Playback of Chord Symbols

• Aug 16, 2018 - 08:48

In the early phase of song writing I use a simple score with "voice" to write the vocal melody and maybe some preliminary lyrics. I use chord symbols to write the chord progression (as maybe many others do as well). It would be very helpful to actually hear the chords together with the melody.

What I currently do, is to add a piano line and insert the chords with a very basic rhythm, sometimes just whole of half notes. When I'm in the process of writing / rewriting melody and chord progression, it would be much faster if I only had to rewrite the chords and leave writing the piano arrangement to to the phase when the basic composition is done.

I would propose the following:
- At minimum Piano sound only, the luxury variant would be free choice on the sound
- default duration whole note (Luxury variant: some configurable value)
- repeated until the next chord symbol
- if the next chord symbol follows shorter than the default duration, than this should be use as the duration instead.
see also attached file.


Attachment Size
Playback_of_chord_symbols.mscz 5.78 KB


Main problem is finding a suitable voicing for these chords. Also depends on the instrument, I guess, like Piano might have a voicing different to Guitar.
Another is the rhythm, whether to play any (and which) or to play the chord only once per symbol.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

My proposal above was to play it once per symbol, but at least once per measure. The voicing could be something very simple, just any default voicing resulting in the desired chord. Not necessary editable, that would be luxury. The goal is not to have something sounding good, just to hear your melody in the right harmonic context. If specific rhythms or voicings are desired, I's time to add a staff and typing notes :-)

I have the same problem when composing/arranging for a Big Band. The guitar part is usually written using dummy notes (all in the same stave position) and the chord symbol over the notes where the chord changes. The notes have a slash notehead but the rhythm is shown explicitly using different note values and rests in the conventional way.

Musescore is great for everything except this instrument. When checking how the piece sounds I have to set the guitar sound level to mute otherwise I just get a repeated single note. Consequently I'm unable to hear how the guitar fits in with the other instruments. I'm quite surprised that such an excellent application has never addressed this issue before.



In reply to by awillkey

This feature would be very useful. There have been a number of posts requesting it, so I suspect it is something that would find a wide welcome. I certainly would use it.

As to the matter of MuseScore playing back the chord rather than the "dummy note," I wonder if an option could be added to the Inspector for the note - a toggle between "Play note as written" and "Play Chord."

In reply to by awillkey

FWIW, you shouldn't need to be manually adding these dummy notes at all. Just use Edit / Tools / Fill With Slashes. This automatically fills the selected region with such dummy notes, already set to be forced to middle line (they won't transpose), to be stemless, and to be silent. Thus, no need to mute anything, and other regular notes for guitar will sound normally. Plus it's just a ton easier.

What I will sometimes do if I feel the need to hear some sort of playback of the chord symbols is add a dummy instrument, add the notes I want for playback, then set the staff invisible in Edit / Instruments.

Intelligent playback of chord symbols, particular in a jazz context, is a very complex problem, one that is currently addressed by other tools like Impro-visor. So thus far we've tried to focus on notation. But no doubt, some day we'll have mastered enough of that that attention can turn to more esoteric playback details like this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"shouldn't need to be manually adding these dummy notes at all. Just . . . Fill With Slashes."

But I think what WillKey was intending by "dummy notes" was not the generic slashes that get entered with Fill With Slashes indicating only that a predetermined default rhythm is to be played through those measures, but instead notes that themselves indicate the specific rhythm to be played. "Accent notes"? "The notes have a slash notehead but the rhythm is shown explicitly using different note values and rests in the conventional way." In other words, MuseScore would play back the rhythm indicated by the notes using the pitches indicated by the chord symbol. The Slashes do not specify a specific rhythm. These "dummy notes" would - MuseScore would ignore the pitch of the dummy notes, but use the "note value" information of the notes to generate the rhythm with which it plays back the chord indicated by the chord symbol.

"Intelligent playback of chord symbols . . . is a very complex problem." I can certainly appreciate that! So thank you for pointing us toward Impro-visor.

Actually most of suggestions above extend the feature request far beyond it's original intent. I didn't mean to replace conventional notation by something else, but to have a smart facility to ease (shorten) the very, very, very early phase of composition - the one, when you just worry about melody and it's harmonic context. It would be welcome to hear the chord symbols together with the melody. No fancy playback of special voicings or rhythms, no "lead sheet sounding like a fully arranged score". This is arrangement work and MuseScore is already very well suited for that purpose.

Sorry, but the "If we do it, why not doing it right from the beginning" thinking is the most frequent reason why feature request get rejected ;-)

I agree however, that playback of chordsymbols using the rhythm of the slash notation sounds cool and tempting, but this could be another feature request later on :-)

In reply to by

Still, it is worth considering the reasoning behind the "if we do it, why not do it right from the beginning" thinking, because there is value to it. Not that one has to actually implement the most full-scale solution all at once, but it would be doing a disservice to people to implement one limited first version of a scheme today, and then later, when developing a more full-scale solution, end up breaking the first version, or removing it, or compromising the design of the full-scale feature to avoid impacting the first version, or attempting to leave both versions in place and thus creating confusion for new users and maintenance headaches going forward. Which is to say it is import to design for the full feature up front to avoid making mistakes implementing a more limited first version that everyone will have reason to regret later.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I watched the archived video, thanks for providing that. The way you showed is pretty much the way I do it now, except that I do not hide the piano staff. The "iceberg voicing" plus "root bass below d" you described, with the simple block chords, that is exactly what I had in mind with this playback of chord symbols feature.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I spent longer on this than I planned and still have little confidence there are not transposition errors but maybe I can crowd-source the proofreading :-) Here is what I have:

To use, just copy and paste voicings from this score to your own chord by chord.

It's not just a literal transposition of the original "C" voicings into 12 keys, as that would get far too high by the time you reached "B". So I adjust the voicings after each transposition to keep them more or less centered around middle "C. Also, I ended up adding quite a few more chords, to have a more complete set of basic triads and seventh chords as well as a handful of common "jazz" voicings.

Anyhow, I welcome feedback, whether here, in comments on my score on, or in comments on the video!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I wanted to hear my music as authentically as possible. I found a website that showed how to play any chord on a guitar. As a result, I could replace the dummy note and chord symbol by an appropriate 4, 5 or 6 note chord. (Obviously I was doing this on a copy of my master score.)

If someone is going to implement this feature, I suggest that this level of research is needed first. BTW I discovered a couple of instances where I had written chords that don't exist. Perhaps Musescore should not have let me do that.

In reply to by awillkey

To hear music as authentical as possible ist quite simple in MuseScore: choose the instrument(s) you need and write the notes you want to hear explicity in one or multiple staves ;-)

"I wanted to hear my music as authentically as possible" is not the intent of my feature request "playback of chord symbols".

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

The voicing I picked are indeed intended for piano, but don't necessarily sound terrible on guitar. They might be how most guitarists would choose to play them (the notes would need to be spread out more in most cases to be easily playable), but again since the goal is to just get a general idea of how the song sounds, and since each guitar player will play the chords differently anyhow, it should be fine really.

In reply to by awillkey

As mentioned, there are a practically infinite number of ways to play any given chord, no matter the
instrument. That is, any sufficiently experienced guitar player could show you at least a dozen ways of playing a "G" chord, not just the one that beginners typically learn. A pianist would be able to show you far more, an orchestral arranger more still, etc.

As for writing "chords that don't exist", can you explain what you mean? MuseScore allows you type pretty much anything within reason. Just because you don't find a symbol on some web site listing some finite set of guitar chords doesn't mean the chord doesn't exist.

In reply to by awillkey

If you mean literally an "X", then indeed, the root of the chord needs to be an actual note, A-G (or H if you're German, or Finnish). But we do allow you to enter things that aren't necessarily actual notes, since people often use chord symbols for purposes that require it.

If you mean just something like Am7b9, that is indeed a real chord, and in the right context, with the right voicing and the right resolution, can be very beautiful.

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