[solved] Why so many scores with poorly adjusted sound levels?

• May 28, 2022 - 15:05

I wonder why do we have so many scores uploaded to musescore.com that have poorly adjusted sound levels?

Take for example this piece:


My immediate impression, when I had first listened to it, was that some instruments in it were way too loud at some spots. Then I suggested that that was exactly what the author had intended.

But then I noticed that he also provided there a link to an audio file of the same piece:


When I listened to that file I realized that my original guess was absolutely correct – all the instruments in that audio file sound much softer then on the score playback on Musescore.

And that was not the first time when I had bumped into such cases.

I have some of my personal guesses here:

1) No matter how diligently you fine tune the instruments on the mixer while creating the score on your Musescore on your computer, all the set levels will be gone after you have uploaded your score to musescore.com ;

2) No matter how diligently you set up the dynamics notations on your score, they will still not be played properly on musescore.com (for some technical reasons, for example, the version change). So there is no need to bother;

3) Usually, it is solely at the director's discretion what amount of loudness to give to this or that instrument, so authors just trust the taste of any director who will hopefully one day pick up that author's score to play;

4) (similar to point 3) While meticulously specified dynamics will work well for the playback on Musescore (on your PC or on the website), that will look a bit ridiculous on paper and, perhaps, even frightening for a living conductor who is not a score playing-back machine. So it is more practical just to keep the written score as "clean" and "conductor-friendly" as possible;

5) (similar to point 4) It is a good practice, besides sharing the score, to also provide a link to an audio file showing exactly how the author wants that score to be played (like in the example above), in which case there is again not much of a need to bother properly specifying dynamics on the score;

6) None of the above? Any other possible reason then?


As is usually the case with any websites that present music from multiple source, the audio is normalized on upload, so things are roughly the same volume. That can indeed mean they sound different than the raw unnormalzie audio on your computer before uploading. This is completely normal and desirable - otherwise people listening online would have to constantly adjust the volume of their speakers from piece to piece while listening. Same story as music for the radio etc - it's virtually always normalized to the same nominal max volume level.

But this normalization doesn't change the *relative" volume of instruments or passages. it just makes sure the overall volume fits the usual standards for digital audio levels. if you're seeing some specific score where you believe there is a sp[ecific problem with a specific instrument or specific passage, best to call attention to that. I see you've posted a score - is there are particular note you believe is too loud or to too soft relative to the others? or do you just prefer to listen to this with your speaker turned down lower?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"is there are particular note you believe is too loud or to too soft relative to the others?"

– Yes. Absolutely. You just look at how awfully loud the euphonium sounds in the fifth and the eighth measures. If you listen to the audio file, you will see that it, perhaps, does sound that loud in the fourth and the seventh measures, but the volume definitely declines in the following respective measures. I don't know, maybe it is just natural for any brass musician to gradually soften a long note, but the machine (software) doesn't do that by default.

Besides, look at how loud the bass clarinet sounds (or, maybe it's the contrabass - I am not sure) throughout the whole piece. It is definitely softer in the audio.

Other instruments seem to be fine.

In reply to by innerthought

The audio file appears to have been made completely differently - perhaps using a DAW. But is definitely isn’t just a playback of MuseScore with the default soundfont. So yes, there are differences between that unrelated audio file and the default playback within MuseScore. But the default playback within MuseScore and the playback on MuseScore.com when using the default soundfont should be identical.

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