Music Software & Interface Design: MuseScore

We composers are a pretty bruised bunch. It’s bad enough that we don’t even have a good
name for the type of music that we write. The best we can think of is the
oxymoron ‘contemporary classical’. But on top of that, our choice of notation software
has generally been substandard and expensive. And where other creative professions
have industry standards, such as: Photoshop, AutoCAD, Unity, …V-Ray, Sketch, Maya, Cinema 4D, …Premiere, After Effects, Cubase, Pro Tools, etc. Our industry standards are still Sibelius and Finale. And after I released my video
about the design of Sibelius, …I realised that I’d tapped into an almost
unanimous frustration with the existing offerings, …a shared pain felt across the
world of modern composition. And I’ve been contacted multiple times by people
who’ve said that they prefer to write scores by hand, …because the existing offerings
are just too slow and frustrating. Wow. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard an author
say they prefer the efficiency of a pen. But the good news is that the field
has opened up over the last few years, …and with more competition, …comes cross-pollination and hopefully
the incentive for everyone to do better, …you’d hope. But which application should we look at next? Well, to figure that out, I decided
to put it to a YouTube poll. And man, was my expectation way off, …MuseScore, by a country mile. Really? MuseScore? Well, it has a pretty strong following, …especially among younger audiences, with over
60% of its users coming in under the age of 24. Them some good demographics. And its feature set isn’t quite as lightweight
as its cost implies either (it’s free). It’s also accompanied by an impressive
online score-sharing application. And just looking through it, you can get
the sense of a pretty thriving community. People can upload their scores, receive ratings, …and as you’re listening to other people’s
work, you can make comments like: “This caused me to fail NO NUT NOVEMBER”. Wh-What? Um… Uuurrggghhh. Anyway, despite this impressive
combination of offerings, …it ain’t perfect. And when looking at its design, three
things immediately jumped out at me. And these will be the design focus for this video: The practical value of visual style, …the importance of getting the navigation right early, …and most importantly for a notation app: How the tiny details really, really matter. Now, through the course of this video, …I’m going to be saying some mean things, …and I’m going to say some nice things. But most importantly, …I’m going to be saying some mean things- S-sorry, fair things! I- look…I’m going to be fair. So, MuseScore is the brainchild of Werner Schweer, …a German developer and music enthusiast, …who, up until 2002, had been working on an
open source sequencing app called ‘MusE’, …which looked like this. And if we look up here, we can see what I’m
guessing is the Lyre of the muse Terpsichore. Cute. My muse is Shostakovich. Look! Here he is sitting beside my desk. Anyway, one day, as Werner was working, …the Lyre began to glow. And as he looked on, Terpsichore
appeared before him and speaketh thus: “Werner…” “…do you not think that there already exists an
over-abundance of audio-production apps?” “Is it not in fact the case that what this realm truly
craves is a digital notation app free of nonsense? “For Sibelius and Finale, once virtuous,” “…have of late fallen under the malign
influence of Mania and Oizys.” “And those who study the ancient arts are in great pain.” Werner agreed that this was in fact the case, …and asked what he could do to help. “Create an alternative for me,
descendant of Pan, and make it free.” “Free for the people!” “Do this, and I shall shower you with riches.” And so Werner became inspired, and shed a single tear. …and in that tear was the root directory
within which MuseScore was born. And to join him, Terpsichore sent two angels: Thomas Bonte and Nicolas Froment, …with whom he founded a new
company also named MuseScore. Werner would remain focused on the
architecture and product roadmap, …with Thomas taking the role of CEO, …and Nicolas organising the open-source contributors. And now that I’ve mentioned open source, …let’s spend a couple of seconds discussing that. MuseScore is released for free under
the second GNU General Public Licence, …commonly called ‘GPLv2’. This is interesting because GPLv2 is viral, …which means that all future versions and modifications licensed under it must remain that way, forever. So, once GPL, alway GPL. This is to prevent companies from creating proprietary applications out of open-source projects, …benefiting financially from the free work of others, …while closing off access to the source code. And due to this restriction,
we can be certain of one thing: MuseScore will always be free, …and its project files will always
be accessible to the public. And that’s not to say it can’t ever make money. It can, …and that’s why it was acquired by the Russian-based company Ultimate Guitar in February, 2018. So, now its home is in Russia. Hold on a second. Hey Shosty! MuseScore has moved to the mother country. What do you think of that? “I like it.” So before we go any further discussing
what all of this actually means for the app, …let’s open it up and see what the inspiration
of Terpsichore has wrought. Um…oh, sorry. The skin doesn’t seem to have loaded.
How embarrassing. Let’s just close it back down and try it again. Oh. Oh… Huh… Okay. Now, I’m being completely honest here. When I first loaded this app up, …after hearing so much about it, …my first reaction was, “Are you serious?” This almost instantly communicated to me that MuseScore was an amateur passion project, …rather than a real app. And this is surprising because, …after spending quite a bit of time playing with it, …I’ve found that the way it’s
organised is actually really good. But we’ll get to that later. As it stands, this app looks like a dog’s dinner. Well, that’s my opinion anyway. I mean, what do you think, Shosty? So, that leads us to point number one: The importance of visual design. Now, I sometimes find myself working on a project
with developers who seem to think of visual design …as a purely cosmetic layer
that sits on top of functionality. A sort-of beauty tax that holds up
the pace of implementation. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a lot of designers
who seem to do visual design that way. But they shouldn’t, …because when not focused on sales,
which I’ll talk about in a second. …visual design should always be in
service of making the app easier to use. But before I demonstrate this, …we should first look at MuseScore and ask: In what way is it ugly? Well, it’s a lot of little things that all add up. The entirely gray background is an obvious first issue. And the use of colour is pretty ghastly. I mean, …look at this font selection. I’ve never seen default red, black and
turquoise combined like this before. These pressed buttons are a little nasty too, and… Urgh, those mixer controls look like a bad Flash
game from the heyday of And then there’s the iconography, …which is clumsy and inconsistent. This is actually probably a good place to look at
the functional importance of visual finesse. So, iconography is a first cousin to typography, …which is probably the most
specialised of the graphic disciplines. And like a font, an icon set needs to be carefully considered so that it can be read easily. For example, if you’ve ever looked at a typeface closely, …you’ll notice a common baseline, …like that seen here between the
lowercase ‘u’ and the lowercase ‘i’. And then there’s a hundred other
little optimisations that you’ll find, …like in Helvetica, where the
lowercase ‘f’ and ‘t’ line up like this. These kinds of streamlined consistencies add up, …and help the reader to process
sentences without getting a headache. Don’t believe me? Then try reading a medium-length article in Papyrus, …and let me know how you pleasant
you thought the experience was. Seriously, why do people pick on Comic Sans
so much when Papyrus is a thing that exists? But anyway, icon sets work in a similar way. You want to pay attention to the small
details because it helps people navigate. Visual awkwardness requires the brain to have to
spend extra time interpreting what it’s looking at, …and can make for a frustrating experience, …especially when working for long periods of time, …where you’re constantly scanning left and right… Left and right… Where is that? Oh, there it is. And to give a zoomed-in look at what I’m talking about, …let’s look at these four in particular – New, Open, Save and Print. I’m going to quickly break these down in a way
that some might think is a little excessive. But like I said earlier, these little things add up. So, there are two garden variety types of icon sets: Ones that are outlined, and ones that are filled. And since the brain reads these in different ways, …it’s a good idea to choose either one or the other. Here, there’s no consistency, …with two being outlined and two being filled. …and they look like they’ve come from different places. This Save icon looks like it came
from the site Font Awesome. Let me just paste it in here to check. Hmm. Yeah, pretty similar. The folder icon looks like it
came from Font Awesome too, …only from a completely different set. Yeah. Almost identical. If I dig around enough, …I’d probably be able to figure out
where the other two are from, …but it doesn’t matter. The problem here is that the inspiration is
coming from completely different places, …and the result isn’t very structured or unified. Let’s see how these same icons are handled
by the open-source icon set Clarity. You can see here that they’ve
matched up the baselines pretty nicely, …although one is intersected half-way. This detail on the Save icon is in line with
the negative space on this Print icon. This upper detail on Open lines up
with this little detail on Print. They also have this sharp-edged detail here, …and then here facing in a different direction, …which helps to give the set some character. It’s pretty finessed. And since it’s intended to be read at very small sizes, …it doesn’t do a bad job. A better and more legible set would be
this one by Microsoft called ‘Segoe MDL2’. The baselines don’t intersect each other, …these two details line up beautifully, …and this detail in Save and Print line up too. Pretty balanced and legible. All together this would be much easier to read, …and this is a set with hundreds of icons, …all of them built in a way so that
they can be easily read side-by-side, …in no matter what ordering. Now back to the MuseScore set. The top as well as the baselines are intersecting. You have negative space here, which is a different
stroke height that doesn’t line up properly, …and this plus detail doesn’t match the height
of the details in any of the other icons. It’s not the worst thing ever. It’s just clumsy, amateurish, …and a little unpleasant to have
to look at for hours at a time. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that these
icons will make people’s eyes hurt, …because there’s not that many of them. But over time, as the app becomes
more complex and detailed, …I’d hope that they begin to
introduce some more consistency. Then there’s colours. Colours is generally a good way
of delineating between elements. For example, in MuseScore, …navy blue is used to mean something is selected. However, it’s very similar to the colour
used for these engraving markers. It makes it a bit tough to tell if you’ve
successfully selected something or not. And it confused me a little bit, …because there’s another similar
turquoise colour being used in the sidebar. Look! You can see that some text is
turquoise and some is black. Maybe the turquoise colour
represents values that are editable? Uh, no, …because if I edit something,
the colour changes to black instead. So in this case when it’s this turquoise colour,
it means it’s not been touched yet? Have you confirmed that anyone understands this? Do I even understand it? I mean, look here, your tick-box colour looks like this, …but if I tick it, that colour goes away. And if I press this Reset thing, the colour comes back? But hold on, I mean, if I click this note, …all these values are black? Err…I’ve never touched these before. Wh-what’s going on exactly!? And when I press these notes, yes, they look selected, …but that dark-grey/dark-blue combo is…well… It’s filthy. I mean, the icons look depressed. I almost want to unclick them as an act of kindness. And also, since you’re trying to delineate stuff, …there’s a preponderance of icons and buttons here, …which are slightly difficult to
distinguish from each other. A bit of colour could potentially be useful here. And, hold on…is that a tick-box
with a reset button beside it? So if I tick it, …I can now have a second way to un-tick it? Is this really necessary? Now, as I mentioned earlier, the
other requirement of visual design …is that it can give an app an identity
to help it stand out from the crowd. …which in turn makes it easier to market. One core part of this branding is logo design. The MuseScore 2 logo was an eyesore, …and it’s been definitely improved with MuseScore 3, …but it still looks a little…half-baked. I mean, look at the Dorico branding for comparison. It’s not amazing, but it’s nice. You got this little D with the inverted note thing. That’s neat. With MuseScore, you have this fermata
mark floating over the letter ‘u’. I mean…it’s a bit lame, no? It might just be me, …I’m trying to figure out if there’s really
something really clever being implied here. But…a fermata? The marking that means you should
pause for an unspecified amount of time? Why that? I’m just imagining the designer thinking, “Hmm…that ‘u’ looks a little bare. “It needs something like…” “No, we can’t use that.” “We need some sort of music-y type thing.” “So, um…” “Yeah, that looks kinda…kinda cool.” “Job done!” “It’s open-source anyway, no one’s
expecting anything nice.” Also, why is it an ‘mu’ and not an ‘ms’? ‘muh’. But even ignoring the symb- MUH But even ignoring the symbolism, …is-is it? It-it seems a bit wonky to me. I don’t know if you can see it right away, but… …everything’s leaning over to one side slightly. It’s annoying. Hold on, let me show you by grabbing the logo file. Thanks, Open Source. See the way the ‘m’ is angling slightly over to the right? As if being blown by a breeze from the left? No? Okay, let me cut it out and invert it. Now if I add a grid so you can see the half-way point. Okay, it’s pretty clear now. The ‘u’ is swaying over to the left,
and the ‘m’ to the right. Why? Well, I noticed on the MuseScore website that
this logo was inspired by Helvetica Neue. Really? How? I’ll investigate this. Let’s just grab the lowercase ‘m’ from Helvetica Neue, …and…hmm. Already looking pretty similar. I’ve a feeling if I just isolate that curve
on the underside of this lowercase ‘m’ …and thicken it up a bit, and… Yep. I’m pretty sure I know how this logo was made. Right, so in Helvetica, the lowercase ‘m’
leans over to the side to aid readability. It works with the rest of the set. This is a self-contained logo, so… …leaning serves no purpose. And it’s not like this combination looks great either. So, this is what we get: A bent-out-of-shape ‘mu’ with
a random fermata mark on it. It’s just janky. This is the face of MuseScore. MuseScore has a janky face! So, what I would do? Well, let’s work on the assumption
that I can’t start again. So, let me at least make a few tweaks. And looking at it, I immediately
notice a lot of half-circles. Let’s start with that. I’ll create a circle based on
the size of the current version. I’ll move it over here and extend it. Then double it. Now I’ll do the same for the ‘u’, which is a little wider. And now we can turn the base
of the ‘u’ into a fermata marking, …so that they both have matching curves. Fine. Now if I pop that in a circle, let’s compare. And you might want to pause here
to fully appreciate the differences. Here’s the original on the left. Here’s my version in the middle, …with a variation on the right. Now, obviously, this is all subjective and you might think, “Hmm.” “I prefer the one on the left.” And that’s okay. It’s okay to be wrong. Now with MuseScore, the lack of
visual design finesse is evident, …but that’s not the case with the design
of its architecture and navigation. In this area, I think it really shines. In my Sibelius video, …I spent quite a bit of time pointing out how completely
unintuitive many of the functionalities were, …because they were hidden in places
you’d never expect to find them. And the problem with this is that if you’re
in the middle of writing some music, …especially when you’re ‘in the zone’, so to speak, …it’s immensely frustrating when
you have to halt what you’re doing, …in order to search around to find something
you know you’ve used before. Even worse if you need to down
tools to go on a Google hunt. Complex systems, when designed well, …allow users to form strong mental models
that help them to find things easily. And, where possible, they should try to incorporate mental models that are widely used elsewhere. A simple example of a common mental
model would be the layout of a pop-up. Here’s one. So, tell me. How do you close it? See, we don’t need to think twice. It’s a completely established mental model. You go midway up the left-hand side, …click on the double arrow, …and slide down the ‘popup’ switch. And when you think about it like this – “Where do I go to get something?” …that’s when you can see the
problems with the Sibelius model. It’s hard to conceptualise. If you want to add a marking that you
don’t use very often, where do you go? It could be in here. It could be in this big list. It could be here in the Text category under Styles. It could be in this widget. It could be buried under one of
two different right-click menus. Or it could have a unique place on the ribbon, …like the guitar diagram seen here, …or brackets in a different category here. MuseScore beats this hands down. The model is so simple I can describe it in a few words. If you want to write notes, they’re up here. If you want to add any other type of marking, …they’ll be here in the left panel. And if you want to move or alter
something that’s already in your score, …the options will be here in the right panel. That’s it. You now understand the layout of MuseScore. So let’s say I’m looking for guitar diagrams. Because I have a strong mental model of the layout, …I know with a high degree of certainty where I’ll find it. And when I drag it into the score, …I have a pretty good idea that the
options are going to appear here. This is the kind of intuitiveness that all
complicated apps should strive towards. It’s actually quite reminiscent of the
layout of a program called Sketch, …which is also really easy to learn. What’s more (and this is something I really like), …you can move these panels
around in whatever order you want. You can make them wider. And if you don’t like clutter, you can
remove any options you don’t need. But in saying that, there’s still quite a bit of clumsiness
strewn around here and there that needs cleaning up. Here’s a quick list I’ve put together. Okay. Are you ready for the pain? Right. First off, you see all these things? These blue UI elements, frames and hidden objects? Sometimes I want to temporarily switch them off, …so I can see how the score
is going to look when printed. To do this, I need to untick
these different options here. But each time I untick one of them, the menu closes, …so I have to navigate back up and open it
back up in order to untick the next option, …and it closes again. Huueergh. Okay, I’m done now. I can see it. I’m happy. And now I want to turn them all back on, …so I have to take four more trips
back to the view menu again. Will you… Will you just leave it open? Let me tick and untick what I want,
and I’ll close it when I’m done. Better yet, look how empty the right-hand
panel is when nothing is selected. I mean, look at it now. It’s the ‘Nothing selected’ panel. I think we can get a bit more imaginative than that. Perhaps when nothing is selected, …it could show useful things like, um… Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, that’s an idea. In fact, there’re tons of things you can potentially put
in here that are currently buried in the top menu. I also notice an option called ‘Documents Side by Side’. Oh, maybe this is what I need – a kind of print preview? Oh no. No, it’s just the same thing twice. Okay. Well, I don’t want that. I mean, no one in history has ever wanted that. So let’s just close it. Oh. It’s asking me to save another copy. Nah, why would I want- Oh, I’ve just deleted my entire project without saving. Remind me why I have an option
to see the same document twice? Is it because you forgot to disable it
when there’s only one document open? I think it is… Incidentally, if you have your part scores
open, this is actually a pretty cool feature. Now this next one is…insane. So, a very common thing in score-writing to want to change an instrument
midway through the piece. How do we do this? My first expectation is to click on the bar in question, …and then go to where I remember
the instruments options being. No. No instrument-change option up here. That’s okay though. Let’s look around in the side panel. Hmm. Not there either. Okay, so now I’m going to look more
carefully through the left panel …and, sure enough, good old
left panel has what I need. I love you, left panel. And now…uh… Oh okay, hold on. It’s just text with no options. Bad left panel! Okay, I don’t know what to do now. Time to consult Google! Oh, a video! Yeah. Yeah. Uh…come on. Y-yeah. Uh… Who are you advertising to?
I have the app already! “Hello, and welcome to another Quick Tips video.” *sigh* “Sometimes you might decide to change
an instrument when you’re writing a score.” “This bass guitar part, for instance…” Okay, let’s just skip the video. I’ll summarise. So, I need to go to Staff
Properties by right-clicking. Yeah, well, I guess the app is full. There’s nowhere else this option could possibly go. So I go to Staff Properties and then hit another button. Voilà! Okay, now to change the instrument to a viola and, uh… Oh, you’re kidding me. It’s actually replaced the violin across the entire score? So hold on. How did- how on Earth do I change to an
instrument mid-way through the score? Right. Time for some precision-Googling. I’m not holding out much hope for this. Uh, okay. Ah! Mid-staff changes, here we go. Okay. W- wow, do I- do I really need all of this? Erm, okay. Scroll down, scroll down… Ah, here we go! Hold on… Are you serious? I have to right-click on that text
to change the instrument? I’ve to right click on this? And it’s, like, the only unique option here too. Yeah, because there’s nowhere
else this could possibly go. So I change the instrument and… D- did I do it? Oh man, it didn’t even alter the
text for me or change the clef, …so I have to do all that manually. W- what do you have against changing instruments? So, yeah. As I subtly alluded to a few seconds ago, PUT IT THERE! You let me change noteheads and text
values in this panel, and that’s great! Do it for everything! Now, we need to talk about part scores. This took me ages to figure out. You’ll find it under ‘File’, secreted
away below the ‘Close’ option. Not the most easy thing to find, but… …that’s not the worst sin ever. Okay, let’s open it. What on Earth am I looking at? Uh… ‘Select Part’? But there are no parts there, and… Okay, ‘Edit Part’. Uh…violin? Hmm, alright. Uh…nothing’s happening. I think I’ll press ‘enter’. Oh, that just closed it. Okay. Okay, let’s open it back up again. So…’Instruments in Score’. That looks promising, …but the ‘+’ doesn’t do anything. Um…do I drag it here? No. Okay. So as a last resort, let’s press this button: ‘New All’. Oh…oh, that’s done something. Okay, I think that did it! Hurrah! W- what do you mean ‘New All?’ What sort of copywriting is that? It feels like the person responsible was in
the middle of trying to get the phrasing right, …and then just had a stroke! Oh no… No, no, no, no… I don’t want to go back to that place. No… No, it’s fading… It’s fading…w- we’re okay, we’re okay. Save it for the Finale video… I’m alright. Okay. Please don’t do that again to me, MuseScore. So, let’s talk about something else. In the world of design, we have a term
called the ‘Out of Box Experience’, …which refers to designs …specifically aimed at helping new users
understand how things work as quickly as possible. You see this on mobile apps all the time: …et cetera. Impressively for the MuseScore team, …they’ve just introduced their
own version called ‘Tours’, …little popups that appear at various points to
explain where things are and how they work. But again, I just get the sense that
although they’ve built the right thing, …they’re using it in slightly the wrong way. So after launching the app, …if you try to grab something from the left panel, …a popup appears, that gives a general
breakdown of what the entire panel is for. That’s nice, …but it’s not what I’m planning to do right now. Right now, I want to play around and find stuff, …and these options don’t really
permit me to learn that way. I can either give up what I was
trying to do and press ‘Next’, …which takes me through a
series of various descriptions, …or I can close it. Kind of holding me hostage here. I like the idea of these descriptions, …I just don’t want them right at this moment. I find that this keeps happening as I’m working. It’s not that the instructions are bad, …it’s just that they tend to come when i don’t want them. When someone clicks on a thing, …they probably have a very specific intent, …and triggering a pop-up right at that moment
is probably going to be an obstruction. So, there are a few ways of improving this: One is to provide a message
that works with the likely intent, …and which doesn’t prevent you from accomplishing it. Oh, you’re clicked on a marking? You can drag it here and add it to your score. Oh, you’ve selected an item in the score? You can edit it over here. Another way is to devise a method of letting the
user decide when explanations should happen. Imagine, for example, that there
was a button specifically for this. Let’s call it ‘Knowledge’, …accompanied by, uh… …I don’t know, the MuseScore icon. Hmm, maybe we can augment that a little. It does looks a bit like an eye, so let’s make it an eye. Ah, it’s the all-seeing Eye of Terpsichore. So, you click on something, …the eye opens creepily to indicate that it’s active. Then when you click on it, it tells you: And that way, you get the information
you want when you want it, …not forced on you. And as you move through the score,
the eye could follow you around, …wincing each time you specify
Times New Roman as the font, …rolling its eyes when you use
more than three forte marks. …and a unique function where, if you enter
the name ‘Einaudi’ in the composer field, …it gets glaucoma, shrivels up and never opens again. I’m really liking this eye button. I’m offering it up as a design that anyone can use. You know, you could have it in
other apps too, like uh…Sibelius, …where, if you click on it, …it takes you to the Dorico download page. Your time will come, Dorico. Laugh while you can. And that brings me to the final part of this video: The importance of tiny details. And from here on, I’m going to do something unusual: I’m going to be praising Sibelius, …because despite its many problems, …its notation functionality, the
thing that made it famous, …is still really good. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. But for context, …it’s important to remind ourselves
when making this comparison, …that MuseScore has a very
different development setup. The current team is tiny. They don’t employ any professional designers right now, …and they don’t have the capacity
to perform controlled user-testing. Instead, their feedback comes from a
community who makes feature requests, …and they rely solely on open-source contributions …and the design savvy of their
existing team to achieve them. And although feedback and user requests
are essential to knowing what to work on, …solid designers are often needed
to figure out how to provide them …without massively over-complicating the app. So, although the MuseScore team have
done remarkably well up to this point, …I think they could now do with
some dedicated full-time designers …to work through the sorts of
finesse I’m about to describe. And you’d hope that under the
ownership of Ultimate Guitar, …that’s now on the cards. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Because, as it stands, …there are hundreds of carefully considered
little efficiencies that Sibelius has, …which MuseScore doesn’t, …and these add up. Let me show you what I’m talking about. First off, let’s start with something
tiny to show why it’s really useful. Say I want to draw a slur over these notes here. By default with both apps, …I can press the shortcut ‘S’. There we go. Now, using another shortcut,
I can quickly extend it like this. Great. Now, say I later come back and decide
that I want to change the phrasing, …so the slur mark covers only the first two notes. Well, in MuseScore, there’s a
shortcut to bring the slur backwards, …but it’s actually faster to just delete it and start again. Sibelius is even faster than this, …because when I delete a slur, …it automatically re-selects the note the slur began on, …so I can add a new one immediately. To see how much time this saves, …I compared how long it took me to correct the
phrasing of a two-bar piece of music in both apps. In Musescore, after trying twice, …I managed to do it in 1 minute and 29 seconds. In Sibelius, I managed it in 1 minute and 8 seconds. That’s a difference of 21 seconds,
which might seem trivial, …but we’re only talking about 4 instruments and 2 bars. If you make that 16 instruments, …the difference is a minute and 20 seconds. With 200 bars, …now we’re talking 2 hours
and 20 minutes of time …purely spent moving your mouse to click on a note. Sibelius does this for loads of things: Performance directions, …dynamics, …lines, et cetera. Musescore doesn’t do it at all. And when writing music, you
can really feel the difference. Here’s another one: In Sibelius, I can copy dynamics
and hairpins at the same time, …and then paste them immediately
onto another instrument, like this. MuseScore doesn’t do this. I can copy and paste each dynamic marking, …but I need to create the hairpin each time. Also, in Sibelius, …I can grab these three dynamics
along with the edge of the hairpin, …and drag them all to a new note. In MuseScore, this is really painful. Again, this has to be done one by one. The time difference in this example is much worse, …and this is partially to do with
the convention in MuseScore …that you need to double-click on things
in order to enter into an editing mode. Seems like a good idea. That might be neat, but it’s also slow. How can I edit multiple hairpins if I have to
double-click on one to enter into a special mode? What about copying and pasting? Well, in Sibelius, …if I copy these bars and paste them into the cello part, …it also replaces the dynamics as well as the phrasing. In MuseScore, if I do this, …it keeps the original phrasing and dynamics too, …which has now resulted in this mess. Great, now I have to go and delete everything. What about spacing? Well, in Sibelius, I can click and drag
on most elements to move them. Here I’m just making a few improvements
to make the score look nicer. In MuseScore, in order to do similar improvements, …I need to enter values in this sidebar. That’s fine, although the objects aren’t tied together. Look, the barline is messed up now. I have to select every bit of every bar first. Again, really time-consuming. I’m beginning to understand the
use of this fermata mark now. MuseScore – prepare to pause for
an unspecified amount of time. On the plus side, I can double-click
on this note to do this. That’s fun. In Musescore, if I select a note,
I can change the duration. That’s good, …but if I want to change the
duration of multiple notes at once, …no such luck. I can do that in Sibelius. Another thing I can do is just
hit one of these note values …to immediately write in the score. With MuseScore, …I have to remember to turn on the note-input function. Why? What’s the point of having a scenario
where this button does nothing? Then there’s playback. One thing I make use of a lot is the ability to isolate instruments so I can hear exactly what they’re doing. It’s one of the great benefits of music software. But for some reason, I can’t do this quickly, …say, by highlighting the instrument in question …and pressing play like I can with Sibelius. I have to instead bring up the mixer, …turn on the solo button, …listen to it, …then come back to the mixer
again and go back to normal. It’s beyond irritating to have to keep
navigating away from the score like this. And now to my least favourite omission of all: If I’m writing for piano, …I rely on being able to press the left or right
arrow keys to shift between chords, like this. In MuseScore, however, you can’t hear the full chord, …only the top note. This means that, unless I have a piano to hand, …and I often don’t because I write a lot while travelling, …composing in MuseScore is pretty much out of
the question because the playback is just too slow, …or at least it seemed that way, …because there’s been an interesting development. You see, I’ve been talking quite a bit to the people at MuseScore while researching this video, …mainly to help me get a sense
of their history and current setup. And along the way, I mentioned this last problem, …and asked whether there was
a setting I could use to correct it. And in response, …a few days later I got an email letting me know …that this had been added to their backlog. Then a few days after that, it was implemented. Here’s an example of a video taken
by the developer who worked on it. So you can expect to see this
improvement over the next few weeks, …or it might even be out before this video is published. I guess this is a good segway into
my final thoughts about the app. I don’t know if it comes across here, …but I like MuseScore. It’s far beyond what I was expecting, …and it’s rate of improvement is pretty impressive. On the visual side, I don’t really think
this is a cause for much worry, …since the fundamental navigation is excellent, …and it seems to be headed in the right direction. Although I think it could stand to look a bit nicer, …this isn’t too hard to achieve. Just a good reskin. Pretty painless compared to the overhaul
I think Sibelius needs for its entire navigation. As for the rate of improvement, …updates happen all the time
and they’re effortless to install. They also listen a lot. So if you agreed with anything I’ve mentioned
or if you’ve ideas of your own, …make sure to say so in the comments. They’ll be reading and taking notes. Regarding notation and engraving, …this is where MuseScore have
their work cut out for them. Having worked on large-scale creation apps myself, …I know how awkward it is to try and satisfy multiple different types of user with just one interface. I’ve made a few suggestions for improvements here, …but there’ll be thousands more from other musicians, …and many of them will undoubtedly
contradict each other. Charting a course through all of this that satisfies
the most amount of people will be very difficult. Sibelius seems like a good
choice if you’re a professional, …but it’s a nightmare to learn and
can often be maddening to use. Getting really good at it takes months, …but when you do get good, it’s pretty fast, …and as I’ve shown, contains
a lovely attention to detail. MuseScore almost feels like
it has the opposite problem. It’s very easy to pick up, …which makes it great for beginners or people
who want to blast out a score every once in a while, …but it doesn’t yet have the
notation or engraving finesse …that I think would suck in
professional users en masse. But that could change quickly. They have a strong and seemingly loyal user base, …a great score-sharing community, …the ability to push out updates quickly, …the backing of a large company, …and consistent leadership. And, they’ve also got Terpsichore
and Shostakovich on their side. Any final thoughts, Shosty?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *