Voices

Updated 5 days ago

    Daily usage of the term voice refers to a musical line or part which can have its own rhythm. In Musescore, voice is different, it is extended to include more, it is a software feature that allows individual stem direction within a chord, provides automatic stem direction function, and allows easier playback control. For each staff that can contain a clef symbol, Musescore offers 4 voices for composers to assign to. Voices are sometimes called "layers" in other notation software. 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.

    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.

    Voices colored

    Tips for writing SATB scores

    • In Open score SATB (where four staves are used for the four voices separately), 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 (MuseScore) voices 1 and 2 only, for both upper and lower staves: in the upper staff use voice 1 for S (soprano) and voice 2 for A (alto) ; in the lower staff use voice 1 for T (tenor) voice 2 for B (bass)
      • Beginner's error: use voice 3 for T (tenor) or voice 4 for B (bass), this will create unwanted rest symbols, jump to hide rests.
      • Beginner's error: use voice 1 for B (bass), this will not activate the automatic stem direction function.
    • There is usually no need to use (MuseScore) voices 3 and 4, jump to When to use voices

    When to use voices

    Limitations of voices

    • You cannot apply dynamics symbols to individual voice
    • You cannot change volume of individual voice with a slider in the Mixer, you can mute though

    How to enter notes in different voices

    The following instructions show you how to notate a passage of music in two voices:

    1. Enter voice 1 notes first: Make sure you are in note input mode : the Voice 1 button becomes highlighted in blue in the toolbar. Voice selector 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:

      Voice 1 notes

    2. 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.

    3. 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 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:
      Voices 1 and 2

    Automatic stem direction

    Staff with several voices

    • Notes in voice 1 and 3 have upward stem ; voice 2 and 4 have downward stem. Use this function to write polyphonic music easily. This feature will not activate in any measure where voice 1 is used but voice 2 is missing.
    • You can always override and set each note's stem direction directly using Stem direction property under Chord section in Inspector, or press X.
    • If you do not want this function at all, use only voice 1 in each staff whenever you can.
    • Beginner's error: for a Close/Closed score SATB, beginners often use voice 1 for B (bass), this will not activate the automatic stem direction function, jump to tips

    Automatic rests

    Rests are automatically added to voices of lower number if they contains no notes. Avoid this by using lowest voice number possible in each staff whenever you can.

    Beginner's error: for a Close/Closed score SATB, beginners often use voice 3 for T (tenor) or voice 4 for B (bass), this will create unwanted rest symbols. jump to tips

    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.

    A voice 1 rest can only be deleted by removing that part of the measure from the score as well: see Remove selected range; or Delete measure(s).

    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:

    1. Select one or more continuous measures (or a range of notes);
    2. From the Menu bar, select ToolsVoices;
    3. 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):

    1. Ensure you are not in note input mode.
    2. Select one or more noteheads (in any voice).
    3. 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.

    To select a note in a higher-numbered voice than the current one:

    1. Use Alt + , to move the selection to the bottommost note in the current voice;
    2. Press Alt + , to move to the higher-numbered voice;
    3. Repeat any of the above steps, as necessary, until the desired note is selected.

    To select a note in a lower-numbered voice than the current one:

    1. Use Alt + , to move the selection to the topmost note in the current voice;
    2. Press Alt + , to move to the lower-numbered voice.
    3. Repeat any of the above steps, as necessary, until the desired note is selected.

    See also

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