MuseScore | Free Open Source Music Notation Software

By | 2012/07/05

MuseScore is a great free and open source music notation app for Mac, Windows and Linux. MuseScore has the work flow and feel of Sibelius and is able to import and export files to Sibelius and Finale via MusicXML.


On Debian or Ubuntu Linux install with:

$ sudo apt-get install musescore


Note input is via midi keyboard, mouse, or computer keyboard much like Sibelius or Finale.

MuseScore also has playback of the score.

Elements on the staff can be dragged around for positioning, or fine tuned to their location.

MuseScore can import:

.mscz (compressed musescore format)
.msc (musescore format)
.xml (MusicXML)
.mxl (compressed MusicXML)
.mid (midi)

MuseScore can save as:

.mscz (compressed musescore format)
.msc (musescore format)
.xml (MusicXML)
.mxl (compressed MusicXML)
.mid (midi)
.pdf (PDF)
.ps (postscript)
.png (PNG graphic)
.svg (scalable vector)
.ly (lilypond)
.wav (wave audio)
.ogg (ogg audio)
.flac (flac audio)


Example Score

Below is an example score notated in Sibelius and then imported to MuseScore to compare.

Sibelius [PDF]

MuseScore [PDF]

Performance recording [MP3]

MuseScore makes extremely professional looking scores. Some of the back and forth alternating staves did not translate 100% from the MusicXML import, but that is fixable manually.


I then exported from MuseScore to lilypond format to see how the score would look rendered by lilypond.


I ran convert-ly to match the exported .ly file to the current version of lilypond I have installed:

$ convert-ly --from=2.12.0 --to=2.14.2 >
convert-ly (GNU LilyPond) 2.14.2
Processing `'... 
Applying conversion: 2.12.3, 2.13.0, 2.13.1, 2.13.4, 2.13.10, 2.13.16, 2.13.18, 2.13.20, 2.13.29, 2.13.31, 2.13.36, 2.13.39, 2.13.40, 2.13.42, 2.13.44, 2.13.46, 2.13.48, 2.13.51, 2.14.0

Then upon trying to render the score I was hit with a few errors. :/ I’ll investigate this later. It is probably due to the somewhat contemporary score.

$ lilypond 
GNU LilyPond 2.14.2
Processing `'
Parsing... error: unknown escaped string: `\sffz'
    c8 gis'~->  
                \sffz gis4~ \fff      | % 7 error: syntax error, unexpected STRING
    c8 gis'~->  
                \sffz gis4~ \fff      | % 7 error: syntax error, unexpected '*'
    R1 \mf 
           *2  | % error: syntax error, unexpected STRING

AvoiceAB = \relative c'{ error: syntax error, unexpected STRING

error: failed files: ""

Other demo scores included exported to lilypond, and were rendered with lilypond without issue.

Overall I am quite impressed with MuseScore. Check it out!

2 thoughts on “MuseScore | Free Open Source Music Notation Software

  1. lasconic

    Hey! Great article!
    Depending on your Ubuntu or Debian version, you might want to check the MuseScore PPA to have a more recent version

    Regarding lilypond export, you might want to try to export to MusicXML in MuseScore and run, it should be part of your Lilypond installation

    1. scott Post author

      Ok great thanks! I’ll try the latest versions and play around a bit more with lilypond options,


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