Everybody has thought at least once about composing a song or a score to something. But studying musical theory, memorizing the solfeggio and learning how to put everything on paper is too big of a time commitment for any professional daydreamer. In this day and age, when Hans Zimmer can score an entire movie without ever setting foot in a recording theater, you can find technical solutions to almost any skill limitation. As a free and open source program, MuseScore can let you doodle musical notes at your leisure.
MuseScore is a music notation and composition software program. Essentially, MuseScore is a score processor. You set up a new score by going through a Wizard which lets you select a sheet template, a key signature and tempo, and an initial number of measures, among other things.
There are several palettes which contain extra visual elements like clefs, barlines, brakes, etcetera. However, primary input requires the keyboard or a plugged-in instrument. Using the keyboard is a bit awkward, as standard notes are linked to the actual alphabet keys, instead of being arranged on a scale. You can however also use the mouse, and use the arrow keys to select and change notes. Note length is set using the number keys, or the overlay buttons. Just remember that you can only edit if you press "N."
The most delightful part of MuseScore and the one that will attract more than its fair share of users is the play controls. MuseScore has several sound fonts included in the base package. By setting up a specific instrument, you can listen to the sheet like you would in real life, or to a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Sheets that have multiple instruments playing side by side are also compatible with this function.
You can export your work online on the MuseScore website, where visitors can download and also listen to your scores. There are several formats that you can export to locally, including PDF, PNG, MP3, WAV, and XML. The XML format is used for collaborative work. In this way, artists can share their sheet over multiple platforms.
- Editable virtual score sheet
- Note entry using MIDI
- Imports and exports in many formats
- musical font library
- cloud storage and playback
Being less than a dilettante, I had fun downloading and modifying existing sheets, then playing them with different instruments. To create music, however, I think you need a MIDI instrument or enough patience to deal with keys and mouse clicks.