Layout and formatting

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This page shows old instructions for MuseScore 3.
For MuseScore 4 users, see Layout and formatting.

    Overview

    To jump to the useful image that illustrates page layout terms, click on this link.

    This chapter discusses the settings of score and items on score, how to edit and re-use them, and options and commands under the Format menu.

    See also the Instruments, staff setup and templates: Change instrument and staff setup chapter.

    Spatium (plural: Spatia) / Space / Staff Space / sp.

    One Spatium
    The size of everything on a score, such as staff, note heads, note stems, accidentals, clefs etc., uses a basic unit of measurement called "staff space" or "sp." to maintains correct proportions.
    One sp is defined as the standard vertical distance between the midpoints of two lines of a music staff (or one quarter of vertical dimension of a full five-line staff, assuming a hypothetical staff line thickness of 0).
    When you create a new score, MuseScore tries to adjust the staff space automatically so that the staves all fit on the page initially.
    This usually leads to 1 sp = 1.75 mm, which results in a staff height of around 7 mm (more details explained in "Final absolute staff height" section), which is a good staff height for most solo music, choral music, small ensemble scores, and individual parts. Lead sheets and children's music may benefit from a larger staff size. Large ensemble scores may often require a smaller staff size in order to fit all instruments on the page.
    You may need to adjust this value further as you add music, if auto-place results in additional space being added between staves in order to avoid collisions.
    Modify the definition of "staff space" itself in the "Page settings" window. See Page settings chapter, the overriding options are also explained there.

    Final absolute staff height

    Staff line thickness is set in Format→Style...→Measure (see main chapter Measure and horizontal spacing). Its default value is 0.11sp, and the default value of sp is 1.75mm, so the default staff line thickness 0.1925mm. The 'absolute' height of default 5-line stave, measuring from the top edge of the top line to the bottom edge of the bottom line, is 0.5x0.11sp + 4sp + 0.5x0.11sp = 0.5x0.1925mm + 4x1.75mm + 0.5x0.1925mm = 7.1925mm. source: https://musescore.org/en/node/362733

    Horizontal and vertical spacing and algorithm

    Horizontal spacing: All measures are stretched out so that all systems (except the last if desired) are filled to the right margin. You cannot change this behavior, but you can add Frames. See Layout and formatting in Musescore section below. Use FormatStyle...Score, Page, Measure, found them below. See also Measure chapter.
    hspacing_wordprocessor_analogy.PNG
    Shown above is an analogy to horizontal spacing in Musescore 3.6.2: it is like being restricted to the "justified" option in a word processor software. UI of Libre Office Writer, not Musescore.

    Vertical spacing: Two options of algorithm, use vertical justification or not. Use FormatStyle...Score, Page, found them below.

    Style

    Styles in Musescore are profiles that contains settings, rather than being the settings themselves. The visual setting for text and musical symbol in musescore some users mistaken for style is called Font.

    All styles are built-in, they contain visual and functional settings default values. Each object type, eg Chord Symbol object, Accidental object, has a corresponding style of the same name built-in: "Style for Chord Symbols", "Style for Accidentals". Each Text object, eg Chord Symbol object, Lyrics object, also has one or more corresponding style(s) built-in: "Style for text inside Chord Symbols", "Style for text inside Chord Symbols (Alternative)", "Style for text inside Lyrics Even Lines", "Style for text inside Lyrics Odd Lines". Style is not the object type.

    You cannot create a new style, but you can edit the settings values in each style.

    After you created an object, you cannot change its object type. The same is almost true for style: an accidental object on a score must use values in "Style for Accidentals", it cannot use values in "Style for Chord Symbols", you cannot change which style (the named profile) an object on a score uses unless the object is a Text object or it contains a Text object within. A Lyrics object on a score, if desired, can use the compatible values in "Style for text inside Chord symbols" rather than the values in "Style for text inside Lyrics Odd Lines" or "Style for text inside Lyrics Even Lines", for more see Text styles and properties chapter.

    Read on to see the final visual and function of objects are determined.

    Layout and formatting in Musescore

    Not to be confused with app appearance set in Preferences.

    Layout and formatting in Musescore consists of two main levels, Text objects and objects containing them have more levels, see Text styles and properties. The final visual and function of most object in a score file is determined by:

    • Level 1: Properties of each individual object in a score file, such as note, text, or symbol on a score file. By default, objects do not have any specific properties. When properties are assigned in the Inspector, they will always be used.
    • Level 2: Includes
      • the layout and formatting settings related to whole page,
        • which corresponds to the items around the top of the left pane of the "Style" window: FormatStyle...Score, Page, Size, System, Measure etc, explained below, and
        • the settings in the Page settings window.
      • Additionally, it includes all the styles (profiles). Settings values in styles have less priority than properties mentioned above. Styles includes:

    Every score file has a "Full Score" layout. It also contains "Parts" when you use Musescore Part feature to generate different versions of the same score. Each "Part" and the "Full Score" has their own separate complete set of layout and formatting information.

    Reusing Layout and formatting information

    Visit https://musescore.org/en/node/355981 for .mss files shared by other musicians.

    Reusing "level 2 information" with .mss file

    The concepts and layout logic are explained in the overview. .mss file contains "level 2 information" and can be stored in any folder, Musescore does not automatically use any specific folder. The default folder for easier file management can be set-up in Preferences.

    To save: FormatSave Style....
    To load: Do either one:
    - Right click on any empty space on a score, select "Load Style", or
    - Go to FormatLoad Style....

    Default "level 2 information" for new score file and Musescore Part

    Open Preferences menu > Score tab

    Style: Browse and set the .mss file Musescore uses as "level 2 information" when creating a new score file. When creating a new score file from a template, the information present in the template is used instead.
    Style for part: Similar to the above but for new Musescore Part.

    Options under the Format menu:

    • Style: opens the Style window to change layout and formatting of the currently editing "Full Score" or "Part", see details below
    • Page settings: opens the Page settings window to adjust the overall dimensions of your score such as page size, page margins, and scaling, see Page Settings
    • Add / Remove System Breaks: Set the number of measures per system, see details below
    • Change Layout Stretch commands: Increase, decrease or reset the horizontal spacing of notes within selected measures, see details below.
    • Breaks and spacers: Apply system, page or section breaks, or add extra space between particular systems or staves. see Breaks and spacers chapter.
    • Reset Text style overrides : reset all text styles to the "factory" default settings:
    • Reset Beams : reset beams to the mode defined in the local time signatures for the selected section. If no section is selected, beams on the whole score are reset. See also Beams.
    • Reset Shapes and Positions : reset the default positions, note stem directions and shapes (slurs, ties etc.) for selected score elements. To apply:
      1. Select the elements or the region of the score that you wish to reset. Or use Ctrl+A to select the whole score.
      2. Press Ctrl+R; or, from the menu, select FormatReset Shapes and positions.
    • Load Style / Save Style : To re-use some layout and formatting information of the currently editing "Full Score" or "Part", see overview above and details of these commands below.

    Add / Remove System breaks

    This tool adds or removes system breaks over all or part of the score:

    1. Select a range of measures: if no selection is made, the command is applied to the whole score.
    2. Choose FormatAdd/Remove System Breaks…. The following dialog appears.
      Add/Remove Line Breaks
    3. Choose one of the following options:
      • Break systems every X (select number) measures;
      • Add system break at end of each system;
      • Remove current system breaks;
    4. Press OK.

    Change Layout Stretch

    Increase, decrease or reset the horizontal spacing of notes within selected measures.

    Increase / Decrease layout stretch
    1. Select a range of measures. Or use Ctrl+A to select the whole score.
    2. Choose one of two options:
      • To increase stretch:
        • Use the shortcut } (right curly bracket) (Mac: Ctrl+Alt+9).
        • Or from the menu bar, select FormatStretchIncrease Layout Stretch.
      • To decrease stretch:
        • Use the shortcut { (left curly bracket) (Mac: Ctrl+Alt+8).
        • Or from the menu bar, select FormatStretchDecrease Layout Stretch.
    Reset stretch

    To reset stretch to the default spacing of 1:

    1. Select a range of measures. Or use Ctrl+A to select the whole score.
    2. From the menu, select FormatStretchReset Layout Stretch.

    See also Measure Properties: Layout stretch. This allows you to set the stretch more precisely.

    Style window

    ms3_style.PNG
    Musescore style and layout concepts are explained in the overview.

    To open this window:

    • Select FormatStyle…
    • Right-click on a space in the document window and select Style….
    • Use a keyboard shortcut (see Shortcuts).
    • To quickly open Style window and then a style, right-click on an item on score and select Style….

    In the left pane, there are two types of items:

    • Score and page details:
    • Various styles:
      • functional "style for certain type of object": such as "Style for Chord symbols", "Style for Dynamics symbols" , and
      • "Text Style" (scroll to the bottom of left pane): visual "style for text inside certain type of object", such as "Style for text inside Chord symbols", "Style text inside Lyrics Odd Lines". See Text styles and properties.

    Changes made are live on the score for preview, click Cancel or Esc to revert and close. Press OK or Return to save and close.

    When editing a Musescore Part (but not the "Full score"), press Apply to all parts button to apply the current "level 2 information" (including settings in Page settings) to other Musescore Parts.

    Score

    To open the Score dialog, select FormatStyle…Score.

    This dialog allows you to set global settings, such as the music font, display of multimeasure rests, whether or not to hide empty staves, swing playback etc.

    • Musical symbols font: used by notes, rest symbols, accidentals etc, see also Fonts .Tick the box to "automatically load style settings based on font."
    • Musical text font: used by Segno, Coda, ottavas, dynamics glyphs such as mf etc. see also Fonts
    • Display in concert pitch: Tick this option to display the score at concert pitch. If unticked the score is displayed at written pitch.
    • Create multimeasure rests: Tick to display multimeasure rests.
    • Minimum number of empty measures: The default is 2.
    • Minimum width of measure: The default width is 4 sp.
    • Enable indentation on first system: This option enables indentation; also for setting the indentation distance (as of 3.6).
    • Hide empty staves within systems: This option saves space by hiding those staves in a system which consist of only empty measures. Used for condensed scores.
    • Don't hide empty staves in first system: Always display staves in first system even if they consist of empty measures.
    • Always show brackets which span to single staff:
    • Display note values across measure boundaries: A feature useful for notating early music. See Unbarred notation.
    • Hide instrument name if there is only one instrument: You don't usually need to display the instrument name in this case.
    • Swing settings allows you to control the degree of swing for the whole score.
      • Swing: Choice of OFF (default) / Eight Note / Sixteenth note.
      • Select swing ratio: The default is 60%.
        If you prefer to set swing on the score page, see Swing.
    • Autoplace allows you to control the range and minimum distance used for the vertical alignment.
      • System: Elements (like lyrics) are vertical aligned based on the system.
      • Measure/Bar: Elements are vertical aligned based on the current measure/bar.
      • Segment: Elements are vertical aligned based on the current segment position.

    Page

    To open the Page dialog, select FormatStyle...Page.

    This dialog allows you to adjust the overall layout of your score by changing the spacing of margins, systems, staves, lyrics lines, and frames. You can also control the display of key signatures, time signatures, and clefs.

    Score layout

    • Music top margin: The distance between the top staff line of the first staff on the page and the top page margin.
    • Music bottom margin: The distance between the bottom staff line of the last staff on the page and the bottom page margin.
    • Enable vertical justification of staves (as of 3.6):
      • Factor for distance between systems
      • Factor for distance above/below bracket
      • Factor for distance above/below brace
      • Min. system distance: The minimum distance allowed between one system and the next.
      • Max. system distance: The maximum distance allowed between one system and the next.
      • Min. staff distance: The minimum distance allowed between one staff and the next.
      • Max. staff distance: The maximum distance allowed between one staff and the next.
      • Max. grand staff distance: The space between staves that share the same instrument—such as the piano, organ, or those of a guitar staff/tab pair.
        Note: As of MuseScore 3.6 staves connected by a curly brace are considered a grand staff (BE: great stave).
      • Max page fill distance
    • Disable vertical justification of staves (as of 3.6, the default prior to that):
      • Staff distance: The space between staves which are not part of a grand staff (see below).
      • Grand staff distance: The space between staves that share the same instrument—such as the piano, organ, or those of a guitar staff/tab pair.
        Note: As of MuseScore 3.6 staves connected by a curly brace are considered a grand staff (BE: great stave).
        Note: To alter the space above one particular staff see Extra distance above staff (Staff properties).
      • Min. system distance: The minimum distance allowed between one system and the next.
      • Max. system distance: The maximum distance allowed between one system and the next.
    • Vertical frame top margin: The default margin height above a vertical frame.
    • Vertical frame bottom margin: The default margin height below a vertical frame.
    • Last system fill threshold: If the last system is longer than this percentage of the page width, it gets stretched to fill that width.
    • Create clef for all systems / Create key signature for all systems / Create courtesy clefs / Create courtesy time signatures / Create courtesy key signatures: control their display, including the courtesy kind.

    Sizes

    To open the Sizes dialog, select FormatStyle...Sizes.

    Sets the proportional size of "small" notes and grace notes, as well as small staves and small clefs. Changing this would be unusual.

    To open the Header, Footer dialog, select FormatStyle...Header, Footer.

    This allows you to add header and footer text using meta tags (see Score properties)—such as page numbers, page headers, copyright information etc. For example, you can create different Headers and Footers for even and odd pages, such as putting page numbers on the right for odd-numbered pages and on the left for even-numbered pages.

    If you hover with your mouse over the Header or Footer text region, a list of macros will appear, showing their meaning, as well as the existing meta tags and their content.

    To create a header or footer for an individual part, that part needs to be the active tab. To create a header or footer for a score with linked parts, make sure the main score is in the active tab.

    Measure Numbers

    To open the Measure Numbers dialog, select FormatStyle...Measure Numbers.

    This allows you to specify whether measure numbers will appear in the score, and, if so, at what intervals.

    • Measure numbers: Tick to turn on automatic measure numbers.
    • Show first: Tick if you want the first measure to display a number.
    • All staves: Tick to display numbers on all staves of a system. Untick if you want the number to appear on the top staff of the system only.
    • Every system: Select this option to place measure numbers at the start of each system.
    • Interval: To specify that measure numbers should appear at a measure interval shown by the number. For example, an interval of 1 numbers every measure; an interval of 5 numbers every fifth measure.

    System

    To open the System dialog, select FormatStyle...System.

    This dialog allows you to adjust certain properties of all systems.

    Brackets:

    • System bracket thickness: Set the width of system brackets.
    • Brace thickness: Set the width of system braces.
    • System bracket distance: Set the distance between system brackets and the start barlines.
    • Brace distance: Set the distance between system braces and the start barlines.

    See also Brackets.

    Dividers:

    • Left / Right: Specify whether to show system dividers, what types, and apply global positioning offset values.

    Clefs

    To open the Clefs dialog, select FormatStyle...Clefs.

    Choose the style of the default tablature clef: Standard or Serif.

    Accidentals

    To open the Accidentals dialog, select FormatStyle...Accidentals.

    Allows you to specify how the score displays key signature accidentals at key changes. See Naturals on key signature changes.

    Measure


    See the main chapter Measure

    To open the Measure dialog, select FormatStyle...Measure.

    Adjustment of global settings such as the horizontal distance between various items within measures. A major setting affecting layout is Spacing, which affects the number of measures per system. Global Staff line thickness can be changed here.

    Barlines

    To open the Barlines dialog, select FormatStyle...Barlines.

    • Show repeat barline tips ("winged repeats"):
    • Barline at start of single staff: Whether to show barlines at the beginning of a staff.
    • Barline at start of multiple staff: Whether to show barlines at the beginning of multiple staves.
    • Scale barlines to staff size: Affects "small" staves only.

    Other properties allow you to set the thickness of "thin," "thick" and double barlines, the distance between double barlines, and the repeat barline to dot distance.

    Notes

    To open the Notes dialog, select StyleGeneral...Notes. The dialog can also be opened direct from the score by right-clicking on any note and selecting "Style…"

    Here you can adjust the distance and thickness of note-related objects (stems, ledger lines, dots, accidentals). Changing these would be unusual.

    Beams

    To open the Beams dialog, select StyleGeneral...Beams.

    This allows you to set the overall properties of note beams in the score:

    • Beam thickness
    • Beam distance: The vertical distance between beams.
    • Broken beam minimum length: Affects secondary beams where they do not fully extend from note to note.

    Ticking the Flatten all beams option means that all note beams will be horizontal only—not sloped.

    Tuplets

    To open the Tuplets dialog, select FormatStyle...Tuplets.

    Vertical Distance from Notes:

    • Maximum slope: Limit the slope of tuplet brackets.
    • Vertical distance from stem: Refers to tuplet numbers and brackets.
    • Vertical distance from notehead: Refers to tuplet numbers and brackets.

    Horizontal distance from notes:

    • Distance before stem of first note: Sets default position of start of tuplet bracket when above/below note stems.
    • Distance before head of first note: Sets default position of start of tuplet bracket when above/below noteheads.
    • Distance after stem of last note: Sets default position of end of tuplet bracket when above/below note stems.
    • Distance after head of last note: Sets default position of end of tuplet bracket when above/below noteheads.

    Brackets:

    • Bracket thickness:
    • Bracket hook height; Sets the default length of the vertical hooks at the ends of tuplet brackets

    Properties:

    • Direction / Number type / Bracket type

    Arpeggios

    To open the Arpeggios dialog, select FormatStyle...Arpeggios.

    Here you can change the distance to note, line thickness, and hook length of the following arpeggio and strum symbols:

    Arpeggio and strum symbols

    Slurs/Ties

    To open the Slurs/Ties dialog, select FormatStyle...Slurs/Ties.

    • Line thickness at end
    • Line thickness middle
    • Dotted line thickness
    • Minimum tie length
    • Autoplace min. distance

    Hairpins

    To open the Hairpins dialog, select FormatStyle...Hairpins.

    Here you can set the default properties of hairpins (crescendo and decresendo lines):

    • Placement: Whether to place above or below the staff.
    • Position above/below: Set a numerical value in sp. units.
    • Height: The width of the mouth of the hairpin.
    • Continue height
    • Autoplace distance to dynamics
    • Line thickness

    Volta

    To open the Volta dialog, select FormatStyle...Volta.

    Here you can set the default properties of voltas:

    • Default position: Set X- and Y-offsets.
    • Hook height: The length of descending lines at the ends of voltas.
    • Line thickness
    • Line style: A solid line is the default option, but there are dotted and dashed alternatives.

    Ottava

    To open the Ottava dialog, select FormatStyle...Ottava.

    Here you can set the default properties of ottavas (octave lines):

    • Numbers only: If unticked, the ottava also displays "va" or "vb" after the number.
    • Position above/below: Set the X- and Y-offsets for the ottava.
    • Hook height above/below: The length of the ascending/descending line at the end of the ottava.
    • Line thickness
    • Line style: A dotted line is the default option, but there are solid, dotted and dashed alternatives.

    Pedal

    To open the Pedal dialog, select FormatStyle...Pedal.

    Here you can set the default properties of pedal lines:

    • Placement: Below or above the staff.
    • Position above/below: Set the exact default position using offset values.
    • Line thickness:
    • Line style: solid is the default but there is a range of dashed and dotted options.

    Trill

    To open the Trill dialog, select FormatStyle...Trill.

    Here you can set the default placement of Trill lines:

    • Placement: Below or above the staff.
    • Position above/below: Set the exact default position using offset values.

    Vibrato

    To open the Vibrato dialog, select FormatStyle...Vibrato.

    Here you can set the default placement of Vibrato lines:

    • Placement: Below or above the staff.
    • Position above/below: Set the exact default position using offset values.

    Bend

    To open the Bend dialog, select FormatStyle...Bend.

    Here you can set the display properties of Bends. This includes the line thickness, arrow width and font properties.

    Text Line

    To open the Text Line dialog, select FormatStyle...Text Line.

    Here you can set the default placement of text lines:

    • Placement: Below or above the staff.
    • Position above/below: Set the exact default position using offset values.

    Articulations, Ornaments

    To open the Articulations, Ornaments dialog, select FormatStyle...Articulations, Ornaments.

    This dialog allows you set the default placement distances and size (as a percentage) of articulations and ornaments.

    Fermatas

    To open the Fermatas dialog, select FormatStyle...Fermatas.

    This dialog allows you set the default placement of fermatas.

    Staff Text

    To open the Staff text dialog, select FormatStyle...Staff Text.

    This dialog allows you set the default placement and autoplacement properties of staff text.

    Tempo Text

    To open the Tempo text dialog, select FormatStyle...Staff Text.

    This dialog allows you set the default placement and autoplacement properties of tempo text.

    Lyrics

    To open the Lyrics dialog, select FormatStyle...Lyrics.

    Lyrics Style dialog

    Lyrics Text

    • Placement: Default position of lyric lines in relation to the staff; Above or Below.
    • Position above / Position below: The X and Y offsets for "Placement."
    • Line height: Default distance between lyric lines.
    • Min. top margin: Minimum distance between the lyric lines and the parent staff skyline.
    • Min. bottom margin: Minimum distance between the lyric lines and the skyline of the next staff.
    • Min. distance: Minimum distance between lyrics syllables.
    • Align verse number:

    Lyrics Dash

    • Min. dash length: Minimum length of inter-syllable dashes.
    • Max. dash length: Maximum length of inter-syllable dashes.
    • Max. dash distance: Maximum distance allowed between dashes. Reducing this value allows more dashes to form between syllables where possible—and vice versa.
    • Dash thickness: The (vertical) thickness of the dash.
    • Dash pad: The distance between the - and the syllable
    • Dash y position ratio: Affects the vertical placement of the dash.
    • Always force dash:Tick to ensure that a dash is always visible between syllables.

    Lyrics melisma

    • Melisma thickness: The (vertical) thickness of the melisma.
    • Melisma pad: The distance between the _ and the syllable
    • Align:

    See also, Melismas.

    Dynamics

    To open the Dynamics dialog, select FormatStyle...Dynamics.

    This dialog allows you set the default placement and autoplacement properties of dynamics.

    Rehearsal Marks

    To open the Rehearsal Marks dialog, select FormatStyle...Rehearsal Marks.

    This dialog allows you set the default placement and autoplacement properties of rehearsal marks.

    Figured Bass

    To open the Figured Bass dialog, select FormatStyle...Figured Bass.

    This allows you to set the default font, style, alignment and position of figured bass.

    Chord Symbols

    To open the Chord Symbols dialog, select FormatStyle...Chord Symbols.

    There is another global setting for Chord Symbols at Text > Chord Symbol in which the Font is set; FormatStyle...Text .

    This section allows you to adjust the format and positioning of chord symbols:

    • Appearance: Choose a default chord symbol style—Standard, Jazz or Custom.
    • Note spelling: Choose the spelling convention for chord symbols and whether to use capital or small letters.
    • Positioning:
      • Distance to fretboard diagram: The distance (in sp. units) from a chord symbol to a fretboard diagram when both are applied to the same location on a staff. This value overrides the above "Default vertical position" setting. The user can choose to place a chord symbol below a fretboard diagram by entering a negative value.
      • Minimum chord spacing: The minimum space to allow between chord symbols.
      • Maximum barline distance: Increases the distance between the final chord symbol in a measure and the following barline. You may wish to adjust this value if there is a recurring problem in the score with overlap between the final chord symbol in one measure and the following chord symbol.
    • Capo: Capo fret position: Enter the number of the capo position at which you want to display substitute chords, in brackets, for all chord symbols in the score.

    Fretboard Diagrams

    To open the Fretboard Diagrams dialog, select FormatStyle...Fretboard Diagrams.

    This section allows you to adjust the format and positioning of Fretboard diagrams.

    • Default vertical position: the distance in sp. units from a newly applied fretboard diagram to a staff. A negative value may be used.
    • Scale: Increase or decrease the size of the fretboard diagram in the score.
    • Fret offset number font size: Increase or decrease the size of a fret number displayed next to a diagram.
    • Position Left/Right: Display fret number to the left or right of the fretboard diagram.
    • Barre line thickness: Make barre lines in fretboard diagrams thicker or thinner.

    Text Styles

    To open the Text Styles dialog, select FormatStyle...Text Styles.

    Select a text type on the middle pane and edit its styles, see Text styles and properties.

    See also

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