Entering notes and rests

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    This chapter explains music creation on standard staves only, see also tablature and percussion chapters.


    Musescore supports inputting music via a computer keyboard, a mouse, a MIDI keyboard or MuseScore virtual piano keyboard. Using the computer keyboard input method is quick and easy, simply choose a duration, then type the pitch name (A-G) for a note or a 0 (zero) for a rest.

    MuseScore supports virtually unlimited undo to revert input mistake. Click the undo button on the far right of the toolbar, or use the standard keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Z (Mac: Cmd+Z).

    Entering notes

    This chapter explains the default input mode, step-time, where notes and rests are entered one at a time. It is based on the logic that, when a new note or rest is added by the user, the subsequent notes and rests adjust their duration ( note value or length ) automatically without affecting the total number of beats in any measures. See also Alternative note input methods chapter.

    Selecting a start point

    To add a note or rest to the score, start by selecting a location to begin entry. You can use the mouse or the keyboard navigation commands.

    Selecting a start point

    Entering note input mode

    Next, enter note input mode by pressing the pen icon in the toolbar, or using the keyboard shortcut N. A note input cursor is now visible, it is the thin and tall light blue box spanning the whole staff, its left border line is dark blue. Appearance of note input cursor indicates that Musescore is currently in note input mode. The box is positioned at the time or beat position that the next entered note or rest is being added to.

    Entering note input mode

    If you forget to select a starting location first, MuseScore places the cursor at the last input position, or in some other logical place, so be sure the cursor is where you intend.

    Once in note input mode, enter notes left to right by first selecting a duration and then entering a pitch or rest. When you are done entering notes in this location and are ready to do something else—for example, entering notes at a different location, adding other markings, or performing other operations like copy and paste—you can leave note input mode by clicking the note input button or pressing N again. You can also press Esc to return to normal mode from note input or any other mode.

    Selecting duration

    While in note input mode, select a note value for the next note to be entered by:

    • Clicking a corresponding note icon in the Note Input toolbar (directly above the score window)
    • Entering the keyboard shortcut 19 corresponding to the desired duration

      Durations on toolbar

    The keyboard shortcuts are designed to be efficient and easy to remember. The most common note values are eighth, quarter, and half (UK: quaver, crochet, minim) and these are represented by the keys 4, 5, and 6 respectively (the middle row of a numeric keypad). Shorter note values are represented by smaller numbers, longer values by larger numbers. The full list is as follows:

    • 64th (hemidemisemiquaver): 1
    • 32nd (demisemiquaver): 2
    • 16th (semiquaver): 3
    • Eighth (quaver): 4
    • Quarter (crotchet): 5
    • Half (minim): 6
    • Whole (semibreve): 7
    • Double whole (breve): 8
    • Longa: 9
    • Dot: . (changes the selection into a dotted note/rest)

    Other durations, including double dots and 128th notes, can be selected if you first customize your toolbar and/or define your own keyboard shortcuts.

    Note: it is also possible to select duration using a MIDI keyboard, if you set up the keys you wish to use for this in advance.

    Selecting pitch

    Once you have selected a duration, you can enter pitches using the computer keyboard, mouse, MIDI keyboard, or virtual piano keyboard.

    Selecting pitch using the computer keyboard

    This is normally the most efficient way to enter notes in MuseScore.

    To enter a note of a given pitch using the computer keyboard, simply press the corresponding letter (AG) on your computer keyboard.

    Selecting pitch

    Notes entered in this way will replace any rests or notes that were already present at the cursor location. To add a note to an existing note or chord, press Shift while entering the note. See the section on chords below for more information.

    When entering notes by letter name, MuseScore will choose the octave that is closest to the previous note on that staff. This works well for passages that move mostly by steps and small leaps. If you need to change the octave for a larger leap, use Ctrl+ and Ctrl+ (Mac: Cmd+ and Cmd+) to raise or lower the pitch of the previously entered note by an octave.

    Selecting pitch using the mouse

    To enter a note using the mouse, position your mouse on the desired line or space in the staff, then click. The mouse cursor will show you a preview of the note you are about to enter to help you place it accurately.

    Mouse cursor

    If any notes already exist at the location where you are entering a new note, the new note will be added above or below it. To replace existing notes instead, press Shift while entering the new note.

    It can be difficult to enter notes very far above or below a staff with this method, because MuseScore may interpret clicks far from the intended staff as an attempt to enter notes onto the staff above or below. Instead, try entering the note an octave lower or higher, then raise or lower the pitch by an octave using Ctrl+ and Ctrl+ (Mac: Cmd+ and Cmd+).

    Note: although one would normally enter notes left to right, the mouse entry method actually allows you to enter a note at any location where there is an existing note or rest to replace.

    Selecting pitch using a MIDI keyboard

    If you have a MIDI keyboard connected, you can enter notes by simply pressing the corresponding keys.

    When playing notes on a MIDI keyboard, they are entered consecutively so long as you release each key fully before pressing the next. If you press a key before releasing the previous key, the new note is added above or below the previous note.

    Notes entered via MIDI keyboard that are outside of the current key signature will have accidentals applied automatically, but the spelling of the accidental may not be what you intend. To change the enharmonic spelling of a note, press J.

    Selecting pitch using the virtual piano keyboard

    You can also input notes using the on-screen Piano keyboard window. To display this, use View→Piano keyboard or press the shortcut P. The window can be closed the same way.

    Virtual piano keyboard

    To enter a note of a given pitch, simply click the appropriate piano key with your mouse.

    As with the computer keyboard, notes entered in this way replace any existing notes or rests. To create chords instead, press and hold Shift while entering notes.

    Note: to resize the keyboard, position the mouse within the window and hold Ctrl (Mac: Cmd) while scrolling up or down.

    Entering chords

    For the purpose of this section, chords are any combinations of multiple notes all starting at the same time, all sharing the same duration, and all sharing a single stem.

    Chord entry

    If you wish to enter notes that sound together but start at different times, have different durations, or have separate stems, see Voices. Text of the form "Dm7" is a chord symbol, discussed in Chord symbols.

    Just as for individual notes, chords can be entered by computer keyboard, mouse, MIDI keyboard, or virtual piano keyboard. Except for MIDI keyboard (where you can play multiple notes at once), the notes are still entered one at a time, but in a way that tells MuseScore to combine them into a chord rather than add them sequentially.

    • To add a note to a chord using the computer keyboard, press and hold Shift while entering the note
    • To add a note to a chord using the mouse, click the location where you wish to add the note
    • To add a note to a chord using a MIDI keyboard, either play all the notes at the same time, or play them one at a time but do not release one key before pressing the next
    • To add a note to a chord using the virtual piano keyboard, press and hold Shift while entering the note

    When using Shift+AG to add a note to a chord, the note will be added above any notes already present at the cursor location. You can also specify the note to be added based on the interval above or below the currently-selected note.

    • To add an interval above the selected note, use one of the following:
      • From the menu bar, select Add→Intervals and choose an interval from the list;
      • Press Alt+1-9.
    • For intervals below the selected note, you will need to apply a custom shortcut of your own (see Preferences).

    Entering rests

    Rests can be entered using the computer keyboard or mouse. The duration is selected in the same way as for notes (e.g., using the toolbar or keyboard shortcuts 19). Then instead of entering a pitch as you would for a note, choose one of the following options.

    • From the computer keyboard: press 0 (zero)
    • From the note input toolbar: click the rest icon, then click in the score
    • Using a mouse: right-click in the score

      Rest entry



    Standard accidentals (flat, natural, sharp, double flat, double sharp) can be entered either by selecting one before entering the pitch it applies to or by adding them to a note already entered.

    Selecting an accidental before entering a pitch

    To specify an accidental to be applied to the next note entered, you can use the buttons on the Note input toolbar above the score or the corresponding keyboard shortcuts. This can be done either before or after selecting the duration.

    Accidentals on toolbar

    The default accidental shortcuts are:

    • Flat : -
    • Sharp : +
    • Natural : =

    Unlike selecting duration—which applies to all subsequent notes until you change it—an accidental is applied only to the next note entered. But the usual rules of music notation apply, so if you apply a flat to a given note, any subsequent notes you enter of that same pitch within the same measure will be flatted as well, even though no explicit flat sign will be added in front of them.

    Adding an accidental after entering a pitch

    Appropriate accidentals are automatically added to a note when you increase or decrease its pitch:

    • : move pitch up a semitone (spells with sharps).
    • : move pitch down a semitone (spells with flats).

    You can also apply an accidental to a note by clicking the appropriate icon in the Accidentals palette. This palette also contains a large number of microtonal and other special accidentals.

    Adding courtesy/cautionary accidentals

    Although the rules of music notation say that a barline cancels an accidental, and that any note on the same staff line or space in the next measure returns to the pitch indicated by the key signature, it is considered good practice to add a courtesy (also called cautionary) accidental anyhow. These do not change the pitch of the note, so they cannot be added with the and keys. However, any of the other methods described above work.

    While parentheses or brackets are not required for courtesy accidentals, some editors do choose to use them. To add parentheses or brackets around an accidental, you will need to temporarily leave note input mode, select the accidental, then either use the Properties panel to select a bracket type, or click the parentheses or brackets in the More section of the Accidentals palette.

    Note: there are also a set of plugins pre-installed with MuseScore that can automatically add courtesy accidentals as needed.


    A tie is a curved line between two notes of the same pitch, indicating that they are to be played as one combined note. Even though they look similar, ties should not be confused with slurs, which join notes of different pitches and indicate legato articulation.

    MuseScore makes it very easy to enter ties. Because ties are always between notes of the same pitch, you do not need to enter the pitch for the second note—just select the duration and enter the tie; MuseScore will add the note automatically. After entering the first note, follow these steps to create the tie:

    1. Select the duration for the second note
    2. Click the tie button on the toolbar or use the shortcut T

      Tie entry

    The tie command adds the second note and ties it to the first in one step. If the first note you entered is part of a chord, then the tie command actually creates an entire second chord with the same pitches as the first and ties all of the notes.

    Tied chord

    Tie placement (options)
    Up to MuseScore 4.1, the previous default behaviour was to draw ties to single notes 'outside' (connecting the top/bottom of the noteheads) and to draw ties to chords 'inside' (connecting the right and left of noteheads). As from MuseScore 4.2 tie placement can now be configured either way for single notes and chords; the default for new scores is that all ties are drawn 'outside'. As well as a score-wide style setting (in Format > Slurs & ties > Ties), this can be overridden for any given tie (via Properties > Tie placement).

    Note: ties normally connect adjacent notes in the same voice, but MuseScore also supports ties between non-adjacent notes and between notes in different voices as described in the section on editing.

    See also