Basic playback functions are accessed from the Play toolbar at the top right of the program window:
From left to right, the icons are:
To the right of the playback controls are counters showing
This panel can also be undocked giving you access to additional controls—see play position and tempo, (below). To redock the Playback Panel: click and hold down the "6 dots", then drag the Playback Panel to the top right of the MuseScore screen and release.
Notes: (1) If no selection is made before activating Play, playback returns to the place it stopped at previously; or, if no previous playback, to the start of the score. (2) The Play button changes to a "stop" icon while music is playing.
To rewind playback click on the Rewind icon on the Play toolbar. Rewind returns the playback to the beginning of the score or, if a loop is set, to the beginning of the loop.
To loop playback over a section of music:
In the example below, playback will cycle over the selected two bars of Violin 2 and Viola, the region marked by the blue flags. Use the "Loop playback" button to toggle the loop on or off.
If you want to hear a metronome tick during the performance, click on the metronome button. Click again to turn it off.
The current playback position is shown by counters to the right of the playback controls. One shows the position in terms of time elapsed, the other in measures and beats (see image in overview).
The numbers in the time and measure counters can be edited after clicking on them; playback will be resumed from the edited position.
When the Play toolbar is undocked from the toolbar area, it automatically expands to include two slider controls. By dragging the sliders you can adjust the playback position and tempo of playback. Note that tempo overrides are only temporary, and do not affect the actual written tempo(s); returning the slider to "100%" restores normal playback.
In the following example the position of playback is about one third of the way through the score, and the playback tempo slider is set to 78 quarter note beats per minute (bpm); or 130% of the nominal metronome mark, 60 bpm, displayed in the score.
Click the settings button (cogged gear) on the Play toolbar to show the following controls:
You can uncheck or check these options as desired.
Enable MIDI input to write music to your score with a linked MIDI device (such as a keyboard or drum machine) during playback. See Working with Midi for details.
Uncheck this option if you want playback to ignore any repeat indications in the score.
Uncheck this option if you want playback to ignore chord symbols in the score.
When checked, this option pans the score during playback; uncheck if you want the view to remain stationary.
The mixer allows you to
adjust volume and panning, and make other adjustments to the playback for each stave.
The mixer is divided into a number of color-coded channel strips:
You can display/hide the mixer by:
Note: If the instrument channel strips are not in the same order as the instruments in the score, try closing and reopening the Mixer again.
A channel strip contains the following controls (from top to bottom):
Click the three dot icon in the upper right corner of the Mixer panel to show / hide a control. For example, you can hide the Volume faders to save up vertical screen space for score viewing.
To change the instrument of a channel:
Note: This changes the staff instrument, but has no effect on staff notation. If you want the staff to be updated as well, say, with correct transposition and clef changes, see Choose instruments.
MS4 does not yet support bank selection of sounds from a single SoundFont file (as MS3 did). This is planned for a future version, but for now, use the workaround detailed in SoundFonts.
SFZ files are supported but only by using a VST sampler; see SoundFonts.
This deactivates the plugin without removing it from the mixer.
Muse Reverb is MuseScore’s native reverb unit. A fixed amount of reverb is added by default to each instrument—you can adjust the amount for each channel using the Aux send knobs next to the blue buttons labelled "Reverb". The effect can be toggled on/off for each channel by clicking on the same buttons. You can also adjust the Muse Reverb output volume using the Aux 1 fader.
Each row (slot) under the Aux sends adjusts how much of a corresponding Aux channel effect(s) is added to the audio created for an instrument.
There are two Aux sends, corresponding to the two aux channels:
Aux channels are special channels to simplify audio FX application. You can set up audio FX(s) in one Aux channel and then apply them to multiple instruments.
There are up to two Aux channels in each score:
By default, aux channels are hidden. To show/hide a aux channel:
The process is the same as adding Audio FX(s) to an instrument channel, see To add an Audio FX.
If there is only one Audio FXin an Aux Channel, the channel strip and its corresponding aux send are labelled by the name of the Audio FX. If there is more than one, they are labelled Aux 1 and Aux 2. You may need to save and reopen the score to see the labels update.
Aux channel strips have volume faders. This changes the volume of the effect across all channel strips with the corresponding aux send turned on. Think of this as setting the maximum volume of the effect(s) that an instrument channel can receive.
To adjust how much effect of an Aux channel come through on each instrument, use the knob in the corresponding Aux sends row (slot) on that instrument channel strip, see Aux Sends.
MuseScore uses virtual instruments to create audio for playback. SoundFont files (.sf2, .sf3) are one of the supported formats . An sf2 or sf3 file contains all the audio data for one or more virtual instruments.
MuseScore comes packaged with its own native SoundFont, MS Basic, which contains most of the instrument sounds you need for score playback.
You can also add and use custom SoundFonts—many are available free online. See also the list in SoundFonts and SFZ files (MS3 handbook).
Once you’ve downloaded a SoundFont to your computer, there are two ways to install a SoundFont in MuseScore 4:
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By default, MuseScore looks for SoundFonts at the location [MuseScore4 Installation Folder]\SoundFonts. So, by OS, the default locations are as follows:
You can also specify in which folder(s) on your computer MuseScore looks to find SoundFonts. If a SoundFont is installed in a recognized folder/directory, it will automatically be available in MuseScore.
First, specify the SoundFont directory in MuseScore 4:
Once a SoundFont is installed, all you’ll need to do is choose the SoundFont you want for each instrument in your score. To do this:
Repeat this process for each instrument. In most cases, MuseScore will automatically map instruments to their correct sounds in the specified SoundFont, as long as that SoundFont is using the correct MIDI instrument definitions.
To uninstall a SoundFont, simply open the folder where its file is installed and delete it.
When you select a SoundFont for a given instrument, MuseScore uses the General MIDI standard to automatically select the corresponding sound from within the SoundFont. However, this may not always be sufficient. The SoundFont in question might not be GM-compatible, or there might be multiple variants of a sound you wish to choose between, like fingered versus picked for electric bass.
When you select a SoundFont with only a single sound or only a single drum kit, MuseScore will use that. But for SoundFonts that represent collections of sounds, manual selection of individual sounds within a given SoundFont is currently not supported (as of Musescore 4.0). Therefore, if you need to select a sound for an instrument other than the one specified by General MIDI, you will need to employ a workaround:
You can use this special version of MS Basic that provides all of the individual sounds and drum kits as separate soundfont files.
Users of MuseScore 3.6 and earlier may be accustomed to using the Zerberus player, which supports the .sfz file format. In building a new system that now supports VST instruments, changes were required that necessitated the removal of the Zerberus player, as well as the Synthesizer found in previous versions of MuseScore. Consequently, some functionality has been lost in this process, including the ability to map specific instrument sounds like pizzicato and tremolo to specific MIDI channels. Our highest priority in future releases of MuseScore 4 is to again support this functionality for VST, SoundFont and the Muse Sounds libraries. Users who rely extensively on mapping .sfz sounds to specific performance directions are advised to continue using earlier versions of MuseScore until we re-enable this capability in MuseScore 4. It is worth mentioning that the new systems we are planning will be much more flexible, easy to use and powerful than those found in MuseScore 3.
For those who wish to still use SFZ sounds in MuseScore 4, good alternatives would be the open source VST samplers, Sfizz (Windows, Mac & Linux) or Sforzando (Windows & Mac), both of which support SFZ playback.
Alternatives to soundfonts:
Muse Sounds is a library of sophisticated plugins that provide realistic playback for MuseScore.
Muse Sounds are installed using the Muse Hub application, which can be downloaded here on musescore.org.
Once installed, Muse Hub can be opened by clicking the application icon in the menu bar (macOS) or system tray (Windows). Click Get under any sound you’d like to have in your library, and it will begin downloading and installing right away.
Muse Hub also contains a range of effects plugins. Download and install these from the Effects tab.
Once a plugin is fully downloaded, it will appear in the Mixer the next time you launch MuseScore.
Any Muse Sounds plugins you’ve downloaded will be automatically assigned to the appropriate instruments in your score.
You can tell MuseScore to always use available Muse Sounds plugins via the Playback Setup dialog.
The Muse Sounds playback profile will ensure that all Muse Sounds plugins will be assigned to every available instrument in your score. You can also manually assign a Muse Sounds plugin to a single instrument via the Mixer. This can be helpful for scores with more than one instrument, where you may wish to combine Muse Sounds plugins with other VSTs or Soundfonts.
Muse Sounds currently supports the following instruments:
Any instruments not supported by Muse Sounds will remain assigned to MS Basic by default.
This page shows you how to apply Capo markings in MuseScore versions prior to MuseScore 4.1. See Applying capos for the new method of applying capos in MuseScore 4.1 and above.
MuseScore allows you to transpose the playback of a staff without changing the music notation (written pitch). This simulates the effect of a capo on a guitar (or other stringed instrument).
Use one of the following:
Note: Any capo playback settings apply until overridden by a subsequent Staff text with “Capo Settings” enabled.
Music in “straight” time is performed strictly as written in the score. By contrast, music in swing time interpets straight eigth and sixteenth notes as triplet pairs, with the first of the pair being roughly twice as long as the second. This gives the rhythm a characteristic bouncy feel—often asssociated with Jazz music. e.g.
Rather than notate swung music exactly as performed, it is accepted convention to write it in straight time and simply provide the written indications “Swing and “Straight” at appropriate points in the score.
Swing markings have a playback effect on the score. The default swing ratio is 60% (3:2) but you can vary this to suit the feel of the piece if required.
Alternatively, you can drag and drop the Swing text from the palette onto the note or rest in question.
You can, if desired, add a visual swing marking as well.
Note that the above markings are a form of System text and therefore the playback effect is applied to all staves in the system. If you want swing to apply to only one staff you can use Staff text instead: see below.
In the Swing settings tab edit the “Swing” and “Swing ratio” as required.
Note: Swing settings are found in both system and staff text.
If you want swing to apply to only one staff in the system, use staff text instead:
This section needs to be organized / written by someone with an understanding of how to use MIDI input/output in MuseScore 4. If JACK is still supported, it could be discussed here too, or in a new page.
Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is an audio plug-in software interface licensed under Steinberg that integrates software synthesizers and effects units into digital audio workstations. Most VST plugins are either instruments (VSTi) or effects (VSTfx); VSTi includes software simulation emulations of well-known hardware synthesizers and samplers.
In MuseScore 4, any compatible VST plugins installed on a Windows or MacOS computer will automatically be made available in the Mixer, where you can easily configure playback settings for all instruments in a score. Note that Linux is not yet supported (but see Linux VST3).
After installing new VSTs on your computer, you may to restart Musescore 4 to make them visible in the mixer. If this doesn't work, you can force a re-scan of VSTs by deleting previous cache settings before restarting. On Windows 10 the relevant file can be found at
C:\Users\ [your user] \AppData\Local\MuseScore\MuseScore4\known_audio_plugins.json
MuseScore 4 directly supports VST3 plugins only (not VST1 or VST2) because of licensing restrictions. If you are using VST1 or VST2, see How to use older, non-VST3 plugins in MuseScore 4.
Note: Sound settings in the Mixer are saved with the score, but not to the program.
Alternatives to VST instruments: