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MuseScore - For the Traditional Musician

Sam Link
Oct 18, 2019


Software Name: MuseScore

Cost: Free under the General Public License

Available In-Library:MuseScore is available in the Columbia County Library Makerspace

Summary: This free music arrangement software is deceptively complex and powerful, with an active development community. If you can read music, you can compose in MuseScore.

Disclaimer: You need to know more than just how to read music to compose in MuseScore, but it’s a good starting point.

MuseScore is free software that gives you a sheet of music, to which you can add notes. You can then play back the music using MuseScore to see how it sounds. Then you can edit the music to make changes, play it back again, and continue until satisfied. You can then print your music, or export it as an audio file you can listen to and share with friends for clout points, because you wrote a song, unlike your band that never plays a gig, Harold.

But I digress.

There’s a wide range of instruments from which to choose, many preconfigured score sheet options (choral ensemble, jazz combo, wind orchestra, and more! Including rock band, Harold, so you don’t have an excuse anymore), and a wide range of user-made plug-ins to fill in what capabilities MuseScore does not provide, like interactive tempo changes during playback and export. The software receives regular updates, especially considering that it is open-source.

The only drawback is there is a decently high learning-curve to get the most out of the software (sorry, Harold), and as it’s dependent on knowing how to read music, it’s also dependent on a fair amount of existing knowledge of how composition works. There are shortcuts to automatically add chord parts and such, but if you don’t know what you need, then the shortcuts don’t do much good, and if you do know, then the shortcuts frequently don’t provide enough control. Other than that, the basic operation is fairly intuitive if you’re familiar with word processing or spreadsheet software – press the letter matching the name of the note to enter it in the score, manipulate it with arrow keys, use shift and control to modify behavior, rests and note lengths are dealt with like italics or bold in a word processor, and so on.

MuseScore is my main composition tool, alongside the online variation-on-the-theme NoteFlight. There are limitations, and it doesn’t exactly make the best music due to the limitations of the internal synthesizer, but it’s functional and pretty enough. Anyone can, with a little effort, write their own music using MuseScore.

Even you, Harold.