Chord symbols

    Overview

    Chord symbols are an abbreviated way of representing musical chords. As well as the standard kind, MuseScore also supports the Nashville Number System (NNS), and Roman Numeral Analysis (RNA).

    Adding chord symbols to your 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.

    When you exit a chord symbol, any characters entered will be automatically converted to the correct format. i.e.

    • A root note typed in lower case will turn into upper case (for alternative options, see Automatic Capitalization).
    • A "#", "b" or "natural" will turn into a proper sharp (♯), flat (♭) or natural (♮) and so on. Do not try to use actual flat, sharp and natural signs, as MuseScore will not understand these properly.

    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.
    • 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

    An existing chord symbol can be edited in a similar way to ordinary text: See Text editing for details.

    Entering Roman numeral analysis

    The Roman Numeral Analysis (RNA) 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. It is used to notate and analyze the harmony of a composition independent of its key (see External links for further details).

    Note: MuseScore uses a specialist font, Campania, to provide the correct formatting for RNA. This is free and open source.

    Enter RNA

    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.
      • 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.
      • 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.

    Just as with standard chord symbols, you can type Roman numeral analysis 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 are available for Roman numeral analysis as well (see above ).

    Examples of RNA

    Type this:

    rna_1.png

    To get:

    rna_2.png

    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

    Aligning chord symbols

    Using the Style menu

    The default vertical alignment of all Chord Symbols can be set from the style menu, Format→ Style→Text styles→Chord Symbol.

    Or you can do the same thing from the Appearance section of the Properties panel (refer to Saving and restoring default settings).

    If this results in an irregular line of chord symbols, try varying Max shift above/below (Format→ Style→Chord symbols) to bring the symbols into line.

    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

    Transposing instruments

    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.

    Transpose dialog

    Chord symbols 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.

    Capo fret position

    The Capo fret position property automatically transposes chord symbols in the score (without affecting playback) and puts them in brackets after the existing chord symbols. The aim is to provide an alternative accompaniment on a capoed instrument.

    To apply, select Format→Style→Chord symbols, and enter a number in the Capo fret position spin box.

    Changing Spelling of Chord Symbols

    By default, MuseScore uses letter names for chord symbols. For users in regions where other note naming schemes are used, all chord symbols in the score can be changed.

    Chord Spelling Systems

    From the main menu, choose Format→Style→ Text Styles→Chord Symbol. Then choose one of the following radio buttons:

    • 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

    By default, MuseScore automatically capitalizes all note names on exit, regardless of whether you entered them in upper or lower case. From the main menu, choose Format→Style→ Text Styles→Chord Symbol. Then choose one of the following radio buttons:

    • 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 of chord symbols

    [To do]

    • Font settings
    • Style settings for appearance, scaling/offset

    Changing Playback of Chord Symbols

    Enabling and disabling playback

    You can disable/enable playback of all chord symbols in the score by clicking on the cog icon to the right of the playback controls and deselecting/selecting Play chord symbols.

    You can also disable/enable playback of a selection of chord symbols, by unchecking/checking Play in the General section of the Properties panel .

    Customizing playback

    Default playback settings for all chord symbols in a score are available in the Playback section of Format→Style→Chord Symbol.

    Chord symbol playback settings (Style menu)

    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

    Generating chord voicings onto a staff

    MuseScore allows you to generate chords on the staff from selected chord symbols. The voicing of these chords depends on the playback settings (above) for these chords.

    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.

    Chord symbol properties

    Properties specific to chord symbols (i.e. playback) are covered in Changing Playback of Chord Symbols (above)

    Other non-specific properties are detailed in Properties.

    Chord symbol style

    Default properties for all chord symbols in a score can be edited from Format→Style…→Chord Symbols.

    The Chord symbols style menu contains the following headings:

    Appearance

    • Style: Three options are available— Standard, Jazz or Custom.

    In the Standard style, chords are rendered simply, with the font determined by your chord symbol text style.

    Standard chord symbols

    In the Jazz style, the MuseJazz font is used for a handwritten look, with distinctive superscript and other formatting characteristics. The Jazz style is selected by default if you use any of the Jazz templates.

    Jazz chord symbols

    The Custom style option allows you to use your own customized chord symbols style file (advanced users only).

    • Extension/Modifier scaling: This affects the size of the chord extension or of the modifier.
    • Extension/Modified vertical offset: This affects the vertical position of the chord symbol extension or of the modifier.

    Spelling

    See Changing Spelling of Chord Symbols (above).

    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.

    Playback

    See Customizing playback (above).