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 (and 3) usually takes the up-stem notes and voice 2 (and 4) takes the down-stem notes.
N.B. Be careful not to confuse the concept of MuseScore voices (1, 2, 3, 4) with the order of voices found in SATB vocal scores:
- In Open score SATB (where four staves are used for the four voices), use (MuseScore) voice 1 in each staff.
- In Close/Closed score SATB (where two staves are used for the four voices, e.g., as in hymnals), use only (MuseScore) voices 1 and 2 for both upper and lower staves.
- There is no need to use (MuseScore) voices 3 and 4 unless there are more than two parts in the same staff. This means that in the bass clef of a “close score”, the tenor is voice 1 and the bass is voice 2—beginners often without thinking assign the bass to 1, resulting in stem-direction confusion, or assign tenor to voice 3 and bass to voice 4, which then leads to confusing rests appearing in voice 1 (which cannot be deleted).
How voices are displayed
Selecting a section of the score highlights each voice in a different color: voice 1 blue, voice 2 green, voice 3 orange and voice 4 purple.
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. On 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+Alt+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
All rests can be made invisible, if required: select the desired rest(s) and press V, or uncheck the "Visible" checkbox in the Inspector. Rests in voices 2, 3 or 4 (but not voice 1) can also be deleted (by selecting them and pressing Delete) but it is not recommended: make them invisible instead.
Restoring deleted rests
If a rest has been deleted in voices 2-4, you will need to restore it before you can enter a note on that beat in that voice (the problem may arise, for example, in imported XML or MIDI files). The easiest way to fix such a measure is to exchange that voice with voice 1 twice. For the exact method, see Exchange voices of notes (below).
Exchange voices of notes
To swap the notes between any two voices:
- Select one or more continuous measures (or a range of notes);
- From the Menu bar, select Tools → Voices;
- Select the option for the two voices you want to exchange.
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+Alt+1-4).
Note: For a successful move, the following conditions need to be met:
- The chord in the destination voice must be the same duration as the note to be moved there.
- Alternatively, if the destination voice is occupied by a rest, it must be of sufficient duration to accommodate the moved note.
- Notes should not be tied.