Musescore 4 design and concept proposal

• Mar 31, 2020 - 14:34

Basic idea
In everyday life, composing and writing music goes something like this:
1.finding ideas (often on the instrument - mostly on the piano)
2. specify instruments/singer
3. write down and record the idea
4. design and print out sheet music and give it to the musicians/singers
5. play/singing together and adjust tempo and volume here and there if necessary
I would like to see Musescore in that order. In the software, steps 3 and 4 would have to be swapped, because giving out notes is the last step on the PC and I want to listen to my voices before.

So Musescore 4 could introduce "modes" ("Modus").
1. Instruments
2. notation (Notate with/without piano)
3. style & layout
4. playback
5. printing, saving and sharing

Note: Since the inspector has been/is already redesigned, I will leave it out of consideration in the further course of this article!

Musescore Window
The goal is to provide the most space for ScoreView in the modes where it is necessary. For this purpose, the Explorer bar at the top could be redesigned and eliminated.
The explorer bar is hidden in a menu that opens when you click or mouse over the Musescore icon. Next to it, also in the window bar, is a selection menu for the modes (Mode).

Both could open something like this:

Notation Modus (Standard)
All pannels can be either pinned or unpinned at the top (icon on the right). Pinned pannels would be hidden when leaving the panel. They will reappear when the mouse is moved upwards in the correct position. Scoreview could either be behind the bar by default or would expand upward when the bars are hidden.

Selected Icons
All selected elements appear in "Musescore" blue, all others in white.

The palettes can still be accessed via icons in the left margin. The palette itself opens by simply moving the mouse over the icon.
The dark background behind the palette could also be removed. I find it helpful to focus on the palette.
The palettes themselves have 5 icons below. (1.Open 2.Save 3.Edit 4. Reset 5.Preferences/Options). A palette in "Edit" mode could work something like this. Additional elements can be placed by drag&drop and superfluous elements can be removed by drag&drop on the red area. By clicking the Edit icon again, you leave the "Edit" mode again.

In addition, a "minimal" palette could also be displayed in Scoreview when a right click is performed. For example, if I'm typing dynamics (CTRL+E), the following palette might appear next to the mouse when right-clicking

The piano could look like this:

Notation Modus (Piano)
In Notation (Piano) mode, a simple idea is to dock the Notation bar on the piano to keep the way up and down smaller.


Instruments Modus
Tantacrul has made some nice suggestions in the Telegram Musescore design group, which I would love to see in Musescore. (Here only one picture integrated to my proposal)

Playback Modus
All settings concerning the playback should be visible here! Mixer, Master, Tempo, Effects, Soundfonts ...

Normally you don't change the playback options every 30 seconds and not at all while writing music. For this reason I don't think it is necessary to give ScoreView so much space. For clarity I clearly prefer a horizontal mixer: This way, volumes and other settings can always be viewed in relation to the other instruments. Foldable instruments that have to be selected first, I find very cumbersome, because I cannot remember the settings for every instrument, e.g. with 20 instruments. So it is difficult to adjust e.g. volume in relation to other instruments. The same applies to panning ...

There could be a horizontal mixer for clarity and a vertical mixer to still have more space for scoreview if others want it and need it for whatever reason.

If you insert an instrument group bracket in the staves, the instrument group would appear at the top of the mixer. The group could be locked and unlocked. In locked mode, all settings made on one instrument would also be applied "relatively" to the other instruments. For example, I increase the volume of an instrument by 5% - all instruments in the Strings group increase the volume by 5%.

To minimize the mixer, the buttons on the left side are there. So Midi, Sound, Pan and Volume could be faded in and out individually. Only "Volume" faded in could look like this:

Altogether then so:

The Vertical Mixer could take the place of the palettes in "playback mode".
The Vertical Mixer is very compressed and I think it could be extended...

Or then altogether like this:

The "Master Section" contains all other settings: Fluid, Cerberus, Compressor, Reverb, Dynamics, Tuning.

I have moved the tempo to the upper bar in "Playback Mode". Maybe it could also be displayed there independently of the mode. In the "Mixer Section" there are only 2 buttons "Load" and "Safe". If you click on them, the other options for "Load from Score" and "Load Default" or "Safe to Score" and "Set as Default" will open
In "playback mode" there is still a timeline missing (I think it would be helpful)

Style & Layout Modus
For the "Style & Layout" mode I don't have a finished suggestion yet, so I'll save myself further explanations for now.

Print, Save & Share Modus

The last step before the finished piece is printing, publishing and sharing.
On the left margin, there might be some printing options (highly developable and also necessary)

Also two buttons to save online and one button to publish on (Proposal also from Tantacrul).

In the dropdown fields you could choose either (as an example) "Save selected" or "Save all". You can see the number of pages of each voice in the overview and you can specify the number of copies.


Settings that affect the view (Panorama, One Page, 2-Pages) are located at the bottom of the status bar. You may also see additional information about items selected in ScoreView.


It is great to see the scoreview being maximized. However, what about the Inspector? It's a great deal for adjusting appearance (and also playback) along the way.

In reply to by Howard-C

Fact is, I have no Plan for the Inspector design, but I think it could be minimised too, yes. Collapsible it is already in one of the last PRs I think (when I understood right).

Maybe I can think about an Idea for the Inspector in the next days.

You seem to have spent a great amount of time on this, hopefuly at least some of your ideas will find their place in MuseScore

Erk… modes make things harder to use in general, think vi. This won’t help.

Also, consider my 1024x600 px EeePC on which I need to be able to use MuseScore (although I normally do it on an 1024x768 px ThinkPad) before doing any UI concept work.

In reply to by MaBlo

I don’t normally have the mixer (Mischpult) open, so that doesn’t count. I need it at best once, to set different patches to the instruments. I run the volume control (F11) only when I play back a piece. But I do normally work with either just the score visible, or one or both of palettes and inspector (usually just one), but the palettes expanded (I made my own workspace to reduce the amount of symbols to what I need), and it’s definitely much more than could fit on your LHS, and I’d hate to have to click more than one place to get at a symbol. I’d also hate to have the dynamics pop up in a separate window.

Also, who needs the piano, except in very rare cases or when teaching it? I can count the numbers of times I had it open on one hand still.

So, it’s more like this, in note input mode…


… or this, in “add dynamics, articulations, etc. and fix layout” mode:


I'd start by challenging your basic idea:

In everyday life, composing and writing music goes something like this:
1.finding ideas (often on the instrument - mostly on the piano)
2. specify instruments/singer
3. write down and record the idea
4. design and print out sheet music and give it to the musicians/singers
5. play/singing together and adjust tempo and volume here and there if necessary
I would like to see Musescore in that order. In the software, steps 3 and 4 would have to be swapped, because giving out notes is the last step on the PC and I want to listen to my voices before.

For me the order is either: 1, 3, 5, 2, 1, 3, 2, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4 for composing or 2, 4(,5) for transcribing. So forcing mode/workflows during that sounds hampering and restrictive. I'd be curious to find out how much this design would indeed feel like a hassle for switching between modes. If switching between them comes off easy (for example adding/changing instruments is now often only a single keypress away (I)) then it probably won't have that much of an effect in reality.

MuseScore Window
Giving as much room to the ScoreView as possible could make sense, but to me it often doesn't matter that much. I easily zoom between overview and point editing. When working with a piece I hardly every need to get a good overview of my score during editing it. What I do need then is an easy way to add the stuff I need with minimal interaction.
Where I do need the ScoreView is when reviewing what has been written, which is often done in combination with playback. So I do see a lot of value in some kind of more playback oriented viewport/mode, where editing is prohibited (always nice during practicing as well) and ScoreView is maximized.

Having the toolbar merged into the window decoration is something I'm almost allergic to. Hiding the basic menu behind a button is one of the biggest grievances I have with the current office suite. In addition I'm very hesitant to see how this plays out cross-platform and with different window managers.
Mac users expect that menu to be there in their system bar, for example.
If you want to save vertical space, then integrate the basic menu into the window decoration if you really have to; which is still somewhat supported on some systems and breaks less with how a normal application works; including how keyboard focus works.
I'd hate for your basic menu to pop up every time I press the Alt key, just to enable it to show the menu accessors (unless those are now all an extra step away as you now force me to first open the basic menu).
As an acceptable example, I refer to the Vivaldi implementation (where integrating this menu into the window decorator is a UI option):

This seems a logical step up from how they currently already work. Although here I'm curious as to how you see keyboard accessibility working here. Blind users can't drag-and-drop easily.

I like the minimized bar for the palettes, getting clear icons for each palette (and allowing us to select those for custom palettes as well) is extremely important here. I think you did a great job in the current proposal.

I think duplicating/integrating the notation toolbar with the piano makes a lot of sense.

Playback Mode
As briefly mentioned above, this term seems to mean something different to me. I would use a playback mode for practicing, as it should prevent me from editing the notation on the score. For that purpose I'd also find maximizing the ScoreView here is of the utmost importance!

Similarly I hardly ever touch the synthesizer settings after an initial setup, so easily hiding of those is a natural workflow to me.

A transport bar is a must, both as reference as well as a scrubbing tool.

The above being said, I do like the mixer design. When I'd open the mixer in playback mode I'd indeed start off with the full mixer, and then quickly switch to just the volume faders or hide it completely for the rest of the session.
One thing I'm entirely missing in many of these controls (and I get mimicking a real console, I really do) is absolute values/settings. Even my cheap PreSonus has the ability to copy over settings from one channel to another to ensure the volume faders or the panning settings are identical.

How can I set the same exact volume/reverb to multiple instruments? Is there somewhere I can type in a value?

What seems to be missing (or is less clear) in the current design are the sub-channels for an instrument. How are these handled?

I love the main overview for printing, allowing to select the number of copies of each part.

I'm unsure how many of the other printing options we can integrate. Again here, being cross-platform and having to deal with many different printer drivers, this is currently offloaded to the operating system print dialog. Unsure how feasible these options are.
(Color vs Black/White vs Grayscale could perhaps still be handled within MuseScore by changing the document sent through, other options likely less so).

I'm completely confused by the difference between Save Online and Publish. Also note that the current save online dialog is not part of the MuseScore software. It is a minimized browser showing the upload form.
I'd hate for MuseScore to have to push out updates simply because things at the sister platform have changed.

So far I don't see an added value for making this a "mode" over the current dialogs existing for these actions.

And a final concern is also uttered by mirabilos on the required resolution for some options. (The current 3.4.2 mixer is in that respect a complete failure compared to the previous one already, I think yours is a small improvement in that area). Especially being aware of the Windows scaling options which for many laptop users default to a 125/150% magnification which Qt/MuseScore currently has proven to not work well with.

In reply to by jeetee

Thanks for the detailed feedback. I think the Explorer menu behind a butto is very nice, but since I'm not a programmer/developer, I didn't think about other operating systems - expliziet MAC OS. I use Linux and Windows and thought It could be made so. But I would follow the suggestion and integrate the Explorer bar into the top of the bar.

Musescore Window
I think you have misunderstood how I mean the modes. I think a mixer could also be shown in notation mode e.g.
The "Playback" mode should be just a "page" where all the information about the playback is summarized.
Nevertheless the objections are justified and I think about it. Maybe it would be easy to switch between Palettes, Instruments, Layout & Style at the left margin, but I try to think about it and change the design towards that.

I think blind people could also remove elements from the palettes with DELETE on the keyboard and add new ones with "+" (in the palette edit sytel), but I am not a programmer.

As I meant "In "playback mode" there is still a timeline missing (I think it would be helpful)", there should be a "transport bar". I just used the wrong word. In further suggestions I will take this into account.

Exact values... Yes, I thought about that, but I left it out for visual reasons. I find the listed arguments sufficient to build in something in this direction.

The suggestions with Share online, Save and Publish I have taken from other proposals, because I thought there were different functions behind them.

In reply to by jeetee

"What seems to be missing (or is less clear) in the current design are the sub-channels for an instrument. How are these handled?"

What do you think about this design for sub-channels?
Is it necessary or rather useful to use a different panning for sub-channels? It's actually about the same instrument that is still "sitting" in the same place? What do you think?
The same question about the voices?
I've been hiding it in the sub-channel so far.
Mixer (Child Channel).png

I have reworked the mixer so far. Now fixed values could be entered. I'm not sure if this is too small on a 1024x768 screen. What do you think? Is it generally too small?

It might look like this:
Mixer Instruments (1).jpg
Groups, Midi and Sound disabled:
Mixer Instruments (2).jpg

And in Musescore on a 1024x600 screen
Musescore 4 (1).jpg
Musescore 4 (2).jpg

I have also reworked the master section to make it smaller. What do you think about it?
You can switch between compressor and reverb.
Mixer Master Section (Compressor).jpg
Mixer Master Section (Reverb).jpg

In reply to by Tantacrul

I would love to see the possibility of editing the colours of the keyboard at the bottom of the screen, personally.
Also could you see if the left bar could be opaque?
I would love to know what you think of the new icons and menu with the logo attached to them!
Hope to hear from you!

Seems Like a really well update/proposal, Will there be any more instruments and soundfonts added? I am a percussionist and I would appreciate a gong to sound like a gong, rather than a conga, going for mdl too, their sounds are too high pitched (snare's fine ig).

Ok so I am a new user and, admittedly, have not yet read the user's manual. I have tried Musescore before and gave it up because of how unintuitive it seemed to me. So, after having tried a number of other music notation software (Overture, Notion, ScoreCloud, Crescendo, Forte, Music Jotter), I came back to it because neither one of those programmes are suitable to my needs, even if some of those were a lot more intuitive. I mean, I should be able to find (and place in the beginning of the score!) a stave bracket without reading the user's manual, and the selection tool should be right there on the inspector bar. The function for adding new instruments should not be hidden under "edit", but in "tools", at least, if not on the inspector. And changing the name of the instrument (say, from Alto to Alto 2) should be possible when adding/selecting said instrument. So YES, I agree with the initial statement about how writing music should look like. The current Musescore does not look like that - and I've been reading and playing music since I was 7. I realise this is an open source software, and while I appreciate the effort of the person who initiated this thread, I think the only way to improve it is to rewrite the entire software from scratch. I personally see no change from the last time I tried it (before Tantacrul) to today's "post-Tantactul era", so I suppose most of his suggestions were not implemented. I have watched his video about this software and agreed with him. The workflow however is just as complicated now and I am just as frustrated as he was in the above-mentioned video. Oh, to be a software engineer instead of a musician!...
PS: Sorry I've hijacked the thread, it was just one of the most recent and so with more chances to be read.

In reply to by Sunny2019

I’m actually going to be posting about this on the forum later today. But to answer your question... yes... to an extent. I think are great ideas in all three apps but also other modern DAWs and visual editing apps too.

Not to mention older apps like Mosaic, Igor Engraver and evening SCORE.

In reply to by Tantacrul

But this all scares me. 3.3 already broke muscle memory to the effect of scaring me away from updating.

I’m not a Sibelius or Finale or whatever user. MuseScore 2 was the first notation software other than GW-BASIC’s PLAY command (using MML) I used, and to see it become less MuseScore is… concerning. Perfected workflows change, and all that ☹

In reply to by jraluca

We're quite far from the "post-Tantacrul" state of things.
Yes, many of his points have been addressed with the last couple releases as long as it didn't break compatibility and wasn't too big of a UI change.

Just this week, the codebase is being switched to allow for development of MuseScore 4; where a reworked UI is one of the main changes on the user end.
I also don't agree with some of your points, as I happened to discover them in another way.

stave brackets
I opened the palette and dragged a bracket onto the score to the stave where I wanted it. Done. Never had to think twice about that.
Please explain how you think this should be made more beginner friendly.

selection tool
What would that even be? Do you mean the selection filter? Or the not-being-in-note-edit-mode? Or the right-click drill down selection features (those I do agree should have a better a way of finding out)?

adding new instruments
That one I expected under Edit, or if not there under File. Or as a separate button perhaps. But never under tools. A tool is something you run and which automates some (configurable) functionality in pretty much every program I ever used. It is hardly ever something that changes the fundamentals of the content of the document you're working with.
So if I wanted to edit which instruments were part of the score, I indeed would go into the "edit" menu or into the "score" menu (closest match would thus be "file"). Having it under tools would make no sense to me at all.

Changing instrument names during adding them
Yes, this should be possible.
I believe the upcoming version will at the very least auto-number them if you add the same instrument multiple times.

So for me, as a user, that leaves only 1 out of 4 of your initial issues standing.
This is not to criticize your experience, it is merely to offer a different experience point of view. So yes, I'm curious as to your suggestions for improval. After all, this is open source software and you never know when a developer might actually pick up on one of your ideas...

It would be fantastic if you could make the piano color match boomwhacker colors. Or at least the possibility of editing the colors.

That's an amazing presentation! May I know how you made those designs? Perhaps my question is pointless if you made them with a Windows software: I am a Linux User.

In reply to by MaBlo

Great... If I learn how to handle it perhaps it could help me present my own ideas for Musescore... Right now I have some that just specifying with words seems enough. But if I have the time to learn it and use it frequently... Though what you made seems hard to create in figma... Or not?

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