Superscript-format for chords w/o using MuseJazz font

• Dec 17, 2019 - 01:48

Like some other previous posters to the forum, I like my chord symbols with most of the material that's not the root name in the superscript position. Until 3.3, this required creating a whole new chords.xml file, which is a very daunting task.

Version 3.3 has a new option under Format..-->Style-->Chord Symbols, the "Extension scaling/vertical offset" and "Modifier scaling/vertical offset" settings. Setting them to "0.6" and "-4.00", I get the following results (see "Scaled.png"). Scaled.png

Better than the default, but the diminished symbol's not being scaled, and the augmented triangle is neither scaled nor shifted. The "sus" isn't scaled or shifted, and the "4" behind it is scaled but not shifted. (Note that the nomenclature under the chords are actually 'lyrics' so I can keep track of what I'm expecting the chord symbol to say above the chord notes themselves.)

As it happens, I'd finished a first draft of an actual XML specification for superscripted chords before 3.3 was released. Here's the results:

As you can see, the diminished symbol's smaller, the augmented triangle's smaller and superscripted, and the "sus4" is up in the air as well.

However, there's a whole lot of stuff in the XML files that I don't really understand, I think in part because the original file is trying to accomodate many different traditions and styles of chord symbols. My XML file works great for the way I write chords, but probably isn't going to do some other people's chords quite right. In particular, I'm mystified by what appear to be three or four different ways of indicating major cords. There's "M", "Ma", "ma", "Maj" and "maj", which may or may not be the same as "maj7" chords.

For me, a "C7" chord is a C chord with a natural seven, aka Bb. A "C major seven" would have a B natural, and I'd write that chord with the "maj7" superscripted. A plain "C Major" chord would just be "C", and a "C Minor" chord would be "Cm". I'm doing jazz charts, so I often am doing half- and fully-diminished chords. I believe a "C half-diminished 7" chord is the same as a "C7 flat 5". I also handle things like "C add 11" (C, E, F, G) and "C seven minus five" (C, E, Bb).

I would appreciate feedback from other MuseScore users as to how YOU annotate chords, as well as volunteers to beta-test my superscript-format chords.xml file, which you'll find attached. Also attached is my chord testing score; I would love to add other chord nomenclature to it for more detailed testing.

Attachment Size
chords_sup.xml 13.56 KB
Chord_Symbol_Test.mscz 16.75 KB


My vote would be to add two new settings for "quality" scaling & offset, and this would be used for the indicators for major, minor, diminished, and augmented.

Personally I don't like my quality indicators superscripted at all, and like my extension superscripted only slightly. This is the crucial functional info that needs to be apparent at a glance. Everything after that can be superscripted more heavily, as it's just "color". This is the Brandt-Roemer standard used by many if not most major publishers, that's why it is what we do by default in the jazz style.

M, Ma, Maj, ma, and maj are all synonyms, just personal choice. Again, the jazz style goes with Brandt-Roemer, who call for "ma" (actually small-caps MA). Similarly for m, mi, and min for minor - it's just personal choice, but "mi" is the semi-official jazz standard.

So to me the defaults are already optimal for jazz, but with respect to giving additional control for those who prefer their own systems or need to work within the house style of some specific publisher, I do suspect the "quality" settings would do the trick.

Next step after that would be supporting stacked modifiers, that's a common request that would be nice to be able to support for sure.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"Personally I don't like my quality indicators superscripted at all, and like my extension superscripted only slightly." So would you not be adequately served by using the "Default" .xml and adjusting the extensions and modifiers with the current 3.3 settings? I haven't yet tried finding out what happens to chords_sup.xml if I start tinkering with the new 3.3 adjustments.

I've been going back through a couple inches of jazz charts in my choir binder, and I haven't found "ma" used yet. Now, most of the music is either from Dave Cross or Dave Barduhn, with various other charts annotated by unknown persons, but as you say, that's why there's options for personal preference.

I don't consider Wikipedia necessarily an authoritative source, but they are handy. Amusingly, "M", "m", "aug", "dim" and "+" are 100%/baseline, but the diminished symbols are superscripted. This might be a side-effect of whoever rendered the table in HTML, of course. Oh, wait, for the "C augmented major seventh" they have "C+M7" with the "M7" superscripted, and "C+Δ" with both the "+" and the "Δ" superscripted. Oy.

Adding the third "quality" shift does seem like a workable alternative, but it's way beyond my ability to implement. Until such an option becomes available, I'll keep using my chords.xml, but if there's reason to hope such a thing might happen, then I can stop working on fixing parts of it that I don't use . . . .

In reply to by snarke

To be clear: I personally am adequately served by the defaults in the Jazz style, no adjustments to the style settings at all. I designed the defaults for the Jazz style to be consistent with established standards, so I'm happy with the results out of the box. But I also added the extension/modifier superscripting options to give additional control to people who wanted to get that same type of standard superscripting without swtiching to the Jazz style - so they could get similar results with other fonts.

What I didn't do was add more options to allow the quality indicators to be superscripted as well. To be honest, I can't remember right now if that's because I ran into some issue trying to get it to work, or - more probably - if it didn't occur to me to do so, since not many people request that sort of rendering.

As for ma/mi, it's more the jazz world I mean, not the choral world (jazz choir is something rather different). So, fakebook and instrumental ensemble charts from Hal Leonard, Kendor, Sher Music, etc.

It's true the diminished symbol is usually superscripted in this context, and that is why the Jazz style does that by default already. The standard style does not, because in fact outside the jazz world, it's not that common to superscript anything (and actually, "dim" is more common than the diminished symbol outside of the jazz world). As noted previously, the diminished symbol does actually respond to the extension offset settings - but not the scaling. And also, n the Standard style, it doesn't use an actual diminished symbol, but rather just the raw "o". Again, that's in keeping with how I see those few publishers outside the jazz world who choose to not use "dim" do it, but I recognize that some might prefer a real diminished symbol without needing to use the Jazz style. So that's probably another option worth considering.

When I implemented the scaling/offset options, I actually consider just adding another radio button for "Formatted" that would basically just be the Standard style plus build-in superscripting. Maybe that's still worth doing. But I think it shouldn't include superscripting of quality by default, because that is deifnitely not standard in any genre.

I would say that at some point, we're likely to implement the quality superscripting options that would apply to all quality indications, and maybe also a way to convert "o" to a proper diminished sign (which is virtually always superscripted). But it sounds like you'll be able to have yourself a workable XML for your own purposes soon enough, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for new options to appear.

Really, I think the next step is a true chord symbol editor allowing you to do position and size each symbol individually. This was actually implemented years ago but never fully working, and it depended on having a fixed set of chord symbols and was never adapted to work with the parsing algorithm that allows you to type more or less whatever you want. At some point I still want to see us revisit that.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

" I designed the defaults for the Jazz style to be consistent with established standards, so I'm happy with the results out of the box."

Actually, I would be too if only the Jazz style didn't have the faux handwritten look.

"As for ma/mi, it's more the jazz world I mean, not the choral world (jazz choir is something rather different). So, fakebook and instrumental ensemble charts from Hal Leonard, Kendor, Sher Music, etc."

I've been playing jazz bass off and on for, oh, lord, 30+ years? But, particularly in college, I didn't get to see charts from Hal Leonard et al. It was all too often a hand-copied chart, and a lot of it was dashed off quickly, and sometimes bordered on the illegible. I understand that a lot of jazz instrumentalists have had to read so many hand-copied charts over the years that they're used to the chisel-nib pen look, but to me, using a font like that in this day and age looks like an affectation. Thus I'm more or less trying to re-create the positioning/style of the Jazz option with the legible font of the Default option.

"(and actually, "dim" is more common than the diminished symbol outside of the jazz world)"

I agree, and I'm not inclined to superscript the three-letter quality indicators. It seems to me that there are four main use cases for chord symbols. (1) The chart is likely to be performed on a chording instrument like a guitar, especially if/when (2) you're trying to make the chart as compact as practical (e.g. fake book). (3) The performer(s) might be improvising rather than following the written music to the note (e.g. playing jazz), and (4) you're a composer and you're trying to keep track of the chords while composing harmonies.

For me, reasons 3 and 4 apply, and I find that on some charts, if I use 3-letter qualities, there's not enough room for the chord names.

Well, given that (a) it hasn't been a particularly common request, and (b) many of the people who were looking for it may well be adequately served by the new 3.3 parameters, I guess I'll just do a few more tweaks of my current file to incorporate some of what I've learned here, post the revised file here, and get on with other things.

In reply to by snarke

FWIW, I don't think there are any publishers in the jazz world who don't use "handwritten" fonts - even those that use non-handwritten fonts for the notation itself. There's more to it than affectation; it's also a matter of striking the right balance between line weight and character width to look good at the larger sizes typically used in jazz charts (for ease of sightreading in dark/smoky bars). In theory you could find a non-handwritten font that does as well, but most look terrible at the sizes typically used in jazz charts, because they weren't designed for that purpose. So they end up having too thin of a line weight to stand out unless you make it even bigger, or else the line weight is too thick and it conflicts with the notation . Also, with most fonts not designed to be used with chord symbols, text ends up being too wide once it is tall enough, or the height ratio between capital and lower case is not conducive to wight reading, etc. There's really quite a lot to making a good font for chord symbols.

The MuseJazz font is patterned after the handwriting in the New Real Book series from Chuck Sher, probably the single most respected series in terms of the engraving. The "Jazz" font is also a popular option, but I think it does affected, and not as effective. Anyhow, I get that for some people, the typical jazz chart look is off-putting, but it's important not to let that get in the way of producing easy to read charts, and the musicians who read the charts appreciate easy-to-read chord symbols, so hopefully you've found a font that has all those special qualities.

BTW, triangle doesn't mean augmented, it means major. "+" is the symbol for augmented. But if we do add "quality" superscripting options, it would presumably handle them both.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

I thought about automatically enforcing this, so that if I typed, say "cmsus4" or "Ab7b5" I would get "Cm(sus4)" or "Ab7(b5)" (with the desired superscripting, of course). But I decided to let myself and others add the parentheses as desired, like the original .xml files do.

In reply to by snarke

Is it possible to "port" this to be used with the JazzChords font? Currently only working with MuseJazz and Edwin for me, showing the non-formatted chords when using JazzChords. I found another older XML file that is able to make it work, but has some slight overlaps that I don't know how to edit

In reply to by snarke

could you also help me again and create me a style file or explain what I need to change so that the "maj7" and also the "sus4" is also superscript?
Also, what would have to be done so that the "dim" automatically becomes a "°"?

Thank you very much, I've been working on the XML file for hours now, but can't get it to work without help....

I created an account just to say this: Thank you for giving us the ability to use pretty looking chords without being forced to use the sketchy jazz font!!

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