Why I still use MuseScore 3 for composing/transcribing/arranging

• Jan 7, 2023 - 22:09

After using MS4 for the gamut of composing, transcribing, playing and exporting, here is my current assessment of its usability for my needs. So much has been crowed about MS4's limited music production prowess that I don't need to repeat it in this critique, except to say that MS4 voices have many holes I'm sure that you are aware of and I am confident that you will concentrate on filling them in. However, I do not believe that music/sound production should be the sole focus, or even the primary focus of your immediate work. After several refinements through the years and with the addition of a few very versatile and important plug-ins, MS3 was a very useful music transcription tool with which I could experiment and compose original music of many parts up to orchestral size or transcribe simple jazz lead sheets with the speed and flexibility to get things done quickly and easily, - and format a very nice, printed and even audible output. MS4 no longer fulfills that need for music transcription software that was the original, primary goal of MuseScore. I have found that the most basic act of single note entry has become a time-consuming and awkward hassle, let alone trying to enter chords in one pass cleanly - which near impossible. (I am not willing to accept the criticism that my cpu's lack of a dozen cores is to blame for the latency. If you hope to create free software for the people of the world, you can’t play the Microsoft “glutware” game. The people of the world just can’t afford to upgrade their equipment that quickly. MS4 just has to be much, much more optimized, smaller and more efficient.) Here are a couple of items I think you should focus on immediately:
1.) Improve the ease of note entry. Bring it back to MS3 standards. Why can’t you de-couple the sophisticated sound production while performing note entry? Just use those complex systems when playing back what’s written? But while entering notes I should have absolutely no latency and I should be able to play polyphonic midi from my keyboard without note entry even active (it’s called composing), something I can no longer do in MS4. For that reason, MS3 is still my primary composition tool. (I sometimes use MS4 for sound production, but only after very carefully using separately named and isolated files for the purpose.)
2.) I find the new MS4 interface slightly improved, but bulky and less versatile for efficient screen use. I should be able to detach and move those tabs anywhere I like. (I use four screens.) I should also be able to size those windows down, too. They’re just too bulky.
3.) Plug-ins are very important to my music composition. I’m pleased to see mirror intervals, retrograde, and even courtesy accidental tools offered. But I also miss, very much, the plug-ins I used for checking against traditional harmonic rules, including finding parallel fifths, octaves, augmented fourths and the like. Please, please provide a complete replacement tool for these functions.
For now, please do nothing new until you bring back what we’ve lost from MS3. After all, since the file format is not compatible, MS4 is just not usable for me until you do.
I hope you find my observations and desires are valuable. I know you’ll get there, and I promise to be patient. And I can’t thank you enough for the work you’ve done creating and improving this amazing tool for artists worldwide. Keep up the great work.


Notes from a fellow user.

Yeah, MS4 has more than a few shortcomings. Although that depends on your point of view. In some ways, there isn't any reason to not stay with MS3. I'm not a piano player, so I don't input notes with a keyboard. As a result, I don't experience those kind of latency problems. I input notes with a (shudder) mouse. One of the computers I run MS4 on is a Surface Go. Which is about as underpowered as you can get. But with some system adjustments and an old audio interface, I have MS4 running with MuseSounds. Even better on my (in need of an upgrade) desktop. I was unaware that the primary purpose of MuseScore was for transcription. Never used it for that. I write music for orchestra. I write for playback. Yes, MuseSounds has some problems. But even so, they are much better than MS3. And in some respects, better than some other programs I have used. Especially in terms of presence and punch. Solo instruments leave much to be desired. I've never used any of the plugins you mention. Slower mouse input may just let me avoid harmonic rule pitfalls. As you know, classical composers didn't always follow "the rules".
Here's what I mean. I have a video of time-lapse flowers blooming. Part of the music I wrote for it was supposed to invoke the idea of fireworks. I originally composed it in MS3. But it just sounded wimpy. So I ended using other software. When MS4 came out I tried it again. It has much more power. Volume wasn't an issue. I needed a gut punch. MS4 is so much closer. Because I need playback, the UI isn't that important to me. Or even how the score looks.
MS4 has a long way to go. But I don't have a reason to go back to MS3.
Everyone is different.


Even running MuseScore 4 on 8 cores and 16gb plus a 1920*1080 display, the lag is simply not tolerable.
I have not seen a single word from the staff regarding issues on musescore.com for months now. A "we're looking into it (the problem) would suffice for us waiting for a solution, or whether the problem will get fixed.

In reply to by Karol - Composer

"I have not seen a single word from the staff regarding issues on musescore.com" LOL - it doesn't matter how often you report problems .... crickets.

I can now reproducibly crash Musescore in 4 key strokes of note entry.

Even if there were no system lags, the workflow of the new version which has moved direct manipulation and keyboard-shortcuts to Properties pane field, means that score creation is much slower. I've heard it justified as making things more discoverable for new users, but (1) the documentation is so abysmal that it's very difficult to find things, and (2) they've now dramatically lowered the ceiling of performance by experienced users. It's like being told that I need to go back to reading books by sounding out each word and moving my lips.

While some of the new layout shaping is nice, we've lost the ability to alter the text styles of style line text. I found that I can't actually fit some of the Italian text in the space required now, because I can't drop the text size a few points. There are many beaming issues.

I have raised a number of bugs showing that notation behaviour is erratic when multiple voices are involved.

Finally (for this comment, not my list of issues), the support for multiple screens is worse than in v3,6

I am always on the lookout for new music tools, and when I heard MS4 had VST support I was really intrigued as it would be cool to have a sound closer to the final song already during songwriting - something I have been missing in Guitar Pro, which I currently use for songwriting and transcribing existing songs.

VST support was cool, but the rest of it, while looking modern, seems like a huge regression to even MS3 as far as the workflow I'm after is concerned. Everything from playback to note input to parts just seems backwards. MS seems to expect you to a larger degree to already know what you want to do when you start a new score. In GP I just select my first instrument and get an empty bar to fill out. Then the rest is added as I go. MS on the other hand thinks I should have 32 bars (??) by default and heavily implies I should already know which instruments when starting out. GP just adds bars as I type in notes without having to do anything extra. In MS it takes at least 3 clicks to add a bar because it, for some reason, keeps asking me how many I want to add. GP is also much more lenient about leaving a bar unfinished or wrong, which is handy if you want to move to some other place to edit before finishing it off.

I still don't understand the deal with part scores either. Why is it something I must "generate" rather than it being a different view into something that's already there? And why am I not allowed to hear the other parts when viewing a part? Completely vexing.

My conclusion after trying MS4 is that it is not a songwriting tool at all, it is heavily optimized for people who want to write down and typeset an existing score. Not sure why they even bothered adding a sound engine to it.

In reply to by Rickard H

You are right. MS4 is not a "song writing tool". Whatever that is. It is notation software. GP is not. GP isn't capable of real composition. I'm not talking about transcription. Or having to know what I want to do before I start. I can start with just piano and add instruments as I go along. So it doesn't work like GP. OK.
I'm not defending MuseScore or the developers. Perhaps the software doesn't work like you expect. Perhaps you don't know how to use it. Fine.

In reply to by bobjp

I don't think you have used GP, it is in fact notation software and capable of "real composition", whatever that is supposed to mean. But it is also more suitable to songwriting than MS is. In MS I can't even do something as simple as changing note duration of an existing note without it mangling the rest of the bar in ways I did not want.

In reply to by Rickard H

Indeed I have not. And probably won't. There are many complaints about MS from GP users. Most of which are some version of not being able to change a measure without the entire measure being affected. It can be done. Just not as easily as GP does.
I'm an old school guitar player. I've been writing bad songs for a long time. They are not very important. However, after my brother passed away, his wife showed me a collection of things he had written to her. I asked if I could write a song using them. I did it just using my guitar. I then made a backing track of a few instruments so I could sing and record it. Easy to do.
When I write for orchestra, I never know what I'm going to write. I just open a score of what I might use and start putting notes down. The fact that the software keeps me honest, as far as the integrity of each measure goes, is a plus.
Do you suspect that it would do any good for me to complain on the GP forum. Wait, there isn't one, and GP isn't free.

In reply to by bobjp

Why do you think it will do no good to complain? At least there is a bigger chance of improvement than if everyone pretends everything is alright.

MS might be fine for writing down songs you already have, but it seems very clunky for experimentation. At least for me it's very common write something, listen back to it, and think something like "hmm, I think it would sound better if I just made that quarter note an eighth note and the next quarter note dotted". Because GP temporarily allows bars to be in an invalid state, this can be done in much less than a second. If I try the same thing in MS, I first have to enter a specific mode called "rhythm mode". But when I change the quarter note to the eighth note, MS just splits it into two eighth notes. When the note after these is changed into a dotted quarter note, it changes the quarter note after into an eighth note, all the while the selected duration keeps changing in the toolbar as a move to other notes. This simple operation is pretty much impossible unless you start over with the bar. I read some old thread where the developers were agonizing and over-thinking about how this could be implemented because they "can't know" how to change the bar. That's right, the program does not know how to change the bar - but I do so just let me do it by temporarily leaving it in an invalid state ffs.

GP can manage all kinds of edits quickly and without needing multiple input modes because it doesn't consider invalid bars "corruption".

In reply to by Rickard H

What I mean is this. If I go on the GP forum and complain about how I don't like how it allows invalid bars, what kind of answers do you suppose I would get? I'm not pretending MS is fine, in the least. It isn't.
I guess I'd have to see your example. To do that in MS I don't have to change input mode. Is the next quarter note on beat two? Or the and of one? What is on beat two to begin with? Because if you change a quarter note on beat two to a dotted note, then you have changed to a syncopated rhythm. Is that really what you want?
So let's say we have a measure with 4 quarter notes. I just played that measure and, as you say, I want to change the first note to an eight. I don't select any mode. I select the first quarter note and hit the eighth note in the tool bar. Now I have an eighth note and an eighth rest. Here's where my question to you is. Where do you want the dotted quarter? If on the and of one, then I hit "R" and I have an eighth note. You were already there. But I did it without changing modes. And I think the same number of clicks. But I have a selection box around the second note, which is cleared by a left click. Then select the note and change it to a dotted quarter. Sure I might have to adjust pitch. But only because I wasn't in note input mode. And I don't have to "fix" the beats later. Although you can, with insert mode, do most anything. I've never had to use the rhythm or insert modes.
But then I don't write complicated music. I wrote a four voice fugue for orchestra once. But that's as intricate as I ever want to get. I don't believe that music has to be complicated to be good.

In reply to by bobjp

I think they would answer you that the barlines turn red when your bar is invalid, and that the indicator in the toolbar shows you how many beats you are off, so it's very difficult to miss.

Thank you for the editing tips, I did now after a few tries manage to edit the bar as in the example. The inputs don't seem very intuitive in MS but with some practice it might be workable.

"Why can’t you de-couple the sophisticated sound production while performing note entry? Just use those complex systems when playing back what’s written?"

Even in v3 I turned off "Play notes when editing". However it doesn't improve system performance or stability.

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