Typing a natural sign in a chord symbol

• Dec 21, 2016 - 14:57

I am creating lead sheets for a group of songs. I need to type in a chord symbol that includes a natural sign. I know that you can create a flat sign using the lower case "b" and a sharp sign using the pound sign (#). Is there a similar method for the natural sign? I tried "h", which is the natural sign when using figured bass, but it doesn't work.


As far as I know MiseScore has no provisioning for a natural in chord symbols. 'h' would also be a bad choice, as that is a valid note name in German settings

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

And actually, there have been requests to use "h" as an abbreviation for half-diminished which to me might make sense. Context would make it obvious which meaning is intended, just as for the letter "b" which can be a note name or a flat sign. So I'd be fine with that use of "h" if not for the conflict with figured bass - see #23784: support use of "h" to produce "half-diminished" sign in chord symbol. But since music is essentially *never* published with natural signs in chord symbols, I'm not crazy about making it easily to accidentally create one when something standard is intended.

That said, it should probably be *possible* create non-standard chord symbols like that. I'm kind of surprised it doesn't work to use a real natural sign from F2 palette (or keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+H). Seems someone might have asked about this once before but I don't see an open feature request. Feel free to file one (via the Issue tracker).

In reply to by mike320

Ctrl+Shift+h is indeed the shortcut for natural in other places in text. Ctrl+Shift+n enters the "n" dynamics symbol (for "niente", I guess). Probably best to just leave it that way for chord symbols but fix it to actually work - none of those special characters survive the parsing / formatting process.

In reply to by Isaac Weiss

The font, "FiguredBassMH" uses an uppercase 5 (shift-5) for the natural sign. It might be good to check what other fonts, or programs like Sibelius use so that we move toward some kind of standard. Of course, it's likely that what other people use is already in use for something else in MuseScore. But I think it is worth checking.

I even tried inserting a natural sign using F2 and it disappeared.

I've never seen a natural sign on chords, but I don't play an instrument where I see chords all the time. The chord always tells you what the key signature will be. There is no room to make a mistake when the chord progression goes F#min Dmaj Faug for example.

In reply to by xavierjazz

Thanks for all the feedback. To answer the question, "why do I need a natural sign in a chord symbol?" —I have to say that I don't really know. I am a mostly classical musician and I don't use lead sheets very much. I am copying over a group of songs and that is what is in the original. (Unfortunately, the composer is dead, so I can't ask him.)

After reading over all your comments, I think the answer is that he (composer) wrote in the natural sign to remind himself of the change that had to happen to change G- to Gmaj (the natural sign was in parentheses).

Since I am not too familiar with this kind of chord symbol and the original was all in the same handwriting, I just assumed it was standard notation that I wasn't familiar with.

In reply to by Jake Sterling

Would be interesting to scan of this passage, to see if maybe something about the context gives us any other clues as to what was meant. Your hypoethesis seems logical, and in that case, unless you are contractually obligated to duplicate the non-standard / incorrect aspects of the original, it would be doing everyone a favor if you simply used standard nomenclature going forward.

In reply to by Jake Sterling

I thought a little bit about this.
The natural symbol is never used alone. Used to indicate something.
Only in the "basso continuo / figured bass" can be used to indicate the condition of the third. (Sharp, flat, or natural)

If you go from Gm to G, it is displayed like this.
(Meaning that the "g" is root and third is natural.)

Maybe the composer wanted to put a reminder sign, next to the chord symbol.

just guessing...

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Yes, to your speculation on why the natural sign was used in a chord symbol—I believe it was simply a personal reminder pencilled in by the composer when he was performing the song. The sign got included when the sheets were photocopied and I didn't see that it was not part of the original.

Since I originally posted this question about natural signs in chord symbols, I have consulted with a few Pop/Jazz musicians and they all tell me that it must have been that my friend who wrote the songs just put the natural sign in as a reminder to himself.

Actually, I am amazed at the response this inquiry has generated! Reading over the responses, it's pretty clear that, because the natural sign is not part of chord symbols, and because the chord symbols need to change when the music is transposed, the natural sign would not be practical as part of chord symbols. Anyhow, in trying to solve this problem I have certainly filled in a big gap in my own education! Thanks for all the interest and feedback.

In reply to by xavierjazz

Happy 2017 to everybody.

I add my vote for this feature.

I find such a feature useful when you need to point attention in a one-time changing chord.
I mean: you have always played G# but once you have to play a natural G. The possibility of adding the natural sign would be useful because it shows beyond any doubt that I want a natural G, it's not that I forgot to write "#"...

Thank you.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

If a chord gets transposed there is a very good chance the natural sign would no longer be needed. MS will transpose chords. If you copy a chord to the trumpet and the natural is not preserved (which is likely), if this is implemented, you should be able to put it back in, just like with notes.

I just randomly tried to get the natural sign into the chord symbol - and it realy is possible! Just type the word "natural" (without the quotation marks of course) after your chord and voilà - it appears :D

Attachment Size
natural.JPG 18.48 KB

In reply to by spelunker

That's crazy - I don't remember writing code to do that! I think maybe it works because of how things are structured within the chord description file, but actually I'm still scratching my head over that!

Note this won't really work the way you want in general - it won't be understood with respect to transposition, for instance. So if you write Bnatural in concert pitch and then transpose for clarinet, you'll get C#natural. The natural sign will be treated not as part of the root but as part of the extension.

In reply to by spelunker

Though this feature does not work, at least it didn't work for me when the chord has additional indications, sevenths, sharp 11, etc.
I tried with Gnatural, and it worked just fine, but when I added the ...7#11 I needed it didn't work anymore, just came out as Gnatural7#11. It'd be nice if that were added.

In reply to by JuanGomezLeon

Wors for me too, even Gnatural7#11. Be sure you have the latest version of MuseScore (3.4.2), older versions did not necessarily support this.

That said I strongly urge people not to do. it's just going to cause confusion. People used to seeing standard usage of chord symbols are going to look at that and say, "what the heck is a natural seven chord? I know regular dominant sevenths, I know major sevenths, I know minor sevenths, I even know diminished and half-diminished sevenths, but I've never heard of a natural seventh". They just won't get that you mean, a regular seventh chord built on G natural., because standard usage simply does not use the natural sign that way.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Okay once again I'm making unvalid comments for not having the latest version haha. Thank you two for the feedback. About the use of this feature, I understand what you mean with G(♮)7#11 being something you would never see cenvetionally and it will certainly make the performer look two times to check what the hell I mean.

Though as I already do not consider my sheet to be for first-time-sight-reading due to the complexity of the song (Some Jazz Fusion with bunch of meter changes), I think once they read G(♮)7#11 within the context of the key (F sharp minor) they'll understand what I meant and why I wrote that out that way. (Or at least I sure hope they do!). Anyway I completely understand your point, but I think just this once I'm going to test out the feature for the sake of clarity and see if I should just leave it normal the next time.

Thank you.

I hate to bring up an old topic, but it still seems like a relevant issue today. Some have asked why you would ever need to add a natural sign in a chord symbol, and that's a sensible question to ask. In my case, I have two measures of static harmony (BMaj7) that I "spiced" up by altering the fifth every two beats, so it actually looks like:

|BMaj7#5 BMaj7|BMaj7b5 BMaj7|

But it would be far easier to read if one could just put:

|BMaj7#5 N5|b5 N5|. ("N" of course is the natural sign).

If this has been added in 3.2.3 I apologize for not figuring it out sooner, but I don't think it has.

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