Transpose playback but not appearance of existing score

• Sep 18, 2019 - 17:44

Hello. Here's my situation. I've been given a score and I want to play along on my guitar, which happens at the moment to be tuned a half step higher than concert. While I read the score as written I want it to play back a semitone higher. (And let's say I'd rather not retune the instrument.)
I go to staff properties, and I try adjusting the transposition manually at the bottom of the dialogue, but this changes the appearance of the score: yes, it makes the playback sound higher than written, but it defaults to changing the written score and keeping the pitch, rather than changing the pitch and keeping the written score.
The current functionality is useful if I'm entering a new score for my instrument, but what if I just want to hear the current score at a different pitch without changing its appearance?
Thank you.


Nothing wrong that the concert pitches are kept.
Use the following method: adjust the transposition like you said, if you're originally on C major and the first note is D, you now see a B major key signature and a D-flat note, right? Then make the key signature C major again by dragging a D-flat major key signature to the staff (5 sharps + 5 flats = natural), and lift the note using the Up button on the keyboard by one semitone. You now get the exact same score, but with the requested playback ;-)

In reply to by Howard-C

So I need to transpose both pitch and visual first, and then I can change the visual while keeping the (new) pitch unchanged? It has to be a two-step process? I was hoping for a simple "change playback pitch without changing visual" function.

In reply to by Robert41

You can change the master tuning of the synth in View / Synthesizer, that's probably the best fit for your unusual situation. The transposition feature is intended for a totally different purpose: changing the written music for the sake of instruments like clarinets and trumpets that require it. Still, it's not that hard to handle your special case also. MuseScore assumes the score you are given is already sounding correct, so simply use Notes / Transpose to make it sound correct. Then the instrument/staff transposition does what you need it to. Takes only a few seconds.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

View/Synthesizer might work, but is there a way to retune by steps rather than frequency? That would be useful.
And if I have a number of scores open, would it affect them all or can each have its own tuning?

I'm not sure my situation is all that unusual, at least for guitarists, especially if we consider the use of a capo. If I have a score written in C, and to suit my voice I decide to take it up to E, I put a capo on the 4th fret and can keep reading the same score and using the same fingering. To play along with the score, I would like to put a notional "capo" on the playback as well, so while my fingerings and the score look like they're still in C, both my guitar and the playback are producing sounds in E. Guitarists do this all the time.
(And it's not at all unusual for guitarists to tune down a half step. Yes, I can put on a capo to play along with a score, but there should be an option to do it the other way around: have the playback sound like me.)
This is something my old notation software did quite easily: staff properties > midi > transpose (in steps). This changed playback without affecting the visual score.
I suppose retuning the synth is closest to this, though it would be more user friendly it gave the options to retune in steps. (Maybe others know intuitively what to change 440 to in order to bring a score up from C to E, but I don't.)

In reply to by Robert41

Capos aren't unusual, no. But what you are describing is not the usual capo use case. The norm isn't for someone to have a solo classical guitar piece then wonder what it would sound like played capo 4. Capos are more commonly used in conjunction with playing in an ensemble - either with a singer or other instrumentalists - so you do need the music to be in the right key. You mention your voice - well, you do normally want the vice part to actually display transposed. Also any piano part etc. So this is the usual use case - you transpose the whole score so the voice and other instruments are where they need to be, then you set the capo and/or transposition for the guitar part. And in fact, you can try different settings, so if it turns out to work better to play in D at capo 2 than in C at capo 4, this is easy to do also.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I have exactly the same need, playing scores with accordions with different tune (much like a capo) and need to adjust the sound MuseScore plays without touching the written notes.
When I asked how to, you had also explained that my need was "unusual" and since that I have been using the two steps process.
First change in staff properties the way score is played, and unfortunately the written notes are changed in that step. Then transpose to reset the written score as it was.
I really think that in the first change, when you ask MuseScore to play MuseScore some steps higher/lower we should at least have the possibility to keep the written notes as they are.
Or, probably better and more coherent, leave staff properties as they are, and add a step modifier in the play panel itself. Exactly as we can locally and for the play only already change the tempo in the play panel. Without affecting the score itself at all. Just for this specific play, play with:
-a higher/lower tempo - already possible
-a higher/lower volume - already possible
-a higher/lower pitch - the missing option!

In reply to by frfancha

"Unusual" doesn't mean "non-existent". Compared to the normal use case - which comes up for each and every score ever written that involves transposing instruments like clarinets or trumpets (also saxophones, horns, and others), it is much less common. That's all I'm saying

But just because a use case is less common doesn't mean it isn't worth supporiting. We have a process that works right now, takes about 15 seconds, done once per score. If someone feels the incentive to spend the time necessary to implement a new facility to shave a few seconds off off that, they are welcome to - MuseScore is open source software.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

<< done once per score >>
No Marc, that's what you don't get, it is not at all done once by score, it is done every time you change the tune of the instrument with which you play the score, often in my case.
And it "destroys" the score contrary to a change of tempo in play panel which doesn't "destroy" the original tempo.
So either that's the only change you did and can close the score without saving, either while playing you get some fine tuning (pun intended) to do to the score and you adjust fingerings or text, ... and you must revert your "step change" before saving the score.

In reply to by frfancha

OK, fine, so once per tuning change on a score. Might be often for you, but looked at across all users, all scores - it's a tiny percentage of the overall uses of the transposition feature.

So again, if someone who finds saving those few seconds to be important feels like implementing a new feature for this, I'm sure that subset of users who do this often as you do will appreciate it.

In reply to by frfancha

Actually, they are applied on each and every playback as well. But that distinction is irrelevant. My point is, the current meaning of these settings works perfectly for the intended use case, thousands of users rely on this behavior thousands of times a day. The exact details of which exact thousands of times a day they rely on it isn't really important.

Again, if someone who has a great idea for a new feature that will benefit them and perhaps a subset of other users wants to contribute their programming talents to making it happen, they are welcome to.

In reply to by frfancha

Yes! This ability to make changes to all playback parameters in one place makes a lot of sense to me.

-a higher/lower tempo - already possible
-a higher/lower volume - already possible
-a higher/lower pitch - the missing option!

(I'm quoting frfancha -- how does one quote in this forum?)

In reply to by underquark

But what about six five semitones higher? Or three semitones lower? An option to change in steps would be helpful.

And I see there's also an option to use Inspector > Notes > Tuning, but here you can only change in cents, and the upper limit is 200 cents, so for anything beyond a whole tone, you're stuck.

I have the same issue. E.g. I want the guitar part to be transposed to A, but capo to play as in G.
In other words, the guitar should be treated like a transposing instrument similar to the clarinet.

I would be nice if the MuseScore interface easily supported this feature, but the comments in this thread imply that it doesn’t.

To work around this limitation I created a custom capoedGuitar instrument with a transposeChromatic attribute (like the clarinet).

This allows me to arrange the guitar part in G, but MuseScore will play it back in the key of A.

Creating the custom instrument isn’t that hard -- I use this feature a lot for altered tunings – but you do need to edit XML. Fortunately you can simply cut and paste from the default MuseScore instruments.xml file into your custom XML file.

I have attached an example custom instruments XML file with the guitar part capoed up two frets. Simply load that into the MuseScore preferences to try it.

Also attached is a too detailed explanation of how to create custom instruments, define the string tuning, and transpose the key.

In reply to by mrbbolt

Unless I'm misunderstanding something, you shouldn't need a custom instrument for that, just go to staff properties and set the transposition there. You just need to do that before entering the notes, if you intend to enter the notes at written rather than sounding pitch. But that's true of defining a custom instrument too.

In reply to by mrbbolt

I gave this some more thought. While the MuseScore implementation makes sense once I understood it, I found the implementation of the pitch transposition confusing.

I expected the result to leave my notation the same, but adjust the pitches. Instead MuseScore left the pitches the same, but shifted my score relative to my original pitches.

So, yes this transpose feature works. But then score must be adjusted to reflect the correct arrangement.
E.g. for a guitar part arranged in G that should playback in the fiddle's key of A, MuseScore would shift the notation down to the key of F. -- That would be a bit confusing.

To render the part in G the key signature for A must be selected since the part is actually in A, but it should look like G.

Then I need to select all the notes in the part -- Ctrl+A -- and shift them up a whole step.

Thanks, Marc, for providing instructions for changing the score’s concert pitch. I found those instructions very helpful. Musescore even saves the tuning to the score so it remembers the setting. Unfortunately, I don’t think Musescore automatically applies the tuning when it loads the score. I believe it needs to be reloaded from the Synthesizer page. (Maybe Musescore should default to the saved tuning when opening a score. That might be a nice feature.)

I also encounter this situation quite a bit since I play in altered tunings; however, I don’t need to change the concert pitch of the entire score since that would affect the music I print out for rest of the ensemble. Here’s how I deal with the situation.

Scenario: I’m arranging a piece. but I have not worked out the best key yet.

In this scenario I have an arrangement, but I want to try it in different keys. The fingerings in the arrangement need to stay as they are, but I need to adjust the pitch. This means that all the notation needs to remain fixed while I change the actual playback key.

I don’t like practicing along with MuseScore. It just doesn’t seem like the right tool for that. (That’s just me. I haven’t really thought to force it into compliance.)

Instead I use the export feature to save the song as MP3 or MIDI, and I port into another tool specifically designed for practicing. (E.g. Transcribe! from Or I port it into my DAW for recording.
These other platforms work great for changing the frequency or tempo of the piece. They have better looping features, and they allow me to record along with the arrangement, etc. I read the Musescore notation as normal, but I play along with the exported audio. (The only thing missing is note high-lighting during playback. Is that important?)

Once I have worked out the key, I use Musescore for notating the arrangement.

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