Alter Duration via Keyboard

• Sep 24, 2009 - 18:29

It doesn't appear that MuseScore allow modification of a note's duration once the note's been entered. This is problematic for me.

For example, if I want to enter a quarter note C:

1. I first select the duration by pressing the "5" key, or use the mouse to select the duration from the menu.
2. I next press the "C" key to replace the durational data (notes, rests) that follow the cursor.

Imagine now that I wished to change the duration of the note to a quarter note. The only way I can do this is by clicking the note with the mouse. For me, this makes for poor workflow.

Similarly, I can't alter the dot or the tie on the note.

Since this is an extremely common operation, I would think that there should be a way to alter the duration of the note from the keyboard once a note has been entered.

For example, Noteflight (www.noteflight.com) uses the "[" key to decrease the duration of the notehead by 50%, and the "]" key to increase the duration by 100%. This allows the duration to be altered without creating a new mode.

(I selected Noteflight as a model because it's consistent in its use of keyboard shortcuts, and the data entry method is similar to MuseScore's).

Please notice that this halves the duration of the *notehead*. If the note is dotted, the dot is removed. This makes it a single keypress to change from something like a dotted half note to a quarter note, which is a fairly common operation.

This also modifies the duration of the next note to be inserted, so entry after this point reflects the new note duration.

Additionally, the dot and tie can be toggled on and off from the keyboard for an existing note. I've sorely missed these in using MuseScore, since there appears to be no way to do this from the keyboard.

Adding this functionality would:

1. Make it possible to do things from the keyboard which are currently only available via the mouse.
2. Speed note entry for people like me who primarily use the keyboard.
3. Simplify data entry.

Let me explain the last bit. I've used a number of music notation programs, and they all seem to have a different idea of what keys map to pitch duration. For example, Finale and Noteworthy Composer uses "1" for whole notes, "2" for half notes, moving from large to small. MuseScore goes the opposite direction. Notion uses "w" for whole notes, "q" for quarter notes, and so on (but doesn't allow note entry via the keyboard).

All this creates a bit of a challange for someone like me who needs to use multiple programs. Personally, I prefer the Finale method of durations. In any event, I frequently make mistakes when selecting the note duration in MuseScore, and this is a point of much frustration.

I'm not suggesting that MuseScore change the keys which represent note duration - I'm sure the developers aren't willing to budge on that point. I'm just explaining how this is a source of difficulty for me, and potentially other users.

MuseScore is additionally difficult because the only visual cue to the current note duration is a small icon in the toolbar. So I've got to look up from what I'm doing every time I press a duration to see if I've entered the right duration, and this interrupts data entry flow.

With programs like Noteflight, I can see what the current duration is - it's the actively selected note. Toggling a change of duration with the "[" or "]" key displays a result on the staff, so I get immediate feedback.

For example, the key sequence in MuseScore:

{5} {.} {C} {4} {D} {E} {F} {G} {A}

would look like this in Noteflight:

{C} {.} {D} {[} {E} {F} {G} {A}

That is, assuming we're starting with a quarter note:

{C} enters a C note onto the staff, like MuseScore would
{.} adds a dot to the C that was just entered.
{D} enters a dotted quarter D onto the staff
{[} reduces the duration of the D to an eighth note
{E} enters an eighth note E onto the staff
{F} enters an eighth note F onto the staff
{G} enters an eighth note G onto the staff

The advantage - for me - is that I can look at the staff and see from the highlit note what the current duration is. Pressing the "[" or "]" key immediately changes the duration of the selected note, so I get immediate feedback of what the new duration is.

To summarize, I'm asking that MuseScore adds functionality which currently exists, but is currently only available via the mouse. These keys would effect the note with focuse (in front of the insert beam) as follows:

1. "[" toggles the currently selected note's notehead duration down by 50%, and remove the dot;
2. "]" toggles the currently selected note's notehead duration up by 100%, and remove the dot;
3. [TOGGLE DOT KEY] toggles the currently selected note's dot on and off;
4. [TOGGLE TIE KEY] toggles the currently selected note's tie on and off.

Thanks!


Comments

I should clarify: MuseScore allows for the "+" key to modify the tie duration, but not during Note Entry.

I'd like to be able to modify duration of existing notes *in Note Entry mode*.

In reply to by dcuny

The request seems fair.
Regarding noteflight way of doing. I'm not a big fan of "I do something wrong and I correct after that". Maybe it's just me.
Meaning if you want to enter a quarter and a 8th. You enter 2 quarters and you reduce the second one to a eight. I don't like it.

Being able to change the duration of an existing note in note entry mode looks like a fair request though.

In reply to by David Bolton

Yes, I'm aware of this.

I'm not asking that MuseScore change the way data entry takes place. Instead, I'm asking that the current set of features be augmented so that you can perform via the keyboard what you currently can only perform via the mouse.

I think this is an easily missed point. There's no compelling reason why these things can't be done from the keyboard. There are other features lacking in mouse/keyboard equivalency, such as moving notes chromatic vs. diatonically. But I've addressed that issue in another post.

Now, it just happens that if this feature is added, note entry can be performed in a manner similar to other programs (such as NoteFlight). However, this doesn't change how entry in MuseScore works. That is, the current work flow should be entirely unaffected.

Let me explain that I'm not being pedantic, or trying to turn MuseScore into another product. I'm just reporting what are serious stumbling blocks for me in using the tool.

Hrm...: it appears that the "Preview" button doesn't work for comments. I can only hope my tags are balanced.

I just wonder how difficult it would be to set up a toggle so that users could select either the present Musescore key assignment for duration values or the Finale method?

Is it a valuable addition or just a very small point?

Regards.

I would like to see a more word processor-like (and less Sibelius-like) computer keyboard input method in MuseScore and a new input caret. After creating a new score and pressing N to enter note entry mode one would with this proposition get a more conspicuous input caret that would also show the note C of the octave you are expected to start inputting into. Changing the octave should be possible with a key command. See illustrations 1 and 2.

There should be no marking or selection of the latest note until you choose to select it with Shift+left arrow. See illustrations 3 and 4. When a note or multiple notes are selected you can change their note value, pitch, octave, expression marks, et cetera.

The algorithm by alphabetical note input of inputting the note nearest to the latest should be discarded; the user ought to be expected to know which octave he or she wants to input music into. For example in Rosegarden you have control over this aspect with the notes of three octaves assigned to key rows Z-M, A-J and Q-U.

In reply to by Magnus Johansson

People want to be able to type:

A B C D E F G

and get a scalar run. Discarding that model for something like:

A RightArrow B RightArrow C RightArrow D RightArrow E RightArrow F RightArrow G

is asking the user to give up a lot of convenience.

Similarly, expecting the user to track which octave they are on causes a lot of usability problems. In order to use MuseScore, I now need to be able to play keyboards. So I lose any mnemonic value I once had, and can't assign shortcuts to most of the keys.

And what happens for people who are dealing with low notes that are out of the 3 octave range?

I'll admit, the "simulated keyboard" approach is great for some things. For example, it was great for writing music on Impulse Tracker. And while this approach is great for some people, it would make MuseScore entirely unusable for people like me. That is, I far prefer being able to enter a score in via the keyboard. For me, it's more accurate and much faster. It lets me think in terms of note names, and not where the note is positioned on the keyboard.

In reply to by dcuny

dcuny knows what people want. dcuny also knows that I want to discard alphabetical input for something like A RightArrow B RightArrow C RightArrow D RightArrow E RightArrow F RightArrow G. dcuny furthermore probably understood from my suggestion that I want the user to keep track of what octave he or she is in, totally without any help from the program. dcuny thinks computer keyboard input other than the present in MuseScore requires piano playing skills. dcuny perhaps thinks that shortcuts have to be single key strokes. dcuny knows what octave shifting is. But dcuny has something surprising to say also: "I far prefer being able to enter a score in via the keyboard. For me, it's more accurate and much faster."

In reply to by Magnus Johansson

dcuny knows what people want.

I phrased this poorly, and your irritation is understandable. Rather than speaking as if I had authority, I should have qualified this with something like:

"I suspect that most people would rather type be able to type..."

dcuny also knows that I want to discard alphabetical input for something like A RightArrow B RightArrow...

I misunderstood your suggestion:

There should be no marking or selection of the latest note until you choose to select it with Shift+left arrow.

I read this to mean that you would use the arrow key to move the selection forward, from one note to the next. I'm glad this wasn't your intent, because that reading didn't really make sense to me.

Thanks for clarifying this for me.

dcuny furthermore probably understood from my suggestion that I want the user to keep track of what octave he or she is in, totally without any help from the program.

That's correct. I was thinking of lilypond Again, thanks for taking the time to correct this for me.

dcuny thinks computer keyboard input other than the present in MuseScore requires piano playing skills.

I was referring to your comment:

For example in Rosegarden you have control over this aspect with the notes of three octaves assigned to key rows Z-M, A-J and Q-U.

This is essentially the same method that programs like ModTracker and the like used for pitch input. This is an attempt to emulate a musical keyboard with the keyboard. Did I misunderstand you here as well? It's been a while since I've looked at RoseGarden.

dcuny perhaps thinks that shortcuts have to be single key strokes.

Although programs with multi-key shortcuts (like Blender) are very speedy for advanced users, they tend to have steep learning curves for new users.

But dcuny has something surprising to say also...

Actually, it is a bit surprising. I'd have thought that music entry via the mouse would be much easier than it actually is. Programs like Notion don't even have an option to enter pitch information via the keyboard - the user is forced to use the mouse.

But - in my experience - this isn't really the case. Using the mouse requires fine motor skills, and requires much more work. I've found that pressing the letter C is more accurate.

You've made the argument that Rosegarden's keyboard arrangement would be quick. I agree, but think that it would be limited. For example, it might be great for entering written music from a score. For editing, I suspect it's much less valuable.

From the responses I've seen on this forum, I'm also guessing that the MuseScore developers would rather have a single method of data entry, rather than supporting multiple methods.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my post. I apologize if you feel I misrepresented your ideas. It certainly wasn't intended that way.

In reply to by dcuny

"Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my post."

You're welcome. User interface design is both very interesting in itself and important for a computer program. It is good that you seem so interested in this. I do miss initiated discussions here in the MuseScore forums on this matter but maybe you and I can get something started. I would very much like to see our master developer Werner Schweer take part in discussions of this kind.

"I apologize if you feel I misrepresented your ideas. It certainly wasn't intended that way."

You misrepresented my ideas, but your apology is accepted, so we can move on.

"You've made the argument that Rosegarden's keyboard arrangement would be quick. I agree, but think that it would be limited. For example, it might be great for entering written music from a score. For editing, I suspect it's much less valuable."

Good, that we agree on the efficiency of the Rosegarden computer keyboard input method. But my suggestion is however not to have that as the only way of inputting or editing music in MuseScore. Especially for editing and revision work the mouse input comes in very handy. I think it is good that the input mode in MuseScore combines keyboard and mouse input.

In reply to by Magnus Johansson

If you are interested in usability try some informal testing. Sit down with some and ask them to perform a few tasks. Make it clear that you are testing the software not them. Read up on usability testing before you sit down with the person and write up a report of what you find afterward.

The first three days I used MuseScore I wrote down every problem I encountered. It has shaped development of version 0.9.3 and version 0.9.4. Although there are a few things that apply to the current version of MuseScore most of the issues I have brought up have been fixed. I recommend starting with uncontroversial changes that benefit everyone (including past users of MuseScore).

In reply to by David Bolton

Much of the time when I'm using a notation program, I'm not transcribing, I'm composing.

I'm initially concerned about the pitch, not the duration. For example, I might be working out a melody line in my head, and I figure that the next note should be a G, so I press that key, and see if the sound that MuseScore plays matches the one in my head. If not, I adjust the pitch accordingly.

Once I get the pitch down, I work out the duration: "Bum bah bah... OK, that's a dotted quarter note." So I need a program that makes it easy to change the duration after a note is down. That's my basic workflow.

To change the duration in MuseScore, I press Esc to exit note input mode, and then I can press a numeric key. Pressing n puts me back in note input mode.

Many other programs indicate the current duration by changing the shape of the mouse pointer. MuseScore indicates the current duration via the toolbar. The icons are small, so the 8th note looks like the 16th note. So I have to scan the toolbar to figure out which note is selected.

Toggling a duration causes the note with focus to lose the highlight color. This happens whether you press a key (such as 1) or click the toolbar icon with the mouse.

Clicking a duration (such as 8th note) with the mouse, and then clicking a note head with the same duration will also fail to set the note with focus to blue.

Here's an unrelated odd behavior that may (or may not) be a bug: tied notes that are on a different note than the first note they are tied to don't show accidental.

The way that MuseScore handles focus also feels unnatural. For example, consider the situation:

4/4 C D E | F

Normally, the note in front of the I beam has focus. But move the cursor to the left, and the cursor stops at the time signature, and the focus disappears. That is, no note is highlit:

4/4 | C D E F

But press the Up arrow, and the C note turns into a C#, and highlights in blue:

4/4 | C# D E F

So if the C note had focus, why didn't MuseScore highlight it, to indicate that fact?

But wait - there's more! Press the Right key, and you'd expect the I beam to move in front of the second item, right? But it to the E instead!

4/4 C# D | E F

Now, I know why MuseScore does this. It want to ensure that the I beam is in front of the item with focus. But it's already broken that "rule" by allowing the I beam to be in front of the first note. And the reason that the first note wasn't highlit also becomes clear: MuseScore tries to hide that it's breaking the "rules."

The end result of this is that I can't predict what MuseScore when there's no focus indicated, and it's a surprisingly frequent occurrence.

In contrast, I had very little problem using Noteflight, although the focus system is even more complex that MuseScore. But where MuseScore left me frustrated, Noteflight didn't. How come?

To be honest, I hadn't really paid a lot of attention to Noteflight, because for me, it "just worked", and didn't require me to figure it out.

One part of that was that it was predictable. In MuseScore, I'd come to expect that the focus indicator would randomly disappear. This wasn't the case in Noteflight.

I've had a close look at the note entry process in Noteflight. As I mentioned before, it's actually more complex than MuseScore. But (for me) it feels simpler, because it manages to do what I want it to do more often than not.

I hadn't really noticed before, but Noteflight doesn't even have a "note entry" mode. This makes it easier to use, because it's more consistent.

Let me give another concrete example. One of the hardest things I first encountered with MuseScore was the idea that notes weren't inserted into a measure, but replaced the rests that were already there. I understood that concept, but how MuseScore implemented it left me baffled. Consider the case where I want to insert a quarter note into a new measure. First, I try highlighting the rest I want to modify. It turns out that I need to move past the rest before it's highlit, which seems odd to me, but I do it anyway:

WholeRest |

I want to add a quarter note, so I click the quarter note icon in the toolbar. Zip! Instantly, the rest loses focus, but nothing seems to happen:

WholeRest |

I'm a little confused by this, but continue on and press the C key to insert the note. Much to my surprise, the note is placed in the next measure!

WholeRest C | QuarterRest HalfRest

It seems I've gotten this backwards. I'm not making this up - this happens to me again and again when I use MuseScore. I'm your typical "dumb user". I have a hard time predicting what MuseScore is going to do.

So why don't I have the same issues using Noteflight? After all, it has very much the same metaphor. For one thing, when the arrow keys are used to move the I beam, focus is placed in front of the cursor. So I move to a new measure:

| WholeRest

I want to break the whole rest into smaller parts. Since the rest has focus, I press the "[" (reduce duration) key:

| QuarterRest QuarterRest HalfRest

Unlike MuseScore, I haven't changed a mode - an immediate action takes place. Note that (to my surprise) Noteflight created two quarter notes instead of a half note rest. It looks like someone did some usability testing, and decided to make the program do what was most useful most of the time, not what was "right". I press "]" to increase the duration:

| HalfRest HalfRest

Ah. That's what I expected. I press a C and the rest is replaced with a pitch. The I beam moves ahead, but like MuseScore, the focus remains on the C:

C | HalfRest

So here's what I like about Noteflight: it often seems to do the most useful thing. And it turns out I didn't even have to split the whole note rest. I could have just gone to the beginning of the measure:

| WholeRest

and typed in C, just like in MuseScore:

C | QuarterRest HalfRest

The big difference is that when I press a key in Noteflight, something happens to the score. This is not the case in MuseScore. For example, in MuseScore, you won't see the result of changing duration until you insert a note into the score.

So my conclusion of why I've got so much trouble learning MuseScore includes:

* Requiring moving in and out of modes to perform common actions;
* Not indicating focus properly
* Commands having delayed results.

In contrast, Noteflight turns out to be more complex and less predictable, but more often simply does what I wanted it to do. I think diatonic vs. chromatic transposition encapsulates this is a nutshell.

What's sad about this (for me) is that MuseScore has far more functionality.

In reply to by dcuny

Thank you, dcuny, for a very interesting account. A lot of the problems you are mentioning have to do with what I call "the Sibelius principle of highlighting at note input" which I think should have been discarded a long time ago. Then there is also the issue with what is called "ghost rests" (uninputted rests) and the feed-back of information at input.

"To change the duration in MuseScore, I press Esc to exit note input mode, and then I can press a numeric key. Pressing n puts me back in note input mode." When entering back into input mode the caret is placed in front of the note instead of behind it as one expects, so you have to press right arrow followed by left arrow if you want to continue typing in notes after the note you changed duration of.

On information feed-back: "The icons are small, so the 8th note looks like the 16th note. So I have to scan the toolbar to figure out which note is selected." I do not find scanning the toolbar is very burdensome, but the icons should be bigger.

"The big difference is that when I press a key in Noteflight, something happens to the score. This is not the case in MuseScore. For example, in MuseScore, you won't see the result of changing duration until you insert a note into the score." In the case of changing note value of an existing note this is not true. After leaving input mode the value changes immediately when pressing another note value.

"What's sad about this (for me) is that MuseScore has far more functionality." What I think is sad is that the input method in MuseScore is not better. Let's change that, if possible!

In reply to by dcuny

"Here's an unrelated odd behavior that may (or may not) be a bug: tied notes that are on a different note than the first note they are tied to don't show accidental."

I don't understand this comment. If a note is different that the note it is tied to, its not a tie, its a slur.
Please explain more clearly.

In reply to by David Bolton

Thanks, David, for your suggestions. I have taught computer-aided score writing since 1999. It has been mostly with the programs Sibelius, Igor Engraver and Rosegarden. During this time Igor Engraver has emerged as the overall most user-friendly notation program but unfortunately also as the most inclined to crashes.

Discarding the highlighting at note input -- leaving only an improved input caret -- is from my experience and point of view an uncontroversial change that would benefit everyone, but I would like to hear if it is possible in MuseScore from a programming point of view.

I'am reading this thread with great interest as enhancing the usability of mscore is high on my todo list. Unfortunately some things are hard to so i start with the easy ones.
Lastest svn revision 2130 implements two functions to halfe/double the duration of the last entered note/rest. I had some trouble finding free shortcuts for these. The [ and ] characters are not usable as shortcuts on a german keyboard as they are only reachable via an key combination. I assigned the functions to "q" and "w" which can be changed if someone has an better idea.

In reply to by werner

I'm relying on this image:

http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~tphillip/GermanKeyboardLayout.html

I don't see any combination that has good mnemonic value. I'd have suggested { and }, but they also seem only reachable via the AltGr key, which is inconvenient.

If those keys aren't available, I think using a key with a modifier (such as Shift) to indicate the inverse of the action would make sense. For example, L (for "length") to make a note longer, but Shift+L to make it shorter. But that sort of makes everyone suffer.

Hrm... I just launched MuseScore to see what keys were available, and managed to crash it twice. It looks like my Ubuntu version is completely borked. I can't find a listing of key shortcuts in the MuseScore Handbook, which seems an odd omission.

Coming up with an "international" solution is hard, because someone's going to get something that's sub-optimal. I also think that's a problem with approaching this on an ad-hoc basis. It's not enough for a program to just work - for people to use it, it needs to work well.

I haven't played around with Igor Engraver since they went commercial (does anyone other than me remember when it was going to be a free product?), but I guess I need to take the time to download it and play with it. I'm not sure I fully understand Magnus' description of how his input mode works. I've sort of followed Igor Engraver since then, but the product seems to have fizzled in the market. I've looked at some of the demo videos of Igor. It looks like a sensible way to do things, but I'll have to play around with the Edit mode to get a feel for it.

What I suspect I'd like would be for the cursor to indicate the note duration as well as the position. Noteworthy Composer uses that sort of approach. If you've got Firefox, you can play with a toy program I wrote that takes a similar approach:

http://webs.lanset.com/dcuny/jsmusic/music.htm

But I'm not sure this would be a good fit for MuseScore since the cursor doesn't insert a note - it always overwrites the following note. And the demo doesn't indicate when you're in Insert or Edit mode. (I stopped working on the demo because I couldn't figure out how to do file save/restore in "pure" JavaScript).

As far as your implementation goes, do you also remove the dot if the note is dotted? Not being able to easily add and remove a dot is problematic. I realize that this is a large change, so I don't expect it to happen soon.

I'm going to have to give this some more thought. I really like Notescore's non-modal approach, but you'd have to discard the approach that MuseScore is currently taking.

Perhaps I need to ask a different question: why do people find selecting the duration first to be a better model?

In reply to by dcuny

I can't find a listing of key shortcuts in the MuseScore Handbook, which seems an odd omission.
You are welcome to contribute a list of default shortcuts since
1. Shortcuts are customisable in Preferences -> Shortcuts
2. MuseScore is open source and free and so it relies on volunteers to run and keep on growing, same for the documentation

Keep in mind that MuseScore is multi language and multiplatform if you document the shortcuts.

In reply to by dcuny

"It's not enough for a program to just work - for people to use it, it needs to work well." True indeed.

"does anyone other than me remember when it [Igor Engraver] was going to be a free product?" We are actually quite a few. "[...] but I guess I need to take the time to download it and play with it." Yes, please do that.

"I'm not sure I fully understand Magnus' description of how his input mode works." If you get acquainted with Igor I believe you will, because it shares important features. Otherwise I shall explain it in more detail.

"I've sort of followed Igor Engraver since then, but the product seems to have fizzled in the market." Yes, the company behind Igor, Noteheads AB, became a major fiasco, and still is. The current company management is an embarrassment.

"What I suspect I'd like would be for the cursor to indicate the note duration as well as the position." Yes, I have been thinking the same way about that.

"If you've got Firefox, you can play with a toy program I wrote that takes a similar approach:" Very nice. It worked in Opera also.

"Not being able to easily add and remove a dot is problematic." Agreed.

"Perhaps I need to ask a different question: why do people find selecting the duration first to be a better model?" With a convenient method for altering note values the pitch first-workflow will perhaps become more common.

In reply to by dcuny

One thing that has struck me as I've followed this thread is the idea that having to switch between different modes just slows things down in general. Like others, I find myself frustrated with musescore when I want to do something, but find that I'm in the wrong mode for it (i.e; wanting to alter a note I just entered, but having to leave note-entry mode to do it -- and thus have to spend the time to grab the mouse, lose my cursor position, etc.). I believe that many of the suggestions in this thread revolve around this issue of crossover between modes.

This is one of the things that I love about Noteflight and other programs that allow me to be able to do almost anything without having to hit ESC, grab the mouse, etc. While Noteflight and others have their own problems and limitations, being able to enter notes, change them easily, and playback all without ever tripping up because I'm not in the right "mode" is heavenly. Even if there are mode changes, they're largely transparent and I never feel like options are not available to me because I'm in playback mode or something.

I've noticed that musescore does some intelligent switching of modes, but I wonder if the lines can be blurred even more. That seems like it would make things smoother for me. Just my thoughts...

In reply to by werner

Thanks!

There's a problem with focus - after altering the duration, I can no longer change the position of the note with the arrow keys.

Also, without the ability to toggle augmentation dots on and off in a similar manner, I can't use it.

One possibility would be to have the augmentation dot be part of the duration toggle. For example, a quarter would first toggle to a dotted quarter, and then a half note. While it's wouldn't be my first choice, it seems like it would be easy enough to implement, and have the same sort of logic that the arrow keys have (i.e. moving notes chromatically instead of diatonically).

I'm also not sure how ties can be handled.

If there is a model to start from for great workflow, then Igor Engraver has it, imho.
I used this programme as a default notation/composition/engraver, fulltime, for a long time, and up until i switched to Linux, about 2 years ago. IG had its faults in terms of stability, but for workflow without using a mouse (and doing a lot of sizable scores emphatically demonstrates using keystrokes is considerably faster, and less of a strain on the arms and hands), IG stood well above any other notation based app. I still regret it's died....

Taking away brands, OS preferences, Full or part time, big or small score engraving, it's my view that Musescore would take a massive jump forward using an IG workflow model as a basis for the future. As a fulltime composer, and one who expects a professional standard workflow of any app, (because it makes sense to me), i urge the devs to consider this, and at this stage of Musescore development, have another look at IG's setup.

It's one thing to have a lot of actions, but if they don't work in transition smoothly (as per the awkwardness of using Sibelius AND Finale day in/day out), the....intuitive intent is wasted.

A point was made in an earlier post about the steep learning curve required to get into a keystroke driven workflow. This is the same for any app that has production based keystroke workflow, and users will face this challenge whichever app they use.

The cursor based keystroke input and edit in IG is excellent, and with practise, is as easy as typing a letter, complete with articulation, tempo, dynamic, and a myriad other markings, symbols, and indications at the user's fingertips, and not just at the mouse. Switching between mouse and keyboard to carry out fulltime notation input and editing is an exercise in futility, and simply doesn't make any sense, from a practical heavy use perspective.

I've mentioned IG in more than one post as a great action/keystroke model to draw from, and in the interest of not wanting to batter the Musescore devs, this will be the last time i'll mention it, or anything else that remains mouse driven, or unintuitive, as i have no wish to irritate them or keep smacking my head on a brick wall in an attempt to see Mscore go forward with great workflow, if my view is in the minority, or not in keeping with the project aims of the developers.

This is just my opinion based on long term (many years) daily use with most of the major notation apps, commercial and otherwise, and no doubt there are those who will emphatically disagree with this, for their own reasons.

Alex.

In reply to by alex stone

You're welcome. I am coordinating efforts of a little group of Igor users that are very interested in seeing a further development of the software. Would you perhaps like to join us? If so, please e-mail me via the contact tab on my MuseScore user page.

This is an old thread, yet my first experiences on MuseScore led me here. Because I also missed the note value adjustment post-writing the note, and a little more flexibility in Note entry mode.

I agree with dcuny in that the workflow is not fully logical, because once a note is written, you CAN modify its pitch. So why couldn't we modify its duration too? A simple shortcut would do this. Like shift-arrow keys, or brackets or something.

What I would do is to allow the user to put and then drag the note up/down for pitch, and left/right for duration before releasing the mouse. That would be new.

In reply to by elerouxx

I tried using it, but the lack of the augmentation dot makes it unusable.

Since the arrow keys toggle through the chromatic scale you could follow the same paradigm with the Q/W keys and include the augmentation dot between each note duration. That is:

  • whole note
  • dotted half note
  • half note
  • dotted eighth note
  • eighth note
  • dotted sixteenth note
  • sixteenth note

and so on.

Pressing Q/W also changes the mode state. For example, you can normally press the [+] key to tie to the next note. [b]musescore[/b] then adds a new note and moves you ahead to the new note. For this reason, you need to change the duration before adding the tie.

However, pressing q/w changes the mode state, so the [+] key no longer works - musescore responds with a dialog box:

No note selected:
Please select a single note and retry operation

So entering note durations using the Q/W keys is problematic.

In reply to by David Bolton

I agree with dcuny. Composing using Q and W to help is better than before, but the user still has to break the creative process to add a dot and then resume writing. I think his suggestion about the order of notes would work much better. Double dotted notes are rarer but I don't see an issue either including them in the sequence or going to Edit mode just for them.

BUT there are of course other solutions - like going thru the undotted notes using Q and W (as is), but using SHIFT-W and SHIFT-Q would go thru dotted and double-dotted notes.

It would also work for me if we had a separate button for dot (cycling thru undotted/dotted/doubledot?) to use along with the Q and W keys, but not the PERIOD button since it's the key for dotting the NEXT note you'll add. I only think it's a little messy because we'll end up adding two complete sets of keys: for edit mode and for note entry mode.

If I was designing a music notation software, I won't stick to what has been done in finale or in sibelius or noteflight. We could for example create a workflow in which you can add a note with the mouse, then optionally drag the note up and down for pitch, and *left and right for duration* before releasing the note.

This would be useful for using the mouse, a graphic tablet, or even more useful on a future tablet version, because it would allow to write notes using a single finger and without having to mess with note palettes. You would just add (f.e.) a quarter note, then drag the cursor little to the right. The quarter note would not move - it would just turn into a dotted quarter, a half, a dotted half and so on. Or to the left, it would turn into a dotted eighth, then dotted sixteenth etc. And from the moment you release the note, the next note you add would start as the same duration you last added.

(I wonder if this is the kind of things one can contribute with as a developer. I've coded a lot of things before but never coded for an open source project. I should read more about it)

In reply to by elerouxx

Having a key dedicated to dotting notes would be a good thing. Moving the note diatonically and adding accidentals also seems a better way to go. I wasn't betting on either, so I figured I'd ask for the option which was fairly easy to implement without "stealing" another key.

I've also thought about dragging a note. It doesn't currently seem to be locked to a behavior in MuseScore, and it seems a good way to do things. There doesn't seem to be an obvious way to toggle between notes and rest in notation mode, though.

Looking a bit closer at the interface, there are a number of oddities about setting duration:

  • As mentioned, there's a "Enter Rests" mode, but no hotkey for toggling the mode on.
  • The pointer remains a notehead in notation mode, even if you're in "Enter Rests" mode.
  • The "rest" is reset by selecting a different note... Which would make sense, if there were a full set of rests with durations. But there aren't, so if you want to change the duration of a rest, you have to first select a note duration, and then select "Enter Rests" mode again.

It seems to me that it would make more sense to either:

  1. Have a full set of rests and durations, along with corresponding durations, or;
  2. Have a "Notes Mode" and "Rest Mode" toggle, and have the duration hotkeys work with those.

In reply to by David Bolton

This strikes me a bad design on many levels. From a UI point of view:

  • It's non-intuitive, taking advantage of a side effect (delete replaces a pitch event with a rest).
  • It can't be discovered via the user interface.
  • It leaves in place the current imbalance of the UI, which treats pitched events as "first class" citizens (with a full list of durations), but rests as a "second class" citizen (as a toggle button). The issue with the pointer being shown as a note instead of rest remains.

Plus, it's confusing. After I press the Del key, I have to press the (right arrow) to move past the rest or I'll accidentally replace the rest with the next note I enter.

In reply to by dcuny

The Zero key inserts a rest. So I think there's no need to switch to Rest mode: when entering notes by the CDEFGAB keys you just have to remember that 0 adds a rest. (In fact, unlike the DEL key, the zero key behaves the same as the CDEFGAB keys - it goes into Note Entry mode and so on.)

You can also use Q and W keys with this rest. The only thing I'd miss to make it complete (because I use the mouse and a wacom tablet, a lot) is that (p.e.) the right mouse button inserted a rest instead of a note.

In reply to by elerouxx

Excellent, and thanks.

Now, is there a way this can be added to the UI so it can be discovered, to minimize the amount of "surprise" associated with this?

Also, the code doesn't work properly. For example, if you've got C/4 R/2 D/4, entering notes via the keyboard with the sequence:

    c 0 w d

ends up placing two rests in the measure - there's an extra quarter note rest at the end of the measure, and the D note appears in the following measure: C/4 R/2 R/4 | D/2

I have eagerly read this and the related thread on note entry. I have Sibelius, and have done some fairly substantial scores with it. 4 string quartets, a 4-part horn section arrangement, and a couple of lead sheets. I wondered how long it would take for me to prefer it to noteflight. Well, longer than this, I guess. Maybe after I write my symphony....

The big issue that I have not seen raised here(and perhaps it's because people are transcribing not composing??) is that, as a musician, I don't end a note before I start it, so why should I need to select a duration for it before I put it on the score?

When I am composing a melody, as opposed to transcribing, my first thought is 'what note is next?'. In fact, when I am playing my instrument, I don't know until I END the note how long it is--I mean WAS! Duration is actually a piece of information that FOLLOWS a note.

Indeed, a very musical way to determine the duration of a note would be via the position of the following note or rest, and nothing to do with the note itself at all. This may not be practical in reality, but noteflight's method of putting in a note of 'whatever duration' is closer to the feeling of writing.

I'll try out the program, with the knowledge of the 'change duration' shortcuts, but it sounds like it will take some getting used to as far as getting in and out of note mode and tracking the cursor....

I'm still annoyed with Sibelius every time I use it, so maybe muse will be better!

My two cents.

cheers,
-eric

In reply to by woodslanding

Fwiw, I can see how that would be an issue if you compose directly into the computer one note at a time, but I'd say that is going to be problematic no matter what. When I compose, I mostly use paper and pemcil to sketch out ideas, nut even whe I fill in some parts on the fly, I generally think through a whole hrase, or at least a measure, at a time. And indeed, I'm then at least as confident about rhythm as pitch.

But I absolutely agree that music notation is pretty stupid when it comes to rhythm. Thr most relevant thing about a note is when it starts, not howlong it lasts. And yet the only way to derive that is to add up the lengths of all previous notes in the measure. Obviously, though, this is about notation in general, not about MuseScore.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Well, I'd argue if notation programs were better, it wouldn't be an obvious necessity to write things down by hand first.

Of course, I wrote this message out by hand before posting--because it's REALLY impractical to just form sentences and paragraphs ad hoc using a computer ;)

When I do write music out by hand, I tend to put the note heads in first, and then add the stems..... it's really impossible to do the reverse. But since most of my real scoring work is done to picture or to existing audio, it's really helpful to write from within the computer....

Maybe there is a need for two types of programs--a 'music processor' for getting ideas out, and a 'music publishing' program for doing serious engraving detail. And XML to communicate between the two.

-e

In reply to by woodslanding

I hear you, but I do think text and music are different in this way. Text is entirely linear, one word at a time, no external structure imposed on it aside from grammar. In particular, nothing like a time signature. Music is much more complex, and the whole subject of rhythm throws a huge curveball at the process that you never deal with when writing text. I think the issue discussed here would just be the tip of the iceberg. But I do like the idea of a separate "musical scratch pad" type of app. Could even be a window running within MuseScore.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

there's no doubt text is easier.... easier to write with a pen, AND easier to write at a computer. And the typewriter keyboard was specifically designed for writing text.

That said, I find Noteflight comes tantalizingly close to giving me the feeling of a word processor. Sibelius does not. And I think it comes down mostly to the idea of a 'note mode' and the need to define the length of a note first.

cheers,
-e

In reply to by woodslanding

eric, thanks for sharing your insight about note length being about when the note ends and pitch being about when where the note begins.

With pencil and paper it also bothers me that i have to pick between solid notehead and hollow notehead, forcing me to think about duration before I write down the pitch.

In reply to by David Bolton

Still, pencil has an infinite number of workarounds and methods. I use to write the notehead lightly (for instance, just hollow noteheads that can be filled up or NOT, or just light traces that can be overwritten with real noteheads later). THEN I complete the stems and bars, and I usually keep noteheads spaced in case I have to add a tied note I didn't thought about when I was thinking on the melody (i.e. I wrote down a long note but I didn't know yet if I'd need to use a tie on the notation).

There is no rule about melody or rhytm first. I respect everyone's way of working, however, It doensn't seem very common or natural to me to write stems, bars, flags or even dots BEFORE i wrote down the notehead. Of course I think pitch first.

* I have another idea for a nice workflow: the LEFT mouse button just behaves as usual, writing down the note on the staff using the last note we wrote or selected. And either the RIGHT mouse button (or a long press LEFT button) puts the note in place too (as it works now) but it also invokes some kind of 'radio menu' with the different note durations and pauses, so you can select the duration. From then on, a simple click will use the current duration.

In reply to by elerouxx

Any workflow that depends on the mouse is guaranteed to be less efficient than the curent method of keyboard input. But Finale does provide a keybaord method that alllows pitch to be input before duration - it's called Speedy Entry. I used to use it a lot, but ultimately found their "Simple Entry" method - which like MuseScore has you entering duration first - to be more efficient, so I switched. But there were cases - like drum notation, where you typically keep repeating the same note but with different durations - where I'd go back to speedy entry.

The basic use model is easy enough to describe - it's the opposite of how things work in MuseScore. In MuseScore, or in Finale's Simple Entry, you select a number representing a duration, which doesn't actually add or change any notes, then start typing letters to enter the notes using the currently selected duration. In Finale's Speedy Entry, you select a letter, which doesn't actually add or change any notes, then start typing numbers representing durations to start entering notes using the currently selected pitch. In practice, there are other subtle differences, but that's the gist of it.

Most real music for instruments other than drums repeats duration much more often than it repeats pitch, which is why Simple Entry in Finale ends up being more efficnet in terms of actual number of keystrokes. But if your brain just doesn't want to think that way, having an option like Finale's Speedy Entry would be nice, and as I said, it would be great for drums in any case.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"Any workflow that depends on the mouse is guaranteed to be less efficient than the curent method of keyboard input."
That sounds so much like when mouse was first invented...

I have to disagree. This is a purely personal matter, depending on knowledge and experience. Also, keyboard input goes from zero efficiency to a pottentially very high efficiency when you master the learning curve of a particular software, but mouse input is midly efficient right away.

Some people like keys, others like visual methods. Maybe this is the main difference between copywriters and art directors in the typical advertising duetto - i worked years both as art director and writer. I definitely could use the mouse, and still better, the graphic pen when editing a score. Tell you more, i would like to use the mouse or the pen (or a finger on a touchscreen!) Without being disturbed by having to deal with keys or buttons. That's why the idea of clicking and dragging, no keys at all. You just point to C and click, drag so you choose a quarter note value, then go on clicking with the quarters until you need a 16th note, so you just put the note on the score and drag until it becames a 16th and go on clicking. You can choose dotted notes and even figure out a way to tuplets with this method.

This discussion has to be taken carefully. We won't find a perfect workflow for everybody, we will just try to pull the thing to our personal preferences. Not a bad thing, considering that several workflows could work together simultaneously. But I urge to consider that, while you may have many years of music theory and you probably know how to write a particular phrase in your head even before taking a note, there are a lot of students and part time musicians that don't have all this solfegge and theory right away, and they (we) want to learn and use a notation software along with our overall musical learning path. So, the less of a barrier between the hand and the notes, the best.

I also would like to note something: so many people use finale, sibelius, notion, and now musescore and noteflight... users could argue for hours about how his software is better and has a better workflow. But the only truth I see is that most people sticks to the first they use.

In reply to by elerouxx

Indeed, mouse entry is more easily discoverable, and hence easier at first, even if it ends up not being as efficient long term for a givem user.

Anyhow, the point is, until a radically new input method (probably involving new as yet uninvented hardware) is designed, any proposals for new input methods in MuseScore had better include both mouse and keyboard modes.

One place where pitch-first entry might be good is with the MIDI keyboard.

We often get the question, "Why can't I just play and have a perfect score pop right out of the computer?" The crux of that one, of course, is getting the durations right. Maybe if there were some way of just playing on a MIDI board, and then going back to do a "duration pass"....?

This has wandered so far off topic, it's time for a new thread.

-- J.S.

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