Tablature

    Music for fretted, stringed instruments is commonly notated using tablature, also known as tab, which provides a visual representation of the strings and fret numbers:

    Tablature

    Tablature can also be combined with traditional staff notation:

    Standard staff plus tablature

    Create a new tablature staff

    If you wish to create tablature as part of a new score, use the New Score Wizard. If you want to add tablature to an existing score, use the Instruments dialog. Or, alternatively, you can convert an existing standard staff. See below for details.

    With the New Score wizard

    To create tablature in a new score (for combined staff/tablature systems see → below):

    1. Open the New Score wizard.
    2. Enter the score details (optional). Click Next.
    3. On the Chose template file page, click on Choose Instruments.
    4. On the Instruments page, select one (or more) tablature options under "Plucked strings" in the left-hand column (see image below). Then click Add.

      Instrument list: Plucked strings

      Note: You can use the dropdown list above the Instrument list to change the category displayed. Alternately you can search for the instrument using the "Search" field below the Instrument list.

    5. Complete the rest of the New Score Wizard.

    If the desired tablature is not available in the Choose Instrument list:

    1. At step "4" (above), select an existing "Plucked strings" tablature staff.
    2. Press Add to move it to the right-hand column.
    3. Check the drop-down menu to the right of the newly-added instrument for the most suitable Tab option, if any.
    4. Complete the rest of the New Score wizard and exit.
    5. Modify the number of strings and tuning of the tablature, if needed, in the Staff properties window (see → below).
    6. Change the Instrument name in Staff Properties, if required.

    This allows you to create tablature for any chromatically-fretted instrument.

    With the Instruments dialog

    To add a single tablature staff to an existing score (for combined staff/tab system see → below):

    1. Open the instruments dialog (press I; or from the menu bar, select EditInstruments…).
    2. Add the tab staff as described in Add instruments ("Create a new score").

    By changing staff type

    To convert an existing standard staff to tablature, or tablature to a standard staff:

    1. Right click on the staff and select Staff Properties…. If "Instrument" is already set to a plucked-strings type, then exit staff properties and go to step 4.
    2. If "Instrument" is not a plucked-strings type, click on Change instrument and select an appropriate instrument from "Plucked strings."
    3. Click on OK twice to exit staff properties.
    4. Open the instruments dialog (press I, or from the menu bar select EditInstruments…).
    5. Click on the staff in the right-hand column and change the "Staff type" to the desired option.
    6. Click OK to exit the Instrument editor and return to the score page.

    Note: If you subsequently need to make further adjustments to the staff (e.g. tuning, number of lines/strings etc.), right click on the staff and select Staff Properties….

    Alternative method (using just the "Staff Properties" dialog):

    1. Right click on the staff and select Staff Properties….
    2. If the Instrument displayed is in the "Plucked strings" category, go to step 4.
    3. If the Instrument displayed is not in the "Plucked strings" category, click Change instrument and select an appropriate instrument from "Plucked strings". Click on OK.
    4. Click Advanced Style Properties..., change "Template" to the desired option and press < Reset to Template.
    5. Click OK twice to close the Staff Properties dialog box..

    Note: Other adjustments to the staff (e.g. tuning, number of lines/strings etc.), can also be made in the Staff Properties… dialog.

    Edit string data

    Change tuning

    Note: If you only want to view (rather than change) the instrument tuning, follow steps 1 and 2 only.

    1. Right-click on the staff and select Staff Properties….

      Staff properties dialog

    2. Press the Edit String Data… button at the bottom of the dialog box. The String Data dialog opens:

      String data

    3. Click on a string pitch and select Edit String…. Or, alternatively, just double-click the string pitch.

    4. Select a new pitch in the Note Selection box and click OK. Or, alternatively, just double-click the new pitch.
    5. Click OK to close the "String Data" dialog box. Then click OK to close the "Staff/Part Edit Properties" dialog box.

    Notes: (1) If tuning is changed when the tablature for that instrument already contains some notes, fret marks will be adjusted automatically (if possible); (2) Any change of tuning to a particular instrument applies only to the score at hand, and does not change any program default settings.

    Add a string

    1. Right-click on the staff, select Staff Properties…, then press Edit String Data.
    2. Click on a string pitch and select New String....
    3. Select the new pitch and press OK—or, alternatively, just double-click the new pitch. The new string is inserted below the selected string.

    Note: After adding a tablature string you will need to adjust the number of lines in the Staff properties dialog.

    Delete a string

    1. Right-click on the staff, select Staff Properties…, then press Edit String Data.
    2. Click on a string pitch and select Delete String.

    Note: After deleting a tablature string you will need to adjust the number of lines in the Staff properties dialog.

    Mark string "open"

    This feature is used to designate unfretted strings—as in additional lute courses. This means that only "0" (zero) or "a" is accepted as a fret mark: any other fret mark will be converted to 0/a.

    1. Right-click on the staff, select Staff Properties…, then press Edit String Data.
    2. Check one or more boxes in the "Open" column.

    Change number of instrument frets

    This property defines the maximum fret number which can be entered on a tablature staff.

    1. Right-click on the staff, select Staff Properties…, then press Edit String Data.
    2. Select or enter a new number in the "Number of frets" spin box.

    Change tablature display

    You can customize both the appearance of a tablature staff and the way that it displays the fret marks. To access these options:

    1. Right click on the staff and select Staff Properties….
    2. Click on the Advanced Style Properties… button.

    Combine pitched staff with tablature

    Plucked-string instruments—such as the guitar—are commonly notated using both a music staff and tablature (TAB) together. MuseScore gives you the option of having the two staves either unlinked or linked:

    1. Unlinked Staves: You can enter, delete or edit notation in one staff without affecting the other. To transfer music notation from one staff to the other, select the desired range and copy and paste it into the other staff.

    2. Linked Staves: Any changes you make in one staff are automatically applied to the other staff as well ("mutual translation").

    Note: Occasionally, you may find numbers marked red in the tablature. This means that a fret mark cannot be displayed because it clashes with an existing one. You can resolve this by moving and adjusting existing fret numbers (see Editing existing notes). However, a fret mark clash on the lowest line does not require any adjustment—this is "by design" and the red mark will not appear on any printed copy.

    Create a staff/tablature pair with the New Score wizard

    1. Open the New Score wizard.
    2. Enter the score details (optional). Click Next.
    3. On the Chose template file page, click on Choose Instruments.
    4. Select a pitched staff in the "Plucked strings" section of the left-hand column. Then click Add.
    5. Select the newly-created staff line (i.e. marked "Staff …") in the right-hand column and chose one of two options:
      • Click Add Staff to create an unlinked staff/tab pair.
      • Click Add Linked Staff to create a linked staff/tab pair.
    6. In the Staff type column, click on the dropdown list for the newly-created staff and select a tablature option (this can be modified later, if required, on the score page—see Staff Properties).
    7. Complete the rest of the New Score Wizard, or click Finish.

    Note: To create unlinked staves with separate mixer channels, instead of step "5" (above), select a Tablature staff in the left-hand column and click Add. Then continue with steps 6 and 7.

    Create a staff/tablature pair in an existing score

    1. Open the Instruments editor (press I, or from the menu bar, select EditInstruments…).
    2. Select a pitched staff in the "Plucked strings" section of the left-hand column. Then click Add.
    3. Select the newly-created staff line (i.e. marked "Staff …") in the right-hand column and chose one of two options:
      • Click Add Staff to create an unlinked staff/tab pair.
      • Click Add Linked Staff to create a linked staff/tab pair.
    4. In the Staff type column, click on the dropdown list for the newly-created staff and select a tablature option (this can be modified later, if required, on the score page—see Staff Properties).
    5. Change the staff order using the button if needed.
    6. Click OK to return to the score.

    Note: To create unlinked staves with separate mixer channels, instead of step "3" (above), select a Tablature staff in the left-hand column and click Add. Then continue with steps 4–6.

    Create a staff/tablature pair from an existing staff

    To add tablature to a plucked-string staff in the score (or vice versa):

    1. Open the Instruments editor (press I, or from the menu bar, select EditInstruments…).
    2. Select the staff line (marked "Staff 1") in the right-hand column that you want to add to.
    3. Chose one of two options:
      • Click Add Staff to create an unlinked staff/tab pair
      • Click Add Linked Staff to create a linked staff/tab pair
    4. In the Staff type column, click on the dropdown list for the newly-created staff and select an option (this can be modified later, if required, on the score page—see Staff Properties).
    5. Change the staff order using the button if needed.
    6. Click OK.

    Notes: To create unlinked staves with separate mixer channels, instead of step "3" (above), select an appropriate staff in the left-hand column and click Add. Then continue with steps 4–6.

    Enter notes in tablature

    Using a computer keyboard

    • First, ensure that you are not in note-input mode. Select the measure or existing note from which you want to begin note entry.
    • Switch to note input mode (N): a short 'blue rectangle' appears around one tablature string: this is the current string.
    • Select the duration of the note or rest that you wish to enter (see below).
    • Press the up/down arrow keys to move the cursor to the desired string. Use the left/right arrow keys to navigate through the score.
    • Press 0 to 9 to enter a fret mark from 0 to 9 on the current string; to enter numbers with several digits press each digit in sequence. Keys A to K (skipping I) can also be used: convenient when working in French tablature. For L , M, N, use the alphanumeric keyboard and type respectively 10, 11, 12...

      Note: You cannot enter a number higher than the "Number of frets" value set in the Edit String Data dialog.

    • Press ; (semicolon) to enter a rest of the selected duration.

    • You can enter notes in different voices if required—just as you would in a standard staff.

    See also, Edit notes (below).

    Historical tablature

    As of version 2.1, period notation for bass strings (lutes and sim.) is supported:

    • French tablature: letters with prefixed slash-like strokes right under the tab body: i.e. 7th string: "a", 8th string: "/a", 9th string: "//a" and so on, all in the first position below the tab body.

    • Italian tablature: numbers with 'ledger line'- like segment of string above the tab body: i.e. 7th string: "0" one position above the tab body with one 'ledger line'; 8th string: "0" two positions above the tab body with two 'ledger lines' and so on.

    Input of is via computer keyboard only: by moving the note entry cursor below (French) or above (Italian) the tab body, 'shadow' slashes or ledger lines will indicate the target string to which the fret mark will be applied; pressing one of the fret keys, will enter (and lay out) the note on that string.

    Using a mouse

    To enter notes into tablature with a mouse:

    • Enter note input mode and select the note or rest duration (see below).
    • Click on a string to create a note there. Notes are initially created on fret 0 (or a for French tablatures): to correct, type in the right number from the keyboard.
    • You can also increase/decrease the fret mark using Alt+Shift+ or Alt+Shift+.
    • You can enter notes in different voices if required—just as you would in a standard staff.

    See also, Edit notes (below).

    Select note duration

    In note input mode, you can use any of the following methods to set note duration in tablature:

    • Press Shift+1 to Shift+9: Sets duration from a 128th note to a longa (availability of these shortcuts may depend on the platform and/or keyboard layout);
    • Press NumPad 1 to Numpad 9: Sets duration from a 128th note to a longa (if a numeric keypad exists and NumLock is on);
    • Click on a note duration icon in the Note Input toolbar above the document window;
    • Press Q to decrease the selected duration and W to increase it.

    Edit notes

    Note input mode

    To edit an existing fret mark in note-input mode:

    • Position the cursor above the fret mark and simply retype the number.
    • Increment or decrement the fret mark using Alt+Shift+ or Alt+Shift+.

    Non note input mode

    To edit an existing fret mark outside note-input mode:

    1. Select one or more fret marks.
    2. Use any of the following commands:
      • To increment or decrement, without changing the string: Press / .
      • To increment or decrement, changing strings, when possible, to minimize the fret number: Press Alt+Shift+ /
      • To move to an adjacent string (if the string is free and can produce that note): Press Ctrl+ / .

    Note: The fret mark cannot be higher than the "Number of frets" value set in the Edit String Data dialog.

    Crosshead notes

    To change a fret mark to a crosshead note:

    1. Select one or more fret marks (in non-note-input mode).
    2. Press Shift+X to toggles ghost noteheads on/off.

    Summary of keyboard commands

    Note input mode

    Type: to get:
    Select above string as current.
    Select below string as current.
    Shift+1 to Shift+9 Select a duration (128th note to a longa)
    NumPad 1 to NumPad 9 Select a duration (128th note to a longa)
    Q Decrease current input duration.
    W Increase current input duration.
    0 to 9 Enter a fret digit / letter.
    A to K Enter a fret digit / letter (I excluded).
    Alt+Shift+ Increase current fret mark.
    Alt+Shift+ Decrease current fret mark.
    ; (semicolon) Enter a rest

    Normal mode

    Type: to get:
    0 to 9 Change duration of selected note or rest (128th note to longa)
    Alt+Shift+ Increase the pitch of the selected note (MuseScore chooses the string).
    Increase the pitch without changing string.
    Alt+Shift+ Decrease the pitch of the selected note (MuseScore chooses the string).
    Decrease the pitch without changing string.
    Ctrl+ Move note to above string, keeping the pitch.
    Ctrl+ Move note to below string, keeping the pitch.
    Shift+X Toggle the ghost notehead on/off.

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