Game Plan/Strategy

• Jul 28, 2018 - 19:01

I would like to know the best way to go about using Musescore for my situation.
For the past couple of years, each time I fire her up I've basically been winging it.
I would like to have a strategy that I can be confident in.

Here's my situation.
My scores have been consisting of guitar diagrams + lyrics for the most part.
I like to have around 4-6 bars per line usually.

Here's what I have been doing.
Starting with single treble clef.
Entering 4 quarter notes per bar (as Musescore needs notes before I can enter diagrams or lyrics).
Next I enter chord diagrams right through the song and then enter the lyrics.

Recently I have been trying to make a template that I could open so I could shoot out of the starting gate, rather than copy quarter notes for all the bars of the page each time I begin a new song.

After I have my chords and lyrics entered I start adjusting the diagram size and placement.
The chords are always too small and they are way above the staves.
I make my staff notes and lines invisible so I can lower my chord diagrams into the stave position (makes more room for the lyrics).
Then I adjust the lyric size so they can be read easier.

Any suggestions to improve this would be appreciated. :)


The first issue of filling the measures with notes is unnecessary. You can select part of the score (or none of it for the entire score) and use edit->tools->fill with slashes so you can enter chords and lyrics.

To edit all of an item at a time, right click the item and choose Text Style... (not properties) and all of the items of that type will be adjusted and appear like that as you enter new items. Set up the score the way you want all of the scores to look like, then save the score in your user templates folder ( Next time you create a new score use the custom template that will now be listed. Any existing notes, lyrics, chords etc. will not be inserted into the new score you create, but they will follow the style you set in your template. I don't think the invisible staves will be kept, but are easily made invisible as you know. You will also have to fill with slashes each time, but this takes three clicks and will make everything much easier.

This should get you going in a new song a little faster.

It would help if you attached a score you are happy with so we can see exactly what you've done. Sounds like you are saying you want lyrics and fret diagrams but no notes or chord symbols, but I kind of assume you do want the chord symbols too.

What I'd do is skip entering the quarter notes. They aren't necessary for entering chord symbols - you can enter them over rests just as easily, and pressing Space moves beat by beat, so you can enter multiple chords in empty measures. Lyrics do need notes, but of course, it won't generally be four lyrics per measure.

So what I'd do is enter the chord symbols first, then attach the fret diagrams to them, then enter whatever notes you need to give you the lyrics (probably not four quarter notes). Or, consider simply entering the lyrics as staff text, then you don't need notes at all.

As for sizes and positions, you should be using Style settings where possible, not manual adjustments via dragging or the Inspector. So for instance, Style / Text / Chord Symbol to set the size for chord symbols, Style / General / Chord Symbols to set position and also where it uses the "jazz" notation style.

Once you have the style settings as you like, save the score to your Templates folder as mentioned above, then from now on all you need to do is enter the chord symbols, fret iagrams, and lyrics, no need to adjust anything.

In reply to by ScoreMark

No, you can't enter fret diagrams without something to attach them too, whether chord symbol, note, or rest. But you can enter a "dummy" chord symbol then make them invisible. An advantage of this is that will help the fret diagrams space themselves better so you don't have to do so much horizontal adjustments in places where they get tight. It's probably a bug this happens even when the chords are made invisible, but it's a bug that works to your advantage here. If that ever changes, you instead make the chord symbols white.

It looks like you are still making unnecessary use of manual adjustment. Again, you're much better off changing style settings, then when you save as a template everything just works. So, instead of making the vertical offset fro your fret diagrams be 3sp, change the default vertical position to -3.5sp (instead of -0.5sp as it is now). If you use the dummy chord symbol idea, then also play with the minimum chord spacing setting so the fret diagrams don't overlap, an maybe position the chords right on top of the fret diagrams so they don't appear to take more space vertically.

By taking advantage of these suggestions, you could enter your dummy chord symbols according to the actual rhythm, attach your fret diagrams to those, and everything would be positioned perfectly right off the bat.

Beyond that, to me the spacing of the lyrics looks weird and arbitrary, but that's the inevitable downside of not using the actual rhythm of the melody and instead forcing everything to quarter notes. That's an ease-of-entry versus readability issue only you can decide on, though. You could move more to ease of entry by using staff text as I mentioned - one per measure, no notes needed at all needed. Depending ont he piece you might still need to stretch measures, though.

Also, if it were me having to read this, I'd strongly encourage you to include rhythm slashes to make it obvious when the chords change. It's extremely difficult to follow scores like this if you don't already know the song and the lyrics, as it is virtually impossible to determine when the chords change.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for helping out Marc!
Before I go any further it may be helpful to know where I am coming from.
Had I been able to use Musescore 30+ years ago when I was hand-notating my vocal scores it would have really saved me a lot of time and effort. But those days are long gone.

My usage of Musescore is probably quite unconventional. My current needs for scoring are quite different than 30+ years ago.
Right now I just need to notate chord diagrams and lyrics. That's it really. Chord symbols are not only not required, but would clutter the page and require extra work to enter them.

The songs I am notating are for myself only. I know the melodies cold (that's why the notes aren't required).
I need the lyrics as I still have to memorize them. And the chord diagrams are required as these are very unusual fingerings (unusual tunings) and I am still learning the chords. The scores are required for now and the future if I need to re-learn the songs.

I just tried entering chord diagrams with bars that had just slashes and just chord symbols and didn't see any difference. You mentioned there would be an advantage to inputting chord symbols.
Were you thinking of dummy chords such as 'C' for each beat of the song? I still don't see the advantage to that over slashes?

Yes you are correct I was manually adjusting the chord diagrams and the lyrics.
The diagrams, both vertically and horizontally. I can see the advantage to setting the vertical distance in a template and never having to touch it again.
However I can see myself having problems with both the horizontal location of the diagrams and the entering of lyrics for my future songs. Just as I had problems with my last song.

Would you advise setting a fixed number of bars per stave as a template?
Currently I find that 6 bars per stave looks good for diagram spacing.
But the problem I had when I set it to 6 per stave (breaks) is when I started entering the lyrics.
Things were going along fine and then all of a sudden a lyric in a bar would take up an entire stave!
It would change from 6 bars to stave to 5 bars and the next would be 1 bar per stave!

So I still haven't figured out the best way to go yet for this song template.
Do I simply insert slashes for the template and a vertical offset of 3.5 for the diagrams and that's all?
There's gotta be more to it.

You mentioned that the lyric spacing looked odd. Yes it does. But correct spacing is not required and anything to speed up diagram/lyric entry is what I want. Again the lyrics are for myself only. I know the melodies, so having the lyrics not line up in the bar where they should be is not a problem at all.

You also mentioned having rhythm slashes to identify when chords change.
I need to attach the diagrams to something, so slashes are fine with me (over chord symbols).
But in the end, I would be making them invisible as they would not be needed by me and would make reading the score too distracting.

In reply to by ScoreMark

The advantages of the dummy chord symbols (and yes, just "C", or "A", or "Q", doesn't mater) are as I already explained:

  • you can enter chord symbols without needing dummy notes
  • they space themselves automatically (might need to set an appropriate minimum distance in style setting)

Thus, it makes entering the music easier, and it makes it so less manual adjustment is needed. Win/win.

The advantage of the slashes is that they allow someone who doesn't already know the song to know exact ly what beat the chord changes on. This is crucially important when notating for otherts, but since you already know the song and if you promise never to try to make anyone else read from these charts, then no need to bother :-)

Number of bars per line is not something that can be set in a template. Some people try for four bars per line, and often that makes sense musically, but mostly the song itself will dictate where the logical break are, and you should strive to honor them. We've already explained why you are seeing only one bar on some lines - did you not see that It's because you are setting line breaks and then trying to put more music on the line than can fit. Best to not enter line breaks until you're done entering the music and can see for yourself what's going to fit.

As for lyrics, if the goal is ease of entry, then I'd still suggest staff text would be easier than trying to fiddle with making lyrics align with the quarter notes, unless your songs always have exactly four words per measure (hard to imagine that being true).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks again Marc for helping out!
What I'm trying to figure out at the moment is if I need chord symbols or slashes? I don't need both (and no one will be seeing these charts except for me).
Which will work better?

I just did a test where I have entered some chord symbols and slashes (see attached file), to see how things work out with both. And I don't see any difference at the moment. I have let the song decide on how many bars are per line for the moment. I will take your advice and enter breaks at the end when all has been entered.

"As for lyrics, if the goal is ease of entry, then I'd still suggest staff text would be easier than trying to fiddle with making lyrics align with the quarter notes,"

Could you please explain what you meant by 'staff text'? I am certainly not interested in aligning lyrics with quarter notes, especially since I won't be entering any notes! :)

In this attached file one thing should jump off the page; bar 8, the chords are bunched up.
In my test, I entered 4 chords per bar with chord symbols and with slashes only, to see what would happen.
In bar 1 things spaced out OK. Bar 8 (chord symbols) they didn't. Bar 14 spaced OK.
So if bar 8 (and other bars follow suit as bar 8 worked out) stays the same when the song is finished, I will still need to go in and adjust the diagrams horizontally so they would fit better.


Attachment Size
Trouble in Air Test.mscz 12.44 KB

In reply to by ScoreMark

My suggest for using chord symbols and using slashes have nothing to do with each other. That is, they aren't two different ways of accomplishing the same goal, they are each designed to achieve a different goal.

  • I suggested chord symbols for ease of entry. You can enter multiple chord symbols in a measure, and have them spaced appropriately, without the need to enter quarter notes first or manually adjust horizontal positions later. It's just plain easier to use.

  • I suggest slashes to make the score more readable to someone who doesn't know the piece already. Your score is essentially unusable as it unless you already know the song, because it's virtually impossible to tell exactly when to change chords - you'd have to be reading the fret diagrams, attempting to follow the lyrics, attempting to listen to the singer, all at once. Showing the rhythmic structure of the piece using either actual notes or at least using slashes is the solution to this. So as I said, as long as you promise not to make anyone else read this, you don't need the slashes, but if you ever think you might ask anyone to play from your charts, please do them a favor and include the slashes.

As for staff type of text one enters into a score, click a note or rest and press Ctrl+T, type whatever you want. You can thus enter the lyrics for an entire measure at a time, no need for dummy notes. It's still going to look very odd spacing-wise, and if you do need the lyrics to align with the chords (a necessity if you were actually wanting others to use this) you would want to go back to using lyrics. But this way is a bit simpler.

I went ahead and updated your test to show you what I mean. I removed the slashes since you say no one will look at this but you. I increase the minimum chord symbol spacing in Style / General as I explained previously. This makes the chord symbols (and with them, the fretboard diagrams) space perfectly with no horizontal adjustment needed. I didn't hide the chord symbols yet, so you can see how they are being used. But I did turn off clefs & time signatures in staff properties. I entered the first few measures using staff text with no dummy notes, the next few with dummy notes & lyrics (I made the dummy notes stemless but didn't hide them yet, again, so you can better see what I did).

To really see the advantage of these approaches, you need to look at how this can be used automatically in new scores. So"

Save this score to your Templates folder. Now, use File / New to create a new score, and select this termplate. You'll see because I used style settings and staff properties rather than manual adjustments, none of that work needs to be redone. So, for instance, click the rest in the first measure, hit Ctrl+K, and enter "C C C C" to put four chords there. Now attach fret diagrams to those four chords. Notice how they don't overlap? That's because MuseScore automatically spaces chord symbols according to your Style settings. No more manual adjustment of fret diagrams! Now select the rest again and hit Ctrl+T, then type some text. Notice how it is positioned on the staff automatically? Again, that's because I used style settings rather than manual adjustments.

Doing things this way, you would hardly ever need to make any adjustments of any kind - you could just enter your chords and lyrics (either as staff text or with dummy notes & lyrics).

Attachment Size
Chord Chart.mscz 5.65 KB

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks again Marc!
I am getting very close to having a workable template to use. :)

First I want to assure you that no one but myself will ever be reading these charts!
I wouldn't want to inflict such torture on anyone. :)

I am playing around with just rests/text (Ctrl-T) versus notes and lyrics to see which is faster in the end.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

I have discovered a hiccup with the template you saved for me 'Chord Chart.mscz'.
When I try to enter more than one chord diagram per bar, they keep attaching to the first chord.
That is, they pile up one over the other.

Ideas to fix this?

In reply to by ScoreMark

Well I'm making really good progress now with this template.
I'm still essentially using the template you gave with your last file upload.

I have figured out the best way to go is to use:
quarter notes each bar (stemless) + dummy C chords each bar.

Then I can add chord diagrams where I need them and Ctrl-L for the lyrics (it's the fastest way to enter
to fit the bars, copying text from another file).

However I have just one small problem now.
When I enter my second/third/fourth verse they are not in the correct position,
(each should be below the previous verse).
Instead they are in weird positions (too far down, then above the previous etc.)
I'm sure this just needs some small adjustment?

In reply to by ScoreMark

OK I see the problem now but don't know how to fix it.
When I finished entering the first verse and go back to the first word of the first verse and hit,
'Enter', instead of going to the next line (even line) it goes down two lines to the next (odd line).

Previously when I was entering lyrics, when I went to the first word of the current verse, it would move down just one line for the next verse (when I hit Enter).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Here are two files.
BTW, I have decided not to use a standard template, because it wipes clean my note heads and chord symbols.
My 'template' will simply consist of a song that I will never touch.
It will have the note heads and chord symbols and be saved as song 'Blank Sheet'.
As soon as I open it I will save it under another song name.

The two files are the 'Blank Sheet' and a song 'Three Verses' using this blank sheet with three verses.
You will see that the 2nd and 3rd verses overlap.

This is what I am doing.
1. Paste the first line of lyrics.
2. Click on first word, first verse, lyrics odd lines
3. Click Enter
4. Paste lyrics and they will go into even lines now BUT down too far!
5. Now let's enter the 3rd verse.
6. Go to the first word of the 2nd verse.
7. Click Enter
8. Paste lyrics and they will go into 'odd lines' now BUT on top of 2nd verse!

Attachment Size
Blank Sheet.mscz 3.96 KB
Three verses.mscz 5.35 KB

In reply to by ScoreMark

Very odd, it worked for me before but doesn't now. Not sure why - that is, not sure why it did work before :-).
The problem is that in Style / Text, we have "Lyrics Odd Lines" set to 3sp, but "Lyrics Even Lines" set to 6sp. They should both be set the same.

In reply to by ScoreMark

I guess you are making the mistake of still attaching the fret diagram to the rest. Since the rest is on beat one, of course all the fret diagrams you attach to it also are on beat one and hence overlap. The whole point of entering dummy chords instead of dummy notes is so you can attach the fret diagrams to the chord symbols. That is, click a chord symbol, double click the fret diagram in the palette. So if you have four nicely space chord symbols in the bar, when you attach the fret diagrams, now you'll have four nicely spaced fret diagrams - completely independently of whether you've also entered notes or lyrics.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.