Working with multiple voices
A MuseScore voice is a line of music on a staff that has its own rhythm independent of other music on the same staff. Other notation programs may refer to it as a "layer".
"Voice", in a different sense, may also refer to a pitch range in vocal music—soprano, alto, tenor, bass etc. It is important not to mix up the two meanings by assuming, for example, that the four "voices" in an SATB choir are equivalent to MuseScore "voices" 1–4 (see below); that would be to confuse chalk with cheese.
MuseScore allows up to four voices in one staff: Voice 1, Voice 2, Voice 3, and Voice 4. When writing music on a staff, one usually starts in voice 1 then moves on to voice 2. Voices 3 & 4 are less commonly used.
Two voices on the same staff are normally indicated using opposing stems—an upper voice with stems up and a lower voice with stems down:
In a four-part SATB arrangement on two staves, you would use voices 1 & 2 on the top staff for soprano and alto, and voices 1 & 2 on the bottom staff for tenor and bass:
Entering notes and rests in multiple voices
The first step to enter multiple voices is to determine whether you need to write notes as voices in one staff, or spread voices among multiple staffs such as four voices among two staffs of a piano, or among multiple instruments such as four voices on four string instruments. You should consider the design of MuseScore's notation function and your production needs, do not base your decision merely on academic reasons:
- MuseScore sets stem directions automatically based on the voice used and which voices are used in each measure. In measures where only Voice 1 is used, but no notes or rests are written on Voice 2, Voice 3 or Voice 4, stem directions of notes are determined by pitch—notes above the center line have stems pointing down, notes below the center line have stems pointing up. Otherwise, the stem directions are determined according to the voice—up for Voice 1 and Voice 3, down for Voice 2 and Voice 4.
- To assign an overriding stem direction setting manually, use the Flip direction button on the toolbar, or the keyboard shortcut X, also see Stems and flags.
- Writing on voice 2 right away may seem correct academically, but musescore will create rest symbols in voice 1 automatically which might be redundant in some cases. Popular options in this scenario are: manually hide rests afterwards (jump to how to); or simply use voice 1 instead of voice 2.
- It's not yet possible to assign different sounds to individual voices, so you may have to use multiple instruments. For example, you cannot assign a Soprano VSTi to voice 1 and a Tenor VSTi to voice 2, only one or the other.
- Sometimes you must use multiple voices in one staff to create certain visual notation result in Musescore, even if they aren't different voices musically. For example, in MuseScore, inside one voice, a chord can only be created with notes of the same duration. If constituent notes of a chord have varying durations, you must use separate voices to write them. A list of common similar scenarios can be found on the Handbook 3 Voices page.
Using multiple instruments
If you decide you need to write different voices as notes on different instruments, start by creating multiple instruments using Setting up your score: Changing instruments, then edit clef symbols as required, and then compose on Voice 1 in all of these staffs. A common example is to write four voice SATB open score on four instruments' Voice 1.
To convert separate staffs into one staff containing multiple voices, or to do the opposite, see Implode and explode. A common example is SATB open score <-> short score conversion,
Enter notes and rests in multiple voices in one staff
To enter new notes into a Voice:
- Select your starting point in the score.
- Click the pen icon on the toolbar or press N to enter note input mode.
- Select the desired voice using the toolbar icons or press one of the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Alt+1–Ctrl+Alt+4
- Enter notes and rests normally as described in Entering notes
You can repeat these steps to enter notes into other voices.
Note: to enter new notes, make sure you are in note input mode before selecting the desired voice, otherwise you will change the voice of any currently-selected elements instead.
Note: the note toolbar only displays voice 1 and 2 icons by default. You can make all voice icons visible using the controls that appear when you click the gear icon on the toolbar. For more information, see the section on customizing the note input toolbar.
Editing notes and rests in multiple voices
To make sense notation wise, rests should be used in each existing voice whenever necessary to complete beats of a measure, Musescore creates them automatically. In measures containing multiple voices, rests are automatically added to voices of lower number whenever appropriate. MuseScore also automatically positions rests to avoid overlapping other score elements.
To hide, delete, or adjust the position of these rests to create better layout, use one of the following methods:
Hiding or deleting rests
Rests may be hidden by selecting them and unchecking the Visible box in the Properties panel or using the keyboard shortcut V.
Rests in voices 2-4 may also be deleted by selecting them and pressing Delete. However, this leaves a "hole" in the voice that can be difficult to edit later. To restore missing rests from a voice, you can use the commands in Tools→Voices to exchange the contents of the voice with those of voice 1, which will fill the holes with rests again. You can then use the same command to move the contents of the voices back where they were.
Note: to ensure the correct duration of each measure, voice 1 rests can be hidden, but they cannot be deleted.
While MuseScore will normally avoid collisions with other voices, it can sometimes be helpful to move rests up or down to create more space or to clarify which voice they apply to.
To move a rest vertically, select it and press Up or Down to move it a staff space at a time.
For more information on manual positioning, see Changing position of elements.
You can also change the default vertical offset between rests and elements in other voices from 1 space to 2 spaces in Format→Style…→Rests
Changing voice of existing notes
Notes originally entered into one voice can be moved into another voice, depending on the situation. For more information, see Changing voice in normal mode.
Combining voices into chords
In cases where the rhythms match, notes originally entered as multiple voices can be combined into chords in a single voice. For more information, see the Implode command.
Separate chords into Voices
To separate a chord written in one voice into separate notes of different voices:
- Manually select the notes
- Press the toolbar button to assign a Voice to selected notes, or use the Ctrl+Alt+1–Ctrl+Alt+4 Keyboard shortcuts.
- Explode onto an empty stave, and then implode. See Implode and explode