Colored overlays?

• Apr 20, 2021 - 23:39

One often sees people coloring scores with felt pen for training, or to highlight certain motifs with different colors for study or demonstration. Is there a way to do something like that in Musescore? I didn't find a tool for that in the menus, nor something in the Plugin list.

Thanks in advance for any hints,



In reply to by Marc Sabatella

That's what I thought, too. In particular: the procedure would be a lot less painful if one would not need to adjust all these line parameters by hand. A plugin could ask: "Select the first and last note to cover" or "Select a bunch of notes" and it would create a line covering the notes or the notes in the range in a rudimentary intelligent way.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

Note moost of the job is automated easily enough, just set up one line the way you want (thickness, color, etc) and Ctrl+Shift+drag it to your palette. The only thing you ever should need to do manually is then move it down onto the staff, because by default it will always appear above. I have a translucent line 4 spaces tall on my own palette. So I can simply select a range, click the palette icon, and then use the Inspector to set its vertical offset to 2 sp.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I must say that I currently have a terrible user experience.

I select a range of notes. The line I get is too long, it "touches" the preceding and following notes.

And when I want to have a diagonal line, I have two anchor points, right? How do I ensure to grab these with the mouse? Whatever I tried, it was more or less random if I grabbed one of the two anchors, or a note, or the complete score. And what I grabbed was only visible after the action was already performed, e.g. shifting a note around. After I succeeded to position the line correctly the whole surrounding had been messed up. So I need to use a very careful trial and error and undo. Is there a better approach?

In reply to by schlangenfreund

Hi schlangenfreund,

The instructions Shoichi cited seem reasonable ... but I too have had trouble placing lines reliably, especially angled lines.

That said (not knowing about that documented option) I created an SVG rectangle and found it works quite nicely for highlighting. I'm able to drag it from my MacOS desktop directly onto any note, and then reposition and reshape it. And once in the score I can easily copy/paste.

Here's the .SVG text document:

       Blue Rect.svg

And here's a Musescore file with the SVG rectangle in use:

      SVG Highlight Example.mscz

Let us know if that works for you.


In reply to by scorster

Hi, thanks for joining this discussion.

[your link to the instructions was broken, for those who are interested: you find the correct link near the beginning of this discussion]

I got highlighting with your image work, thanks for sharing the idea!

Are there any disadvantages when using this method? Apparently I can move the image highlighting to the palette but selecting it there doesn't seem to work (nothing happens). Does that work for you?

I guess one disadvantage could be that there is always only one anchor point, so when the layout changes one might have to correct the position of the image more often than for a line. Is this a problem in real life? How do you handle this?

Thanks, Michael.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

Hi Michael,

a) Thanks. I fixed the link. There was a missing space between the link and the next word. Also I made it clear that this was a link previously mentioned in this thread; it wasn't referencing another location in the handbook or elsewhere.

b) I've only used this form of highlighting in a few documents, so I can't really comment or pros, cons, or best practices. It just worked well for the situation at hand.

c) You bring up a good point regarding the single anchor point. Indeed placement could go awry if the layout changes. In fact, it will. I was working in a document where I knew spacing wouldn't change and therefore didn't observe any difficulties. Nice if there were two x anchors for SVG objects. That could make this approach more manageable.

In reply to by scorster

Hmm, double-clicking with the left mouse key seems to be able to prevent accidents: if you click at a "good" position, the anchor points get visible and you can drag them without modifier keys. If you happen to click at a "bad" position, at least, nothing bad seems to happen.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

It's impoosible of course for MuseScore to guess exactly how long you want the line to be, but it's shouldn't touch the next or preceding note unless there are overlapping multiple voices. If you attach your score and describe the issue in more detail, we can understand and assist better. But in any case, it's extremely simple to adjust, just select handle and either drag or use the cursor keys.

Regarding the handles, they can be hard to see if you've made a thick / colored line, but tab / shift_tab select them reliably.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

> [...] but it's shouldn't touch the next or preceding note unless there are overlapping multiple voices.

It definitely does: the thicker you make the line, the longer it gets. Adjusting thickness influences both dimensions. So if I choose to use a line of thickness 6 sp, it is 6 sp longer than the initially selected segment.
For the use case of highlighting this is definitely not optimal.

Does musescore behave differently for you?

> Regarding the handles, they can be hard to see if you've made a thick / colored line, but tab / shift_tab select them reliably.

Hmm - I should just hit tab or shift-tab? That just selects all of the parts (buttons) of the user interface in order for me. I'm using Debian Gnu/Linux.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Does that feature actually simplify the problem of positioning? Transparent images already can be used without layers - the annoying part is that it is inconvenient to use and to get the positioning right.

From the threads that have been cited it seems that layers are thought to simplify collaborative work, or to allow for different "views" of a score.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

I'm not sure if collaborative work is part of the design criteria for future versions of MuseScore - but it could be.
Enabling/disabling layers could be very useful for collaborative work, though I think some more elaborate versioning might help. Think about changes in tools such as Word, in which users either accept or reject to produce an agreed version. However layers for appearance could be incorporated for various purposes - not just for collaboration.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

Again, it's much easier to assist if you attach your score. But you're right that a thicker line will extend the length. I usually don't make the highlighting so thick this has a significant effect.

Regarding tab, I mean, after clicking the line to select it. Tab cycles through the handles in "clockwise" order, Shift+tab "counterclockwise" (not necessary literally, but conceptually), so either will get you there - there are only 2-6 handles depending on line type. With a handle select, Ctrl+left/right extends the line by 1 sp, so it's a predictable (and small) number of keypresses to get the line as you want.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I don't provide a concrete score since I want to know how to use lines for highlighting in any score. I want to learn the technique, not solve a concrete problem.

Regarding tab: once I have moved the line onto notes, it is very hard to activate the handles. Tab and Shift-Tab only work once I succeeded clicking on a place on the line that make a handle visible. This is very random. I have to click around with the mouse and click and so on until I am lucky enough to get a handle. It is not enough to just select the line. The behavior is close to unusable.

I can provide a video that demonstrates that if you want to.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

I've not tried the layers feature. I agree about using transparent images - they aren't stable on the page - though they could be useful for some purposes.

A layers feature should have both absolute positioning - and relative, to be really useful. Absolute positioning - and locking layers together would help where the new text or script has to accurately fit over layers below.

One problem with MuseScore - which is mostly not a problem - is that it automatically reformats the layout depending on a whole bunch of factors. Usually that is what is wanted. However if text is put on top of a layer and the layer below then changes due to acceptable reformatting, then the text has to be repositioned and possibly resized. That doesn't mean that layers are a fundamentally bad idea, but it might mean that knowing when to position them and lock them (and also by whom ...) are questions to be answered for future versions.

If this kind of feature is not required much, then users could export correctly set up files to PDF or graphic formats, and then do the text overlays in a photo or graphics package. However if musicians want to use scores dynamically - say in rehearsal - and annotate their scores as they go - which I anticipate that some will want to do - as more and more use tablets for reading - then features like this do need to be built into the notation system.

I think it could be done - look at some graphics designer packages which manage large sets of stacked graphics objects.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

Tab should work right out of the box no matter where you click first. Works perfectly for me on my scores. The first click always select both handles, each and every time without fail, although as mentioned, they may or may not be very visible. But visible or not, both are selected, then Tab takes you to the left handle, then again to the right handle. Or vice versa with Shift_tab. Nothing remotely random about it.

If you are seeing something different, it has to be something very specific to your score - some style setting, some other property on your line, impossible to guess. That's why I'm asking you to attach your score. Video is not normally very useful. The score itself - plus a simple step-by-step text description of what you are doing - tells all far more effectively and quickly.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hello again,

sorry for the delay. Got a bit ill after your post and then got busy with other stuff.

This time I have attached my score. It's just a BWV 054 score I had downloaded from the musescore site with voices assigned to different instruments, like you had explained.

My first problem is actually that I don't know how I can reliably select the line ("line" means a line I add to the score by clicking on a predefined line I had added to my personalized workspace, or whatever this is called).

I click on the line on the score with the mouse, but most of the time something else is selected instead of the line.

When I succeeded in selecting the line, TAB definitely doesn't have an effect on the line's handles: that key selects different elements of the GUI, e.g. in the inspector when it is visible, but no matter how often I hit TAB after selecting the line, when I try to drag a handle, the second (i.e. the right) handle is never grabbed. Instead I grab some note most of the time.

Thanks in advance for your time,


In reply to by jeetee

Thanks for the hint! Unfortunately, this also doesn't work reliably here: it depends on where you click, and when cycling, the line is not always one of the selected items (I'm clicking on a position covered by the line of course). And the selection is also not of the kind where TAB would cycle the handles.

In reply to by schlangenfreund

Can you explain which line you are trying to select, and what exactly you are trying to do it? Precise step by step instructions to reproduce the problem upon loading the score would help us understand and assist better.

As mentioned, ctrl+click will cycle through the elements below the mouse, so if you don't move the mouse, it should work, And so should using Alt+Right/Left to navigate the selection.

With a line selected, tab should definitely move between handled and does for me every time without fail. So my guess is you still haven't selected the line.

In any case, the point of main point selecting the handle isn't to allow you to drag and thus inviting the same issue of accidentally selecting something else - it's to use the keyboard to adjust the handle more precisely.

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