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.
You can have up to 4 voices on each staff line. 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 following image shows the above example 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 accommodate the new notes.
- The note(s) cannot be connected by a tie.