What is Spillby Music Writer?

Spillby Music Writer is an application for writing music. You can write melody lines with musical scores, rhythms and arrangements, and export your finished project as one or more standard MIDI files. The MIDI file can then be used as it is, or processed further in digital audio workstation (DAW). Spillby Music Writer can not record music.

The Spillby Music Writer main window, whithout any objects open

On the left side of the screen you will see the Project List, which contains all the objects in your current project. There are four types of available project objects:

A Music Writer project must always contain exactly one settings object, and at least one object of each kind of the other three.

Double click an item to open it. Or alternatively, press F2 to move focus to the list. Then select an item with the arrow keys and press ENTER.

The order the objects apppear in the list does only matter for these two things:

The toolbar

Project list buttons

The six small buttons to the top left are for manipultaing the Project List. As an alternative to using these buttons, you can also find the same options by right clicking in the list. Available options are:

The play button

The big play button is the master play button. Press this button to create a temporary MIDI file and send it to the media player. This will play all the music in your project. Note sheets and rhythm windows also have an individual play button, which you can use to play just that window.

The play buttons are disabled if there are no changes since the last playback. Use the button in the media player if you would like to play it again.


Tempo sets the tempo of the song, in beat per minute.

The media player

To the top right you will see the media player. The media player has standard controls for playback, volume etc. Note that you must press the big play button to update the content of the media player.

Project objects



Lyrics are for writing lyrics or any other form of text. They don't affect the music or the resulting MIDI file in any way. But when you write songs it's practical to write the lyrics in the same application as the music.

Note sheets

A note sheet can contain a single melody line, with musical scores. The topmost note sheet in the project list is the Master melody. Some options are only available in the master melody.


A rhythm is a small loop which may contain drums, bass or any other arrangment instruments. Except for drums, the notes in a rhythm are not fixed, but will vary depending on the current chord. The topmost rhythm in the project list is the starting rhythm of the song. You can change rhythm and chords in the master melody note sheet.


In the settings window you can change the settings for instruments on the 16 available MIDI channels. New projects will open with predefined settings for 16 different instruments, which you can change in this window.


The Lyrics Window

The lyrics window

The lyrics window is just a text box you can use to write anything you like. Use it write actual lyrics, or maybe to take notes.

The Note Sheet Window

Tip: The application contains a panel with a short keyboard reference for note sheet windows. Press F1 to show or hide this panel.

The note sheet window


Use the arrow keys or the mouse to mover the marker. Press insert to insert an empty space, press delete to delete the note the marker is currently on, or press back space to delete the current note and move the marker to the left.

Notes and breaks

In the note sheet window you use your keyboard to write notes. To insert a note, just press the key with the name of that note. If you would like to insert a C note, just press the C key for instance. P will insert a break. New notes will always appear as whole notes. To change it's length, just press a number key: 1 for whole note, 2 for half note, 4 for quarter note, 8 for 8th note, and 0 for 16th note. Press . to change between punctured or not. Use page up and page down to change octave.

Multiple notes

Hold shift down and press a note letter to add a second note to the note, or hold ctrl+shift to insert a third note. The octave of these notes can be changed by holding shift/ctrl + shift and then page up/page down. You can remove these extra notes by holding shift/ctrl+shift and pressing delete.

Measure seperators

Space bar will insert a measure seperator. N will insert a measure seperator with two lines, which is used to separate different sections of the song. These two line seperators can also be used to change the key of the song. Press F8 when the marker is on the seperator to change the key.

The first element of any note sheet will always be a two line seperator, but with hidden lines. So you can use this to set the starting key of the song. The default key is C/Am if no key change is set.

B, sharp and natural sign

If you want to insert one of these signs, first create a note. Then press F8 to change the note to the sign you need. The effect of these signs will last until the next measure seperator.

Other elements

Press + to connect a note to the next note. The notes must be the same for this to work. Press 3 to mark three notes or breaks of the same length as a triplet.

On the master melody only

Press F4 on a seperator to change the rhythm. Enter the name of the new rhythm in the pop up dialog box.
Press F4 on a note or break to change the chord. Enter the name of the new chord in the pop up dialog box. You can write any chord in the box, but playback does only support major, minor and 7 chords.
You can press Shift+N to insert or edit a clip marker. Clip markers must always have a name. Remove the name to delete the marker. Clip markers will be explained more in the MIDI file section below.

On slave (non-master) melodies only

You can only change rhythm and chords in the master melody, but for your convinience they will be automatically copied from the master note sheet to all other sheets. The type of measure bars will also be copied from the master. This syncing with the master will happen automatically a few seconds after each edit, but you can press F9 if you like to do it immideately.

The Rhythm Window

The rhythm window, with all instruments collapsed

A rhythm is made up of different rhythm elements, and there can be any number of rhythm elements in a rhythm. There are three types of elements available: drums/percussion, scale and guitar strings. These elements are stacked in the window. If they are not expanded, you will only sett the top row of each element. The top row has some settings you can change, but to edit the musical content you must first expand it. To expand it, click on the right most down arrow.

The rhythm window, with a piano scale expanded

A rhythm element has a number of rows corresponding to different notes or effects. The columns symbolize time, and each column has the length of a 1/8th note. Measures are seperated with thicker lines.

Left click in a square to put a NOTE ON marker (circle), or right click to put a NOTE OFF marker (cross). Click again to remove the marker. Left click, hold and drag to change the velocity of a note. The velocity number will appear with a + or - in front, meaning it is relative to the default velocity of the note.

To change the settings for a note, click on the text on the left side of the table.


The drum element is played on MIDI channel 10, which according to the General MIDI specification is reserved for drums. You can therefore not change its instrument. The drum notes will be the same no matter what is the current chord.


A scale shows you eight rows, corresponding to the musical scale of the current chord. For instance if the chord is C, the the first row will be C, the next will be D, and so on. In a 7 chord (like C7) the bottom row will be the seventh note (like Bb in a C7 chord), while in all other chords it will be the same note as the first row, just one octave higher. The colored rows correspond to the actual chord notes, so these rows are probably the rows you would like to use the most.

Guitar strings

This element has six rows for the six guitar strings, as well as row for main bass and sub bass. Main bass is the same note as the root of the chord (C in a C chord), played on one of the three deepest strings. Sub bass is the 5th scale note (G in a C chord), also played on one of the three deepest strings.

The Settings Window

The settings window

Channel and program

The MIDI standard has 16 channels, which means that there can be 16 instruments playing at the same time. When you start a new Music Writer project, you will get default settings for these 16 different instruments. The option "Program" is used to change the instrument used for a channel. Channel 10 is reserved for drums, and can't be changed. For more info about available instruments, see a General MIDI specification.


Delay is the time (in MIDI delta time) between each note, if multiples notes are played at the same time in a rhythm. This is mainly intended for guitars, when the guitar player plays multiple strings at the same time, the string hit first will actually start to play before the string hit last. If you add a delay to guitars, you will therefore get a more realistic sound.

Random velocity

In real life a music player will not be able to play all notes with exactly the same force. There will always be some random variation. A computer can play all notes with the samce force, but this may sound unnatural. You can use this setting to add some randomness, to make it sound more realistic.

Here we see a work in progress project. We have two note sheets and a rhythm open for editing.

Export MIDI file

Music Writer will create a standard type 1 MIDI file. The MIDI file will have one track for each note sheet, as well as one track for each instrument used in rhythms.

Export individual tracks

Check this option if you would like to write out all tracks as individual type 0 MIDI files (in addition to the main file with all tracks). I added this because I had a DAW which was limited to eight tracks, and therefore refused to import MIDI-files with more than eight tracks. Even though I didn't actually need all the tracks. With this option you can import just the tracks you need.

Export individual clips

You can insert clip markers in the master note sheet. If you select this option, everything between each clip marker will be saved as an individual MIDI files. This is useful if you would like to import your MIDI into a DAW with a session view. For instance you can put a clip marker between each verse, if you would like to have each verse in its own file.