Tag Archives: F/OSS

Using MuseScore to create lead sheets

As I noted in an earlier post, I recently purchased Finale NotePad, the cheap-o version of this music notation software. I needed it to create some basic lead sheets for some new material that The Viper and His Famous Orchestra will be debuting at our summer shows for 2009. Lead sheets are a practice tool for bands working in a vernacular tradition — they typically include just a simplified version of the “head” melody of a song written out on a treble-clef staff, with chord symbols written above the staff (like what you’d find in a fakebook).

As a notation project, a lead sheet is a pretty simple creature and doesn’t require all the bells and whistles that someone doing, say, a full orchestral score would need from software. And I found NotePad pretty easy to figure out to quickly get a line of music down on paper. But because lead sheets are created for musicians who need it mostly as spot-check reference tool for practicing, and for musicians who may or may not be skilled readers of music, they do create there own demands on someone notating the music — mostly, demands for simplicity.

Some of these demands I found hard to meet with Finale NotePad. Most notably, I found I couldn’t get the line to break where I wanted it so that there’d be a nice, round, easy-to-read four measures per line  on the page. This doesn’t sound like a big deal – but it makes a lead sheet infinitely more useful as a practice tool if it can be set up this way.

On my earlier post, I noted this issue with NotePad and mentioned that I was going to be trying out an alternative, free and open source program called MuseScore. Well, within less than a day, I’d been contacted by two separate boosters of MuseScore with helpful advice and more. A David Bolton commented on my post, saying “MuseScore can add grace notes and double bar lines plus many more things that NotePad can’t do.” And then some superhero known only as “Lasconic” emailed me out of the blue, having voluntarily taken on the project of himself or herself inputting my lead sheet for “Heyse Latke” into MuseScore. As he/she writes:

I created a musicXML file from your pdf with an OMR software and open the musicXML with musescore. Then I modify it. The most recent prerelease of musescore has a plugin to break every 4 measures automatically. You can break where you want too of course. You can label the part with rehearsal marks, and use double barlines. I didn’t put any appogiatura, but it’s also possible. Not sure you’re playing a mandolin, I thought it was a ukulele. I didn’t change it neither but it’s possible as well. The result looks cleaner and beautiful, at least for my taste. Hope you like it! Tell me what you think and try musescore! It will be great to have your feedback on the forum: http://musescore.org/en/forum.

And he/she is right: it is cleaner and beautiful. Take a look at:


Or the musescore file at:


I haven’t yet properly thanked Lasconic or written to the forum. But I have begun using MuseScore and am finding it to be absolutely perfect for my purposes. There are some issues with needing to download a supplementary midi pack to be able to play back some of the fuller, multi-staff scores I’m now also creating with it. But for creating basic lead sheets, it’s an easy-to-learn, simple-to-use program for creating very usable, professional looking stuff. I’m very impressed and happy with it.