Changing the key signature without changing any notes

• Mar 1, 2019 - 03:57

New to Musescore.
I've written a score using the wrong key signature. I want to change the key signature ONLY and leave all the notes unchanged. I've been through the transpose section and key change section to no avail. No note needs to change as it appears on the score, only the key signature.

Is this possible?

Don't really want to re-input it all even it was my own mistake,



Don't transpose, just drag the correct key signature to the score and it will change. Keep in mind the concert pitch key is always applied, so if you are changing the key signature for a transposing instrument, you must drag the concert pitch key signature.

In reply to by spettafor

Well, yes, you said you didn't want the notes to change. You originally entered a Db's and Ab's, and changing the key signatures doesn't change that - they remain Db's and Ab. Sounds like you are actually saying you do want the notes to change - from Db to D, and from Ab to A. That's fine, a number of ways to do that, probably the quickest is to press Ctrl+A to select all, then Alt+Shift+Up to transpose everything up a step, then Alt+Shift+Down to transpose it back down. In the process this loses the accidentals, because that command is for a "diatonic" transposition.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

And if I entered everything thinking the key signature was there but it isn't? For example, I entered a whole piece in D major but then realized there was no key signature. I added a key signature and so now all the Fs and Cs that were there are now marked as F natural and C natural. I don't want to move the whole thing up a half tone, nor do I want to go through and search for every F and C to change them. Is there a way to add a key signature without changing any written notes, i.e. the notes won't look different but will be played according to the key signature? I hope I'm being clear in my question..

In reply to by SprightlyCompanion

I think you make a "confusion" between transpose and key signature. The key signature never change the sound of a note. If you are in UT , in C with nothing at the key, and you enter 3 notes, C, E, G, you get the 3 notes without anything before, and they sound C, E, G. If you change the key signature for Db with 5 flats at the key, your 3 notes surely change in their appearance because the flats at the keys, the C don't change, but the E needs a natural sign before it, because the flats in the key signature, The G also needs a natural sign. BUT the sound of your 3 notes is exactly the same, it is always C.E.G. the Db don't change anything for the sound, it changes only the appearance.
If you have made a mistake in entering notes in D major (2 sharps at the key) in believing you were in C (nothing at the key) you have written all your F and C natural (for you) but they are F# and C# because the key with 2 sharps. Normaly you must have listened the difference in entering your notes.
If it is your mistake, now, with the good key , in C major, the F and the C are with a sharp before them, because that is what you have entered. You can change every of them in a simple clic, 1 for the F and 1 for the C : you select all your work, click right on a C, in the selection go until you can choose the pitch, select, all your C are selected, tape down arrow 1 time, they all become C. Do the same for the F

In reply to by Raymond Wicquart

Technically if you presented somebody with only a sheet music, the person would play/sing differently based on the key signature you present them. Musescore does change notes when you input different key signature. What it tries to preserve (not change) are the pitches.

In reply to by SprightlyCompanion

The general answer is, if you entered a whole bunch of F's (which you did), and you want to change them to F#'s (which you do), you can right-click one F, Select, More, Same pitch. Then hit the up arrow. Then you can repeat the same process to change all your C's to C#'s.

That's the general answer - it's also how you'd change all A's to Ab's, or all Db's to G's for that matter. Any search/replace type of operation.

But for correcting key signature errors, often an easier method is just to select all, hit Alt+Shift+Down, then Alt+Shift+Up (or vice versa). Or, right click one of the natural signs, Select / All Similar Elements, Delete. Either way you're basically making the piece totally diatonic - removing all the accidental. That may or may not be going too far, depending on how complex the music is and many other mistakes you made along the way.

In reply to by SprightlyCompanion

Hi Sprightly Companion,
I understand what you are asking and how you are thinking in term of "written" notes.
But no there is no way/option/setting to make MuseScore behave in term of written notes, only "true" notes. For the same reason it is (quite inconveniently) impossible to change the staff property "play interval" keeping the written notes as they are :-(
But no prob, just follow the advice of Marc and you will get what you need.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Indeed by doing two steps, both of which working in term of "real" notes you can achieve what could be done in one step working in term of "written" note.
Still to perform the correct two steps you need to switch your mind and to understand what's happening in term of "real" notes.
This is what I meant by "no way", but you're right, it can't be taken too literally luckily in MuseScore there is (almost) always a way.

In reply to by bsdp5zvfbj

Can you be more specific? If you have some sort of question about using MuseScore, best to attach your score and describe in detail what it is you are trying to do. I gather it has something to do with key signatures, but if the answers to various related and not-so-related questions here don't help, we need more information.

In reply to by mike320

This is incorrect, and I think you misread the question. If you apply a new key signature, it changes the notes in the signature to be what they were, not what they should be in the new signature.

For example, if you changed a C major piece to a G major piece, it'll change the unmarked F notes to F natural, instead of keeping them as unmarked F notes, implying they're F sharp.

In reply to by XrayFoxtrot

No, we’re not misreading the question. We’re pointing out that the question indicates a fundamental misunderstanding about how MuseScore works. If you originally entered an F natural, then that is what you entered, and MuseScore won’t change it unless you specifically ask it to. Adding a natural isn’t changing the note itself - it’s simply doing what’s necessary to keep the note from changing.

As explained quite a few times in this thread, if you want to change the note - from F natural to F sharp - you are more than welcome to do so, and we explained several ways to do that depending on the specifics of the situation.

If you need further assistance with changing the pitch of one or more notes in your score, just attach it and explain which notes you want to change the pitch of, and we’re happy to show you the specifics of how to do it for your particular case.

MuseScore assumes that you will set the correct Key Signature before you start entering notes. If you are in the key of Ab Major then every B, E, A and D that you enter will be automatically flattened. This saves you from having to manually flatten all those notes as you enter them. When you change the Key Signature the pitches of the notes do not change and so you WILL see lots of accidentals.

Can you attach your original score and tell us which Key Signature you would like to change it to? 1] You will get help sortig out your score and 2] It might be fairly easy (maybe using Transpose Diatonically + a bit of tweaking) so you will learn something and others will learn something.

I know exactly what you mean and I am having the same problem. I am doing a jazz chart, entered all the chords in correctly, then realized I didn't choose the correct signature at the beginning and now when I try to change it, all my chords are transposed. To be honest, I don't understand the responses to your question - except for the person who said they think there is no way to correct this situation. If that's correct, that is horrible! If anyone else understands this problem and knows of a solution, I'd be grateful as well.

In reply to by blally1969

Entering the wrong key signature is a mistake that cannot be automatically fixed. For example, you want your key signature to be Bb (2 flats) and you forgot to add the key signature. You now only want to change the pitch on all of the Bs and Es and leave everything else unchanged. Adding a key signature does not change the pitch of a note it only changes the key signature. Since you added E naturals and B naturals you will now see the natural accidentals on your score. You should have figured all of this out by now.

In this example, The easiest way to fix this is to right click a B natural, choose Select>More... then check the "Same Note Name:" box so clicking OK will select every B natural in the score. Press the down arrow to turn them into Bbs and all of the accidentals will go away. Repeat this for the E naturals.

This of course is for my specific example, you will need to evaluate which notes you need to change and press down arrow to change naturals to flats or sharps to naturals. You will need to press the up arrow to change flats to naturals or naturals to sharps.

Finally, you then need to make sure that you didn't want any of these notes to have accidentals since you adjusted every note with that name.

The bottom line is that some mistakes cannot easily be automatically fixed. People get frustrated with the program because it does what they say not what they want. There are always ways to fix mistakes and some are quite complicated (which this is not) and at times the easiest way to fix it is to delete what you have and start over. This would be the case if you entered 3 measures of the score but at some point the number of measures you enter make this process worth the effort. The user must decide when this point has been reached.

In reply to by mike320

No. That type of error could perfectly very easily be fixed if MuseScore would allow to add time signature and keeps the notes as they are written. Not as standard behaviour of add time signature of course but optionally.
That is part of the same set of frustration that comes when you see that you can't change how notes sound without transposing (I mean chaging staff properties and make all notes sound a intervalle up and keep notes as they are written).
And in that last case it can't even be called an error, that is a normal change when you play with a capo.

In reply to by frfancha

capo is not a mistake and works perfectly. Forgetting a key (not time) signature is a mistake. There are very legitimate reasons for not changing notes when a key signature is entered that are not mistakes. Your gripe about transposing instruments is just part of music so that's not changing.

In reply to by frfancha

MuseScore does not change any note if the time signature changes (except it may split notes across barlines, but tie them, so it does keep their duration.
But I guess you really meant key signature?
Anyway, MuseScore doesn't change any note if the key signature changes either, it just keeps the pitch.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Well, of course MuseScore changes the notes.
When you add a key or change the transposition interval in staff properties, MuseScore must change the notes, doing otherwise is just impossible.
Now the two ways to change the notes are:
A-keep same pitch and change written note
B-keep same written note and change pitch
MuseScore is only implementing A, so B is impossible.

I noticed this conversation is a reiteration of the 2015 thread. Some even coped and pasted their previous answers.
Apparently, people do make mistakes. Like I just did, restoring old scores after using PhotoScore, when some key can affect all the following scores. I guess user friendly software would allow users to fix their errors. But developers of unfriendly software many years later would argue that they would have to go through all notes in your score and change them according to the new key, and that too much work , and they don't want to do that. Let users fix their own mistakes.

In reply to by Adalbi Atskanov

It is perfectly possible to correct this error easily, as explained above. Not sure which specific suggestion you read and had trouble with, but if you want to change all B's to Bb's, for instance, just right-click one, Select / More / Same note name, then hit the down arrow to lower the pitch to Bb. Depending on the specifics of your particular situation, it might also be simple to select all then use Alt+Shift+Down followed by Alt+Shift+Up to effectively remove all accidentals. Or do that in sections. There are also particular circumstances in which the transposition options in Tools / Transpose might produce the desired result. It all depends on exactly what the error is and what needs correcting. Every case is different, but we friendly fellow users (and ins some cases, developers) are always happy to help. So if you continue to have difficulty, just attach your score and then we can understand and advise even better.

Sorry for necromancy, just gonna show a general way to do it:

Assume you want to transpose from keysig X to keysig Y (regardless if major/minor, but the modes should be equal).

1) Actually change the keysig.
2) Select all notes and use upward/downward arrow so the original note X becomes note Y (and all of the other notes change accordingly). This should clear all the new accidentals.
3) Select Transpose -> Transpose Diatonically and change it so note Y becomes note X (and all of the other notes are moved as well).

Example: From D to F#

1) Change the signature
2) Move all notes 4 steps up (D -> D# -> E -> F -> F#)
3) Transpose diatonically by a third downwards (F -> D).

In reply to by Fera Mrkus

This method doesn't seem to work well for me. If initially I have a lot of notes with accidentals, then after this procedure the new accidentals as well as old ones will disappear. For example, if initially in your example there was a note D natural, then after your procedure it will become D sharp, and everything will need to be checked manually anyway. Also you called it "a general way", but said "the modes should be equal", which is often not the case, as I had several times PhotoScore problems with Cmaj and Cmin.

In reply to by Fera Mrkus

To change pitches to be diatonic within a new key, use the diatonic pitch change commands. So, Alt+Shift+Up to transpose up a step diatonically, then Alt+Shift+Down to transpose back down. These same commands can be used to easily move between modes - for instance, with a three sharps key signature like A major, Alt+Shift+Up moves your melody to B dorian, and so forth.

Can I just point out that there are about 20 different threads all asking this same question and nearly all of the responses start with pedantry over exactly what is meant by changing a note or a key signature? The reason things like key signatures exist in the first place is so that composers can easily experiment with changes to their music without having to go through note by note and rewrite the entire score. Telling people they are wrong for wanting a useful feature or arguing with them over terminology while telling them the write way to make a simple change involves search/replacing every changed note in their piece is completely missing the point of what's being asked. It would still be very useful to be able to quickly modulate a key without having to go through and change a lot of individual notes, and no amount of arguing is going to change that. It's a simple change that MuseScore makes quite needlessly more complicated.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Honestly I could not come up with an unambiguous name for the "note" symbol on the sheet (as opposed to "pitch", which has rather fixed meaning - frequency ).

But if you do this on an actual paper sheet - change the key signature - then you do not do anything to the notes themselves obviously, just people who read it are going to perform them differently.

In reply to by joelcroteau

It isn't pedantry to point out that a misunderstanding over what is happening is why people are having trouble figuring out how to achieve the result. Once you understand that you do want to change the pitches, then it is more obvious that the various methods for changing pitch are the answer - which they are. I'm not sure what you mean about key signatures being a way to experiment with music - that isn't actually their purpose - but if you explain in more detail what you are trying to do, we're happy to show you exactly how to use the pitch-changing commands to achieve the result.

And indeed, some day an additional pitch-change feature to address this case might be added if there is sufficient interest. This doesn't actually come up all that often though, although the few times it does do tend to create long threads.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I assume someone created a score with the wrong key and copied the notes as they were written. This was noticed at the end and a new key was set.
But MuseScore keeps the pitch, so now notes appear with unwanted accidentals. For example, if Ebmaj was written in the key, but now Fmaj is desired, all A's will remain at Ab and all E's will remain at Eb with local accidentals.
I would then select all Ab (and Eb) (select - more - same note name) and move them up a semitone with the arrow key.

In reply to by joelcroteau

MuseScore assumes that you follow the rules of notation. That you know what a key signature is and what mode you are writing in. If you just start entering notes without knowing what you are doing and later what to change a major thing (like key signature), It may or may not be possible. Every discipline has concepts that must be followed in order to be successful. Music looks simple. But it is not. The idea that key signatures exist so that composers can experiment is frankly so very far off the mark. There is so much more.
I think the desire here is that software should be able to fix problems that shouldn't have happened to begin with. Even if it can, what has been learned. Nothing. If you don't know how to drive, you don't just jump in a car and get on the freeway. There are concepts that must be followed. Even a self driving car has to be monitored. And notation software is not self-driving.

Suggestion: people are using terms with different intended meaning. Let's define terms.

"note symbol" = the ink on a piece of paper or a particular set of pixels on an electronic screen; a particular dot or circle (with or without a stem and/or flag and/or accidental symbol #b ... there's no text way to type a natural symbol, is there?) on a particular position on a musical staff

"note pitch" = a particular frequency

... and, in case I need it ...

"note duration" = a length of time, expressed in terms of the tempo of the music

The term "note" is ambiguous; don't use it by itself!

In MuseScore, the computer stores a combination of note pitch and note duration rather than as a note symbol. With one key signature, these note pitches will be displayed in one particular set of note symbols. That is, with no sharps or flats in the key signature, a C will be displayed without accidental; an Eb will be display with accidental flat; a G# will be displayed with accidental sharp.

If you change the key signature, these note pitches do not change. Change from no flats/sharps to four flats and the C will still be displayed without an accidental; the Eb will now be displayed without an accidental; the G# will be displayed (depending on other settings) as either the G# (with the accidental) or as the enharmonic Ab, without an accidental.

Change from no flats/sharps to five sharps. The C still displays with no accidental; the Eb may be displayed as either of the enharmonic note symbols: either Eb with the accidental flat or D# with no accidental; the G# will be displayed with no accidental.

EVERYTHING in MuseScore follows these rules because of how the "notes" are stored as unambiguous "note pitches", not as "note symbols".

Using the Transpose tool works in a similar fashion, but Transpose explicitly changes note pitches. If you have our same starting point--no flats/sharps and C, Eb, G#--and you transpose to three sharps (A/F#m), the actual note pitches are changed to A, Cb, and E#. Depending on the other choices you set in the Transpose tool, these note pitches may be displayed with those note symbols or as the enharmonic A, B, and F.

If you've entered note pitches with the wrong time signature displayed, you have entered note pitches other than what you intended. For example, if you entered note symbols intending it to be in A major, but you forgot to set the key signature, then the note symbols you created intending them to be C#, F#, and G# are instead C, F, and G. In effect, you have entered the note symbols in C major/A minor. To fix this, ...

Transpose chromatically up to A major/F# minor.
Transpose diatonically down a 6th.

Alternatively, ...

Transpose chromatically down to A major/F#minor.
Transpose diatonically up a 3rd.

Either of these sequences will do what one poster wanted (I think?): change the note pitches entered without a key signature (C major/A minor) to the same note symbols/different note pitches with three sharps (A major/F# minor). As if they had simply written the note symbols on a page and written the key signature later.

I think that this is also what OP wanted to do, but they wanted a tool to do it in one step. Now, please note that I'm not among the developers! I do not and cannot speak for them.

That said, I believe that the developers feel that, at this point, it is a low-demand tool that has a VERY EASY way to do the same thing. I would expect that they have received relatively few complaints and that explaining how to do the task with existing tools (as I did above) has resolved most of them. Thus, my interpretation is that they feel that such a tool should be fairly low-priority task.

If you feel that this tool should be higher-priority, well, MuseScore is open-source. Write the tool as a Plugin and provide it to the community. Without knowing anything specific about the programming, I would expect the task should not be overly difficult to implement. It's just not high on the developers' priority list.

In reply to by HildeK

Okay, to avoid any ambiguity, and noting that I would really just like to compose some music without having to learn all of the internals of how MuseScore works, I have a piece in A major. I would like to change it to A minor, adjusting pitches of relevant notes so they maintain the same scale degree. There is not I don't think a simple way to do this. The transpose tool adjusts the root note, which I don't want. I can manually adjust each note in the same scale degree up or down in pitch, but that is time-consuming and error-prone. Selecting all notes and then adjusting up or down adjusts all notes up or down, keeping them at the same relative intervals, which is not what I want.

Now you can argue over whether the thing I want to do is a useful or common request, but I don't particularly care because it's what I want to do. And, judging by the number of other people who have asked for it, it's at least as common as using a line to indicate an arpeggio, so would be a useful feature to add. Changing keys in this way is pretty common when experimenting with harmonies in a composition, so please don't tell me I am wrong for wanting to do it, or say that the right way to do it is to go through each pitch in the scale, select all notes with that pitch and adjust them up or down. MuseScore has a lot of very useful features to add to ease of use for pretty much every other application, and the mere fact that so many pages of text have been written about this particular use case tells me that it would be useful for a great many no matter how much you want to argue to the contrary.

In reply to by joelcroteau

There absolutely is a simple way to do this, and it's been explained several times, including in this very thread, most recently by me a few hours ago in this comment here.

Again, the key is to use the diatonic pitch change options. Diatonic in this context meaning, within the key. That's what will force your notes to corresponding scale degrees within the new key, all at once - no need to select notes individually or anything of the sort.

So, exactly three keystrokes to accomplish the goal. Way fewer than the number of keystrokes expended in these discussions :-)

No one, BTW, is saying you are wrong to want to experiment in this way. There are lots of interesting experiments that are unique to every individual composer, and that's why MuseScore provides a wide range of commands that can be to allow a wide variety of types of experiments, even if it might sometimes require three keystrokes instead of just one.

In reply to by joelcroteau

In order to use a tool, you must understand of how it works. It's not necessary to "learn all of the internals of how MuseScore works", but it is necessary to have a basic understanding. It's not necessary to know how to forge a hammer in order to use one. But it IS necessary to understand that the flat end (not the side or the claw end) hits a nail (not a screw or bolt) in order to drive it through two pieces of wood to join them.

You want to change your music from A major to A minor. I believe that Marc Sabatella has described exactly how to do this several times. I described how to to exactly the opposite yesterday; it would be quite easy to figure out the reverse, but I'll describe exactly what you want here, in great detail.

See the attached screenshots of each step:

The tune begins in the key of A (three sharps). Root note is A. Select the entire piece with Ctrl+A.

Click Tools / Transpose.
Select Transpose chromatically / To key / Up / C major; check the box to Transpose key signatures. Click OK.

The resulting music has the key signature of C major/A minor. Root note is C. Once again, select the entire piece with Ctrl+A.

Click Tools / Transpose.
This time click to Transpose diatonically / Down / Third. Check the box to Keep degree alterations. Click OK.

The new music has the key signature of A minor/C major (same as before!). Root note is A. Inspect the note symbols and they are IDENTICAL to what you started with, even though the actual pitches are different.

Two actions (considering completing a form as "one action") consisting of eight to eleven actual mouse clicks (if I've counted correctly) since the settings I've described are mostly the default settings on that form. I'm not sure, but I believe that the two Ctrl+A actions may be unnecessary if you have the first measure selected to begin with?

VERY IMPORTANT!!! Be sure that the first transposition is "chromatically" and the second is "diatonically".

On inspection of the two other threads that I was able to find, "the mere fact that so many pages of text have been written about this particular use case" tells ME that a very small handful of people have started from a basic misunderstanding of how MS works and have repeatedly insisted that it (MS) works wrong instead of simply finding out how to make it work. I'm afraid that comparing changing modes to adding an arpeggio is not a matter of comparing apples to oranges, but comparing apples to starships.

No matter what you think, "Changing keys in this way" is extremely uncommon "when experimenting with harmonies in a composition". Nonetheless, no one (except you) has suggested you are "wrong for wanting to do it". Instead we have told you SEVERAL methods (at least two and possibly three?) for doing what you want, some easier, some harder.

Attachment Size
1 - in A major.JPG 68.06 KB
2 - 1st transpose.JPG 39.06 KB
3 - in C major.JPG 63.16 KB
4 - 2nd transpose.JPG 38.91 KB
5 - in A minor.JPG 65.69 KB

In reply to by joelcroteau

" I would really just like to compose some music without having to learn all of the internals of how MuseScore works, "
It's not how MuseScore works. It's how the rules of music work. Sorry, but none of us get to do whatever we want. I don't know where you got the idea that changing keys is a way to experiment with harmonies. Major an minor are two different things. So you got through a piece in major, and now you want it in minor. You have been given ways to do that. But I have to wonder at what point did minor seem like a good idea. Surly well before the end.
Say you write a poem in iambic pentameter. But after you finish you decide you want to change from iambic to trochee instead. Things have to be rewritten.

I did it! :) Just change the main key (Red on pic) and than change key of the first note in line (Green on pic). Than select notes (Second) ke and clikc V button on the clavier for make it invisible. Ta-Ta... :)) It is grey and visible on Musescore but invisible on pdf files.

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1.jpg 49.35 KB

To get the desired result you need to transpose all the notes by the interval to get the required signature, and then move all the notes by the same number of intervals in the opposite direction. That is:
1. Calculate how many half-steps there are between an incorrect signature and the correct one. For example, between C and A there are three half steps down. So, select all the notes and transpose by the interval down selecting the minor third. All notes will move down three half steps.
2. Move all the notes up with arrow up key by the required number of half steps (in my example - 3).
It doesn't look very complicated. You just need to count the intervals correctly.

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