Associate voices with rests

• Apr 1, 2021 - 13:42

Is it possible to switch voices, or start a new voice by starting on a rest? It seems to me that one always has to select a note first, and then using the voice (1,2,3,4) feature then changes that note to the other voice - though it does create a rest, A bit of jiggery pokery can then - sometimes - get to the desired result - but why just not allow rests to initiate voices in the first place.

Somewhat confusingly also, where there are rests created for voices, they often look to be in an inappropriate place - for example above, when one might expect and hope that they would be below other notes.

Or maybe I'm "doing something wrong" - as usual!


I'm not sure what you mean by switching voices, or starting a new rest, in this context. Normally voices are entered in note input mode, and you don't need anything special at all in terms of selecting anything. So what you're saying doesn't really make sense. For example, if I want to enter a quarter rest and three quarter notes A, B, C into voice 2, I type N Ctrl+Alt+2 5 0 A B C (or use equivalent mouse clicks). I don't need to select anything first except to tell MuseScore which measure I want to start on. And then it doesn't matter in the slightest what's in the measure already - rest, notes, whatever. What you enter replaces what's already in that voice, or adds the new voice. Again, selection has nothing to do with it, and there is no difference whatsoever between entering rests versus notes.

So once again, in order to really assist, we'd need you to attach you score and describe in more detail what you are doing. like you tell use the precise things you are typing or clicking, and what specific result you are hoping for, we can then say better what you should be doing instead.

If on the other hand you aren't talking about entering notes or tests into another voice, but instead you've already entered them into one voice but now you are changing you mind and want to move them to a different voice, in that case, nite input mode is not& involved. But again, there is no difference whatsoever between notes and rests here. Select the notes and/or rests you want to move, then click the voice button or issue the keyboard command, and they are moved individually as needed. But this command works in a very special way, looking for "holes" to fill in the other voice and refusing to act if there is no place, also not acting in times where it isn't needed. So maybe that's what you mean about rests, the specific situations you are in doesn't actually have space for or require a rest. Again, we'd need to see your score to understand better.

In general, these voice-moving commands are very special purpose commands, not something that should ordinarily be needed except to correct occasional mistakes etc. For more general moving things between voices, that's what the commands in Tools / Voices are for.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The issue has just cropped up again. I wanted to put a voice on a stave - let's say working out a duet between say a soprano and a tenor. The vocal lines may be moved later on, but for now that's what I'm doing. It's fine for several bars as the voices don't overlap - they alternate. Then I want one of the voices (real humans - or might become orchestral intruments) to sing the first part of the phase and the second voice to come in at the end of the phrase. Currrently there is a crotchet rest at the beginning of the bar. I had hoped that if I clicked on that I could get it to be voice 2 (as well as voice 1). That doesn't seem to work. Or if it does, it's very hard to see what's happening. I don't think it works.

If I go to the note where I want the other voice to come in I can indeed make the start of that phrase voice 2, but the when I look at the other notes in the copied phrase they are still voice 1.

It would also be incredibly helpful if the voices could be colour coded. I know that when voice input mode is on that the points where the next note is to go are shown up in blue (not very strong), green, red etc. but it would be useful to have a mode in which it was clear which notes had been assigned to which voice visually.

Wow [why can't I use bold or underline in this box?] [Even odder - I used a couple of asterisks to get bold looks like Setext or some other markup language ...maybe Markdown see but not the standard CTRL-B or CMD-B] [I wonder if other markup codes work - let's try underline

Wow I - just discovered something. If the bars are selected, then colour codes are visible - but these disappear again if the mode is changed to Note Input mode. It would be useful if the colour codes could be visible in Select mode and also in Note input mode, and not keep switching on and off depending in the mode.

Now I've discovered five things -

  • first about Musescore - the colour coding in the program.
  • Next that this site is using some form of Markup language - but not sure which one, and
  • thirdly that Preview doesn't actually show the effect of the Markup used - to see the effect one has to actually go live with the Edit!!!!!
  • the markup used here does allow "-" to be be used for bullet points ... must try numbered lists later - as now done, and finally
  • because some users respond quickly to initial posts I have to apologise for changing this entry as I'm discovering the markup language used in the response.

OK - so looking at the example there is only one note - the D minim which appears as in voice 2 - green (depending on mode) and that should actually be voice 1, whereas the G C sharp D answering fragment should be voice 2. In the fragment both voice parts are on the same stave - the spare stave (Tenor( might be intended to receive a final result - if there is one.

I know also that it's possible to select all of the notes in a particular voice - for example to copy them to elsewhere or to another stave or to transpose them, but in this example since the voices are already "mixed up" - assigned incorrectly - that's not so easy. I know that with a bit more perseverance and possibly using extra staves I could do this, but you have suggested that this can be done easily without that. So either I (and maybe others) have to learn how to do this "properly", or something in the way MuseScore works has to change in order that some of us become less frustrated by this kind of action.

Attachment Size
V-example1.mscz 17.5 KB

In reply to by dave2020X

You can, and actually have to, start with the first rest of that measure (you can delete non-voice-1 rests later)
Select (any voice 1 note or rests anywhere in the measure), press N (starts note entry mode, switch to voice 2 (moves to 1st position in staff, if not there already), start entering notes and rests as needed.

(This site used MarkDown, so single asterisk or single underscore denotes italic, when doubled thes denotes bold)

In reply to by dave2020X

There definitely seem to be some misunderstandings here, hopefully this will clear some of them up.

The buttons on the note input toolbar - note just the voice buttons, but pretty much all of them - duration, dot, accidental, voices, ties, etc - do different things depending on whether you are in note input mode or not. This is very much by design, in order to facilitate the very different things one actual does in these two modes. In note input mode, you are, well, inputting notes. In normal mode, you are not inputting notes, but making changes to existing ones.

So, pressing pretty much any of these buttons in normal mode will take what notes or rests are selected and apply the effects of that button to those notes or rests. Select five notes and pressing sharp adds sharp to them all. Select two rests and pressing the dot button adds dots to them both. Selecting a handful of notes and rests note and pressing a voice button sends them to that voice if musically possible/appropriate (again, this is not the usual way of manipulating voices, but is provided as a limited way of doing certain common edits a little more easily than the more general tools).

In note input mode, none of these buttons are normally expected to change anything whatsoever about notes already entered, because your whole reason for entering note input mode is to enter new notes. So these buttons instead set the stage for the next note you enter. Selecting a duration button doesn't change the last note you entered or any other note - it just means, the next note you enter will have that duration. Selecting an accidental button doesn't add an accidental to any existing note (although, inconsistently, it used to, but this was fixed a while back) - it means the next note you enter will have that duration. And the same for the voice button - it's never going to alter any note you already entered while in note input mode, but it will make sure the next note you enter is in that voice.

So absolutely, it's correct and desirable that these buttons are optimized to do the different things that are actually expected in these two different modes.

In reply to by dave2020X

So, it appears you have an unusual case here where a voice has been entered only partially to begin with. Your example has a half note on beat three but no leading half rest before it. Presumably this happened as the result of having previously deleted that voice 2 rest. That's unfortunately, and I've long wished we nevever allowed this, but I know the Implode command will also do this in certain cases as well, and some people don't mind working this way. I always advise people, though, don't delete rests, make them invisible. The "holes" left behind are hard to deal with.

So indeed, the very special purpose for which the special move-individual-notes-or-rests-to-a-different-voice command was implemented not that long ago doesn't really apply here - it was never meant for this case, but rather for splitting individual notes out of chords and a few other very special cases that aren't easily handled other ways. So it has limitations indeed that come in part from how it was optimized to serve the specific needs it was trying to address, but in case, also from the unfortunate case of the deleted rest that left a hard-to-edit "hole" in voice 2.

I've tried to argue we shouldn't allow these holes, but enough people seem to prefer them to making rests invisible that I am afraid we are stuck with them. So instead, it's a painstaking matter of finding all the individual special cases where they cause problems and trying to find individual fixes for them all.

Anyhow, long story short, indeed, adding leading rests to incomplete voices can't be done in this particular way. If you end up in a case like this, there is a simple if non-obvious way to add back them missing rests: exchange voice 1-2, twice. The first exchange moves the incomplete voice 2 to voice 1 and fills in the gaps, because voice 1 is not allowed to be incomplete. The second exchange then takes this nicely completed voice 1 and moves it back to 2.

I guess more to to the point is, how did the measure get into this state, what's the desired end result, and wouldn't it have been much simpler to just enter the notes that way to begin with? That's been my point all along - the voice system really works amazingly smoothly if you don't try to do things indirectly in several steps but instead just enter the notes into the voices directly. It's possible to take the scenic route, but indeed, sometimes that scenic route will involve other details as well, because it wasn't never designed to be the direct route to the specific result that direct entry was.

As for notes being color-coded, I think most people would find it incredibly distracting to have their scores constantly displayed in color rather than black and white. But I could imagine an option to toggle this display on and off, feel free to make a suggestion in the issue tracker. Meanwhile, there is the colornotes plugin, not quite the same as it won't automatically update, but could still be useful at times.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Part of the confusion (at least mine) comes from terminology - but that's not all of it. I had to go back to the handbook to note that voices in MS are not necessarily the same as voices in the real world. Also that other notation systems call them layers. Of course it may be that "layers" in other systems are just as confusing!

In reply to by dave2020X

"Layer" is not a term with any particular meaning in standard notation. "Voice" is. This isn't a MuseScore invention, it's what pretty much any music theory textbook or guide to notation calls them. "Layers" was, I think, a Finale invention, that creates its own confusion because not only does it have no musical meaning whatsoever, but also, it what is by now has a well-established software meaning already as Photoshop and many other photo and graphic editing programs use it to mean something entirely different. Even more confusingly, Finale also provides voices (or did back when I used it), I think each layer could possibly have two voices? I never really understood the distinction they were making there.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Clearly you are right that voice is a fairly well established term in music - though I do wonder about chords. Perhaps in organ music terminology where (physical) keys are linked to sets of organ pipes this concept is extended to chords.

Obviously my mental model of what you are calling a voice is incorrect.

I had thought - and indeed hoped - it was rather like a slice to introduce yet another term, in which selecting an arbitrary long section of music would then allow it to be pasted back in as another set of notes even if the paste started at an arbitrary part of the whole. There seem to be some extra rules which are being invoked to prevent this - perhaps for a valid musical reason, or maybe not. I would be perfectly happy to see such a slice pasted back at half speed or double speed at any arbitrary point in the score - but it seems that that is not what "voices" in MS do.

In reply to by dave2020X

Hmm, well, depending on what you really mean by a "slice" here, it could still well be associated with voices. if you enter your "slice" of music as a single voice, you can indeed copy/paste it as such with the aid of the Selection Filter, and that definitely also works with paste half/double duration. So as far as I can tell, what you describe here is a pretty straightforward application of the use of voices as well, assuming I am correctly understanding your notion of what a "slice" might entail. Here again, an example would do wonders. I'ts so much harder to guess at intent without specifics.

In reply to by dave2020X

I think I can now see something about what I'm trying to do which doesn't fit with what MS actually does. It also does appear to make things very convoluted and confusing.

I can indeed enter new notes in a voice by clicking on a note or rest (subject I believe to constraints) and entering Note input mode then selecting the voice by the 1234 buttons. If I select 2 the rest or note turns green, if 3 it turns red/orange and if 4 red/purple. It looks as though this only works from a stream of notes entered from the computer keyboard - or possibly also via a midi keyboard - but I've not tested that. I'm still really not sure what happens next. Sometimes the note or rest gets overwritten, and sometimes not as note names are typed in. What definitely does not seem to happen is that notes saved by a copy command are not "typed" in.

This is going to take more work and investigation on my part, but I can definitely see issues. If I only work with notes in Voice 1 I seem to be able to copy and paste notes from anywhere in a score into new locations. I can't, for example - or at least consistently - copy a section of notes as if it were Voice 2 or Voice 3 without overwriting the original Voice 1.

How does one copy voices? Using explode and implode which I suggested earlier almost works except that some of the voices may be transposed up or down an octave. If that happens then the whole section of that voice has to be selected. No - sorry I've been trying to test/experiment with this for a further 30 minutes or so.

It's a mess!. One thing I do which perhaps doesn't help - though I think it makes little difference - is simply to point at a bar or note in a bar in order to navigate. I don't waste time by putting notes in then using the back arrow repeatedly. I simply point at the note in the location I want to work on - which might then involve pasting in new sections - or occasionally typing. I try to avoid a lot of typing if I possibly can. This I do by modifying fragments of bars which are already written etc.

One or two people seem to know what the system does for them and are happy with it. I am going to go right back to my original claim - It is far too complicated and confusing for anyone who finds it doesn't seem to be working in ways they understand.

In reply to by dave2020X

How does one copy voices?

I use the F6 Selection Filter to exclude the voice(s) which I don't want to copy. Then I can select the entire stave, system or passage and copy everything I need and paste it to the required spot.

Do remember to reset the F6 Selection Filter to All afterwards!

[EDIT] See the (well-hidden) Handbook section about the F6 Selection Filter:

In reply to by dave2020X

If you are in note input mode, pressing the voice buttons never changes any existing note, as I said. it merely changes the cursor, so it will start entering the next notes in the selected voice. Notes already entered never change. So when you say "the rest or note turns green", that's just plain incorrect. Try it again and watch closely - no note or rest ever changes color upon pressing the voice button in note input mode. Only the cursor changes color, to help you keep track of what voice you are in. Also, it doesn't matter if you use the computer keyboard or mouse or MIDI - not sure what gave you that idea. Once you are in a given voice, all methods of input enter notes into that voice only.

Also, unless you have changed input modes from the default step time., notes or rests entered always replace whatever was there previously. Always, no exception. Again, I have no idea what you mean when you perceive there to be cases where something different from this happens. If you attach a sample score and give us precise steps to follow, we can assist.

As for copying voices, as has been mentioned, the selection filter allows you to copy only particular voices.

So it's still not clear to me where your confusion comes from. it really is exactly as simple as I keep trying to explain. I do hope you will allow us to help clear this up by posting a an example score and precise steps to follow. Then we can see exactly what you are doing wrong and hopefully figure out what the point of confusion is.

But, MuseScfore is successfully used by millions of people. It's not just one or two that are able to use voices. Millions of others have figured it out, you can too, I promise! So please let us help.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I don't think it's worth arguing at length about this. I agree that many people have been using MuseScore, but that doesn't mean that they all use the Voice features. I still feel those are very, very clunky. I suspect that very few people use the Voice features, and at least one response I've seen suggests that those who do also use kludges to get the results they want.

I have found ways to get Voices to work - after a fashion - for me - and the fact that other people don't think my ways are good for them is OK - but equally if I can't get Voices to work they way they think I should be doing it might still indicate a problem. Ideally we should all be able to use features in ways which work for each of us, to get results which we individually want.

I would be interested to know what proportion of users actually seriously use Voices, and also how they use them. I can see that maybe choir directors would use them, if they can find a way which works for them. It could be worth asking them specifically about this.

Another factor is whether it matters for printed sheets. There are fixes and work arounds which can give the appearance of correctly written out parts in MS even if they are not "correctly" assigned to what MS considers to be separate voices - and few people might know the difference anyway. Actually at that stage using one of the tools to swap voices could - possibly - fix that too.

If MS is to progress in the direction of better synthesiser output, then the voice issues might become more important for that too, as different sounds might be attached to each individual voice. Then it would be more important to get the voice issues sorted and hopefully improved.

What would be useful for MS development is actually finding out what MS users do, and what features they find useful and what they find difficult.

Martin Keary's critique of MS did do a user survey, though it might have been rather difficult to do. That was a survey based on asking users to try to carry out certain tasks, and then observing how they responded. Such a user interaction survey could be difficult to do. What might make sense is for a survey of a reasonably large number of users - and consider their demographics. By that I don't mean age, gender etc., but what kind of musician or user they are, professionals or amateurs, whether they compose or perform instrumental music, or choral music, or synthesiser music , and maybe what kind of genre they work with etc. That would enable some categorisation of the data.

Some questions could be open ended "What features of MS do you particularly like?" "What features of MS do you use mostly?" "What features of MS do you particularly dislike?" etc.

However, there might be some aspects of MS (such as Voices - IMO) where although relatively few people might use them (my hunch) those that do use them would find benefit in significant improvement, so questions should be formulated to tease out information which might be helpful.

Without a serious attempt to find out what users are doing, and what users really want to be doing, etc., then development of MS might just become an uncoordinated sequence of minor, non strategic bug fixes, with modifications arising more or less randomly as uses put in queries.

In reply to by dave2020X

"I would be interested to know what proportion of users actually seriously use Voices"
I don't think it's possible to notate any serious composition without using voices - particularly keyboard parts.
Example 1 - this piano accompaniment for an SSATBB chorus (composer: Charles Wood):
Piano part using voices 1 and 2.png
Example 2 - this orchestral score with Horns 1 + 2 on one stave, and Horns 3 + 4 on the next stave (composer: Anton Bruckner):
Two horn parts on a single stave.png

"... and also how they use them"
Everybody has their own technique. My preference is to enter Voice 2 (stem-down notes) first into Voice 1, then to switch Voice 1 and Voice 2 with Tools > Voices > Exchange Voice 1-2 for the selected measures. And then I enter the Voice 1 notes. This technique minimizes the number of times I have to switch Voice 1 and Voice 2, and also means that I am always entering notes into Voice 1. Keep it simple.

In reply to by DanielR

Thanks for this - that makes a lot of sense. You might also look at my recent post in this thread - where I provide some very simple examples.

I'm not sure that everyone understands the ways to get the notes into the score - since the default is apparently to Voice 1 and that can be difficult to fix without a reasonable mental model of what's going on.

Entering the notes into one voice, then swapping voices around until the desired result is obtained makes sense.

I certainly didn't - and I'm only converging on to this after a considerable degree of testing and experimentation.

PS: How did you get the images into your last posting here?

In reply to by dave2020X

Your other post asked:
"I'm trying to put a rest above a note, but Musescore keeps thinking that I want a rest to replace that note"

That is easily solved by the method described in my post above. But let's be clear: this is not "the right way", just one of many ways to approach note entry in two voices.

  1. Enter the "notes" part into Voice 1.
  2. Use Tools > Voices > Exchange Voice 1-2 to put the "notes" into Voice 2. You now have a whole-measure "rest" in Voice 1 above the notes, and the notes are now correctly stem-down in Voice 2.
  3. You can adjust the duration of the Voice 1 rest and add Voice 1 notes (or hide any unwanted Voice 1 rests).

    Entering notes in two Voices.png

In reply to by dave2020X

As far as I am concerned there is no argument. You are having difficult understanding how to use the voice feature, I am doing everything in my power to help. As soon as you attach a score and tell us exactly what you are you are doing, we can clear things up pretty quickly and show you where things are going wrong and what you should be doing instead. No argument involved - just education.

But for the record, just look at and you'll see tons and tons of scores using voices. It's a fundamental feature of music notation, used by virtually all piano and guitar music and much choral music. And yes, we do usability studies quite often.

In reply to by dave2020X

I responded there. But I would note, those are more philosophical "how many angels fit on the head of a pin" types of discussions. What I was asking about here are examples of a specific passage you had difficulty entering into MuseScore, and the precise steps you took - the exact sequence of clicks and keystrokes in your attempt.

I'm trying to get to the bottom of statements like:

"If I select 2 the rest or note turns green, if 3 it turns red/orange and if 4 red/purple. It looks as though this only works from a stream of notes entered from the computer keyboard - or possibly also via a midi keyboard - but I've not tested that. I'm still really not sure what happens next. Sometimes the note or rest gets overwritten, and sometimes not as note names are typed in."

This is what seems to show some misunderstanding of how note input using multiple voices works, but again, without the example and the precise steps, we can't help clear up the confusion.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.