Fretboard (or Chord) diagrams usually appear above the staff on lead sheets and piano scores:
They are commonly used for guitar chords, but MuseScore allows you to create diagrams for any stringed instrument.
A library of common guitar chord diagrams (major, minor and 7th) is provided in the Fretboard Diagrams palette.
To reveal the chord name of any diagram in the palette, hover the cursor over it.
Use one of the following methods:
When any of the preset diagrams is applied to the score, a chord symbol is automatically placed above it. This linked chord symbol has the same properties as a stand-alone chord symbol and can be edited and moved as such.
The default placement of a chord symbol in relation to its parent diagram is controlled by the “Distance to Fretboard Diagram” property (set in Format→Style…→Chord Symbols→Positioning). This value interacts with the chord symbol Minimum distance (to view, press Appearance in the Properties panel). Adjust the diagram’s position manually if you need to override this.
A linked chord symbol can be deleted independently of its parent diagram. You can also add a new linked chord symbol to a fretboard diagram: see Entering a chord symbol.
Note: Neither fretboard diagrams nor their linked chord symbols are affected by transposition commands.
Note: See also Fretboard diagram properties (below).
The default finger marker is a round black dot, which suffices for standard chord (and scale) diagrams. However a number of other shapes are provided—cross, square and triangle—to enable other notation styles.
Some arrangers and educators have extended the basic form of the fretboard diagram, incorporating finger dots of various shapes, and allowing multiple dots per string. Jazz guitarist Ted Greene and his successors are notable examples.
Multi-dot notation style. With this approach, the chord signified by round dots on the fretboard diagram is played first (see image below). Then, on successive beats marked by chord symbols, the chord fingering is modified to incorporate other shapes on the same diagram; the usual playing order is: dot → X → square → delta, but this can vary.
Optional-note notation style. Another use of multiple dots per string allows other symbols to show optional notes, rather than delayed notes:
Edit the following properties as desired:
When a fretboard diagram is selected, its properties are viewable in the Properties tab of the sidebar as follows:
At the bottom of the Fretboard diagram section of the sidebar is an image of the selected fretboard diagram. Any changes made to this image are automatically applied to the fretboard diagram in the score as well.
Global fretboard diagram properties can be set in Format→Style…→Fretboard Diagrams:
Not to be confused with brass or woodwind instrument bends.
Bends are created with the Bend Tool located in the Guitar palette.
To apply one or more bends to the score, use one of the following options:
A default bend is created in the score. You can modify this bend or choose from a range of alternatives using “Bend type” in the Bends section of the Properties panel.
Bend shape and length can be edited in the graphical display in the Bends section of the Properties panel:
Each red line segment between blue nodes represents one step in the bend, and each step extends horizontally for 1 sp. in the score. The slope of any line shows whether it is an up-bend, a down-bend or a hold. So the above graph describes an up bend, then a hold—total length 2sp.
The vertical axis of the graph represents the amount by which the pitch is bent up or down: one unit (the side of a small square) equals a quarter-tone, 2 units a semitone, 4 units a whole-tone, and so on.
To add another step to a bend
To delete a bend step
The height of the bend is automatically adjusted so that any text appears just above the staff. This height can be adjusted, if necessary, with a workaround:
Bends can be freely repositioned using the methods shown in Changing position of elements.
Tremolo bar symbols are available from the Guitar palette (look for the oversized "V") and are applied and adjusted in a similar way to bend symbols (above)—with a similar graphical interface in the "Tremolo" bar section of Properties.
You can choose from a range of presets in "Tremolo bar type", or create your own custom one.
Slides can be found in the Arpeggios and glissandi palette. They are of two types:
By default, slides have a playback effect on the score. You can turn this off by unchecking "Play" in the General section of the Properties panel.
Use one of the following methods:
In the case of in-between slides going from one chord to the next, the program will attempt to link the correct notes where possible. If further adjustment is required, see below.
For in-between slides, the following properties can be adjusted in the Glissando section of the Properties panel.
To move an end handle vertically or horizontally, from one note to the next:
To adjust the position of the end handle:
A Barre lines is a text-line drawn above a guitar staff to indicate that the passage requires a full or half barre. Symbols such as the following are commonly found in guitar music:
Full bar (2nd fret):
Half barre (2nd fret):
The C before the roman numerals can be omitted and other variations in line style and text are possible—according to the publisher.
To apply a barre:
To adjust the length of a line, see Changing range of a line.
A natural harmonic can be notated in one of three ways:
An annotation, such as "Nat. Har.", "N.H.", "Har.", is usually attached, as well as string and fret numbers; the notehead may be standard or diamond-shaped, and rendered clear rather than black; fret numbers may be Arabic or Roman, and so on.
Fixing Playback: If harmonics do not play back at the correct pitch, mute them and create a hidden voice containing the harmonics at concert pitch.
See also, How to Read Harmonic Notation on the Classical Guitar (douglasniedt.com).
A natural harmonic in tablature may be rendered simply as a fretmark, or may be followed by a dot, or enclosed in a diamond, or a pair of angled brackets. e.g.
To create a pair of angled brackets:
You should ensure that the staff/tab pairs are not linked, since you need to be able to edit each staff independently of the other.
The types of guitar fingering and how to apply them are explained in Fingering.
Music for fretted, stringed instruments is commonly notated using tablature (often abbreviated as tab); this gives a visual representation of the strings and fret numbers. Tablature is frequently found in combination with traditional staff notation.
A variety of tablature templates for common instruments are supplied. If this isn't quite what you're looking for, you can easily change the template (see Changing tablature staff type), and/or customize the staff (see Tablature: customization).
There are three possibilities:
To create tablature as part of a new score:
To create a tablature staff in an existing score:
Music for the guitar (and other plucked-string instruments) is often notated using paired standard and tablature staves. In MuseScore, the staves can be either linked or unlinked.
Linked: Any change you make to the notation in one staff automatically updates the other.
Unlinked: Each staff is edited independently. To update the other staff, copy and paste the relevant music notation.
Note : In both cases, the staff/tablature pair shares the same instrument.
There are two ways to do this when creating a new score (A or B):
A. For linked staves only:
B. For linked or unlinked staves:
Use this method when you want to add to an existing score:
Note: If you already have one staff of a standard/tab pair in your score, you can simply add the missing staff from the Instruments panel. See Adding and configuring staves.
Note for period instrument tablature: A to K (skipping I) can also be used to enter numbers 0 to 9. In French tablature the corresponding letters appear instead; for L, M, N, you need to type respectively 10, 11, 12.
See also, Editing notes and rests" (below).
See also, Editing notes and rests" (below).
Whether you are using a keyboard or mouse, you can set note duration using one of the following:
Note: This applies to note input mode only. If you want to change the duration of a selected note in normal mode see Changing duration in normal mode.
MuseScore also supports tablature notation for period instruments such as the renaissance and baroque lutes, Theorbo etc. There are a number of notation systems in use (French, Italian, German, Spanish), but the most common is French.
French tablature features 6 lines representing the top 6 courses. Instead of numbers, fretmarks are indicated by letters—as explained above. Any notes on bass courses below the 6th string (fretted or unfretted) are represented by symbols in the space underneath the 6th line of tablature.
To enter symbols below the 6th course:
|Number of course
|Fretmark entered automatically for unstopped course
Conversely you can return to a higher course by pressing ↑, and the cue mark changes accordingly.
2. If the selected course is fretted simply enter a fretmark in note input mode (as shown above). If the selected course is unstopped press any note key in note input mode and MuseScore will automatically enter the correct zero fretmark (see table above).
In note input mode:
In normal mode:
Note: The fret mark cannot be higher than the “Number of frets” value set in the Edit String Data dialog.
To move the fret mark to an adjacent string without changing the pitch:
In note input mode:
In normal mode:
Use one of the following methods:
Note: This operation can only proceed if the relevant string is free and can produce that note.
To change a fret mark to a crosshead/ghost note:
Notes: (1) If the tuning is changed on a tab staff that already contains some notes, fret marks will be adjusted automatically (if possible); (2) Any change of tuning to a particular instrument applies only to the score at hand, and does not change any program default settings.
The new string is inserted below the selected string. You will also need to adjust the number of lines in Staff/Part properties→Advanced style properties.
Note: After deleting a tablature string you will also need to adjust the number of lines in Staff/Part properties→Advanced style properties.
For an instrument such as the Baroque lute, this feature is used to mark a bass course as unstopped—i.e. always played open like a harp string. This means that only a fret mark indicating a zero fret can be displayed.
To mark a bass course as unstopped:
See also Period tablature notation.
This property defines the maximum fret number which can be entered on a tablature staff.
MuseScore provides a range of common tablature types. If you want to change the tablature type, choose one of two options:
Note: For customization options in detail, see Customizing appearance of tablature (below).
You will find the terms "simple", "common" and "full" in the tablature type names:
This gives you access to a full range of tablature customization options. See Staff properties: Tablature options.
Global settings are set in Format→Style→Tablature styles.
A capo is a device that can be clamped onto the fretboard of a fretted stringed instrument, such as the guitar. The capo effectively shortens the strings, which makes the instrument play in a higher key than it normally would.
MuseScore allows you to emulate this effect by adding a Capo marking to an instrument staff (or staves). This automatically transposes playback to the desired pitch while keeping the notes, or fretmarks, unchanged. Partial capos, where only some strings are shortened, are also possible (see below).
The capo element is available in the Guitar palette, which is hidden by default.
To find the capo element:
Alternatively, to permanently reveal the Guitar palette:
Note: The Add palettes dialog is not currently accessible to screen readers, so blind users must use the first method (via search).
The Capo settings popup dialog appears when you add a new capo marking or select an existing capo marking in the score.
Note: Keyboard users can press Tab to focus the Capo settings popup after it has appeared, and then use the arrow keys to navigate the available settings. If you press Tab a second time the popup will disappear. To get it back, simply deselect the capo marking with Alt+Left, reselect it with Alt+Right, and then press Tab to focus the popup.
By default, if you select Off the text in the score will change to read "No capo".
The number in the Fret spinner refers to the fret where the capo should be applied. For example, fret 1 transposes the key up by a semitone, fret 2 by a whole tone, and so on. The text label in the score will update automatically.
For example, if you choose fret 4, the text in the score will say "Capo 4".
Note: Keyboard focus can get stuck in the fret edit control. If this happens, press Up and Down to change the value of the spinner, then press Right to move to the Apply to string checkboxes below.
The checkbox switches in the Apply to section let you specify that a capo should be applied only on certain strings. When at least one string is turned off, the text in the score will change to indicate a partial capo.
For example, if you choose fret 4 and then turn off strings 1 and 2, the text in the score would say "Partial capo: Fret 4 on strings 3, 4, 5, 6".
To change the wording of the Capo text:
Using the steps above, you can, if desired, vary the capo setting at different points in the score. Each capo instance will affect the transposition of all music that follows it, up until the next capo mark.
Note: It is not possible to apply more than one capo at the same time. This feature is planned for a later release.
This page describes features added in MuseScore 4.2. For string tuning in older versions of MuseScore 4, see Customizing a tablature staff.
To apply a string tuning instruction to a stave:
A tuning fork icon will appear above your stave.
Alternatively, first select a measure, then select the String tunings element in the Guitar palette.
String tuning instructions are added to measures, and affect only the stave to which they have been applied (including any linked staves). You can apply multiple string tunings at different measures in your score. Each string tuning will apply from the start of the measure to which it has been added, up until the next string tuning element.
Once you've added a string tuning element to a stave, you can specify the tuning you want for your instrument.
The tuning fork icon will be replaced with the conventional tuning text instruction, comprising encircled numbers for each of the instrument's strings, and text designations showing the new pitch of each string.
You can customise the string tuning text to display any number of strings, as well as any pitch you like:
Note that the 'eye' icons merely show or hide the text instruction on the score. The actual tuning of each string, insofar as it affects playback and tablature fret positions (see more below), is determined by the pitch indicated in the text field alongside each string – regardless of whether that string's tuning instruction is shown or hidden in the score.
When an alternate tuning element is applied to a stave, the pitch specified for each string will be shown as an open position ("0") in the tablature stave.
During playback, the pitch of all fret positions along each string remains relative to the pitch of the open string: For example,
The notation on any linked standard stave remains unaffected by the presence of alternate string tunings. This allows the player to continue reading the sounding pitches of each string.
Sometimes, especially in cases where every string on the instrument has been uniformly tuned down, it will be preferable for the player to read the standard notation at the ‘regular‘ (i.e. pre-tuned) pitch rather than the sounding pitch. In order to achieve this, the standard stave can be transposed.
A common example is to want to tune the guitar down a half-step without affecting the standard notation. To achieve this:
Both the standard stave and any linked tablature stave (where applicable) will show the fret positions and standard notation at the standard playing pitch (as if no alternate tuning had been specified). Playback will, however, reflect the alternate tuning.
Toggling on Concert pitch will show the sounding pitches notated on the standard stave.
[Draft only: more content forthcoming]
From MuseScore 4.2 onwards, four types of guitar bends can be added to your score:
These bends can be found in the Guitar palette
In general, bends in MuseScore connect two notes together: a ‘starting note’ and an ‘arrival note’.
Bends are contextual, meaning if the arrival note is higher than the starting note, an upward bend will be created. Conversely, if the arrival note is lower than the starting note, a release will be drawn.
Whenever a bend is added to a tablature stave, both the starting and arrival notes will be entered as a fret positions. The arrival note, however, will be hidden by default. This allows you to create sequences of multiple bends (such as bend-release combinations) using only the tablature stave, without needing to input notes in the standard stave. If you're working mainly in the standard stave, you may find it more convenient to hide these fret positions via the Invisible setting in the Properties panel.
In all cases, the bend amount, being the intervallic distance between the starting and arrival notes, is reflected by the notated pitches on the standard stave, allowing you to see the shape of a melodic line, as it is affected by the presence of bent notes. On the tablature stave, the bend amount is given by a numerical indicator: "1" for a whole tone, "1/2" for a half-tone (semitone), "1/4" for a quarter-tone, etc.
To apply any type of bend to your score:
Windows Alt+B | macOS ⌥+B
A standard bend connects two notes together: a ‘starting note’ and an ‘arrival note’. Standard bends are mostly used when it is desired to clearly specify the rhythm of the bend pattern.
When a bend is added to a note, it will automatically be drawn to the next note in the score (the arrival note). If a rest follows the starting note, MuseScore will replace the rest so that the bend has an arrival note to connect to.
Windows Ctrl+Alt+B | macOS ⌘+⌥+B
Grace note bends can be used to indicate bends that don’t have a defined rhythmic duration; they are generally played quite quickly before the beat.
When you apply a grace note bend to a note, it will automatically be entered one diatonic step lower than the note it precedes.
No default keyboard shortcut: set your own shortcut in Preferences
Pre-bends indicate a string that has been bent prior to being struck. On the standard stave, it is represented as a stemless, parenthesised grace note. On the tablature stave, it is illustrated with a straight, rather than curved arrow.
No default keyboard shortcut: set your own shortcut in Preferences
Slight bends are the only bend type in MuseScore that do not connect to an arrival note.
They are always set to a pre-defined amount of a ¼ of a tone, and always bend upwards from the starting note.
A hold is indicated by a dashed horizontal line between two bends. It is only ever shown in the tablature stave.
Hold lines are drawn automatically where a bent note is subsequently tied to one or more notes.
In addition, you can manually show or hide hold lines where it makes sense to do so.
Both the intervallic amount and playback speed of bends can be adjusted in MuseScore, either by modifying the pitch of bent notes on the standard stave, or adjusting the bend curve in the Properties panel.
To change the bend amount of a standard bend, grace note bend, or pre-bend in the standard stave, simply raise or lower the pitch of either the starting or arrival note in your score. The fractional indicator in any linked tablature stave will be adjusted automatically.
Both the bend amount and its playback speed can be adjusted via the Properties panel.
To adjust the bend amount:
The left-most point of the bend curve corresponds to the starting note in a bend. The right-most point corresponds to the arrival note.
Dragging the right-most (end point) of the curve upwards raises the arrival note in ¼-tone steps. In the same way, dragging the end point downwards lowers the pitch of the arrival note. The fractional indicator in the tablature stave, and the notated pitch in the standard stave, will be updated accordingly.
To adjust the playback speed of a bend:
Dragging a curve point horizontally changes only its playback speed, including the duration for which the starting and arrival notes are held (indicated with a horizontal line). It does not affect rhythmic notation in your score.
MuseScore also makes it possible to apply bends to chords, and to create unison bends.
To apply bends to chords:
To create a unison bend:
In the case of unison bends, it can be helpful to apply the bend in the tablature stave, where it can be easier to see which string exactly is being bent.
To customize the appearance of bends across an entire score:
In this dialog, you can modify: