Review of Instant MuseScore

Since I’ve always been interested in computer-aided music notation and a strong proponent of open-source software, I’ve been advocating MuseScore among my fellow musician colleagues since multiple releases. When learning the usage of a new piece of software, questions always pop up about the most common sheet music engraving tasks. When Packt Publishing asked me to review Instant MuseScore, I was eager to see whether this e-book fulfills its promise of being a pragmatic hands-on quickstart guide to the first steps of using MuseScore. Here are some of my thoughts.

Its workflow-oriented structure is very practical (although I would definitely not put the “Barlines and repeats” section into the “Formatting” chapter, especially repeats are clearly not a matter of formatting). The tip about setting the velocity of special notes (e.g. slashes) was new and useful for me. The notes about potential caveats are also helpful and can save a lot of frustration.

For an “Instant” book which aims to be quickly skimmable, more formatting emphases would be good, as well as indicating the keyboard shortcuts for every command mentioned. The used version of MuseScore could be more prominent because there are major UI changes between new versions.

I would note that ties can be inserted with the numeric plus sign (on most keyboards this character is bound to Shift+3, which is reserved for inserting a third below), and also I think it would be important to emphasize that unfortunately, extracted parts are separate copies, not views (as opposed to MuseScore’s commercial counterparts).

When describing expression anchors, I miss mentioning that they also affect playback obviously, not just the layout of the sheet music. In the lyrics chapter, it would be also worth showing the keyboard shortcut of inserting a space into a syllable. (Though this is not the most common case, it occurs quite frequently in some languages, e.g. in Italian.)

One tiny but apparent technical issue with the PDF version of the e-book: the embedded font does not support the Cmd and the spacer icon.

Although I doubt that a book (especially a printed one) is the most suitable medium for teaching the usage of such a complex application (screencasts are better, the best would be tutorials integrated into the interface of the application itself), if you can afford its not too low price, Instant MuseScore will give you a gentle introduction to this feature-packed but yet maturing program.

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