stopping measure by measure. If I'm good, I might be able to progress 2 or 3 measures at a time, but I still have to switch back and forth, back and forth. Now, imagine the song is an entire symphony, with 40 instruments (maybe 10 instrument groups). Just listening to all instruments one at a time, picking out the notes, pausing the MP3, returning to musescore, recording the notes for each of 20 instruments or more, can take me 10 - 15 minutes just to do measure 1.

Obviously, if I were an accomplished musician who sight-reads music all the time, I could speed things up, but the mechanism is the same. MP3 to MS to MP3 to MS to MP3 ....

So, using Audacity, I might be able to blend the MP3 and Musescore recording into one track, but it honestly does not help me in the task described above. What I need it to have the song play inside MS in the background as if it were a separate instrument. Then, I could stop the play, back up a measure, listen to the MP3 "track" play, identify and enter the notes onto each of the other tracks, then move on to the next measure. In addition, it would be easy to identify the tempo and key of the MP3 song just by listening to it.

I don't know if Sibelius does this, but it is sort of what I need. Maybe MS 4.0 will do it, maybe not. It would be very nice.

In reply to by fsgregs

I wasn't talking about combining MuseScore and Audacity. Just that the playback of Audacity is more controllable than an mp3 player. You are brave to transcribe a symphony from an mp3. How can you hear all the parts? How do you differentiate between viola and 2nd violin? How about 3rd horn and trombone in a tutti section. How about a complicated section involving a series of key changes. Is that English horn or oboe. Bass trombone? Contra bassoon? Straight mute or Harmon with no stem.
It's not about being an accomplished musician. It's about ear training. Not all professional musicians have been trained. It's not about sight-reading. It's about knowing how the orchestra works. It's about knowing what makes up what you hear, and why. Two musicians can listen to the same piece and disagree on what they hear. Both might be wrong.
Sibelius will sync to the measures in the score but it won't tell you what the pitches are or what the instruments are.

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