Chord symbols

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    Overview

    A chord symbol is an abbreviated way of representing a musical chord and its harmony.

    MuseScore supports the following notations:

    Adding chord symbols to a score

    Entering a chord symbol

    1. Select a start note, note slash, or rest;
    2. Press Ctrl+K (Mac: Cmd+K). The cursor is now positioned above the staff ready for input.
    3. 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).
    4. To move the cursor forward to the next chord/rest/beat, press Space. For other ways of moving the cursor, see navigation commands (below);
    5. 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.

    Navigation commands

    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.

    1. Select a start note;
    2. From the menu, select Add→Text→Roman Numeral Analysis. Alternatively, set up a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing in Preferences;
    3. 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.
    4. Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing symbols for other chords;
    5. 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

    Type this:

    Type this

    To get:

    To get

    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:

    1. Select a start note;
    2. 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.

    Nashville Number example

    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 main chapter Formatting text, 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 "Chord symbol style" section. Effect of values in style profiles are cumulative.

    Using the Properties panel

    To align object(s):

    1. Select object(s), see Selecting elements chapter.
    2. In Properties panel
    3. Under Text section, change Text style, see "Style for text inside certain object" section. Adjust Alignment, Position.
    4. Press Appearance button, adjust Offset. Effects are cumulative.

    Transposition of chord symbols

    Transposing instruments

    Upon switching "concert pitch" score viewing mode, chord symbols of transposing instrument adjust themselves automatically. When chord symbols are copied and pasted, they are transposed accordingly. See also Transposition chapter.

    Chords associated with guitar fretboard diagrams are not transposed automatically, see Fretboard diagrams chapter.

    Transpose dialog

    The Transpose dialog transposes all selected objects except NNS and RNA, see Transposition: Using Transpose dialog chapter. To disable transposing selected chord symbols, uncheck Transpose chord symbols.

    Enabling automatic creation of extra chord symbols (not NNS or RNA) with capo

    Musescore can be configured to create an extra bracketed chord symbol with capo next to each chord symbol (not NNS or RNA) on the score automatically. The bracketed symbol, when played using that capo, sounds identical to the unbracketed one. To enable this feature:

    1. In Format → Style → Chord Symbols: Capo fret position.
    2. Assign the capo position for the appended extra chord symbol. 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,...

    Automatic Capitalization

    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.

    Changing appearance

    Shown below are results of different Font face and Rendering style settings. In the third exmaple, individual objects' Font property are ignored because the Jazz rendering style is used.
    Chord symbols, font: Edwin, style: Normal
    Chord symbols, font: MuseJazzText, style: Normal
    Chord symbols, font: MuseJazzText, style: Jazz

    Font

    Font (font face, typeface, or font family) is not to be confused with Rendering style. See also Fonts.

    To assign font and formatting to individual symbol on a score, use Properties panel. To assign default font, use global style profiles "style for text inside certain type". For chord symbols and NNS (but not RNA), individual object's Font 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 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, no extra formatting is used.
    • Jazz rendering style: MuseJazz font 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:
    Chord symbol: Root, Extension, Modifier
    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.

    To disable/enable playback of these objects of the Musescore program:

    1. Click the cog icon to the right of the playback controls
    2. Deselect/select Play chord symbols.

    To disable/enable playback of selected object(s) on score:

    1. Uncheck/check Properties panel: General section : Play checkbox .

    Customizing playback

    Chord symbol playback settings (Style menu)

    To edit selected chord symbols edit settings under Properties panel: Chord symbol section. To edit the global settings for all chord symbols and NNS (but not RNA) in a score, edit settings under Format→ Style→Chord symbols : Playback section.

    • Interpretation: Literal or Jazz.
    • Voicing: Automatic, Root Only, Close, Drop two, Six note, Four note, three note. See details on musescore 3 handbook Playback: Chord symbols / Nashville numbers chapter.
    • 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:

    1. Make a selection of chord symbols;
    2. Right click on any chord in the selection;
    3. Click Realize chord symbols;
    4. Optional. Check "Override with custom options" and set the options as required;
    5. Click OK.

    Note: The triangle symbol Δ in Musescore creates a Major triad only. To change chord quality afterwards, see "External links" section.

    Chord symbol properties

    Chord symbol(s) on a score can be edited with Properties panel. Text related settings are covered in Text. Playback related settings are covered in Changing Playback of Chord Symbols section above.

    Chord symbol style

    See main chapter Templates and styles, and Appearance and function section above.

    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 after Generating chord voicings onto a staff, use a plugin such as:

    To identify harmony or chord, use a plugin such as:

    Chord symbols style file (*.xml):