Once again, complaints about the drum palette.

• Aug 5, 2022 - 03:45

My drumkit needs are so very simple. I need a kick, snare, one or two toms, HH and a crash. Sometimes, not even that much. Yet just to enter a simple part requires so much that I don't even write kit parts in MuseScore.
I get it. If I used shortcuts to enter notes and drum parts, things go very fast and easy. But I don't. I use a mouse. If I would just learn keyboard input, things would go easier. I want to use the mouse. So I am punished. I don't have to use the keyboard to enter notes. But I have to use it to input drum parts. Sure, I can edit the palette to remove the sounds I don't need, but I still have to use the palette. I can't just enter notes on a staff to get a simple part.
To be clear, I don't want or need the palette. It takes up space on the screen. If I want a kick drum note followed by a snare, I don't want to have to hit some letter followed by entering the note. For a mouser, this is too many steps. Just to enter four on the floor with off beat snare, I can't just enter the notes. I have to go through the palette. Which is extra steps and time.
Sure , this is how the software works. I get it. But so much else about MuseScore is so easy to use. The drum pallete.....?


Yes, the way of entering notes is a little different for drum kit/percussion.

Although I find it easy to enter letters, the number of letters is limited to the number of notes, so 7 letters between A-G are never enough for a kit I will use.
example: 1-Kick, 2-Snare, 3,4,5-Hi-hats, 6-Crash cym., 7-Ride cym.
// obviously: There's no room left for Toms(4 pieces), nor for cowbell(s), rim-shot, china, splash etc.
And these are common instruments used in a drum kit.

So: at some point, it is necessary to switch to using the mouse again. And even for someone who enters notes with a keyboard, this is not a comfortable situation.

Most of the time, for an instrument with no (letter) shortcut definition, I enter a note on the keyboard and then swap it with the up/down arrow keys, which is not very useful and annoying though.

But it should be fair to say that there is no easy way to show the note C1 in A2 (according to F clef), D1 in E2 (according to F clef), F#1 in E3 (according to F clef). Somehow, different notes need to be set in different places (separate map for entry, separate map for where they will appear on staff).

What solution/use can we suggest; that's what matters:
As a keyboard user, I think of the possibility of using more keyboard shortcuts (perhaps adding the shift+letter feature, the number of shortcuts can be increased to 14). These keyboard shortcuts should only work when drum input is active.
For mouse users, it would probably be the best solution to be able to enter percussion notes like normal notes. But in the background, a replacer will need to run constantly (as you hover the mouse over the staff, the note head, shape, position, and sound need to be constantly adjusted and displayed). Which, as with Fin4le-notepad, can make work very slow.

In reply to by xavierjazz

Believe me, I understand how the palette works. As an aside, there are so many drum kits in MuseScore. The titles tell me nothing about the sounds in them.
Anyway. I pick the Rock kit in Sibelius. In the score a five line drum part appears. With my mouse, I place a note on the bottom space. Result: a kick note appears. I can enter notes in the needed rhythm to get the playback I want of the drums I want. I just enter notes.
Yes, the palette has 25 different sounds. And a way to choose each of them. Even if I edit out all the sounds I don't want, I still have to enter a letter first, most of the time.

In reply to by bobjp

It doesn't require "extra" steps, just "different" ones. You want to click on the staff, MuseScore wants you to double-click the palette icon. Either way, it takes only one step to add the note you want. But indeed, someday perhaps yet another method of entering notes might be added (in addition to this method, the other palette method where you do click on the staff, the keyboard method, the MIDI method, etc).

In reply to by bobjp

Yes, when you move the mouse to the place where you will enter the note on the staff: if the appearance of the note head does not need to change before entering the note (preview), or the sound (sample) to be played does not need to be prepared, this slowdown will either be absent or barely noticeable.

So: This means you won't have a preview of what you're going to enter (the standard note type is always used when you hover the mouse over the staff). And the sample is prepared only after clicking the mouse and then played. This will create a small delay between clicking the mouse and playing the entered note.

Note to self: Don't count your chickens before they hatch. :)

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

I want to be able to enter Kick, snare, kick, snare, in 5 mouse clicks. Only mouse clicks. Including activating note input. MuseScore can't come close. Sure, I can add the kick on 1 and 3. Four mouse clicks. But I can't put a snare note on beat two without somehow changing to the snare sound, putting a rest on beat one, then turn off the rest, then add the snare on beat two. Turn on and add the rest on beat three. Turn off the rest and add the snare on beat four. This can be 2 steps shorter using the snare shortcut. Because MuseScore won't let us add a note on any beat, the snare part takes more steps to finish. Yes, music is read from the left. I know you all see entering music this way as a feature. But in reality this is a hinderance. Other notation software has left this behind some time ago. MuseScore knows exactly where beat two is in the above case.
And then there are the rests that need to be deleted.
And yes, I have edited the palette to take out sounds I don't want and use as few voices as possible. This helps, somewhat. Still have to use shortcuts. And they don't always work. I have to mouse click in the palette.

In reply to by bobjp

It seems you want to use a non-standard style of notation where all notes are in the same voice - otherwise, you wouldn't be trying the delete the rests that are absolutely essential in standard two-voice notation.

That's fine, you just need to set up your drumset according beforehand. Once you've defined all your notes to be voice 1, then creating this particular non-standard notation becomes as simple as you want:

Click note input button
Double-click kick
Double-click snare
Double-click kick
Double-click snare

All four notes entered in exactly five steps, no rests needing to be entered or hidden.

Out of the box, MuseScore is optimized for the more standard two-voice notation that does indeed use rests like most published does, but as you can see, it's easily customized to support single-voice notation too - even when limiting yourself to using only the mouse.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Here is the more standard notation for a simple beat:
beat 22.png
This seem cluttered to me. Especially if I add 8th note HH to it.
My simplified palette lets me get closer to what I want. Still a bit of a pain. Double click does help.
beat 11.png
This may be less standard. But I don't think that a drummer would have any trouble understanding it. Other notation software produces this notation. And is producible just like entering piano notes. Fast and easy.

Not everyone's brain works the same way. You can work quickly using shortcuts. It makes sense to you. I learned notation using the mouse. It is what makes sense to me. The way you work, using mostly the mouse is limiting. For me using mostly shortcuts would be just that much more I need to try to remember.

So I am going along, entering notes in my limited mouse fashion. Then I come to a drum part and no matter which drum palette I use, I have to totally switch gears to input the drum part. That is my problem. I just want to input notes with my mouse.

In reply to by bobjp

Indeed, not everyone thinks the same way. For many people, the standard methods of reading and writing music works great (and the example shown is a fantastic example of one I find infinitely clearer with two voices, since I see the rhythm of each drum). But yes, some people prefer other methods. If you are sure the drummers you are writing for will prefer reading the same one-voice notation you do, then by all means, MuseScore allows you to create this as well as the more standard two-voice notation. And we've shown you how easy it in fact is, even if you only use the mouse. And someday, yet another method of entering that style of notation may indeed be added, if enough others express interest and someone propose a clear design.

So if you'd like to acknowledge that not everyone's brains work the same way, first step would be stop criticizing a method that does in fact work for many other brains - that kind of talk is a conversation-stopper. Instead, focus on presenting the clearest, most well-thought alternative design you can think for how an alternative system might work, without in any way comprising the efficiency of the current system for everyone else. Again, if enough people agree it's a good design, no doubt it will be considered, and someone might volunteer to implement it.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I submit the reason that many people find the current palette system to work well for them is because they have known no other system. I have. It is not a criticism, but an observation that the drum palette system is so foreign to me that I don't write drum parts in MuseScore. My simplified palette is still awkward to use.

Yes, you can see the rhythms of the individual drums. But drummers don't read their music like that. Any more than a pianist does.

I observe that the drum palette forces the user to select what sound goes in each line or space. I suspect that this viewed as "allowing" the user to select.

I am not a programmer. I have no idea why some of these choices were made, or how to change them.

My observation would lead to a system where sounds are already loaded in a drum staff. Entering notes (either with shortcuts or the lowly mouse) would automatically invoke each sound. Might have to change noteheads now and then. And yes, I know different noteheads are already in the palette system. No System is perfect.

I observe that the drum palette is so deeply ingrained that it is not likely to change. As evidenced by your statement that my observations about it are a conversation stopper. So my idea would likely have to be in the form of a plug in, or some sort of choice activated by a check box. I only bring this up once in a while in the hopes that maybe someone will think about it.

In reply to by bobjp

The drum paletrte is certainly ripe for redesign, if people can stop criticizing each other and work together to come up with a good alternative design that serves everyone's needs better. A new design that only works for people who use non-standard notation is not going to get anywhere, of course. But one that acknowldges the validity of the standard notation that most musicians have indeed come to accept over the past centuries, and that recognizes the importance of optiziming that, while also proposing ways of supporting alternatives that might also have validity - that has every chance of going somewhere.

So, it's not the proposal to broader the capabilities of MuseScore that is the conversation stopper. It's the negative value judgements made against something that does work very well for the very people you should be trying to bring on board in collaboration with - that's what instead prevents collaboration. Standard two-voice drum notation works well for millions of people. Entering that standard two-voice notation via a palette works well for millions of people. Probably alternatives could be found that work well for those millions and also for you.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'm not against two voice notation. I can take it or leave it. It's not at all the point. What I'm against is the palette method of entering notes on a drum staff. I ask why can't I have a method of adding notes in how ever many voices, without having to use a drum palette? Why is the palette method better than just being able to enter notes directly on the drum staff?

In reply to by bobjp

As I've said, if you can come up with a new design for drum input that does not in any way make standard two-voice input more difficult to use or harder to understand, I'm happy to discuss it and recommend it to the people who actually work on design in MuseScore. So far, though, I haven't seen any such proposal. If you decide to take up the challenge, keep in mind, any new design would need to handle drum set definitions with potentially dozens of different sounds, where a single line might represent two or three different sounds, each with different notehead and different voice and stem direction. A new proposed design would have to have some actual advantage. Requiring exactly the same number of clicks, but taking away the visual cue that many users rely on, is not inherently an advantage.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

There is no need for dozens of sounds. No need for three sounds on each line or space. That is exactly the problem with the palette. It is trying to do too much. Why? As it is, there are several drum sets in the default font that have no description what so ever as to what they are. This is a major problem that no one seems to care about. Can you tell me why?.

It seems to me that a rock kit should only have certain sounds in it. A jazz kit should only have certain sounds in it. A metal kit, likewise. No one seems to care about this. They think that crowding everything into one palette is the answer. Probably no answer to this question, either.

I don't want the exact same number of clicks. That is foolishness. I want less. I want more simple.

I keep suggesting things and you find reason to ignore them. You know that I am not a programmer. If you truly wanted to help, you would give me some suggestions. Rather than just saying "come up with an idea". I have come up with plenty of ideas.

I thought that the purpose of computer was to make things easier. Not more confusing. Other software operates just fine without anything like the drum palette.

In reply to by bobjp

You may have no need for dozens of sounds, but others do.

Anyhow, again, if you care to put forth a clearly-articulated alternative design that still supports the standard notation, I'm happy to discuss it. I haven't ignored anything - I'm simply waiting for the design to be able to comment further. I can't evaluae how well a design would work for people interested in creating standard two-vocie notation until I see the design.

Meanwhile, if you'll re-read this thread, I have offered you suggests. I showed you how to enter your four notes in exactly four click just as you asked. I am also happy to help show you how to use keyboard shortcuts if you want even simpler.

I'm always happy to offer help here, for free. So ask a question, about how to do something, I'll do my best to show you, no charge. But if you just want to argue, I charge $75/hour for that.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Sorry if you think that I am arguing. I am only asking questions.

Your answer for how to enter four notes in just five clicks was indeed helpful. Except that it was double clicks not single clicks. And it still involved the palette, which was not needed, because I had removed most of the sounds. But it isn't just about four notes. It's also about fills and complicated rhythms. All of which are more complicated to enter because of the palette.

You say that others need dozens of sounds. But do they? How do we know?

I'm not sure how to clearly articulated any better than to say that the palette is too complicated and tries to do too much. I think that it can be done with standard note input. The standoff that we seem to have is that it seems like you reject that statement out of hand.

So I will drop it for now.

In reply to by bobjp

I figured "why not," so here are some observations:

BobJp: "To be clear, I don't want or need the palette."

It seems that the palette is the very means by which staff lines/spaces are defined as sound generators for an unpitched instrument (drumkit). In that sense, you do need a palette to define what does what.

  • Agreed that it would be nice if staff space/line could be automatically used by the mouse to correspond with a palette item. One main issue with that though is: multiple kit parts can be used on the same line/space with different notehead types. That seems to make it less straight-forward as to how to implement such a thing without eliminating the ability to have multiple types on the same line/space (like hi-hat with different opening levels, or whatever. Who knows)

BobJp: "Because MuseScore won't let us add a note on any beat".
That's right. A rest must exist. To get in-between, MuseScore would need a grid, or the user must resort to using a Piano Roll Editor style input method. As a matter of fact, I still think that'd be the way to go: Give MuseScore a PRE with defined kit-palette showing up (just like in a DAW) allowing for single click placement and then let the sheetmusic manifest correctly. And that leads me to the next observation:

BobJp: I want to be able to enter Kick, snare, kick, snare, in 5 mouse clicks. Only mouse clicks. Including activating note input. MuseScore can't come close.

Actually: this is 4 mouse clicks (cheating though to get into PRE first:


If you're going to say MS can't come close then talk about going into other software, you should be aware about the PRE capabilities. It's absolutely false to say MS can't come close when taking that into consideration, let alone other considerations.

So it would seem one viable answer to: "I ask why can't I have a method of adding notes in how ever many voices, without having to use a drum palette?" Answer: You can. Use the PRE.

BobJp: "Why is the palette method better than just being able to enter notes directly on the drum staff?"
Never saw anyone claim that it was better. I wonder what would be appropriate for allowing the mouse apply directly to the staff while taking into consideration the potential for multiple kit-items on the same line/space with different note heads? Any ideas instead of just eliminating the ability (which is probably not a good idea)?

Your mentioning that "No one seems to care about this" a couple times with "Can you tell me why" leads me to an off-topic issue:

Off topic rant: Why is Nehemiah 2:2 translated in the Douay Rheims as "This is not without cause, but some evil, I know not what, is in thy heart." even though the D.R is supposedly a direct translation fom the Latin, even though the Latin Vulgate reads: "Nihil est aliud nisi tristitia cordis" (directly translated as "There is nothing but sorrow of heart") Where did the "I know not what" (je ne sais quoi) and "some evil" (tristitia = sadness) come from if it was translated from the Latin? No one seems to care about this... but whatever.

In reply to by worldwideweary

Thank you for joining this conversation. I've had a chance to collect my thoughts.

I understand the need for a method to choose between different sounds on the same line or space. I don't want to do away with the palette. In a situation where I don't need that capability (except to change note heads) I don't want to have to use it. MuseScore has alternate methods of note input. Why only one method of drum notation. Why not a simplified method. Not instead of the palette, but in addition.

Regarding PRE. I don't have any experience with it. I'm not sure I need it either. I also don't adjust velocity in the inspector. Why? I prefer to use playback tools that are visible in the notation. But thanks for the thought.

Regarding standard drum notation. Five minutes on the internet reveled all manor of published drum notation. There is, of course, two voice "hands and feet" notation. But there are also plenty examples of all stems up. Then there is cymbals stem up and everything else all stem down. Some had rests. Most did not.

Regarding reading notation produced by MuseScore. My drum set has both a mid high and a high tom. Yet MuseScore puts both of them on the same line without anything to differentiate which I should play. While my set has only one floor tom, I notice that the palette properly has a high and low floor tom sound. But strangely enough, the low tom is stem up in voice 1, and the high tom is stem down in voice 2. And no indication of which drum to play. And why is this set up used for floor toms but not for high toms.

Regarding input of notes on any beat. I enter a low floor tom note on beat one. Next I want to enter a high floor tom note on beat two. I first have to enter a rest on beat one because the high floor tom is in voice 2. I understand there needs to be a grid or some way for MuseScore to know where beat to is. Except MuseScore already knows where beat two is. There is a quarter rest on beat two in voice one. Why can't I just enter a note on beat two? MuseScore would add the needed rest on beat one, and save me two steps. A more practical example would be adding pickup notes. The rational given is that music is read left to right. So when you fill a measure, you would enter rests first. Then the pick up note last. Because the software doesn't know where beat four is to be able to place a note on it. Except that other staves might have a note on beat four. In which case the software does know where the beats are. Besides, If I were writing this by hand, I would probably add the pick up note first and the rests after.

Off topic rant: This is a problem with Bible translations. We are at the mercy of whoever did the translation and their particular take on the subject at hand.

So why don't I shut up, get over it and learn the palette? A fair question. Other software lets me enter drum notes directly with the mouse and put notes on any beat. So why don't I leave MuseScore and use that software? Another fair question. I've been watching MuseScore for some time. I began using it in the last few years because it has come a long way. And because the other software I use may not work on some future version of Windows. I'm trying to avoid subscriptions. Composition is a hobby. But I want it to be the best I can make it. Being distracted from a compositional flow by things that slow me down, is a bummer.

How about a drum set in the Instrument list that does not trigger the palette? And a corresponding font that doesn't need more than one sound on a line or space. Or the regular font that doesn't present multiple sounds based on the staff chosen. How difficult would that be.

In reply to by bobjp

Well, good luck. Hopefully you can learn to manage what you want to do with the limitations as is currently implemented. Still waiting over here to see how 4.0 is when released (hopefully is released) and then move on from there with stuff like this.

In the meantime, using mainly the mouse, from this side of the coin it doesn't seem too bad:


In reply to by bobjp

As I explained earlier, if you prefer the style of notation in which all notes are in voice 1, simply define your drumset that way. Then you don't need to enter or delete and rests. Just enter them left to right normally.

Also, for the record, there is not only one method of drum input, there are several already, as mentioned also:

1) the "slow" palette method, where you first click a palette symbol, then click in the score
2) the "fast" palette method, where you simply double-click palette symbols
3) keyboard (usually the simplest and fastest, period)
5) use of the rhythm and repitch note input modes rather than steptime is something that can be especially useful for percussion, although probably more so if you're using the more traditional style of notation than your special one-voice method

So, lots of different methods to suit different styles already, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for yet another if sufficiently well designed!

Being able to enter pickups before entering notes by clicking and having the program guess what beat you are aiming for is of course also a possibility for someday, but it's not related to percussion specifically, really a totally different subject.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for your patience on this. Let me try to clear up a few things.

As I understand it, the palette is necessary because there is more than one sound available for certain lines and spaces on the staff. Plus it automatically assigns proper voices to certain drums. I edited the drum set, put everything in one voice and removed sounds so that there is only one per line. I did that to simplify note input. It only helped a little. To be clear, I don't care about one voice notation. Though it turns out that my "special one-voice method" isn't so special. But that's not at all the point.

Placing a note on any beat pertains percussion as I pointed out above. The program doesn't have to guess anything. There is already a rest on beat two. Just not invoice two.

I don't want to do away with or change the palette. How about a check box type choice that doesn't invoke the palette if I add a percussion staff? I.E. "Use the drum palette" Yes/no. Notes could then be added directly to the staff using whatever method. just not the palette. This might be a simplified kit. But that's kind of the point. There are plenty of check box things already in the program. Would anyone use the check box? Hard to say. But there are so many things in the program that most people don't use. They are there for those who want to use them. And make the program more accessible to a wider audience.

In reply to by bobjp

The paleette isn't strictly necessary because of the fact that standard drumset notation involves more notes than there are lines and spaces. It is just that it simplies it for most people, who tend to be visually-oriented and benefit from seeing a list of what's available. But no doubt it's possible to design an input system that doesn't require a palette, for those people who use so few different notes that they can memorize them all, but for whatever reason don't want to use the keyboard shortcuts. Right now, though, no one has proposed any specific design for how this would work, so no one is able to express an opinion on whether they would find it an improvement over the existing methods. Once again - I can't possibly stress this enough - it's a matter of someone actually proposing a design and convincing enough people that it has value.

And it is important to ascertain whether people would find it valuable. Yes, it's technically possible to add yet more checkboxes that no one ever uses. But, this means, there is that much more code to maintain in perpetuity, and it also makes the interface that much more cluttered and overwhelming to users. So new options don't come for free. That's why - once again, I don't think it is possible to stress this enough - it's important to have a concrete proposal that users can weigh in on.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

People who have only used MuseScore don't know if there is a different (for better or worse) system out there. But what about users who:

  1. Don't need a visual representation of sounds available. What sound goes where on the staff is somewhat standard. No memorizing involved. It is interesting to me that the program thinks it needs hold the hands of even advanced users for drum notation. And doesn't do the same for other instruments that can be equally difficult to write properly for.

  2. Find that having to switch to a different note input method is annoying. Maybe they want to continue inputting notes Just as they do for every other instrument.

  3. Want to be able to notate for real players high and mid shell toms and high and low floor toms. Which the program can't do. OK so the high floor tom is in voice 2 for some odd reason. The program actually lists three shell toms, which most players don't have. I think most players have two. Many have one.

  4. Don't need things like a Chinese cymbal or congas, and the like.

Yes, you keep saying that you need some kind of concrete proposal. But you give no information on what that might look like. I was one of those who suggested making "R" repeat whatever was selected. There was not much discussion. Then it just happened.

Yes, the UI is already cluttered with check boxes, hidden menus, and rabbit holes to get lost in. I get it. And the manual is not always helpful. The forums are full of new users trying to make sense of the program. I'm trying to make sense of it, also.

All I can do is suggest yet again, this:
In Preferences there is a check box "Use drum palette". If unchecked, the user can add a drum staff to their score in the usual way. In the mixer, one of the font choices reflects a drum set that has slightly fewer sounds than the 24 possible now. Or maybe it could be done with the standard font. I have no way to know. The user then proceeds to enter notes directly on the staff in however many voices they want, in whatever manor they usually do. Keyboard or mouse. Something like this seems to me would be faster and more consistent then the current method.

In reply to by bobjp

It's a bit naive to assume people who use MuseSocre haven't used anything else. Most of us have. We still think MuseScore works well.

Anyhow, I can't keep finding new ways of wording the same response over and over, so I'll just number the answers and that way, if you bring up the same issue again, I can just give you my response by number:

1) there are already many different ways of entering drum notes to suit many different styles of working
2) the defaults can also be customized to support different styles of notation (eg, one-voice versus two-voice)
3) there is certainly room for yet more ways of entering drum notation, or tweaks to existing ways
4) as soon as someone proposes a new design, I'm happy to discuss it

A concrete proposal consists of essentially the same thing a Handbook article does - a clear description of how you actually use the facility to enter music. Not just trivial examples consisting of a kick and snare in a single voice, but real drumset music.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I have all the respect in the world for you. So in spite of your increasingly condescending attitude (I'll pass over the naive remark), I will try to be concise.
At long last you finally answered my question about a proposal. Thank you.
But first let me address your numbered answers.
1) Yes, but none of them suit my style of working. Not even close. I have already said this. So no need to refer me to it.
2) I already said that I don't care about one vs two voice notation. It was one example. Not sure why you keep bringing it up.

As to the proposal. you want "a clear description of how you actually use the facility to enter music." This makes no sense. Do you mean how I use it now or how I want to use it. So, you think that kick and snare are not "real" drum music. Interesting. I only used it as a simple example of problems I have with the palette. The problems are worse when I enter "real" drum music.

I think MuseScore works well also. I never said otherwise.

In reply to by bobjp

I'm not being condescending, but sorry if it somehow sounds that way.

I say a proposal consists of "a clear description of how you actually use the facility to enter music", I mean, your proposal, of course. If you have an idea for how a new feature could work, describe how that new feature would actually be used to enter music. Pretend you're writing the Handbook page for it. Pretend someone who has a measure of typical two-voice drumset music using a variety of different sounds wants to learn how to enter it, and they come upon your article. Then people can evaluate whether the new feature you are proposing seems like an improvement over the existing methods.

I keep bringing up two-voice notation because it's easy to imagine alternative input methods that optimize for one-voice but actually make two-voice music harder than it is currently. So I'm trying make sure your proposal doesn't fall into that trap.

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