Growing up with MuseScore, part 2: What's wrong with MuseScore
In last week’s post, “Discovering MuseScore,” I wrote about how I first started using MuseScore 1.1 at the age of thirteen, how I very gradually became involved with the project, and how much I came to love and appreciate MuseScore. Now, I’m going to look at the other side of things: how terribly limited MuseScore still is in some areas.
Last week, I mentioned re-extracting parts using MuseScore 1 and having to go through them all again to “add staff spacers and line breaks, drag things around to avoid printing dynamics covering up notes, and whatever else was necessary to get readable sheet music.”
MuseScore 2 was better, because I would only ever have to do that once in a linked part. But the fact is that the underlying issue is still present. Even today, with MuseScore 2.0.3, I still have to go through every part in that way at least once, because MuseScore just isn’t smart enough to handle those issues on its own.
Also last week, I mentioned a wonderful march. That’s a sizable score. It’s 120 measures long in 23 parts. Fixing all the problems with colliding and overlapping elements in every one of those 23 parts was a painstaking task. I did a similar task with the main score, where things were even more complicated because I couldn’t add room between staves the same way. If I did, either things would run off the bottom of the page, or I would have to scale the entire score smaller—and then I would have to also adjust the facing page so the top and bottom margins would line up.
(Aside: I suppose it’s not strictly necessary to do that last one, but in my opinion that is important for scores, and MuseScore doesn’t have a way to do it automatically. MuseScore does appropriately space out systems that way, but it can’t do that for the staves within a single system. Another current limitation.)
Interestingly, I did all that work in a not-released-at-this-time version of MuseScore with more advanced controls for hidden staves, so in order to upload it to MuseScore.com with the features available in 2.0.x I used the simple “Hide [all] empty staves” function. As a result, some of my careful adjustments no longer apply, and in those cases you can see for yourself examples of current layout limitations. (Note: as of May 12, 2016, I redid the score in 2.0.3 and updated the online version, so the example problem below is no longer present in the score.) In the score, check out page 8, measure 53, between the third and fourth staves down.
I wish MuseScore wouldn’t let that happen. I’m told non-GUI-non-WYSIWYG scorewriter LilyPond doesn’t let that happen. $600 competitor Sibelius doesn’t let that happen. It’s the same story as before: as I and my composing skills have grown, I’m finding I want better results from MuseScore than it currently gives.
It comes down to this:
For a computer program meant to make it easy to engrave high quality scores, it takes way too long to get MuseScore to engrave high quality scores.
Yet, as I explained last week, I don’t think I’ll ever stop using MuseScore. Partly it’s because I have no knowledge of programming, so I’m not up for writing music in LilyPond code, and I’m a cash-strapped soon-to-be college student, so I’m not up for buying Sibelius. I’m sure there are people using MuseScore for only these reasons who would use something else if they could. But I really love MuseScore, too. It’s an international community of really nice people who share a major common interest with me. And I seriously doubt Sibelius’s developers care about their users to the degree MuseScore’s do.
You would be surprised at how responsive to constructive criticism the MuseScore developers are.
In 2011, the year I discovered MuseScore, someone asked “Why is MuseScore not a professional program?” (meaning “What is there about MuseScore that makes it less than professional?”). Two months ago, that topic was revived, and I put this forward as my biggest pain point. MuseScore CEO Thomas Bonte replied:
“The working title for this is Intelligent Layout and it's being developed in Germany as we speak.”
“Any leaks from Germany would be the subject of great interest on my part.”
I don’t think I’m the only one, either.
And now, I’ve been invited into MuseScore’s inner circle, and I’m going to be the one sharing the leaks from Germany with you.
See you next time. ;-)
MuseScore gets smart