I'm currently adding a bunch of tunes to my MS Word paper set list, and I need a quick way to add music notation, 2-4 bars, to tune entries to spark my memory for starting the tunes.

What is a quick way of doing this? So far, I'm taking photos of the sheet music, cropping, then copy-pasting into the MS Word document set list, but photos are less than optimal for clean, high contrast, standard notation I can read onstage when the stage is lit, and the set list is possibly in shadow.

  • 3
    Do you require using Word? Sounds like a task that could be done efficiently in a markup language like Latex. The best alternative to photos is having digital version, or using a scanner, but even photos can be improved by adjusting contrast in a graphic editor. Jul 17, 2023 at 21:53
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    It's not clear to me what kinds of strategies would help. Are you looking for a way to do some engraving of the tune in software and then copy paste from that into Word? Or do you want a better way to get excerpts from paper sheet music into the computer? You might not be taking photos effectively or you could use a scanning app on your phone or tablet to get higher contrast greyscale scans that look almost as good as re-engraving it yourself. Jul 17, 2023 at 21:55
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    I’m voting to close this question because it isn't a musical question at core; it's about the best way to capture and insert images. It would be the same as if you wanted to make a .doc of charcoal sketches: the best method would not be to shoot a phone snapshot; it would probably involve a flatbed scanner. In this case, if you can get a pdf of the music, then convert or crop that as needed. If not, typeset your own version using music notation software like Noteflight or Musescore. Jul 17, 2023 at 22:07
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    Don't use Word. ...Like, generally don't use Word, but for this it seems particularly badly suited. What is by contrast quite well-suited is abc, which is also supported here on Music.SE. Jul 17, 2023 at 23:00
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    @AndyBonner Not enough XP to vote, but if I may at least say so, I think the question should stay. It isn't the sort that shouldn't be asked at all, and this channel is probably a better place for it than Graphic Design, which is the only other that even comes to consideration (as one of its topics is typography).
    – Divizna
    Jul 18, 2023 at 12:54

6 Answers 6


Method 1:

Use a flatbed scanner to scan the music and apply a threshold filter to reduce the scanned picture to bw.

Method 2:

Reengrave the sections in question (considering you are only using 2-4 bars this should be little effort). Then you can directly insert the excerpts in question as png. If you use the combination of LibreOffice and Lilypond or LaTeX and Lilypond directly engrave the excerpts in the document without going the way of having to create pngs. For LaTeX you can use lilypond-book, for LibreOffice you can use the OOoLilyPond extension.

  • My smart phone and tablet can both scan about as well as a flatbed scanner as long as I have the light source and background properly arranged, so that could be method 1a, IMHO Jul 18, 2023 at 22:22
  • I'd vote for #2. Use of a scanner should only be when you "must" have an image of an original for some reason. Otherwise, do it entirely in software so the process can be automated. Jul 23, 2023 at 21:30

This used to work with Sibelius

  • Select the passage of music you want (a few bars or something)
  • Select / Select Graphic
  • Ctrl/Cmd-C to copy
  • Go to MS Word or Libre Office etc. and Ctrl/Cmd-V to paste

With MuseScore you can

  • Export the score as SVG graphics file
  • Import/insert the SVG graphics into Word or LibreOffice or whatever
  • Crop the image so that only the part you want is visible

With other score writing applications, things are different.


Apparently there is a way to actually write sheet music in Word. Here's a howto I found about it; unfortunately, I'm not equipped to check how it works. Seems rather... complicated.

Another route would be to write the sheet in a music-engraving program (if you don't have one, Musescore is free, and quite likely some others I don't know of). If you do this, use the program's Export function to export your work into an image file (you should find this in the menu somewhere under File). Choose a vector graphic format (not .png, that's a bitmap - something like .svg or .eps is better for this). You'll end up with a very neat picture you're free to rescale without losing on quality.

Scanning is not a neat option. If you go this way, then don't use your phone camera to snap a picture unless you really must; use an actual scanner, to ensure the angle is right. Make sure you set sufficient resolution when scanning.
After you've scanned it, use a graphic program (again, if you don't have one, Gimp is free) to adjust the brightness/contrast/levels/curves and generally polish the image to be easy on eyes. In my experience it's best to save scans of black and white documents as grayscale, rather than giving them a hard threshold; adjusting Levels automatically usually works fine to set black to black and white to white (if it doesn't, do it manually), and the edges don't come out so "hard" that way.
Here you're going to end up with a raster image, and it's a better idea to export as .png than .jpg, due to the way .jpg deals with edges.

  • Your link about how to 'write sheet music in Word' unfortunately stops short of actually adding musical dots to the staves you've just drawn!
    – Laurence
    Jul 18, 2023 at 22:44
  • @Laurence Of course one could add actual notes. But this way of engraving scores is essentially like engraving a score in a drawing program, just more of a hassle.
    – Lazy
    Jul 18, 2023 at 22:54
  • I can see one advantage to it: that the score in the file stays editable. But I'd still prefer keeping the Musescore file so I can edit that and reexport if necessary.
    – Divizna
    Jul 25, 2023 at 10:44

If you use a music scoring program such as Sibelius, Finale etc., investigate methods of exporting fragments of a score in SVG format, or as a high-resolution graphic.

Or you can compose music examples directly in Word using the font AMBITUS

But, if you DO have a scoring program (and why wouldn't you, MuseScore is perfectly competent for this, and free), why are you using Word? It's a lot easier to add text to a Score than to add music to a doc.

(But, but.... yes that's a lot of work for scribbling out a set list. Perhaps you're going to either refine your photography technique or print the list, add handwritten music and photocopy.)

enter image description here


Thanks for the valuable answers. Ideally, I would have notated the hints in MuseScore or ABC and combined the text in some PDF editor. But I needed to get the thing done in an hour.

I found a PDF document with the tunes and used the Windows Snipping Tool to copy-paste images of the measures into my MS Word setlist. Not pretty, not automate-able, but fast.

  • 1
    Definitely the best solution - I started writing this as an answer then saw you had got there already. As a tip for future questions it would have helped if you had specified you were on Windows. Jul 29, 2023 at 15:03

I want to add two other approaches.

I. My preferred one:

  1. Create the snippets in lilypond. Either use the lilypond-book header or use the latex crop function later
  2. Import the PDF snippets into latex via usegraphicx[width=x, crop...].

Lilypond-book does the same job, but is in my opinion overcomplicated.

II. The fast solution:

  1. Create the snippets in lilypond.
  2. Open the PDF snippets in Inkscape and adapt them (position, page size, etc.)
  3. Save them again, but this time in svg format.
  4. Import them per drag and drop into your word document.

This should keep them a vector graphic and therefore nice and sharp.


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