You can have up to 4 Voices on each staff line. A voice is a musical line or part which can have its own rhythm independently of other voices on the same staff. Voices are sometimes called "layers" in other notation software.
In a polyphonic measure, voice 1 usually takes the up-stem notes and voice 2 takes the down-stem notes.
Note: The feature called "Voices" should not be confused with "vocal staves," which can be added from the Instruments dialog (accessed by pressing I). When creating a closed SATB score, use Voices 1 and 2 for Soprano and Alto parts on the top staff, and use Voices 1 and 2 on the bottom staff for Tenor and Bass parts—do not use Voices 3 and 4 for Tenor and Bass.
When to use voices
- If you need stems pointing in opposite directions within a chord, on a single staff.
- If you need notes of different durations within a single staff, played simultaneously.
How to enter notes in different voices
The following instructions show you how to notate a passage of music in two voices:
Enter voice 1 notes first: Make sure you are in note input mode: the Voice 1 button becomes highlighted in blue in the toolbar. Enter the notes in the top voice first. When inputting, some notes may have down-stems, but these will flip automatically when the second voice is added.
The following excerpt shows a treble staff with just the voice 1 notes entered:
Move cursor back to start of section: When you have finished entering a section of voice 1 notes, press the ← key repeatedly to move the cursor, note-by-note, back to the first note of the section; or alternatively use Ctrl+← (Mac:Cmd+←) to move the cursor back one measure at a time. Or else you can simply exit note input mode (press Esc) and click directly on the first note.
Enter voice 2 notes: Make sure you are in note-input mode and that the voice 1 note at the beginning of the section is selected. Click on the "Voice 2" button (on the right of the toolbar), or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+2 (Mac: Cmd+Option+2). Enter all the lower voice notes (down-stem).
The image below shows Example 1 (above) after the addition of voice 2 notes:
Deleting and hiding rests
While the rests of voices 2, 3, and 4 can be deleted, rests in voice 1 are permanent. However, they can be hidden, if required, by making them invisible. To hide a rest, select it and press V; or uncheck the "Visible" checkbox in the Inspector (see also Visibility options).
Exchange voices of notes
To swap the notes between any two voices:
- Select a range of measures;
- From the Menu bar, select Edit → Voices;
- Exchange any two voices from the list.
Notes: (a) The selection can encompass content of any voice, but only two will be processed at once. (b) If you select a partial measure the operation will still apply to the whole measure.
Move notes to another voice (without swapping)
You can also move notes from one voice to another (without note-swapping):
- Ensure you are not in note input mode.
- Select one or more noteheads (in any voice).
- Click on the destination voice in the Note Input toolbar or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+1–4 (Mac: Cmd+Option+1-4).
Note: For a successful move, the following conditions should be met:
- The chord(s) in the destination voice must be the same duration as the note(s) to be moved there.
- There is enough rest duration in the destination voice to accomodate the new notes.
- The note(s) cannot be connected by a tie.