March 7, 2019     Moll Brown

Arrange Music for Your Next Tour with Ease: A ‘How To’ Guide to Noteflight


Are you planning a performance tour but just found out your lead clarinet, half your tenor section, or your double bass player can’t make the trip? Don’t let a shift in ensemble balance keep you from taking your performers out into the world to share their talents!

One of the best ways to solve balance issues is to rearrange music to suit the needs of your traveling ensemble. Think you don’t have the time or the tools to rearrange? With Encore taking care of your travel plans and the help of this “how to” guide, you’ll be on your way to creating free*, sharable arrangements in no time!

Note on Copyright: Copyright laws for arrangements can be tricky. However, blanket copyright licenses for performance venues will generally cover the performance of an arrangement if the arrangement is not published and sold for outside use. Ask Encore to check with the venues you’ll be performing in to be sure. And don’t forget that all public domain works are fair game for arranging!

Noteflight: While there are many options when it comes to music writing software available, they can be costly and require sharing large files or printing out all the scores yourself. Noteflight is a free*, web-based composition tool that is user-friendly and has the capability to share music and arrangements online. In addition to rearranging, it’s a great tool transcribing music to make easily shareable practice tracks.

Noteflight has a detailed user guide, but we thought we’d save you some time by creating this how-to guide of the most used functions so you can get re-arranging with ease today!

*Noteflight is free for up to 10 scores per account but can be purchased for $7.95 a month or $49.95 a year, still a great bargain over the much more expensive downloadable software. 

This Guide Covers:

Getting Started – Setting up a Score| Opening a New Score | Toolbar | Name & Artist | Views | Time & Key Signature | Clefs & Tempo | Parts & Concert Pitch | Adding Measures 

Making Music Notes & Rhythms | Rests | Stacking Notes | Multiple Voices | Copy and Paste | Transposing

Listening & Learning | Playback | Sharing | Printing

Getting Started – Setting Up a Score

NOTE: Save frequently. One of the few drawbacks to Noteflight as an online software is that if your page is reloaded for any reason, you may lose changes. There is a recovery feature, but don’t risk your work—save, save, save!

Opening a new score:

There are several stock options to choose from as far as instruments and clefs to be included. Select whichever best matches your ensemble, and don’t worry if it doesn’t pull up exactly the set of staves you want, you can alter these once in the score. For vocal arrangements, I would recommend using the piano as the playback instrument. (see “Parts”)

Toolbar: Once you’ve opened the score, you first may want to customize your toolbar. The drop-down menu in the left-hand corner contains all the editing options, but some are used more frequently and you can click these items to add them to the toolbar for easier access.

I would recommend score, duration, pitch, tempo, text, and measure. You may also want edit and articulation depending on your needs and how crowded you prefer your toolbar.

Name and Artist: Type the title of the piece, artist credits, and arranging credits into the provided fields on the score and then save this.

Views: Noteflight offers a few ways to view your score as you are editing: Page View, Strip View, Flow Form, and Perform View. 

Page View: The page in default page set-up mode. 

Perform View: The page zoomed out and centered in the screen, will only show page when you are currently viewing when switching from page view. 

Flow View: A landscape view of the page containing the entire score. The page will scroll down as more content is added.

Strip View: This is the view I recommend to folks for editing and playback purposes. This view will show all parts with horizontal scrolling to move through the music. When playing back, the score will auto-scroll along with the playback. In most cases, I find this the easiest way to view the content. The rest of the guide will continue in this view. 

Time and Key Signature:  Using either your customized toolbar or the side drop down menu, you can edit your time signature and key signature from the “Measure” menu item. 

The time signature selection allows for pickup measures (under “type”) and can mark cut or common time as well as the numerical display. Key signature selection will allow the selection of modes, which will change the labeling of the signatures. 

Clefs: Clefs can be altered from the menu or toolbar. Select the line or section of music before clicking the clef change. Bass, trebel, tenor, alto, tenor voice, and octave bass are available.

Tempo: To change the tempo, one can use the tempo box and either increase or decrease using the provided arrows, or simply type in the tempo you desire. 

You should select the entire score or section of score you’d like to change the tempo for before doing so. If you don’t, the tempo will only be changed for the first measure of the piece. However, it is easy to fix this error by clicking the original tempo marking in the following measure and clicking delete. The tempo you desire will then be applied to all subsequent measures. 

Parts: To select the parts you want, choose the guitar icon from the toolbar or select “Parts” in the “score” section.

You can add a new instrument/staff by selecting “Add Part” or edit an existing one using the pencil icon. 

Select the instruments you want. The free version has fewer options than if you buy premium, but you should be able to get most instruments that would be involved in an orchestra or concert band. While there is a “Voice” option, I would recommend selecting the piano as the playback instrument for any vocal lines. 

Choosing the piano will pull up a double staff with treble and bass. If you only want a single line (like in the case of using it for a vocal line) you can double click the staff you don’t want and hit “delete” to remove the entire staff. 

To edit the names and abbreviations for parts, you can edit the instrument and input your own choice of part names. This is especially helpful for vocal lines or instruments with multiple parts (e.g. Flute I, Flute II). 

Concert Pitch: For instrumental arrangements, note that you can toggle between viewing the score with all instrument lines in concert pitch or in written pitch for each transposing instrument. This can be useful in transposing parts to be played by different instruments!

Adding Measures: While measures are usually automatically added on as you put musical content into the last available measure, I find it easiest to add the number of measures I will need, at least for a section of music at time, before I start adding in notes. You can add measures either by clicking the black plus sign above the staffs to add a measure following the one you are in or select where you want more measures added and use the “add measure before” or “add measure after” options to fill out your score.

Making Music

Notes and Rhythms: Adding notes to your score is as easy as clicking your mouse. When you hover over where you’d like to place a note on the staff, a note head will appear. Clicking will place the note on the staff. With sound on, it will also play said note. To change the rhythm, select the note value you desire from the toolbar. 

Rests: To edit rest durations, click the original rest (or pitch if you are replacing it with a rest), and then select the desired rest duration. 

*Shortcut* Type the letter name of the note you want next and it will appear in the subsequent beat in the closest octave. It will retain the duration of the first note you are on. 

Example – starting on the eighth note in measure 2 and type G F F E E D (change the D to a quarter note). 

Stacking Notes: Hover over a note you already have in place and move the cursor up or down to the note you would like to stack on. In this way, you can add harmonies to parts where the rhythms remain the same. 

Multiple Voices: If you want to add a part to split while staying on the same staff, but the rhythms also differ, Noteflight offers a way to add an upper or lower voice to a line of music. From “Voice,” select an upper or lower part to add on (Shortcuts U or L). 

Make sure to click onto the rest that appears as a new voice, and then add any rhythms on top. 

Copy and Paste: Because a lot of musical content tends to repeat, copy and paste can be a huge time saver. You can use the buttons Noteflight provides, or simply use the usual keyboard shortcuts as you would in a word processing document. You can select a section of music, either a single line or multiple lines, and paste it into another section of your score. 

Make sure to select the same number of staves as you had when you copied content.

Transposing: One of the best features of Noteflight is its transposition options. You can select portions of music and shift them up or down to create easy harmony, or to change octaves. Most usefully, you can transpose an entire score into another key using the “Transpose” feature. Make sure to select “change key signatures” or the pitches will shift within the original key signature. 

Listening and Learning

Playback: To playback your piece, you can simply press the large play button to begin play from the beginning of the piece or where you have placed a cursor. You can also utilize the play buttons above a measure to play from a certain measure. 

Most useful of the playback features is the ability to play back a single line at a time. Double click to select a single line and you will hear only that content playback. This is a great way for performers to rehearse along with their parts. 

Sharing: Under “score details,” you can choose to share your score with other Noteflight users or anyone who has the link. You are able to share editing privileges and allow people to create copies of a score which they could alter separately. 

Finally, before sharing you must select the type of work you are producing. If you don’t select that a piece is an original work you will need to provide copyright information, so keep that in mind when selecting this option. Again, if you do not intend to publish, distribute for permanent use, or profit from an arrangement, learning and performing it in a copyright protected performance venue should be fine. 

Printing: Noteflight will allow users to print full scores or individual parts with ease. You may want to return to “Page View” mode and tweak the page setup to ensure the best layout before printing. As long as you allow shared users to copy and export the score, they should be able to print out their own copies, saving you the time and expense of printing scores for all of your performers. 

There are a million and one ways to use Noteflight to the fullest, but I hope this guide to the basics gives you the tools to make rearranging free, quick, and easy!

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