wrong guitar clef

• Apr 12, 2010 - 19:58

MuseScore uses the treble clef 8vb in the guitar staves, but guitar is traditionally treated as a transposing instrument. Most of guitar scores uses the simple treble clef and the notes sound one octave below the written notes.
There is an article in Grooves Dictionary about transposing instruments that confirms this.
As a workaround, when editing my scores I use to replace the original code for guitar in instruments.xml file with this:



In which I change the clef and insert a transposing code.



Most of guitar scores uses the simple treble clef

True, but it doesn't mean they are right to do so.
This is the right clef under *concert pitch* notation, which is, IMHO, the default notation. The correct solution is to get the simple clef as a consequence of considering guitar as a transposing instrument (that is, switching to "transposing" notation).

I think a guitar player won't be disturbed by the 8vb, he might just ignore it (beginners don't even notice), or find it obvious if he is experienced.
OTH, amateurs players meeting to play guitar + other instruments might well play a different music than the one which is written, because they don't know (and sometimes refuse to admit !) that guitar sounds an octave lower.

I am totally new to MuseScore (2), but have done a lot of work in other scoring applications, including Sibelius.

I would like to create guitar and linked tab scores, but I am having problems with the clef. MuseScore is using the 8vb treble clef. I understand why MS would consider doing this, but *No* published guitar music uses that clef. They always use a standard treble clef, with an invisible octave transposition.

I changed to a treble clef, which shifted the notes an octave, so I transposed the notes down an octave, and that was fine, except that the linked TAB staff has the notes an octave too high. I can't transpose that down without changing the standard clef.

Is there an easy way to get guitar instruments that behave as if the clef had an 8 but which uses the normal treble clef?

Should create a guitar staff, change to a treble clef and add an unlinked tab staff and enter the notes separately? Or is there a better way to do this? It does appear to work, but I was looking forward to using the linked tab.

I am looking into MS as an accessible and inexpensive program to recommend to friends who play folk music mostly with guitars. This is kind of a deal breaker if I can't find a good way to do this, hopefully without having to mess with XML code.

As I said, I have never seen guitar publications with the 8vb clef for guitar, and trying to publish that way is probably not going to work.

I spent a fair bit of time searching the forum and manual, so perhaps there is a simple solution somewhere, but I can't find it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



In reply to by bobzawalich

If you want to use a regular treble clef with octave transposition, you can - just drag the regular treble clef in from the palette, and then set up the transposition yourself in Staff Properties (accessed from the right click menu). You can then save a score into your Templates folder so you can easily create scores with the same setup in the future.

BTW, while the octave clefs havent been traditional in the past to publish music that way, ever since Finale started offering that option, it's actually been pretty common the last few decades in my experience.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks, Marc, for the help with this.

Is there a mechanism for making a request that a guitar instrument with a standard treble clef and staff transposition to the octave be added to the standard set of guitar instruments?

I have been a guitarist for 40 some years, and I have hundreds of guitar books and scores, and I had not seen one that used the transposing treble clef. Looking though some other piles of books, I see one book of Pierre Bensuans's transcriptions that use it - it was originally in French so perhaps that is more common in European scores, though I have some Segovia and Guiliani and Brouwer scores, and they all use treble clefs.

Thanks to cadiz1 for showing other examples of scores that use those clefs. Obviously, I was wrong, and this clef is used in guitar scores. (I did note that in Behind Bars, while she does say that the octave transposing clef may be used, all her examples in the guitar section use a normal treble clef.)

But I do have many examples of scores that use a normal treble clef, so it would still seem to me that it would be useful to have easy access to a guitar instrument that used the normal treble staff.

I have no idea what this process is for making such a request, or even if it has already been requested and voted down. If anyone could direct me to where I should look for more information, I would be very grateful.

Thanks again


In reply to by Marc Sabatella

My apologies again, as I am not sure whether this is the appropriate place to seek help with a problem, so please let me know what the correct protocol is.

I just followed Marc's instructions and created a guitar staff and dragged in a treble clef, and then in Staff Properties set Play Transposition to Perfect unison 1 octave down. So C4 (which I am assuming to mean middle C) is on the 3rd space up from the bottom as expected. But the linked Tablature staff is showing the notes an octave higher (please see the attached screen shot) snap2.png .

I can't apply a transposition change to the Tab without changing the notation staff.

I searched the forum and saw something about octaves being off in tab staves, but it was all involved with imports of Guitar Pro files, so I am not really sure it is relevant.

So at this point am wondering if I am doing something wrong and if there is a way to have both the notation and tab staff use the same transposition change, or if I should just set up unlinked staves to accomplish what I want.

Even doing that, it does not appear that putting a Play Transposition change in the Tab staff accomplishes what I want - the notes are on strings that indicate notes an octave higher than desired. I can use Notes > Transpose to transpose the TAB notes down an octave, but it means I need to have unlinked staves and use copy and paste and Notes > Transpose to have the staves match. This is certainly doable, but it would be nice if there were a more direct way to accomplish this.

Any suggestions for an easier path would be greatly appreciated.


In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I see that when I imported a MusicXML file from Sibelius with guitar and guitar tab, the guitar instrument had a standard treble clef, and the notes were an octave too low.

I do notice though that the imported file does not have a linked tab file, so if I change the clef in the notation staff and change the transposition by an octave, the notes sound and appear correct.

I was going to request a new clef that looked like a treble clef but behaved like the one with a 8 below, which would probably be a fairly general solution to my problem. I suspect it would be both too much work to implement and probably not of interest to anyone else, so I will not make the request.

It appears that I can use a guitar staff, change the clef to a treble and change the transposition, as Marc suggested. Then I can add an unlinked TAB staff, and I can copy and paste between the staves fine. It is no worse than what I was doing in Sibelius, though I was looking forward to using the linked staves.

So I will just do as Marc suggested, and make up scores with these instruments and save in my Templates folder.

(Edit again)

I just tried this, and if I restart MuseScore so the templates appear, and then create a new score from one of my templates, the clef change is gone, and I have a guitar with an 8vb treble clef. Curiously, the octave transposition is still in place.

Is there anyplace where it is documented what elements in a template score are preserved, and which are not? The title and other things from the New window are changed as expected, and notes are removed, but I am a bit surprised the clef is not retained.

I suppose I could just save empty scores with names like TEMPLATE_foo into my regular scores folder, and open them and do a quick rename to get around this if this is the way this works.

Thanks very much.


In reply to by bobzawalich

The idea of a clef that looks like regular treble but acts like treble 8vb has merit for sure, although there are probably other ways of dealing with this.

I had forgotten clefs wouldn't be retainined in a template, but now that I think of it, that does make sense . No content is kept, just the structure, which includes Staff Properties (and hence transposition).

In reply to by bobzawalich

"but *No* published guitar music uses that clef. They always use a standard treble clef, with an invisible octave transposition."
I am really stunned by this statement: (No published guitar music uses that clef!). It is an false assumption, let me tell you. Some editions 8vb use this key, others will not. And in my experience, I can see as much as the other.
In short, both can be used. See for example the lines of Elaine Gould in "Behind Bars" p.373. "Guitar music is notated on a single stave treble clef in the [...] If preferred, the key 8vb may be used"
Some examples below, among many others.
And for my part, I use always this clef.
8 vb1.jpg

I see in the release notes for 2.1, there is an entry
Add "Guitar (Treble Clef)" to instruments.xml.

Does this mean it is now possible to create a guitar (one that would link with a TAB staff) that has a treble clef rather than the octave clef?

If so, could someone please explain how to accomplish this? I was not able to just add a guitar with a treble clef to a score and retain the traditional octave transposition.

If there is an easy way to accomplish this I would be grateful to find out how.


In reply to by bobzawalich

If you bring up the Instruments dialog (press i) you can select it. If you right click the octave guitar staff and select staff properties, you can change instrument to Guitar (treble clef) but you will need to changes clefs on the staff yourself. A linked TAB staff will follow the main staff.

In reply to by bobzawalich

It's always been possible. Simply change the clef using the palette then change the transposition using Staff Properties. You can save the result as a template as well. The only thing that is new is the ability to select this directly from the instrument list - type Guitar into the search box to find it, or switch to All rather than Common instruments in the drop down at top.

Edit: not quite right, to get it to work with linked tab previoisly you also had to edit string data.

In reply to by bobzawalich

Thanks for this, and for the work of those community members who made it easier to create a Treble Clef guitar instrument.

This is really a big deal to me. I can now create a a Treble Clef Guitar with or without linked tablature, and can change a "normal" Musescore guitar to a Treble Clef Guitar in a reasonably small number of easily explained steps, so I am much more inclined to recommend MuseScore to other guitarists than I was before.

I do a lot of work with Sibelius, and I am not recommending it to new users these days, so I am pleased to be comfortable with MuseScore.

I would still prefer to have Treble Clef Guitar be a standard instrument that could be created as easily as a "Guitar", but what it now available is workable, so thanks again for that.

I ran into one problem when I was creating templates for TC Guitar and TC guitar + tab. If I created a Treble Clef guitar from Edit Instrument or New Score, it came up with a treble clef, and it I saved it as a template, I would get the treble clef when I used File New and that template.

But if I started with an octave clef guitar, and did an instrument change to Treble Clef Guitar, and then changed the clef to be a treble clef, then saved *that* as a template, File New gave me a Treble Clef Guitar instrument but the clef was an octave clef.

Is there a way to avoid the clef problem (besides doing what I did in creating the TC guitar from scratch?) What is the difference between a Treble Clef Guitar created from scratch, and an instrument that started as a Guitar, and got an Instrument Change to Treble Clef Guitar and a clef change?

Thanks again for making it easier to create this instrument.

In reply to by bobzawalich

A clef you add to your score is part of the score itself - like the key signature, or the actual notes themselves. None of the content of a template is preserved when creating a new score from that template. The instrument is still the standard guitar with the octave clef if you created the score that way. So if you want to create a treble clef guitar template, do so directly - don't create a score for some other instrument then try to change it into a treble clef guitar. Not sure why you'd want to to go to all that much extra work anyhow?

Also not sure what you mean about treble clef guitar being a standard instrument that can be added the same as other guitars. It *is* a standard instrument. It just doesn't happen to be listed as a "Common Instrument", so you need to the search box (or switch to "All Instruments") to grab it. But the search box is often faster anyhow. In any case, aside from not being listed as "Common", it is every bit as much a "standard instrument" as anything else. And of course, if you use it in a template, you don't even need to select it from the instrument list at all.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for the information. Indeed, using Find is great for selecting a Treble Clef Guitar, and that plus a template will serve to create this type of instrument.

In my musical universe, I do not want a guitar with an octave clef, so the reason I was going to all that work is that is is likely that I will either accidentally create an octave clef guitar or someone will send me scores with octave clef guitars, and I will want to change them to be treble clef guitars after notes have been added.

I am familiar with Sibelius, and in Sibelius, an initial clef is part of an instrument definition, so applying an instrument change from, say, a violin to a viola will change the clef as well, and the modified instrument is indistinguishable from a vioila created from scratch. I would just use an instrument change if I wanted to go from violin to viola.

In MuseScore it appears to me that an Instrument Change changes some properties (not including the clef) but the underlying instrument is not changed.

So if I have a score with an octave clef guitar that I want to change to a treble clef guitar is it best to create a new Treble Clef Guitar instrument, copy and paste the contents of the octave clef guitar to the new instrument, and then delete the old one?

I can't quite decide if that is simpler than making an instrument change and then changing the clef, but I can see that creating a new instrument could prevent future problems in case I wanted to make a template out of a score with the modified instrument.

Thanks again.

In reply to by bobzawalich

I think you may be misunderstanding me. I wasn't asking why you'd go to the trouble of making a template for a treble clef guitar. I was questioning you'd deliberately choose an inefficient and ineffective *method* of creating such a template :-). The point being, as you've seen, choosing the wrong instrument, then changing the instrument, then changing the clef, does not work , plus it is a lot more work than simply choosing the proper instrument in the first place.

So to be clear: The simple way to to create a template for a score with treble clef guitar is to just create a score for treble clef guitar then save it. No change instrument, no clef change, and it works. Once you've created such a template, you never need to create new scores any other way - just create them from this template, and it's exactly as easy as creating scores from any of the standard templates.

That covers creating new scores. For converting existing scores, you do indeed to take two steps - change instrument, then change clef. Either that or add new instrument, then copy and paste. Pretty sure the former is faster, and also more reliable in that copy/paste does not necessary get everything (although it should when copying to the same time position in the same score).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks, Marc,

I did understand what you told me and just phrased my response badly. I will personally always create the Treble Clef guitar instruments directly and use those for templates.

So I will likely only need to convert instruments when I create an octave clef guitar accidentally or when I am working with someone else's score.

If I need to change existing octave clef guitars to treble clef guitars, my only concern with the 2-step approach (change instrument, add clef) is that if I decide to make a template from a score where I have done this conversion, the clef will get lost when I use the template.

I doubt I will need to set up such templates very often, though, and the 2-step approach is probably simpler.

Your help is much appreciated.

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