Chord notation systems

Updated 1 week ago

    A chord notation is an abbreviated way of representing musical chord and harmony

    Chord symbols

    Note: To fill measures with slashes, see Fill with slashes or Toggle rhythmic slash notation.

    MuseScore supports:

    Chord symbol

    A-G alphabetical chord name plus chord quality

    Adding a chord symbol

    1. Select a start note or a slash;
    2. Press Ctrl+K (Mac: Cmd+K);
    3. The cursor is now positioned above the staff ready for input. Enter the chord symbol just like normal text, as follows:
      • Root note: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
      • Sharp: # (hash symbol, Alt+3 on a UK keyboard).
      • 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. Note that these don't transpose nor play back (other than the root note), nor export to MusicXML properly.
      • For other symbols, see Chord symbol syntax (below).
    4. Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing chord symbols (see below);
    5. Exit chord symbol mode by pressing Esc.

    After you exit Edit Mode, the characters entered will automatically assume the correct format: by default a root note typed in lower case will turn into upper case (for alternative options, see Automatic Capitalization)

    Entering accidentals

    Entered accidentals will be converted into a professional glyphs automatically, for example "#" (hash character) is automatically converted into a sharp sign (♯).
    Do not input or copy and paste unicode character U+266F(sharp sign, ♯), U+266D (flat sign, ♭) etc, as MuseScore does not interpret them in chord notation properly.

    Keyboard commands for navigation

    The following commands are available during chord symbol entry:

    • Space move Cursor to next note, rest, or beat
    • Shift+Space move cursor to previous note, rest, or beat
    • Ctrl+Space (Mac: Alt+Space) add a space to the chord name
    • ; move cursor to next beat
    • : move cursor to previous beat
    • Tab move cursor to next measure
    • Shift+Tab move cursor to previous measure
    • Ctrl (Mac: Cmd) plus number (1-9) move Cursor by duration corresponding to number (e.g.; half note for 6)
    • Esc exit.

    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.
    • 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.

    Appearance and function

    See also the main chapter Layout and formatting in Musescore.

    The final visual and function of most object in a score file is determined by:

    • Properties of each individual chord symbol on a score, By default, objects do not have any specific properties. When properties are assigned in the Inspector, they will always be used; and
    • The global profiles (per each Musescore Part and the "Full Score"). The two used by default are the "Style for Chord symbol" defined in Format → Style → Chord Symbols , and the "Style for text inside Chord symbol" defined in Format → Style → Text Styles → Chord Symbol.
      All chord symbols on a score (the currently editing Musescore Part or "Full Score") use "Style for Chord symbol", this behavior cannot be changed.
      Chord symbols use "Style for text inside Chord symbol" by default, this behavior can be changed in each individual chord symbol's Inspector: Style dropbox option. For example, you can switch to use the profile "Style for text inside Chord symbol (Alternate)" defined in Format → Style → Text Styles → Chord Symbol (Alternate), or any other profile.

    Shown below are results of different Font face and Rendering style settings Chord symbols, font: Edwin, Style: Normal
    Chord symbols, font: MuseJazzText, Style: Normal
    Chord symbols, font: MuseJazzText, Style: Jazz

    Font face

    Font face is not to be confused with Rendering style. See also Fonts.

    You can assign a specific font face and formatting to each individual chord symbol on a score in the Inspector. You can also assign a specific font face to the global style profiles "style for text inside certain type". Font face setting is ignored when the Jazz rendering style is used.

    Rendering style

    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 3\styles\ . Documentation can be found in the same folder. This is for advanced users only, see musescore 4 handbook Chord symbols : External links.

    Musescore uses the following terminology:
    Chord: 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.

    Note spelling

    It is defined in the global style profile "Style for Chord Symbol" in Format → Style → Chord Symbols.

    By default, MuseScore uses letter names for chord symbols. For users in regions where other note naming schemes are used, MuseScore provides the following controls:

    • 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

    It is defined in the global style profile "Style for Chord Symbol" in Format → Style → Chord Symbols.

    By default, MuseScore automatically capitalizes all note names on exit, regardless of whether you entered them in upper or lower case. However, you can also choose other automatic capitalization 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.

    Positioning

    Default layout is defined in the global style profile "Style for Chord Symbol" in Format → Style → Chord Symbols: Positioning.

    • Distance to fretboard diagram: If a fretboard diagram is present, this value is the height at which the chord symbol is applied above the diagram (negative values can be used).
    • Minimum chord spacing: The space to leave between chord symbols.
    • Maximum barline distance: Changes the size of the gap between the last chord symbol in the measure and the following barline. You only need to adjust this value if there is a continuous problem in the score with overlap between the last symbol in one measure and the first symbol in the next.

    In addition to the layout settings described above, the position of new chord symbols is also determined by the global style profiles "style for text inside certain type" used. The default style used is "Style for text inside Chord symbol" defined in Format → Style → Text Styles → Chord Symbol. The effect is cumulative.

    You can also adjust positioning properties of each individual chord symbol on a score in the Inspector.

    Automatically create extra chord symbols with capo

    You can enable the feature to automatically create extra chord symbols 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.

    Convert chord symbols into notes

    To lay down chord notes onto a score, as heard in playback configured in Playback: Chord symbols / Nashville numbers:

    1. Select one or more measures
    2. From the menu, select ToolsRealize Chord Symbols.

    Note: The triangle symbol Δ in Musescore creates a Major triad only.

    Change chord quality

    Use a plugin such as:

    Transpose chord symbols

    Chord symbols are automatically transposed by default if you apply the menu Transpose command to the containing measures. If this is not required, you can untick the "Transpose chord symbols" option in the same dialog.

    Playback of Chord symbols

    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    See Playback: Chord symbols / Nashville numbers.
    Note: The triangle symbol Δ in Musescore creates a Major triad only.

    Nashville Number System

    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    The Nashville Number System 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 AddTextNashville 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

    Playback of Nashville

    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    See Playback: Chord symbols / Nashville numbers.

    Roman Numeral Analysis

    Not to be confused with Figured bass.

    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    The Roman Numeral Analysis system is a type of musical analysis where chords are represented by upper and lower case Roman numerals (I, ii, III, iv etc.), superscripts, subscripts and other modifying symbols.

    Enter RNA

    1. Select a start note;
    2. From the menu, select AddTextRoman 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 hash character (#) for a sharp, small letter b for a flat and h for natural, see entering accidentals above (jump to).
      • If you wish, instead, to show the plaintext character but not the automatically converted professional glyph or superscript, prefix the character with a backslash, "\". For example, "\h" adds a literal letter "h" instead of a natural symbol.
      • 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 ).

    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. See also Fonts.

    Examples of RNA

    Type this:

    RNA Example, type this

    To get this:

    RNA Example, get this

    Playback of RNA

    Musescore 3.6.2 does not create playback for RNA.

    Identify harmony or chord

    Use a plugin such as:

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