Fretboard Diagram enhancements for "Ted Greene" style

• Jan 10, 2017 - 22:57

A significant body of existing material and education technique is based on the "Ted Greene" style of chord diagrams. They are widely used by jazz guitarists and teachers. They serve as a sort of cross between tablature and chord diagrams, often in conjunction with normal notation. The diagrams are generally structured as one-grid-per-beat, and often show single notes. Their 2D nature helps in visualizing chord shape movement. They make sense for MuseScore because they are often helpful for clarifying details of a traditional score, particularly in the context of teaching material.

These diagrams are very similar to the current Fretboard Diagram approach, but a few modest changes would allow much smoother use of this technique, particularly by streamlining the UI for diagram entry and modification. These are listed in order of importance.

  • Add a global preference or style setting to choose "Ted Greene" style diagrams (i.e. to toggle pop-up behavior versus the current default style)
  • Suppress (optionally?) the nut (heavy first line) at fret 1; this could be a global behavior, or added as a diagram-specific display option
  • Use digit 1 (optionally?) at first fret; this could be a global behavior, or added as a diagram-specific display option
  • Don't automatically cycle between O and X on open strings when a note is cleared; instead, only add O or X above the diagram when clicking above an open string (this would save time since O and X are infrequently used in these diagrams)
  • Allow fret number to appear at a different position from the first displayed fret; this would require having two position indicators (which fret number to use, and which displayed fret it appears on)
  • Add a right-click context option to insert a blank diagram and immediately open the diagram editor
  • Allow X and O to appear within diagrams at specific fret positions (helpful and commonly used, but not essential)

In addition, mechanisms for including/editing a chord name above or below each diagram would save much time, versus using the existing chord name and palette name mechanisms.

The important thing to note about these diagrams is that many of them are entered and notated on a case-by-case basis, rather than simply being taken from a palette. A number of standard diagrams are used, of course, and streamlining their selection will save time; but a significant part of the MuseScore user's time will be spent entering blank or prototype diagrams and then adjusting the dots to meet a specific situation.

Here is an example showing some of these diagrams with notation. There are many stylistic variations in common use.…


I'm sorry to see that nobody has reacted to this suggestion from the beginning of 2017. I may take a stab at creating a new distinct fretboard diagram interface if I can find the time. I've been creating a lot of scores that use this technique, and although I've been able to cobble some together with MuseScore I've been forced in many cases to use separately-created image files or other platforms, neither of which is desirable. The most important missing feature in today's fret diagram interface is the ability to have more than one "dot" on a given string, using a variety of "dots" (filled circle, open circle, X, triangle, etc.).

I will try to find the time to set up a development environment this winter, and see about building such a tool. However before embarking on that work, I'll give this thread a bump in case there have been further thoughts or efforts in this direction.

Just to restate: there are thousands of jazz guitar scores in use with this style of fretboard diagram, thousands of guitarists who are familiar with their use, and I'd guess at least hundreds of respected teachers who employ them in exercises and lesson material.

In reply to by spinality

From my perspective, it seems this would actually be best handled as a separate standalone tool. That is, an editor whose sole purpose is to generate these diagrams, and then allow you to copy them as graphics, from which you paste them into MuseScore, another notation program, a word processor, etc. Then you could really make this work as you want. But if you really just need the ability to have multiple dots per string, that's probably not too hard to implement, and I'd certainly encourage you to give it a shot!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks. If this were just an occasional or a stand-alone need, your approach would be fine, but when I create a score that incorporates two to four such diagrams per measure, the mechanics of flipping between tools and managing dozens of separate image files becomes too burdensome and slow. This would be viable for a polished score intended for publication, where one can lavish effort on each note. But most of my scores are created quickly, especially those involved with teaching. So I'll start looking at being a contributor. (Do many developers use the Windows/VS platform, or do most work under Linux? I've mothballed my Linux systems but maybe I'll need to set one up again.) Again, thanks for the reply. I thought I'd better first check that nothing was already happening in this area.

In reply to by spinality

There are developers using Linux, Windows, and macOS perhaps roughly in equal numbers.

Note I said nothing about image files though. I was assuming you'd be generating these on the fly and then simply copying and pasting directly from the external tool to MsueScore. Or if there is going to be a library of shapes you use over and over, these could be managed completely within the external application. Simply choose an existing shape, quickly create a new one, hit the copy button, then Alt+Tab over to MuseScore and hit Ctrl+V. Still seems like a very flexible and dead-simple way to go about it to me, but maybe I misunderstand something about the use case.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks. Copy and paste is convenient, but it doesn't provide the "custody chain" that allows editing -- you just have a raw image. I find that these scores are subject to considerable "tweakage," and so having an editable diagram is vastly preferable. I do find the existing fretboard diagram tool adequate for many situations, and prefer it to the multi-tool approach in the cases where it is applicable (i.e. when I don't need multiple symbols per string).

Regarding library reference -- in this range of use cases, we would never refer to a library of existing shapes. There are simply too many possible chord and note configurations -- thousands and thousands. Symbol libraries work adequately with "cowboy chords" -- the handful of common chords used in folk music. But jazz players essentially work with mental algorithms for creating and describing chords. It would be the same for a jazz pianist -- we would never think of pulling piano chords from a library that includes myriad inversions and voicings, but we would simply enter the notes we want -- using the excellent MuseScore editing tools. This is also what we do with guitar scores; but with this instrument, the specific placement of notes on strings and frets is critical. It's not enough to say "Eb13#9/Db" -- the precise order of notes, the omission of certain notes, and the use of transition tones are what makes the sound.

The standard approach is, of course, to follow the normal engraving practices for classical guitar literature, and these are effective. However, a fretboard diagram (as opposed to a chord symbol) is a useful adjunct, particular for teaching or for transcription. Another approach used by many players is tablature, and this addresses some of the issues, but tablature has many drawbacks, and I personally never use it.

I hope this additional explanation is useful. Thanks again for the input. I'll try a deep dive into the technology this winter.

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