A chord symbol is an abbreviated way of representing a musical chord and its harmony.
MuseScore supports the following notations:
- Chord symbol: Alphabetical chord name plus chord quality. e.g.
- Nashville Number System (NNS): Arabic numeral plus chord quality. e.g.
- Roman Numeral Analysis (RNA): Roman numeral plus chord quality. e.g.
Adding chord symbols to your score
Entering a chord symbol
- Select a start note, note slash, or rest;
- Press Ctrl+K (Mac: Cmd+K). The cursor is now positioned above the staff ready for input.
- Enter the chord symbol using the following characters:
- Root note: a, b, c, d, e, f, g. (the lower case will automatically change to upper-case when you exit the chord symbol)
- Sharp: # (hash).
- Flat: b (small letter "b").
- Double sharp: x (small letter "x") or ## (two hash symbols).
- Double flat: bb (small letter "b" twice).
- Natural: Ctrl+Shift+H.
- Space: Ctrl+Space (Mac: Alt+Space);
- For other symbols, see Chord symbol syntax (below).
- To move the cursor forward to the next chord/rest/beat, press Space. For other ways of moving the cursor, see navigation commands (below);
- Exit chord symbol mode by pressing Esc.
Chord names, accidentals and formatting
After you exit Edit Mode, any characters entered are automatically converted to the correct format. A root note typed in lower case turns into upper case (for alternative options, see Automatic Capitalization). And characters entered for accidentals are automatically converted into professional glyphs. For example, a "#" (hash character) automatically becomes a sharp sign (♯). Don't input, or copy and paste, unicode characters, such as U+266F (sharp sign, ♯), or U+266D (flat sign, ♭) etc, as MuseScore will not render them correctly in chord notation.
The following is a summary of keyboard shortcuts used to move the cursor in chord symbol entry mode:
|Action||Command (Windows)||Command (macOS)|
|Move cursor to next note, rest, or beat||Space||Space|
|Move cursor to next beat||; (semicolon)||;|
|Move cursor to previous note, rest, or beat||Shift+Space|
|Move cursor to previous beat||: (colon)||:|
|Move cursor to next measure||Ctrl+→||Cmd+→|
|Move cursor to previous measure||Ctrl+←||Cmd+←|
|Move cursor by duration number||Ctrl+1-9||Cmd+1-9|
|Exit chord symbol entry||Esc||Esc|
Chord symbol syntax
MuseScore understands most of the abbreviations used in chord symbols:
- Major: M, Ma, Maj, ma, maj, Δ (type t or ˆ for the triangle)
- Minor: m, mi, min, -
- Diminished: dim, ° (entered with lowercase letter o, shows as ° if using the Jazz style, as o, the Greek omicron, otherwise)
- Half-diminished: ø (entered with 0, number zero, shows as ø if using the Jazz style, as 0 (zero) otherwise). Alternatively, you can, of course, choose abbreviations such as mi7b5 etc. Note: to get Dø, type "D0", not "Dm70" or "Dm0"
- Augmented: aug, +
- The following abbreviations are also valid: extensions and alterations like b9 or #5, sus, alt, and no3; inversions and slash chords, such as C7/E; commas; parentheses, which can enclose part, or even all, of a chord symbol.
Editing a chord symbol
Chord symbols are Text. Double-click on a chord symbol to enter Edit Mode, see Text editing. Use methods described above to create special characters. After you exit Edit Mode, they are automatically converted to the correct formatting.
Entering Roman numeral analysis
Not to be confused with Figured bass.
- Select a start note;
- From the menu, select Add→Text→Roman Numeral Analysis. Alternatively, set up a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing in Preferences;
- Input the RNA symbols for the chord just like normal text, as follows;
- Major chord: Upper case roman numerals
- Minor chord: Lower case roman numerals
- Diminished chord: o (lower case)
- Half-diminished chord: 0 (zero)
- Augmented chord: +
- Chord inversions: Enter up to 3 single-digit numbers, top note first
- Accidentals: enter # for a sharp, b for a flat or h for natural. These turn into a proper (and superscripted) ♯ , ♭ or ♮ right away, see entering accidentals above.
- To prevent any character from being interpreted or superscripted, prefix the character with a backslash, "\". This could be used, for example, to add a literal letter "b", "h", a hash symbol "#", or a non-superscripted number etc.
- Inversion notation using alphabet a,b,c,d can be created with the method described above.
- Inversion notation using vertically aligned arabic numerals without accidentals such as 64 can be created with the method described below.
- Inversion notation using vertically aligned arabic numerals with accidentals such as 6#3, ie altered chord, is unsupported, workaround : create Figured bass text instead; or create separate text objects and manually nudge them into place.
- For other symbols, see the images below.
- Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing symbols for other chords;
- When RNA is completed, exit by pressing Esc, or by clicking on a blank section of the score.
RNA input offers the same keyboard shortcuts for navigation as in chord symbols (see above ).
RNA accidentals and formatting
Upon each computer keyboard input, characters are automatically converted to the correct format. MuseScore uses a specialist font, Campania, to provide the correct formatting for RNA.
Examples of RNA
Entering a Nashville number
The Nashville Number System (NNS), is a shorthand way of representing chords based on scale degrees rather than chord letters. This allows an accompaniment to be played in any key from the same chord chart.
To start entering Nashville notation:
- Select a start note;
- From the menu, select Add→Text→Nashville Number.
Just as with standard chord symbols, you can type Nashville notation normally and MuseScore will do its best to recognize and format the symbols appropriately. The same shortcuts used for navigation when entering standard chord symbols (e.g. Space, see above) are available for Nashville notation as well.
Appearance and function overview
See also the main chapter Templates and styles.
The final visual and function of a chord symbol, Nashville Number, or Roman Numeral Analysis in a score file is determined by:
- Properties of each individual symbol on a score, By default, objects do not have any specific properties. When properties are assigned in the Properties panel, they will always be used; and
- The global profiles (per each Musescore Part and the "Full Score").
- Chord symbols, NNS, RNA use corresponding compatible values in "Style for Chord symbols" defined in Format → Style → Chord Symbols, this behavior cannot be changed. For example, Chord symbols and NNS (but not RNA) are affected by Jazz rendering style.
- Chord symbols, NNS, RNA use their respective "Style for text inside certain type" by default.Format → Style → Text Styles → Chord Symbol, Roman numeral analysis, Nashville number. This behavior can be changed in each individual object's Properties panel: More... button → Text Style dropbox option. For example, Chord symbols use "Style for text inside Chord symbol", you can switch to use the profile "Style for text inside Chord symbol (Alternate)", or any other profile. This allows two separate sets of formatting for easier editing in a reharmonization scores.
Aligning chord symbols
See also Appearance and function section above.
Using the Style menu
"Style for Chord Symbols"
The default vertical alignment of all Chord Symbols, NNS and RNA are defined in "Style for Chord symbols" Format→ Style→Chord Symbol: Positioning.
- Distance to fretboard diagram: Affects the distance between fretboard diagrams and any chord symbols above.
- Minimum chord spacing: The minimum distance allowed between chords.
- Maximum barline distance:
- Maximum shift above/below: This is used to line up chord symbols whose vertical alignment is irregular. Experiment until you get the apperance you want.
"Style for text inside certain object"
The default alignment of objects also depends on the profile used, see Appearance and function section above. Effect of values in style profiles are cumulative.
Using the Properties panel
You can align a selection of chord symbols by pressing Appearance, and changing the "Offset" values; and/or by changing the "Alignment" or "Position" properties in the Text section of the Properties panel.
Transposition of chord symbols
Chord symbols copied to a transposing instrument staff are automatically transposed in equal measure. For example, an A7 chord copied from a Flute part (non-transposing) to a B♭ Clarinet part (sounds a tone lower than written) will be transposed to a B7 chord.
Note that chords associated with guitar fretboard diagrams are not transposed automatically.
Chord symbols (not NNS or RNA) are automatically transposed by default when using the Transpose dialog. If this is not required, you can untick the "Transpose chord symbols" option in the same dialog.
Automatically create extra chord symbols (not NNS or RNA) with capo
You can enable the feature to automatically create extra chord symbols (not NNS or RNA) with capo, in the global style profile "Style for Chord Symbol" in Format → Style → Chord Symbols: Capo fret position. Assign the capo position for the appended extra chord symbol, Musescore will append an extra bracketed chord symbol to each chord symbol on the score. The bracketed symbol, when played using that capo, sounds identical to the unbracketed one. Default value 0 does not create extra chord symbols.
Changing Spelling of Chord Symbols (not NNS or RNA)
For chord symbols only (not NNS or RNA).
MuseScore uses letter names (A-G) by default, but you can switch the spelling system. MuseScore also automatically capitalizes, regardless of whether you entered them in upper or lower case, you can change this behavior.
Chord Spelling Systems
From the main menu, choose Format→ Style→Chord symbols. Then choose one of the following radio buttons in the spelling section:
- Standard: A, B♭, B, C, C♯,…
- German: A, B♭, H, C, C♯,…
- Full German: A, B, H, C, Cis,…
- Solfeggio: Do, Do♯, Re♭, Re,…
- French: Do, Do♯, Ré♭, Ré,...
From the main menu, choose Format→ Style→Chord symbols. Then choose from of the following options:
- Lower case minor chords: c, cm, cm7,...
- Lower case bass notes: C/e,...
- All caps note names: DO, RE, MI,...
You can also turn off the automatic capitalization completely, in which case note names are simply rendered the way you type them.
Shown below are results of different Font face and Rendering style settings
You can assign a specific font face and formatting to each individual symbols on a score in the Properties panel. You can also assign a specific font face to the global style profiles "style for text inside certain type". For chord symbols and NNS (but not RNA), individual object's Font face property is ignored when the Jazz rendering style is used.
Rendering style of chord symbols and NNS (but not RNA)
Rendering style is not to be confused with font face option.
Rendering style is the MuseScore feature that uses extra formatting to improve engraving. It is defined in the global style profile "Style for Chord Symbol" in Format → Style → Chord Symbols . All Chord symbols are affected by the chosen rendering style, there is no individual property option. An appropriate default setting is used automatically, based on the template selected to create the score. For Jazz templates the Jazz rendering style is used, for other templates the Standard rendering style is used. The three options available are:
- Standard rendering style: chords are rendered simply with the font face, no extra formatting is used.
- Jazz rendering style: MuseJazz font face is used for a handwritten look, with distinctive superscript and other formatting characteristics.
- Custom rendering style: allows you to customize the look of chord symbols (and also ensures compatibility with older scores) with a Chord symbols style file (*.xml) . These files are found under installation's "styles" folder. In Windows 10, that would be C:\Program Files\MuseScore 4\styles\ . Documentation can be found in the same folder. This is for advanced users only, see external links below.
Musescore uses the following terminology:
Extension part and modifier part can use extra formatting:
- Extension scaling and Modifier scaling: This affects the size of the chord extension or of the modifier.
- Extension vertical offset and Modified vertical offset: This affects the vertical position of the chord symbol extension or of the modifier.
Changing Playback of Chord Symbols
Enabling and disabling playback
Only chord symbols and NNS create playback, RNA does not create playback.
You can disable/enable playback of chord symbols of the Musescore program by clicking on the cog icon to the right of the playback controls and deselecting/selecting Play chord symbols. This does not change any symbol's properties settings.
You can also disable/enable playback of a selection of chord symbols, by unchecking/checking Play in the General section of the Properties panel .
Default playback settings for all chord symbols (not NNS or RNA) in a score are available in the Playback section of Format→ Style→Chord symbols.
You can also customize the playback of selected chord symbols in the Chord symbol section of the properties panel.
- Interpretation: Literal or Jazz.
- Voicing: Automatic, Root Only, Close, Drop two, Six note, Four note, three note
- Duration: Until next chord symbol, Until end of measure, Chord/rest duration
Note: The triangle symbol Δ in Musescore creates a Major triad only.
Generating chord voicings onto a staff
MuseScore allows you to generate notes from selected chord symbols and NNS (but not RNA) . The voicing depends on the playback settings explained.
To realize a selection of chord symbols:
- Make a selection of chord symbols;
- Right click on any chord in the selection;
- Click Realize chord symbols;
- Optional. Check "Override with custom options" and set the options as required;
- Click OK.
Note: The triangle symbol Δ in Musescore creates a Major triad only.
Chord symbol properties
Chord symbol style
Values of the "Style for chord symbols" can be edited in Format→Style→Chord symbols.
Values of the "Style for text inside Chord Symbol" can be edited in Format→Style→Text styles→Chord Symbol
Values of the "Style for text inside Chord Symbol (Alternate)" can be edited in Format→Style→Text styles→Chord Symbol (Alternate).
Values of the "Style for text inside Nashville Number" can be edited in Format→Style→Text styles→Nashville Number
Values of the "Style for text inside Roman Numeral Analysis" can be edited in Format→Style→Text styles→Roman Numeral Analysis
To change chord quality, use a plugin such as:
- Chord Level Selector
- Next inversion: replaces all chord(s) in (keyboard) selection with their next inversion
To identify harmony or chord, use a plugin such as:
- Chord Identifier (Pop & Jazz) for music that features harmonic chromaticism heavily, as the RNA created has jazz influence.
- Chord ID and Roman numeral analysis for music that features stable tonality, as conventional RNA are created.
Chord symbols style file (*.xml):
- chords.xml with sub/superscript and stacked chord alterations shared by RunasSudo
- github issue Support for chords with stacked extensions #16241 workaround by MarcSabatella