Music Notation Programs: Recent Releases

A few weeks ago I promised to bring in some more general news from the world of Linux audio software development. Alas, my plans were ambushed by the happy intrusion of the release of Renoise for Linux, but I'm back on track. As promised, here's more straight reporting on the world of Linux sound and music software, starting with some news about recently released music notation programs.

I've covered notation editors in depth in a previous series about music notation software for Linux. However, some interesting developments have occurred since I wrote that article.

Figure 1: NtED

NtED marks the return of Dr. Joerg Anders into the field of Linux music notation software. Professor Anders is perhaps best known for his pioneering NoteEdit. Many of that program's best features are present in NtED, and the list of planned improvement indicates that the good doctor intends to take special care of his project. NtED is advertised as a true WYSIWYG notation editor, with MusicXML import capability and MIDI and PostScript export functions (for printing scores directly from NtED). Four-part polyphonic staff entry is supported, along with score playback (via TiMidity or any synthesizer connected to an ALSA sequencer port) and a wide variety of rhythmic values and other staff directives.

As I wrote this report I discovered that Dr. Anders has released version 0.19.1 of his program (Figure 1). I was a fan of his earlier work, and I must say that I continue to be impressed with this newer project. Of course, at this stage NtED is still evolving, but it is already stable and useful music software. On my personal wishlist, I'd like to see support for LilyPond and MusicXML as export targets, I think those features would greatly expand NtED's appeal and utility. Meanwhile, there's more than enough in NtED to keep me happy and productive.

Figure 2: MuseScore

Although its most recent release is version 0.9.1, MuseScore is a relatively new addition to the Linux music notation software armory, but chief developer Werner Schweer is certainly no stranger to the domain of Linux audio development. Werner's Muse is one the top-ranked audio/MIDI sequencers for Linux, and that program is in fact the genesis point for MuseScore. Muse's original design included a notation editor, but its developer wisely considered that further development of that editor would continue best as stand-alone program.

Like NtED, MuseScore is a true WYSIWYG editor, complete with support for score playback and import/export of MusicXML and standard MIDI files. Percussion notation is supported, as is direct printing from the program. MuseScore's features are too numerous to list, here so I'll simply point readers to the program's Web home for more details.

Alas, MuseScore's dependencies include a version of Qt (4.3 or higher) that is not available in the stable repos for my JAD and 64 Studio systems, so I was unable to build and test it under Linux. However, I discovered a rather unusual way to test the program: I ran its Windows version under Wine (Figure 2). Since the software is intended to run identically across the platforms, I figured I'd at least be able to see what it looks like. I was pleased to discover that I could use MuseScore with the wineasio driver, thus allowing a hybrid setup to test the program's scoring and playback capabilities (FluidSynth is built into the app). However, I did not test printing from the Windows version (no printer hooked to my JAD box, sorry).

By the way, readers who have been following Alex Stone's fascinating odyssey into Linux audio may be interested to know that Alex has also been experimenting with MuseScore and that it appears to have become the notation centerpiece of his Parchment Studios. This employment speaks well for the program, given that Alex's work is mainly orchestral music.

Figure 3: gcomposer

Cedric Roux, a.k.a. sed, describes his gcomposer as "a little tool to write music". While it does not aspire to the magnitude of NtED or MuseScore, it is a good program within its (self-imposed) design limitations. First, it's perhaps best for guitarists. Sed is himself a classical guitarist who wanted a compact notation editor with a small but flexible features set. In the true spirit of the Linux audio software hacker, sed had an itch, he scratched it, and thus was born gcomposer (Figure 3).

gcomposer is available as a source code package for Linux and as a precompiled binary for Windows. The program has few dependencies, is easy to build, and is even easier to use. Sed may expand it to support MIDI and LilyPond as export targets, which will be nice, but gcomposer is indeed already a neat little tool for writing music.

Figure 4: LilyPond

Meanwhile, LilyPond itself continues to mature. LilyPond stable is now at version 2.10.33 (my OpenSUSE 10.2 repos are still on 2.8.7), with the development sources at version 2.11.39. I'll not rehearse a litany of praise for LilyPond, I'll just point readers to the Web site. While you're visiting, take the time to read the excellent essay on automated music engraving. If you've ever wanted to know the rationale behind LilyPond, you'll want to read this essay.

Alas, LilyPond documentation developer Graham Percival has announced his departure from the LilyPond team. Fortunately his leave-taking is amicable, and Graham has solicited the community for volunteers to take up the slack for the not-inconsiderable task of developing and maintaining the LilyPond documentation project. Interested readers should consult the relevant traffic in the LilyPond mail-list archives and contact the development team (see the LilyPond Web site for contact adresses). Graham put an enormous amount of work into organizing and expanding a very complex project, and he has high hopes for its continued development. Good luck in future projects, Graham, and thanks for your great contribution to LilyPond.

And since we must have screenshots, Figure 4 shows off jEdit running the very cool LilyPondTool plugin. See the Music Notation pages at for a list of other graphic editors for LilyPond.


I'll have more reports coming up next week. Ardour 2.3 has been released, I still owe you all some news about the LinuxSampler project, and did I mention that I'm now the proud owner of an XO laptop ? More about all that when we meet again. Until then, stay tuneful.


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


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Wikipedia enties for MuseScore and NoteEdit

Thomas Nichols's picture

Thanks for a very interesting article. You might note that there is currently a debate on Wikipedia about whether articles about these projects meet Wikipedia's "notability guidelines" - NoteEdit and MuseScore are nominated for deletion, TuxGuitar and others have already gone. If anyone feels strongly about this and feels able to contribute to the discussion, now is the time :-)

-- Thomas

Notation for guitar

syastrov's picture

As of version 0.9.0, MuseScore has had a new TextLine spanner (under the Lines palette) which is capable of showing customizable text.
I sent in this patch because I wanted to be able to indicate barre positions in guitar sheet music (like VII------|). (I guess you didn't notice the feature when entering the example for the article).
Also, you can change the frame type of a text object to circled, to make e.g. string number indications, like (6).
So for anyone who wants to notate classical guitar sheet music, MuseScore is looking to be a very good choice among non-Lilypond based editors. If you need to show tablature though, that won't be implemented until the future, so I advise using another program like Tuxguitar or Songwrite.

Nice to see how NtEd is moving along. Thanks for keeping us up to date, Dave.


.TEF compatibility?

Banjo Picker's picture

Thank you for your article. I recently switched completely from Windows and have yet to find a suitable program to play .TEF tablature files. I have tried using Tabledit through Wine but probably due to user error the sound is inconsistent. Is there anything you can recommend? Thanks in advance!

Tabledit in Wine

ArtInvent's picture

I've actually used Tabledit in Wine extensively for a year, and it works perfectly, sound always works, and the sound font and the pdf printing are both actually better than under my Windows install. I'm on Ubuntu Gutsy, Wine 0.9.56, Tabledit 2.65.

I actually used Tabledit in Windows for a long time, and found it superior to the other available proprietary tab editors like GuitarPro, Powertab etc. The print formatting options are much more extensive for one. Also you can import midi's and other tab formats like ascii and ptb. Unfortunately I've not seen any FOSS programs up to that level yet. I keep my eye on Tuxguitar but it doesn't seem too active.

I would suggest asking for help at the page for Tabledit. A few tweaks or updates are likely all that's necessary to get it working. Cheers.

TuxGuitar 1.0 Release Candidate

ArtInvent's picture

TuxGuitar seems to be in active development and working on upcoming v1.0. I've just installed the .deb file for Ubuntu Gutsy and have it running now. I imported a TEF file and have it playing. On one import there were some glitches, and most of the formatting and score marks etc that you can make with Tabledit are not supported and not possible. But it does look like good progress and probably the best FOSS tab program so far.

Supposedly Lilypond export is also supported, however with the limited score formatting you can do I wouldn't expect hand-tooled looking music engraving just yet.

RE: .TEF compatiblity

Anonymous's picture

TablEdit can export MusicXML files. Have you tried exporting MusicXML file sfrom TablEdit and then reading them into a Linux tab program like KGuitar?


Dave Phillips's picture

According to its list of supported file formats TuxGuitar will read TEF files.



Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


Banjo Picker's picture

Thank you all for your suggestions. This was my first attempt at actually posting for help so thank you for your advice!


ethan's picture

Nothing about Canorus?

my bad

Dave Phillips's picture

You're right, Canorus should have been included. For those who don't know: Canorus began life as an extension from Dr. Joerg Anders' original NoteEdit after he announced his departure from its further development. Reinhard Katzmann has subsequently guided a team of developers through the metamorphosis of NE into Canorus, which has indeed evolved into a life of its own. The latest stable release is version 0.5, source code and packages are available from the Canorus Web site.

It's a good project, I promise I'll cover it in more detail in a future article. :)

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

MuseScore build from sources

Anonymous's picture

The MuseScore build problems are not limited to the dependency issue. The install process is stuck, evidently. on cmake errors"
Install the project...
-- Install configuration: ""
CMake Error: Error in cmake code at
FILE INSTALL cannot find file "/tmp/src/mscore-0.9.1/build/mscore.desktop" to install.
Current CMake stack: /tmp/src/mscore-0.9.1/build/cmake_install.cmake
make[1]: *** [install] Error 255
make[1]: Leaving directory `/tmp/src/mscore-0.9.1/build'
make: *** [install] Error 2

I am running #1 SMP PREEMPT RT i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux
All listed dependencies have been satisfied.
There are no error indications from the build process, only the above from the install.

Gcomposer down

Anonymous's picture

The gcomposer web site appears to be down. Anyone know what happened to it?

how to get gcomposer

Sed's picture

If you want gcomposer, send an email to me at
But may I suggest that you try nted, it's much better.
Or even learn lilypond, this is the way to be.
Anyway, I can provide gcomposer for a while.
(Note that the windoz version won't be provided.)
Take care.

Nted Lilypond export

Anonymous's picture

Nice article.

A new version of Nted is released, WITH LILYPOND export function ;)