Early music features

MuseScore 2 offers several specialized functions to create engravings of early music (particularly medieval and renaissance) akin to commercial editions from the 20th century onwards.

Unbarred (or unmetered) notation

Since most renaissance music was unbarred (i.e. not divided into measures), having long notes divided up and tied over barlines significantly changes the look of the score. Recognizing large melodic lines and repeated motives could become more difficult. Therefore, MuseScore provides an experimental display method where the note values stay intact. This method can be activated by ticking a checkbox in the Score section of the Style dialog, found under StyleGeneral...

Dialog: Style / General.. / Early Music

Apply and the display is adjusted immediately.

Early musig - original
Original notation (De Profundis Clamavi for 4 voices by Nicolas Champion)

Early music - barred
Before style Change

Early musign - unbarred
After style Change

Note that the feature is still experimental and may contain bugs. The longest supported note value is the longa (a dotted longa is still broken up and tied over).
To get rid of the barlines, just untick the “Show barlines” box in the Staff properties dialog. However, there is another option.


Since a complete lack of barlines could make performing the music more difficult for current musicians, many modern engravers settled on a compromise called Mensurstrich, where barlines are drawn between, but not across, staves. This is also possible now: double click a barline, drag the lower end to the top of the staff below it, and drag the upper end to the bottom of the current staff. Do this in precision mode (hold down Shift). Then deselect the barline and the changes should be applied to the entire staff.


It may be easier to use the Inspector to change the numbers manually. To open the Inspector, press F8 and select a barline. The correct values are:

  Default Mensurstrich
Spanned staves 1 2
Span from 0 8
Span to 8 0

You may want to set the barlines back to the default values at the end of the score or a section, but remember to hold down Ctrl, or else the entire staff will be reset.


Before there was the concept of an absolute pitch, performers were required to transpose vocal music to a singable range for their ensemble on the fly. To aid them, an ambitus was sometimes included, marking the entire range of a voice at the beginning of the piece. The ambitus is located in the palette at the bottom of the Lines section, from there drag it onto a clef. It will automatically detect the range.


The ambitus will consider all measures of music up until the next section break, beyond which a new ambitus may be applied. It can be adjusted manually or automatically in the Inspector. First select the ambitus to adjust. For manual adjustments edit the top and bottom note values. For automatic adjustment click the Update Range button in the inspector.

Mensural time signatures

In the mensural notation system, time signatures did not define the length of a measure, but the length of breves and semibreves. MuseScore supports mensural time symbols as a display method in the Time signature properties dialog rather than as symbols, but they are just for show, as the proportion of e.g. half notes per whole notes cannot be modified.
One way to make use of these symbols is to replicate when composers of the renaissance had multiple voices in different time signatures simultaneously without using tuplets. Edit the time signature on a per-staff basis, as long as the beginning and end of a measure in all staves match up. If they do not, then consider increasing the size of the measures to the lowest common denominator.

De Profundis Clamavi for 5 voices by Josquin Des Prez

See also