Preliminary MuseScore 4 Accessibility Tutorials

• Aug 11, 2022 - 23:35

I've created some basic tutorials to help blind users get up and running with current (alpha 2) builds of MuseScore 4. There are some bugs I show here, as well as how to work around them - hopefully we'll get them fixed before the real release. So far, I've made four (originally I posted three, but there was a glitch in the audio in one, so Ive replaced and also split it into two).

The first video is to help with basic setup of the program, since it's a brand new sequence and is unfortunately probably the least accessible thing there is, so you definitely will want my play-by-play:

Next, a tutorial on how to create a new score. Here, it turns out that NVDA has some limitations compared to Narrator or Orca (I don't have a Mac to test with VoiceOver, and my JAWS license ran out some time ago), but I skip over the things that don't work with NVDA and show how to work around that:

Next, a video that gives a tour of the rest of the main window interface - the various toolbars and panels you will use:

Finally, a tutorial to get you started on entering music into the newly created score:

This doesn't even come close to showing you how to do everything there is to do with MuseScore. but it should allow you to get started, and if you're already familiar with MuseScore 3, really, most of the rest is pretty much the same.


The video tutorials are REALLY GOOD! After using them I find:

1 When setting up a score, I can't change the key-signature or time-signature, or the Anacrusis information, or the number of bars in the score.

I also find when in the score that the f9 paletes key doesn't take me to them as it did in 3.6. Am I missing something?

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Thanks for the comments!

Yes, you'll notice in my tutorial on setting up the score, I skipped past the key and time signature section of the wizard, because they don't seem to work with NVDA, although they do with Narrator. So right now it isn't obvious what the problem is here, but I have filed a bug report already. Meanwhile, the workaround is to do as I do in the tutorial - skip over these settings in the wizard, and know that you can take care of all of this after setting up the score.

F9 opens and closes the palette but does not immediately move the focus to the search box like it used to. Instead, use the command specifically design for palette search - Ctrl+F9. This has the advantage of always going directly to the search box, whether the palette is currently open or closed. In 3.6, pressing F9 while the palette was open would close the palette, so you'd have to press F9 twice to do the search. So really, Ctrl+F9 is the best way to reach the palettes in both versions - it's always just single command instead of sometimes needing to press once, sometimes needing to press twice.

EDIT: actually, it seems Ctrl+F9 does not work if the palette is not already open in MuseScore 4, so if you previously closed it with F9, you'll still need to press F9 again to reopen it. That's not good, so I've filed a bug about that.

Thanks for the reminder about numlock! I think different keyboards work differently i that regard - none of mine have a numeric keypad built in, so there is no numlock key, and other keyboards have a permanent numeric keyboard with no numlock. So we'll definitely want to be sure we understand how to describe this best for all users.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

This is probably a dum question. I've installed the first Alpha version. Where do I go to get the Alpha 2 version. Do I have to delete Alpha 1 first before installing Alpha 2? And the same question applies when updated versions come along. I apologize for not being very good at computery things.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Braille displays.

I use a Hims Polaris 6 braille display along with NVDA speech output for everything I do with a computer. In version 3.6 of Musescore, everything that appeared on the screen and everything I typed, also appeared on the braille display, so it was easy to check what was happening.

In version 4 alpha, when I input title composer etc, key-signature, time-signature etc, absolutely nothing appears on the display. If you type in to an edit box, the information is visually present on the screen, but nothing whatsoever appears under the fingers on a braille display. Could this have something to do with the keyboard disconnect with regard to the numpad keystrokes as well? I know no the answer; I just ask the question, for the two would appear to be related, and as I say, there was never any problem of disconnect in Version 3.6.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Thanks for the report! I will pass it along.

Actually, it's a little curious to me - some screen readers read everything about the note (it's pitch, duration, beat, etc) when you enter the notes via keyboard, but NVDA doesn't. For the screen readers that read everything when you enter the note (Orca, at least), it also works when pressing R.

But let me be sure I understand. You aren't hearing notes being read as you enter them with the keyboard, right? I assume you just hear the key you pressed being read, both in MuseScore 3 and MsueScore 4. At least that's how NVDA works for me. So even if the key signature contains E flat, if you press "E", NVDA simply reads "E", not "E flat", and the only way you know an E flat has been entered is that you hear the note played when you enter it. Correct?

I wonder if we should make NVDA and other screen readers do what Orca does and fully read each note as you enter it.

As it is, though, NVDA normally doesn't read anything, but MsueScore 3 did at least play the pitch of the note when using R to repeat, and now it doesn't. So it's not an issue with anything having to do with the screen reader as far as I can, more just about how the "R" commands works with playback. Still, I'm reporting the issue to GitHub.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

It's just that with NVDA the R command doesn't repeat the sounding note, as it did in Musescore 3. I think it a good idea that any screenreader reports as accurately as possible what is happening on the screen. To that end, If there's an E flat, it should say so. Ironically, personally for me, since I am blessed with perfect pitch, I don't actually need the information anyway; but other people will.

On another matter, I'd never heard of Orca until this alpha release. What's it used for, and where do I get it, for perhaps if I'm testing things for blind people, as I am trying to do, I should know about it.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Right, so you're not necessarily R to read the note, just to play it. I've filed that as an issue. I do think it would also be useful if more screen readers would read the full info for each note as you enter it, but it would also be good to hear from people who actually rely on this. Maybe that would be annoying to a lot of people. A lot of refine that we've done over the years has been to read less information when people told us the amount we were reading was too much.

Orca is the main Linux screen reader, and MuseScore started supporting it along with JAWS for Windows a few years ago. To get Orca, you start by having a system with Linux instead of Windows, then you install Orca from using whatever controls your particular Linux system offers. Each is different. But that is a whole other can of works, and I'm guessing you're not really wanting to enter the world of Linux.

Anyhow, for MuseScore 3, we support NVDA, JAWS, and Orca. For MuseScore 4, we support those plus Narrator and VoiceOver.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

No, nothing has changed there. When you start up, you're in normal mode. "N" toggles you between that and note input mode. Specifically, step-time mode; there are actually other note input modes as well you can access from the toolbar. This is the same between MuseScore 3 and MuseScore 4.

By the way, I found after restarting my computer, suddenly NVDA started reading the notes as I entered them again - both in MuseScore 3 and MuseScore 4. So, whether I type "C" or type "R", after entering the note, the full information about the note is read. Somehow that had stopped working, maybe when I was trying to also run Narrator? Or maybe it was a problem caused by switching between MuseScore 3 and MuseScore 4? Anyhow, MuseScore is supposed to read the note to you after entering it, and for me, now it does, even though it temporarily stopped in both MuseScore 3 and MuseScore 4 earlier this week.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

The problem with the R command was for me that it didn't Sound the note. There's no need for information about the note, since it's already been input, and one presumes the user knows what has been input. It was rather that in Musescore three, after pressing the R key, the note plays as a repeat as it should, but in Musescore 4 it didn't play or give any information. All you need is a Repeat Sound.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Right and as I said, I can reproduce that and have reported it in the issue tracker.

But MuseScore is supposed to be reading every note as you enter it, both in 3 and 4. It’s just that sometimes this gets “stuck” - in both versions - and stops working for some reason. Since it happens in both versions, I suspect it’s more of an NVDA bug than a MuseScore one.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

"Normal" is the name for the mode you are in when not in note input mode. "Step-time" is a specific sub-mode of note input mode, the one that's enabled by default when you press "N". So it's the "normal Note Input mode" in the generic sense of the word "normal" - of all the note input sub-modes, it's the one we usually mean - but it's not "Normal mode" with a capital "N", which is more or less the opposite of note input mode.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Normal mode, as I understand it, means it is easier to edit information. Ties, for example, work differently than in Note input mode. But, I have to say, I'm not really sure Why it is thought good to have two input modes; and it would be simpler just to have one, since one can alter information quite as easily in one as in the other. I fond myself Normal mode, which it would be better to be called Edit mode, is more useful.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

The basic difference is that in normal mode, simply clicking with the mouse doesn't enter new notes - it does other things like select or move things. If not for that, it would probably be possible to merge the two modes. And perhaps someday a way will be found to do that even for mouse users.

But for now, normal mode is what you should be in when not entering notes, and note input mode - as the name suggests - is the way to enter notes. So don't think of normal mode as an "input" mode at all - it's more of a "navigation and editing" mode.

Again, to be clear: none of this has changed between MuseScore 3 and 4 (or for that matter, between 2 and 3, or 1 & 2) - this distinction has been baked in from the beginning.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Another bug.

When using Narrator, and inputting notes, if you alter a note with the up arrow, more often than not, you are dumpted out of the program altogether, a bit like what used to happen with the Palegges menu in version three, before 3.3 The program seems to be highly instable. I have not experienced the same result when using NVDA.I think.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Thanks for the reprot! Yes, sometimes I see crashes with the arrow keys also, but I'm not sure it's only with Narrator, because I almost never use that, and I see crashes more often than that. So far I haven't figured out the pattern though. If you do figure out exactly how to reproduce the problem reliably, let us know!

And yes like all experimental "alpha" pre-releases, you can expect crashes and other bugs. It's a lot more stable than the alpha of MuseScore 3 was, actually, but still, plenty left to fix before the actual release. Just keep the reports coming!

In reply to by rogerfrdhm


1 When inputting notes for the first time When you press N, you go straight to bar 1, which is fair enough, except it isn't clear whether in input or normal mode. It's a shame the Normal" mode isn't called Edit mode, since that is what it is, and what would ABNORMAL mode be anyway! Musescore defaults to Normal mode, so it should say so. But if you tab through the toolbars to Note input toolbar panel, it reports Steptime by default. It is unclear to me how the change has been made, or how one changes the note input setting. Pressing spacebar, though it tells you is a toggle, doesn't toggle or change anything.

2 If you press f9, the Palettes key, there is no report as to whether the Palette is open or not. Nothing is spoken. Pressing Tab will get you to "add" palettes button, so one is to assume they have been opened. And when you select, for example, the Tempo Palette with the spacebar, it still says, Not selected. The only clue is that it says Expanded, not selected. And ironically, the only way you can select is if you Collapse it with the right arrow. Then, you can down arrow past the notation value choices to the tempo word choices. Selecting one of these with the spacebar adds the selected tempo mark to the score. It's rather a strange way of doing things.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

  1. Yes, I agree it's unfortunate that the current mode is not read when switch. I'm reporting to our issue tracker now. Originally it didn't read in MsueScore 3 either, but this feature was added recently and apparently didn't make it into MuseScore 4 yet. For the record though - Edit mode is something very different from normal mode. it's true that some editing operations can be done in normal mode. others, though, require edit mode - which is designed for making manual adjustments to the size or shape of things. Also for editing text. We do plan to revisit how this works in a future release.

  2. As I mentioned earlier, you probably should not be using F9 - not in either MuseScore 3 or 4 - because you don't really need to ever close the palette. Instead, leave the palettes open always, and use Ctrl+F9 to get there, which takes you directly to the search box. But anyhow, I agree the way the palettes expand and how you need to do this before navigating within them is awkward. I'm reporting this to our issue tracker as well.

It's important to remember when using Musescore with NVDA, [I can't speak for any other screen reader], that before doing anything at all like entering notes, you turn on the Numlock key. This is because it will then report, quarters for num 5, eights for num 4, etc. Otherwise, it will just report, 5, 4, etc. You'll also find that after a few bars, you will begin to enter rubbish in to the score. I don't know what's going on; all I know is that if you remember to turn on numlock, you avoid the above outlined problems. I think this piece of information should be added to the accessibility manual, when it is written.


1 When inputting Title, Composer etc, whether using NVDA or Narrator, the edit boxes are not read out, so you can't check if you have made a typo.

2 Key-signatures.
Using Narrator, you can read up to B Major, but not keys of F sharp and C sharp major. And using NVDA, as already mentioned, it won't read them at all! And similarly with flats, you can get up to about four of them, but no more using Narrator.


Note input.

Whether the numlock is on or off appears to be irrelevant. In note input mode, using the numpad, I can only input crochets, and no other note values. If I use the number keys, I can input some basic notation, but not dotted notes, or rests, or ties.

It does seem a great pity that when all worked so well in terms of the above basics in 3.6, it is now all spoilt. And for what? Let's hope it's fixed soon.

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

Yes, this is covered in the tutorial. Those boxes work with some screen readers (like Narrator) but for reasons we don't yet understand, not with NVDA. But this has been reported and will be investigated and hopefully fixed. BTW, thanks for reminding us about the issue with F sharp and C sharp. It actually is reading the key, but not the sharp - so when you hear it read F major" coming after "B major", know that this is really F sharp. Unfortunately different screen readers handle these special characters differently. We're working on a fix for that also.

I explained elsewhere that there are currently problems with numeric keypads on some systems, those are being investigated. Meanwhile, though, the standard number keys should work fine; nothing has changed with respect to that. Can you explain what you mean about not being able to enter dotted notes? The process should be the same as always - type "5 . C" (five dot C) to enter a dotted quarter note C. Simialrly, to enter a tied note, select the duration then press the shortcut for the tie command. Currently this is still "+", although there is talk of changing this, since other programs use + for sharp and that does make sense.

Anyhow, don't judge MuseScore 4 by an alpha test pre-release. MsueScore 3 was far far far worse in its alpha release, but thanks to people finding and reporting bugs, we got it into excellent shape! That's the whole reason to have these alpha releases - to find issues and fix them before the release. So, thanks for helping report what you find!

In reply to by rogerfrdhm

BTW, when you ask "and for what?", that is definitely worth discussing as well!

The whole reason for all these changes is to make MuseScore easier to use - arranging the windows and buttons more logically, making the shortcuts logical and matching the expectations of new users who are more used to other programs than they are to older versions of MuseScore. And also to make it more accessible in general - making more commands and windows accessible by keyboard, improving the screen reader descriptions of many items, grouping controls so you can move through the interface more efficiently with Tab and F6, and most importantly, making it work on the screen readers that come with Windows and macOS (Narrator and VoiceOver), which has never been possible before.

These are huge improvements, but they require big changes, and along the way, it is expect t some things might break. That's why these pre-releases exist - to help us find the problems we didn't find already while introducing all these improvements.

So, please stick with us, and I think you'll find that as these problems are ironed out, you'll start discovering and being amazed by what is possible that was never possible before!

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