Guitar chords with capo above regular chord.

• Sep 24, 2018 - 03:23

I see that one can add chords in parenthesis depending on the fret a capo has been placed. These appear by default next to the standard chord. I would like to place them above the chord but I have not find this feature in musescore.

I tried writing two sets of chord signs and add manually the parenthesis but that is time consuming, besides, there is no possibility to transpose automatically the chords if a capo is placed in a different fret.

Does anyone know if this feature is available or can offer another alternative?



I'm not sure what you mean by "add manually the parenthesis" -if you mean you want each capo chord to appear in its own parentheses, just type them as part of the chord symbol. They are understood automatically, and transposition etc should all work normally.

I've never tried this, but an interesting possibility might be to add another staff, set it to have invisible staff lines, no barlines, etc (in Staff Properties), place the capo chord on that staff, and then set the transposition as desired. Seems that might be a workable method to get capo chords above the standards ones?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


Thanks for the answer. What I meant is this (I will probably over-explain, but I got used to do that having been a teacher)

When you are playing with a capo, usually the scores show both, the "real" chord on which the melody is written and another one, in parenthesis, showing what "figure" you have to play the chord after you installed your capo on a certain fret. For instance, a G without capo will have the same figure as an E with the capo in the third fret, nothing out of the ordinary here.

The programs already offer a function to add what other "figure" a chord would have after you install a capo and already comes out with parenthesis. Using the same example, the software would convert "G" to "G(E)" if you select a capo in the third fret as described by Jojo in his reply. Ref

That would solve the issue, except that I would like to have, continuing with the example, the "(E)" above the "G" and not to the right. this is due a current situation where a chord written as "Bbm/Db" would turn into "Bbm/Db(Gm/Bb)" with a capo on the third fret, which not only takes too much space, but makes reading more cumbersome. Printing out a score like that, although accurate, is not an option unless you were willing to settle for having two measures on each line only.

The only way to solve the printing issue that I have found, is to have two sets of chords, one the "regular" chord, in the "regular" position, and the second, manually written above the first one. The program allows for that so no need for hidden staffs or anything of the sort. You only need to select the same note, then type CTRL+K again, writhe your chord in parenthesis and then move it above the other one.

Both sets of chords would automatically transpose if you want to change the harmony from, lets say, G to C, but if all you wanted to do was to move your capo from the third fret to another one, and only the chords in parenthesis had to be updated (again, in the example, a G would now be shown as a D if the capo was moved from the third to the fifth fret), then the program would not do it automatically and you would need to go back and manually change every capoed chord to the new fret position.

Since the program already has the capability to handle capoed frets, the issue would just go away if the position of the chord with the capo could be user-selectable (above vs after) the one with no capo and, ideally, we could have a text, similar to the one for tempo, that can be used to write the position of the capo as opposed to having to open the dialog box as shown in the procedure above.

In reply to by GGQ

Thanks for the over-explanation :-). Actually, I did understand what you are looking for, but under-explained my answer :-).

What I am saying is that, yes, ideally, there would be some sort of control over the position of the automatically-generated capo chords. However, given the status quo, I'm suggestion a method of adding capo chords semi-automatically that is likely a lot less work than what you are apparently doing now.

The point of the extra mostly-invisible staff as I suggested it is to get the transposition to work automatically. Also, you can use copy and paste on the chords if you don't require parentheses (you could use an alternatve text style to make them appear in italics instead, for instance). So you'd simply select the main chords all at once, copy, click the first measure in the extra staff, paste, and you'd have have everything done automatically. Then if you wanted to change the capo position, you'd just change the transposition for the extra staff, and the chords would automatically update.

BTW, even without the extra staff and the automatic transposition it provides, no reason to move capo chords manually. Instead use a custom text style that positions them higher by default.

Is that more clear?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


Let me see if I am understanding what you mean. I believe you are referring to insert another instrument and then on the staff of the other instrument, make everything "as invisible" as one possibly can. Is that what you meant?

While I could make that other instrument's staff one-line, the end result takes space in the layout as I could not make it completely invisible.

On the other hand, I did like your suggestion of creating a new text style for the capo chords (I actually named it "Capo Chord Symbol") which gave me another idea.

The only method I have found to produce a not-too-painful-to-edit score with capo chords is to create and keep a master version of the original file, then make a copy for transposing the chords and assign them to the new chord style, then copy and paste them in a yet third copy of the file containing both, the regular and the capo chords.

So, until and if the developers decide to put an option to have the capo chords above instead of after, I better get the capo fret I REALLY want upfront correctly...

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

In reply to by GGQ

Again, yes, for the future it would be nice to have more options. but for the present, what I described really should work and be much easier than what you are describing. it isn't clear what apsect of what I am describing you are missing - maybe you aren't getting the value of the transposition feature, from Staff Properties, that will instantly and automatically re-capo all your chords at once? As for the staff taking up space, you can prevent that using the "Extra distance above staff" settings in that same dialog.

Maybe attach your best attempt and I can see where you've missed something.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


Thanks again for your answer. First let me explain that I have not been using the software for long, so I am just getting familiar with how the interface works. I also have to say that I am a very visual person when it comes to displaying information.

I kept on wiggling with the program a long time and I was able to make the chords look almost the way I want them.

The way I see it, either method is more or less the same number of clicks and typing to produce a score with capo chords. Considering one or the other as more complicated is after all, a matter of personal preference. Due my professional background, using different files as an "external reference" is something I am familiar with and creates no complication for me. I realize this may no be the case for everyone. Changing the position of the capo is also more or the same number of clicks.

Yours is an almost perfect solution, the only drawback that I see at this point is the fact that the program does not allow for hiding the vertical lines at the beginning of each score line which normally connect the two staves. Unless I am (still) missing something. The line size is determined by the minimum distance the program allowed me to set between the staves.

Please see attached a compare of the end result of the two methods. Is that little line a deal breaker? probably not.

This has been an interesting exercise.

Attachment Size
Capo Chords.png 16.34 KB

In reply to by GGQ

Generally it's better to attach your actual score rather than just a picture. Assuming everything is set up properly, the easiest thing to do would be to disable the system barline entirely in Style / General / Barlines. And if you've done it the way I describe, it should far easier to do it that way than the way you have been if you ever need to change the capo, which was again my whole reason for suggesting this method.

In reply to by GGQ

Nice! But it seems you still aren't taking advantage of the transposition feature, thus still missing most the advantage of the approach I am advocating here. It seems you must have typed those capo chords individually when all you really needed to do was copy and past them to the invisible staff then set the transposition in Staff Properties. So you didn't save yourself nearly as much as you could have.

Obviously, the process is still less than ideal, and eventually controls over the location of the capo chords would be nice, but if you follow the process I laid out, it things do work pretty well.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Not quite. I did copy and paste all chords at once to the new staff, then transposed all of them in one single step and only then added the parenthesis (manually, of course but that was only because I really wanted to have the parenthesis). Even in the other workaround I had found before, I was already making full use of the transposition function of the software. That's why I kept on saying that the two procedures were essentially the same number of steps. In the event that I wanted to change the position of the capo, then I would select all the "invisible" staff and transpose with the software. Since the parenthesis are already there, no extra steps required.

So, trust me on this one. I did save myself all that extra work you may seem to believe I didn't. I even created a new style which I called "Capo Chords" and took note of the settings I have to apply to the new staff before making it invisible and yes, the whole process works quite nice.

Again, it is not that I was disregarding or unwilling to follow your advice. I am still getting familiar with the way all tools have been arranged in the interface and, shocking as it is, it took me a while to understand what you were trying to say.


In reply to by GGQ

Great, and I'm glad it has been working for you. But since you say you are still finding your way around I do want to point out that you are still missing one aspect of the transposition process as I have been describing it. I can tell this for certain by opening your score, right-clicking the "invisible" staff, and going to Staff Properties. The transposition is still set to the default, indicting that you are not using the staff transposition feature that I have been advocating, but are instead transposing using some other method such as selecting the contents of the staff and then using Notes / Transpose. Using the transposition setting in Staff Properties makes it easier to re-transpose the score if the capo changes, and perhaps more importantly, also works automatically if you then make change to your score. As a side benefit, it is also more technically "correct" and will most liekly produce better results on export to other formats, also if chord symbol playabck is ever implemented, etc.

To be sure, though the difference here is not huge you have indeed already accomplished "much" of the possible automation. Still, I thought you should know about the staff transposition feature, as it is a very important part of MuseScore. Normally used for transposing instruments like clarinets, saxophones, and trumpets, it is nonetheless useful for situations like this as well.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Perhaps I don't have the complete background to fully appreciate the benefits of doing it that way. For the issue at hand, which was to print a score the way I wanted, I save one click in case I want to change the position of the capo.

I believe I wandered a little by the forum to see if this question had been posted previously and remember seeing a discussion about chord symbol playback but it never occurred to me that was something I could find applicable to my current needs although, now that you mentioned it, I certainly can see how it would matter should the chord playback ever be implemented.

But I have taken your word for it and made the change as per your suggestion. I do, after all, by principle, try to make use of any piece of software the way the developer intended since that has the potential to lead to an improved workflow. Hey, perhaps in the future I won't be looking only for a way to print a score with capo chords!!!

In reply to by GGQ

To be clear, though - this use of the staff transposition isn't exactly as originally intended. As I said, it's really intended for transposing instruments, not for guitar capo. So it's more a question of figuring out the most flexible way of using the features that are provided than about using them "as intended". Staff transposition does work well for this, and the advantages go beyond saving a few clicks when you want to change capo - such as the situation I mentioned where if you decide to change or add new chords to the song, you can simply copy them to the capo staff and they get transposed automatically on the fly.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks to all here for the help with this. I was able to make stacked chords and remove the barline at the beginning! However, what if I have another part/instrument/descant line - then I am stuck with the barline - not a big deal, but it does seem to be creating more problems also when I "hide empty staves", my capoed chords staves are disappearing too. I'll keep working on it to make sure I didn't forget something. If I can't get it to work with additional descant/instrument parts, I'll post the score. Thanks again!

In reply to by odetospot


I was able to add another staff by adding another instrument. Basically re-enabled the system bars, which showed a "little line" where my "capoed chords" staff is. And here is the good part. If you select that "capoed chords" staff, right-click and then select "staff properties" you will see the "options" dialog box. On the top right side, from top to bottom as:

a) Do not hide if system is empty.
b) Small Staff
c) Invisible Staff lines. (selected)
d) Staff line color.

and below all of that, there is the "Advanced Style Properties Button". Click on it and then make the staff 1 line, un-check "show barlines" then make the lines as small as needed to avoid having a line of that staff. (in my case it was 0.25) That should eliminate the portion of the system barline pertaining to the "capoed chords" staff. You may need to re-adjust the vertical properties of the text style of the capoed chords symbols.

Now, if you set "hide empty staves" it will indeed hide your capoed chords as well. But if instead of doing that, you right-click on one of silences then go to "select" and then click on "All Similar Elements in Same Staff" you can make all of them invisible in the Inspector bar. They will display grayed-out but won't print. If you don't even want to see them in the screen, then go to the View menu and un-check to option "Show invisible"

Please see the example I uploaded. It does not replace spending many hours getting to know the how the interface of the program works, but it gives you some idea how to set your score the way you want.

P.S. all the thing we do to find a workaround to the fact that the developers have not added this functionality yet!!! I hope the next version takes care of this.

In reply to by odetospot

Hi odetospot. Long time to see...

I recently came across another feature of the program I believe you will find useful. I realized that you can actually prevent specific empty staves from hiding when selecting the "hide empty staves" on the Style→General drop down menu. To do it, you right click on the "almost invisible" staff where we have the capo chords, then select the "Never hide" check box (default is un-selected). That way, when you select to "hide empty staves", this staff with capo chords won't hide.

This is important because it allows for writing "double staves" on only certain pieces of the score, e.g. when adding harmonies to the melody.

Please see a new version of the same file I had shared before making use of this feature. In this case, harmony has been added to the refrain but not to the verses, which would be sung by a soloist.

So, in this file, you have (almost) everything one can possibly need.

a) Capo chords, with the possibility to update the chords if you change the position of the capo in one operation (thanks again Marc for guiding us through that)
b) System bar at the beginning of only the visible staves but not the hidden one.
c) Additional staff only in a portion of the score but not in all. This allows you to play only the harmonies by selecting only that instrument in the mixer (press F10) if you desire to do so.

I hope you find this useful.

In reply to by GGQ

Thanks very much! This very helpful! Now I can hide staves without hiding the capoed chord staff and have a harmony line or Descant staff in say, the Refrain only.

Next about that barline.....I can't remember how to get rid of the little extension above??

It might be helpful to have an outline of all the steps in one place - both "Marc's Method" and yours to facilitate their use by users. Thanks again for your help and time!

I'll make a start - please add/correct/ add finesse/precision :)

I think this works except for the barline issue

1) edit: scroll to add instrument
2) put the capoed chords on that instrument staff by pasting or Marc's method
3) right click that staff and select "staff properties"
a) click: "never hide"; small staff; invisible staff lines; "don't hide if empty"
b) unclick: show clef; show barlines; show time signature
c) click on "Advance Style Properties"
i) unclick: show key signature
ii) unclick: show ledger lines
iii) change number of lines from 5 to 1
4) to change the distance between the new capoed chords "staff" and the staff below:
a) right click on the staff and select "staff properties
b) under "Staff properties" change "extra distance above staff to -20.00sp
c) Style/general/page -> change staff distance and min. System distance to 1.5sp - however “breaks and spacer” vertical arrows will need to be used to separate a harmony line from the melody line in this case
5) to center the capoed chords above the original chords
a) click on the first capoed chord
b) right click and scroll to “select all similar elements in same staff”
c) use inspector to set horizontal offset to -1.50sp (or whatever works with your font size)

In reply to by odetospot


There are several line items I'd like to comment on.

  1. I played a little with your file and was able to make the little bar go away. That little line was a "left over" of the system bar joining the Piano Staff where you have your capo chords and the guitar staff where you have your normal chords. To get rid of that little bar, you have to basically hide the staff with the capo chords behind the other, so there is nothing to link them. To accomplish this, you have to find a combination of values between properties of those two staves. One being the "extra distance above staff" of the staff with the regular chords and the "line distance" value in the "advanced style properties" dialog box of the staff where you have your capo chords. For this particular example, I set the first one to 0.5 and the second one to 0.25.

  2. Since you are laying out from top to bottom first your descant staff, then your (hidden) staff for capo chords, then your staff for melody, then the distance between the two "visible staves" is determined by how many spaces you allow above the (invisible) middle staff. I set that value to 10 to have enough space for "regular" chords, "capo" chords and the lyrics below the descant. If you are adding voltas, segnos, codas, etc. you may need to increase the value from 10 to something higher. The disadvantage is that you end up with too much space on the staves where you don't have descant and there is nothing you can do decrease that space. If limiting the score to a certain number of pages is not a need, then that becomes a non-issue. For whatever reason the staff with the capo chords I first transcribed had the melody (with chords) on top and everything else below and that is how I continued to write some other scores with capo chords, thus, not encountering that situation.

  3. At first I was only looking for a way to be able to print the score the way I wanted and kept on playing with the program until I found a way to do so. Then by talking to Marc I came to realize I could get more out of the program than just being able to print a score. He was adamant that I tried a function of the software where you can "transpose" the entire staff at once. To be able to do that, you have to open the "Staff Properties" dialog box, then go to the very bottom and use another "transpose" function for the whole staff. (I did that to your example) On my original method I was actually transposing notes and chords but on Marc's method one can actually transpose the make the whole staff look like transposed while still being the same actual notes and chords, which is what the capo actually do. In your example, the Dm staff looks like a Am in disguise, so to speak, but it is still a Dm. After trying it for myself, I came to realize I did want the other advantages that his method offered over mine. For instance, if I decided to modify a chord on the original staff, I can do it and then paste it on the second and it will be automatically shown as the capo'ed position but it is still the same chord which is what the capo does anyway.

  4. At some point I decided I did not want to identify the capo chords with a parenthesis but just with a different font (or text style) For that, I created a master "style" that I named "capo chords" which I can load whenever I feel like writing a score with capo chords. I honestly don't know the if parenthesis is the correct way to go, but I find the different text style aesthetically preferable. Or maybe I just got lazy and did not want to keep on typing parenthesis all over the place, just to select all the chord symbols and apply the new text style... We'll never know. One thing is for sure, though, you will end up doing it anyway you want it, unless the developers give us the option to have them above in the next release and this whole discussion will become obsolete.

I like your idea of the list of steps. I was tempted to create one myself but never put myself to it. Perhaps we can review it after taking in consideration the comments above.

Does MuseScore 3 have option for stacked capo chords?

Can anyone help me out with the workaround with two staves suggested for MuseScore 2 - in adapting it in Musescore 3? I cannot get the staves to be overlapping.

Hopefully there's an option for stacked chords, that i haven't found yet :)

Thanks all...

(also I can't figures out how to select and remove specific measures that used to be under "edit"....Thanks!

In reply to by odetospot

@Odetospot, unfortunately version 3 still does not provide an option to have stacked capo chords either...

The biggest impact in version 3, at least for me, was the intelligent placement of objects, which means "you no longer need to spend any time moving thins around so they don't overlap" and just concentrate in writing music. Unfortunately, that means effectively rendering useless the workaround we had devised for the stacked capo chords, since we were purposely overlapping staves.

I guess the philosophy used by the developers was, as Mr. Spock used to say "the needs of the many overweight the needs of the few, or the one". We can only hope a future version will provide the stacked chords option because, hey, the automatic placement is actually a great improvement over the previous version.

My only suggestion would be to open one of your old scores and when prompted if you want to take advantage of the automatic placement, select "NO" and then try to modify that score with the new music. If it works, you may even save it as a template.

I hope this helps.

In reply to by GGQ

I love your quote from Spock!! :)

Yes, okay - I will try that - I haven't dived completely into version 3 because i needed to read my old scores. I reuse so that it can read the version 2 scores, I thought I'd give it a try again. I will try not letting it auto-place things (which is very nice).....I'll let you know if I achieve stacked chords in version 3 :) If not I'll have to keep using version 2 for awhile......

Thanks for your reply!

In reply to by GGQ

It's almost certainly still possible to achieve that workaround, there just might need to be a slight tweak. For example, there is a hidden style setting minVerticalDistance you can set by editing an MSS file and loading it into your score, setting this to a large negative value should allow overlapping staves, if that's really the best way to go about it. I'm not so sure there aren't better ways though. Feel free to attach a score for further discussion.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

What is an MSSS file?

I did find with the new auto-spacing - if I type the capo chords in by doing command-K a second time over the note, it will place the chord above the first chord. This won't allow for the transpose feature of the second staff, but this wasn't bad. I also couldn't select the upper chords separately to adjust their position to center them above the original chords, but still it worked and wasn't too bad to type them in.

Thanks for all your help Marc!

In reply to by wolfgan

Not sure what your goal is here - you literally want the notes to overlap so that entering them on one staff makes them look like they are on the other? Check out the cross staff notation feature in the Handbook for more on how to do that directly. But I guess maybe you are trying to create some sort of experimental notation, a ten-line staff? Also look at right-click a staff, Staff Properties, change the numebr of lines. But the minVerticalDistance setting I mentioned will also work. Or if it's just for one spot in the score, a fixed spacer from the Spacers palette.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, the issue is this:

Originally, I had scores with only one instrument (one staff, so to speak) so adding the capo chords was done by creating an additional staff above the first one, making it one line, no system bar, everything invisible except for the chord symbols. It really did not matter much where the position of that staff was in relation to the first one, as long as one manipulated the position of the capo chords (like assigning negative values to separations and so on) to be as close as possible above the regular capo chords.

Then, Odetospot had the need to have more than one staff for voices, other instruments, etc. so the system bar was re-enabled but that showed a little line between the staff with the "regular" chords and the invisible one with the capo cords, which was a "leftover" of the system bar joining those two staves. To get rid of that little line, we actually made the staff with the capo cords overlap with the one with regular chords, so the distance between them became zero, therefore good bye little line. All other staves were kept as their "regular" distances.

After that, we found a way to add additional staves in only a limited number of measurements, for instance, for descants or adding harmony in only the refrain but not the verses, etc. A little bit of extra work never killed anyone but actually serves as a source of personal growth, as long as are able to get where we want to be. So life was beautiful.

Since the "automatic placement" of elements built into release 3 effectively prevents elements from overlapping, now the capo chords are shown too high in relation to the regular ones, and we can no longer "hide" the staff with the capo chords behind the regular one, even if we assign negative values to parameters. All the separations we had set between staves are no longer kept because the system tries, as it was designed to do, to avoid overlapping. As a result, the staves are now too separated and so are the capo chords.

Maybe there is indeed another hidden feature we still need to find, though. In the meantime, we have been able to come up with two alternatives:

a) Open one of the R2.0 files, and then select the option of not using the new automatic placement of elements so we can still keep a nice appearance of the score.
b) Adding manually a second set of chords, that the automatic placement will place above the first set, and type the transposed names as per the position of the capo that is selected.


In reply to by GGQ

I'm confused. Are you saying you tried the minVerticalDistance setting I keep talking about, and somehow it isn't solving the problem? If so, then please attach your score with that setting applied so I can understand and assist better. Otherwise, I think you'll find if you use that technique (set it to -99 or some other large negative number), you can have exactly what you want.

Beyond that, also, in 3.0, you can hide the initial barline for staves individually via Staff Properties, so you may not even need any of this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Sorry I hadn't had the chance to log in until now. Crazy week.

I tried your hidden setting, Marc, and it works. I believe there is no direct access to this setting form the user interface, correct? so the only way to change this settings is via a text editor (I changed the file extension and then used notepad) So, I believe is like going to the turtle island, only those who have already been there can find the way in.

Although it does not bring elements in existing scores "back to how they looked before the upgrade" it provides a workable solution to the issue at hand and now we have to find a place for everything again. One more question. What is the default value of minVerticalDistance?

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