Recently, there has been a growing interest in MuseScore, a music notation program, on the PSR Tutorial website. Members have been commenting on its purpose and use, as related to creating music lead sheets. One of its newest features, in the latest Version 2.0.2, now supports the import of PDF files to reduce the need to create a lead sheet from scratch. This new feature is still in the experimental stage. While some editing and cleanup may need to be accomplished after importing a file, this certainly diminishes the task of entering every single note in the lead sheet. This article is intended to serve as an overview of this product only and give a quick start to creating your first lead sheet and subsequently transposing this sheet to the key signature of your choice. Some useful Links will also be provided, to the MuseScore website, where you will find extensive instruction in the form of an online Handbook.
What is MuseScore?
MuseScore is a software program used to create, play and print sheet music. It is free and open source music notation software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. You can learn more about the MuseScore team here. Visit the MuseScore web site to download the program, login and create an account and review Lessons 1 through 11 as well as an online handbook.
Below, I give you two Quick Start Guides. One for creating a lead sheet from a Midi File and the second for creating a lead sheet from a PDF file.
Import Midi File, Transpose, Create and Print Lead a Sheet
This is an overview of importing a midi file into MuseScore, transposing the key signature and Exporting a lead sheet in PDF format.
- Open MuseScore
- Click File Pull Down Menu … Click Open … Navigate to the midi file and open it.
- Click File Pull Down Menu … Click Edit … Click Select All or Ctrl + A.
- Click File Pull Down Menu … Click Notes … Click Transpose. There are four options to select from so choose the desired option or options. … Click OK.
- Click the Save Icon or Ctrl + S.
The midi file has now been transposed and Saved in MuseScore's format (*.mscz).
To print the lead sheet, select the entire score or selected instruments to Export to a PDF file.
- Click File Pull Down Menu … Click Edit … Click Instrument or i on the keyboard.
- This opens the MuseScore: Instruments dialog box.
- By default all of the instruments are preselected with a checkmark in a box next to each instrument.
- To print the entire score, just OK out of the dialog box.
- To print selected voices, uncheck the instruments you don't want to print.
- Click File Pull Down Menu … Click Export … the default Export format is PDF, but you will see many files types that you may select from also. Since we are creating a lead sheet, we will Export a PDF file. If you are satisfied with the filename, Click OK or change the filename as desired and then Click OK. The PDF file is Saved to the following default file location, assuming your hard drive is the C: drive:
Your lead sheet is now ready for printing or viewing on a music reader.
A great resource for music lead sheets is Midi Music assembled by the Geo Cities Archive Team (2009). This collection contains over 51,000 midi files (about 2 GB of data).
Import PDF File, Transpose and Create a Lead Sheet
Importing PDF files into MuseScore is still in the experimental stage, as referenced above. This is somewhat of a controversial subject and the end result depends upon several factors such as the quality of the original PDF file, the resolution of the scanned file, the background clutter or noise visible in the file, the scanner used to create the file, etc.
Here is an excerpt from MuseScore about the requirements for a PDF file as related to the ability of MuseScore to Import the file:
This is a free experimental service which attempts to convert your PDF sheet music to MuseScore (.mscz) files. It is powered by the open source Audiveris software.
Best results are obtained with gray level images and a resolution around 300 DPI.
You will be notified via email when the conversion yields some result, good or bad.
This is an overview of importing a PDF file into MuseScore, transposing the key signature and Exporting a lead sheet in PDF format.
- Open MuseScore
- Click File Pull Down Menu … Import PDF. This opens a web page.
- Enter your email address or your MuseScore username and your password associated with your MuseScore account or create a MuseScore account if you don't have one. Click Log in.
- Below Convert your PDF files … Click Select PDF file.
- Drag and Drop the file in the on screen box or Click Browse and Navigate to the PDF file and open it
- This will start the conversion process and convert the PDF file to the MuseScore format (*.mscz).
- When the conversion process has completed, you will see the filename under Converted Files along with the conversion result. The results will vary from Unsuccessful to Download the file.
- If the result shows that a Download is available, Click on Download and open the file in MuseScore.
- If, prior to the file opening, you receive a MuseScore File corrupted notification, Click Ignore and open the file to view the results and see if it is worth cleaning up the file.
You will need to experiment with your scanner's settings and will, more than likely, need to reduce your grayscale to the lowest setting available.
After cleaning up the file by inserting any missing notes or fixing any wrong notes, you will then Save the file again. The steps to Transpose and Export the PDF file are the same as the instructions above for creating a lead sheet from a midi file.
There are those that say this process takes more time than just entering the entire lead sheet by hand. While you may encounter some files where this will be so, it certainly won't be the case in every file you convert. My best results have come from music sheets that I have scanned at 300 dpi and not from scanned files that I have downloaded from the internet. I'm using an Epson WorkForce WF-7620 All-in-One Printer in the scanning process.