How to Write Notes – The Input Palette

All set and ready to go? Here’s your ultimate cheat sheet to notation!
Where’s …? How can I enter …? Where do I find …?

Do you really know the input palette? It’s FORTE’s greatest and most practical asset. Each and every possible element for your score is here. It’s about time for a detailed portrait. And to show you everything there is to know about it. As you already know, the input palette has 10 different tabs.*

*Edit: This article is a long one. If you have an urgent request, use ctrl+f to search this post for your keyword.

The first and most important tab is called “Notes”.
When you open FORTE, you‘ll be seeing this:

In the upper half there are the notes, note heads, accidentals, ties and slurs as well as the tool for triplets and tuplets. We don’t have to tell you anything about the notes. You know quarters, 8th notes and dotted half notes like the back of your hand.

But did you know that the symbol at the utter left – “Quarter over 8th note rest” – allows you to switch between notes and rests? On very rare occasions, you may want to edit a rest manually. Another interesting button is next to the 128th note: You can change the shape of the note heads here. This feature is helpful if you‘re writing notation for drums and percussion or shape notes for your choir.

Next to the accidentals (bb, b, natural, # and x) you find an empty bracket. If you’d like to remind of a certain accidental, you use this bracket to write reminders or “courtesy accidentals”: Click on the accidental, then click on the brackets. The cursor turns into a reticle and you’ll place it on the desired note.


The symbol on the utter right is the tool for tuplets. You’ll need it if you want to enter triplets. Or other tuplets like a quintuplet. We made a video for you to show you how to use this tool.
If you look at the virtual keyboard in the lower half, you’ll find little black arrows at the left and right side of the keys. You’ll reach the other octaves here. If you’d like to enter chords, click on the chord symbol at the lower right edge of the virtual keyboard. Another click on the symbol deactivates the chord input again. Please note: if you’re writing chords often, because you’re writing for a choir or for the piano, it’s important to use the correct voices. Here’s a tutorial video for you how to work with several voices.

More Keys!

You can now dock the Input Palette to the lower screen. Just move the palette towards the lower screen and drag it to one of the two icons. You now have access to a lot more keys on your virtual keyboard to write your music. But that‘s not all! If you’re in Select Mode, and don‘t have any note value selected, you can improvise melodies freely on the keyboard without having to notate them. This is helpful if you just want to try out a melody, or if you’re in the middle of a creative process. See how this is done:

Accents & Techniques

This tab offers you accents, techniques and fingering. If you linger over an unknown symbol with your cursor, its name or explanation appears (mouseover). The input of all these elements is the same: select the element and place it on the desired note (the cursor turns into a reticle). All elements can be edited in their respective properties window: right-click on the symbol. If you wish to change the position of the element, press ctrl and keep ctrl pressed while using the arrow keys ← and → for repositioning.
It’s possible to combine fingerings, such as you may need it for guitar music. Simply select the second fingering and add it to the note like the first one. Use the properties window to adjust the display above or below the note.


This tab contains the elements for dynamic markers (who would have guessed that?). The static symbols (mf to pppp) are written into the score just like the accents we talked about in the paragraph above. Those symbols indicating a development (cresc to >) are written with a starting and an ending point.
It’s worthwhile to check out the properties window of these elements as well. Maybe you’d like to make some adjustments or edit the appearance.


If you want to edit the tempo of your music, here’s your go-to tab. The element “Quarter equals 60” is best edited in the score: right-click and properties, then go to “Performance”. If you select the Italian label “Andante”, a menu opens below:

By clicking on the arrow head, you’ll get the whole choice from Larghissimo to Prestissimo. If you like, you can add more text to the single word, say “ma non troppo” for example, before writing it into your score. Using the properties window again, you can adjust the performance or the position, if you like.

Text / Chords

Here’s a full package! All elements around the musical text are here. Let’s look at it step by step. The button “Title Text” at the far left allows you to complement or edit the score’s information. This is what the dialogue looks like:

To keep your print outs in order, add header or footer information to your score.
The button “Text” allows you to – guess what – enter text into your score. This is helpful if the song has more stanzas than you can write under the staff.

The next button, “Marker”, is bound to a certain time of your score. You could, for example, label performance directions or units of your score using “Marker”. Markers are also helpful for playback options (Check the “Go to” dialogue: you can select markers, rehearsal letters etc. as the starting point).
While we’re at it: Rehearsal letters and numbers are also in this tab, right between “Lyric” and the chord symbol. These elements are always set at the beginning of a measure. If you’d like to change that, mark the element and move it by pressing ctrl while using the arrow keys to navigate.

One really important and frequently asked subject: LYRICS!

Pick the type of your lyric (verse, chorus, block) right here and now. You can also decide the general location of the lyric (above, below, between the staves). Select & click the first note of your score that should be sung. Now you can type your text: A blank divides the syllables and assigns the syllable to the next note. If you type a hyphen (-) or an underscore (_), the syllable will continue for several notes.
We recommend you use the hyphen within a word (e.g. “A-men”) and the underscore at the end of the word (e.g. “A-men_”).

If you want to add another verse, open the properties window of the lyric. Go to the tab “Text” and select the correct verse number. If you right-click on the lyric in the score, you can display the verse number or hide it again.

If you’re writing a lot of music for choirs or ensemble, you already
know how to work with several voices. You also know that it’s important to adjust the spacing in the layout options accordingly for all parts and all lyrics. But did you know that you can assign different lyrics to each part? If you select the voice level in the main menu “Home”, you can add yet another lyric as a first verse.

Now about those chords…

If you click the chord symbol, another window will open. You can configure your chords here. The most common chords are under “Fast input”, for, well, faster input. Every other chord you want to write… you have all the components at hand. You can also select the style of the chord you want displayed: Whether it’s just the name, just the chart or both. Look at the lower left corner: you can check those style boxes here.
We explained to you how to change the chord’s language here. This setting cannot be edited in the input palette. If you select Italian as the chords’ language, you can make use of the note name recognition for your shape notes. Please note: At the moment it’s not possible to set up chord charts of your own.

The tab’s last symbol is most interesting for pianists:

Select the use of pedal for your score. You can also select several style for the pedal notation. Whatever you prefer.


Pick your new key with greatest comfort and ease. You’ll just need two clicks. You don‘t need to know the circle of fifths off by heart… Because you can either select the key OR the desired amount of sharps and flats. One more click with the newly selected key into the desired measure and off you go in a different key.


Just the service we seek to give you: the most common meters are immediately displayed. It‘s really just ONE click for you. (Please note that FORTE Basic does not offer the complete selection of meters). Of course, you can add meters of your own. Look at the input field at the right end of this tab.
The FORTE program’s logic is based on meter. So, sometimes it’s necessary to adjust the metric system. Here’s an article explaining to you when and how to do that.


One click and you’ve got the correct clef. That’s the way to do it, right? If you want to shift the octaves using 8va, 8vb or 15ma, you’ll decide upon a starting and an ending point in you score. Pretty much like you did with the crescendo above.


What would music be without a trill? Like a cake without icing! This tab shows you all the ornaments for your notes. Like before, mouseover is implemented to give you the name or explanation of a symbol. Please note: Arpeggios and glissandos will not be followed when you play back your music. If you’d like to write a glissando, select the symbol, then draw a box around both notes. You can also write glissandos between the left and right hand of your piano music.


Here we go again. For small units, there are “repeat notes and patterns”. For larger parts, there are repeat symbols of all names and sizes. Playing your music back, only the repeat symbols for the larger units are followed. For example the left and right repeat bar, the first and second endings or text input like “D.C.”. Let’s have a closer look at the first and second endings:

If you enter a first or second ending, you can edit the value in the repeat’s properties. You can also edit the style of the ending. The line for the 2nd, 3rd, … ending, however, is never longer than one measure. If you prefer text repeats, this is what your choice looks like:

Similar to the aforementioned Italian tempo labels, you have an input field and an arrow head. Your choice goes from “D.C.” to “Fine”. The repeat markings are bound to the timing of your score. And just because it’s so beautiful, here we go again!

So much input from the input palette!
More than 160 elements are in here. And now?

If you don’t know FORTE 9 yet, you download a trial version here.

If you already know FORTE: how did you like this article on the input palette?
Was it helpful to you? What other articles would you wish for?
We’re looking forward to your comments below!

12 replies
  1. wayne
    wayne says:

    I’m not interested until you allow me an option to print EZ Play music as is used by Hal Leonard music publication. My target audience is the elderly folks who want to play a keyboard but don’t have years available to learn by traditional methods.

    • FORTE Team
      FORTE Team says:

      Dear Wayne,
      it’s already possible to add the note names to the notes automatically.
      If it’s crucial that the note names are within the note head, then we just are not the best fit to your needs.

      Kind regards,
      Your FORTE team

  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    Thanks for a geat product!!! My old notation program I used stopped working after a windows update and it is no longer being maintained. I needed a new program. I tried several different ones and FORTE was by far the easiest to use. I love these very helpful articles.

    I love FORTE. Thanks for a great program. Keep up the great work!!!

  3. Lubo
    Lubo says:

    What I really need, is palettes for modern, contemporary music. With possibilities to draw self-made graphic input anywhere on the score by hand.

    • FORTE Team
      FORTE Team says:

      Dear Lubo,

      thank you for your comment.
      Unfortunately, we’re not the best fit for your needs here.
      For contemporary music notation, please refer to Sibelius or Finale.

      Kind regards,
      Your FORTE team

  4. Bobby
    Bobby says:

    Just purchasedf Forte9 and it does not have the guitar tablature option in the staff options. My older forte7 had this feature, and it is shown in the “help” section. Is this feature unavailable?

    • FORTE Admin
      FORTE Admin says:

      Hi Bobby,
      there seems to be some problem with the tablature feature.
      Please contact the tech support at support (at) fortenotation (dot) com.

      Thank you!

  5. Gerry Parsons
    Gerry Parsons says:

    I’m using the free Forte 8.5. Currently in the midst of a composition for 3-part choral. I’ve used the SATB template and dropped the Tenor system using “remove instrument”. Is there a better way?

  6. John Murphy
    John Murphy says:

    When I try to play the notes I have put down, Forte just jumps from one measure to the next if I’m in loop mode. If not it only plays that measure. I try to put measure 1.01 thru xx.01 but it the measure number just returns to the previous one, and ignores what I try to set it from beginning.

    • FORTE Admin
      FORTE Admin says:

      Dear John,
      thank you for your comment.
      It sounds like there might be a problem with the score.
      Please submit your score (i.e. the *.fnf file) to our technical support:

      support ( at ) fortenotation (dot) com

      Thank you!


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