Stacking Chords over bass notes

• Dec 27, 2019 - 23:33

I have learned something I want to share hoping it will help to stack a chord directly over a bass note e.g. G over B instead of G/B. Here are the exact steps:
1. Click on note. 2. Cmd/K 3. Enter chord e.g. G. 4. Click on empty space...chord turns black.
5. Place arrow on chord and move it up. 6. Click on same note. 7. Cmd/K
8. Enter bass note e.g. B which will appear below the G. 9. Click on empty space so the B turns black.
10. Now use the arrow to move the G and B until they are perfectly aligned with the G directly over the B and aligned directly over the note. 11. Go to lines palette and drag a line under the can wait until the score is printed and use a fine line pen to underline the chords creating a fraction.
Perhaps some of you already know this but I had a hard time with it and maybe this will help someone.


1. Select note; Ctrl+K (Cmd/K on Mac); enter bottom part of chord
2. Select note again; Ctrl+K (Cmd/K); enter 1 or two underscores
3. Select note again; Ctrl+K (Cmd/K); enter top part of chord

Autoplace will make those stacked.

In reply to by Shoichi me out. I don't see Automatic Placement in the Inspector....also...if it is active by default why doesn't it place the notes above each other? I still have to move them with the arrow. Is there something I need to do to bring Automatic Placement into play? I can get the chord and bass note with a line between them using the method I've described, however if Automatic Placement will do it more efficiently I'd like to learn how to do it.

In reply to by jeetee

I tried your method and it does work fine, but the chords are still sandwiched on top of each other. I have to use the arrow to separate them and place one above the other. Using my method my end result is exactly what I want....G chord directly above a B bass note with a line between them forming a fraction directly over the chosen note.
I'm puzzled as to why we are both using the same method and yours stack up perfectly and mine have to be moved manually. I'm certainly open to any suggestions.

FWIW, the reason this isn't done by default is that it is not standard notation. A vertical fraction like this means something else - they mean to play an actual B triad, not just a B bass note. Not all that many musicians may realize this, but some will, so charts created the way you are may sound very strange when platyed by musicians who are aware of this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, In all my years of playing and writing charts for Gospel and Country sessions I can honestly say I have never played a G chord over a B chord....nor have I ever seen any chart with the notation as you describe it. All the musicians I have worked with are familiar with the concept of slash chords, that is to say, a chord on top and a bass note below or a vertical fraction as you described it. Can you provide me with an example of a chart with a chord over a chord ? Thank you for all your input. It is much appreciated.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

To be clear: slash chords written horizontally are very common, they mean to play the specified bass note. Slash chords written vertically - which are used to indicate true polychords - are not common at all, but are used occasionally in jazz. You can find examples in the Sher Music publications.

So what I would say is if the only people who will read these charts are people not familiar with this convention, you are probably safe using polychord notation when you actually just mean a bass note, and people will understand you. But there is also no advantage to it, so I’m not understanding why you would want to go to that much trouble when the standard horizontal notation works perfectly right out of the box.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yes slash chords are very common when there is a simple chord over a bass note, but to me, it's a question of readability (is that a word?)For example, in 3/4 time you have one beat each F#-7(b5), F#-7(b5)/D, F#-7(b5)/A resolve to a C over G. To me this is difficult to read This would be much easier for a musician to read if the D and the A were directly under the F#...which is exactly how I would write it by hand....and that is my point...if I write a chart by hand...I would like to be able to do it just as easily on Musescore.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

Normally if the music has that many chords you'd space out the measures (limit to four per system, for instance) so this isn't an issue, but anyhow, I'm just telling you how things are done in actual published music. You are of course welcome to use your method and hope that other musicians who are familiar with the usual meaning for that (polychord) don't get confused. To me it's not worth the trouble or the risk of confusion.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Okay...I've been working here in Nashville my entire adult life with some of the greatest musicians on the planet and of course they are familiar with slash chords, and some do write their charts that way, but most use vertical fractions when hand writing charts, it's much easier to navigate, especially with "brain twister" chords. I don't understand why any musician would be confused as to the difference between a G over a B or G/B. I'll admit to being a novice when it comes to Musescore, although I'm getting better, but I know how to write a chart for professional musicians. Anyhow I found a way to make fraction chords on Musescore and will continue to use my method...I was only asking for an easier way to do it. I will say that every time I've posted on here I learned something new from you all. Thanks so much for the input.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

The reason many musicians would be confused when writing slash chords vertically is exactly as I said - in much of the world, that notation means something else entirely. Apparently musicians in Nashville use different conventions than elsewhere, and that wouldn't be the first time, so no harm in using that method in that region. Just something to be aware of when sharing your charts outside that circle.

Anyhow, as noted elsewhere, it’s actually much easier to create that vertical notation in MuseScore 3. We also now support Nashville number system notation directly.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I really appreciate the responses from you and others. There is a genuine desire to help. The support is terrific!
Can you please explain who are the musicians who would be confused when confronted with a vertical slash chord G over B and would not interpret that to mean a G chord over a B bass note. Also please explain what that notation means in much of the world. This is very interesting.
Also...I tried downloading MuseScore 3 but my old Macbook is 10.7...guess I'll have to upgrade.
Can I access the Nashville System notation with my 2.0? Thanks for all you do!

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

To musicians familiar with this convention, G stacked vertically over a B means a polychord - a B triad in the left hand of the piano and a G in the right, for example. that particular polychord wouldn’t be as common as the converse - B triad over G triad.

People who have been taught the convention that vertical stacking means polychord will potentially be confused by use of that to mean something else. This is primarily modern jazz or “progressive rock” musicians, I suppose.

Realistically, they will probably figure out soon enough based on the context that you don’t really mean a polychord - perhaps after trying it both ways and realizing the polychord you appear to be calling for doesn’t make musical sense - so they’ll end up playing what you want. But again, why spend all that effort just to create confusion that needn’t exist? Sure, you save a little horizontal space, but at the expensive of vertical space. There are reasons virtually every publisher uses the horizontal arrangement.

But again, if you really wish to go to the trouble and don’t mind paying the price in terms of potential confusion and additional vertical space required, you can indeed get the vertical stack.

Support for Nashville notation was added at 3.3.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I have 7 music songbooks from 7 different publishers on my desk. Each one has the slash chords with a horizontal line rather than a diagonal line...this is what I want to do. That tells me that there are publishers out there that don't subscribe to the " a Polychord is always identified by a horizontal line" theory. It also tells me that these publishers will also be confusing all the musicians who subscribe to this theory. I've also seen some Jazz sites teaching Polychords with a diagonal line. It seems to me that common sense should make it obvious what the nature of the chord is. D/C is quite different from D/C7. If the bottom note has a modifier as in "C7" then it should be pretty obvious that it represents a chord rather than a single note. I think the confusion comes from those who have taken the hard line position that a Polychord must always and forever have a horizontal line and never a diagonal line. It seems to me that we should all relax this viewpoint and realize that it can be both ways. It's the notes that should matter, not the lines. Anyhow, that's my opinion.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

Interesting, as I said I've virtually never seen it. Which publishers, and can you share a sample? Could be unique to publishers in the gospel genre, I guess. But I've got more like 100 books on my shelf, and none use this except for polychords.

Curious, which sites do you see teaching that polychords are notated with diagonal lines? This also flies in the face of my own decades of experience, but occasionally someone does post incorrect information on the Internet :-)

Anyhow, again, do what you want. If it's worth it to you to go to all that extra trouble and are willing to trade horizontal space for vertical space and even after learning what you have learned you aren't worried about confusion, then have a ball, neither MuseSciore nor I will try to stop you. I'm just trying to provide some useful information to save you trouble and vertical space and save other musicians potential confusion.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I have several thoughts I want to share with you in some kind of logical order, but I make no guaranties in that regard, so I'll just start.
Like you, I have well over 100 music books, Blues,Rock,Pop, Country, Gospel, Broadway, Latin, Jazz and others. Over the weekend I went through more than half of them searching for a slash chord with a horizontal line, and as you've stated, I could find none in the secular books. However, what I found most interesting was that in all the secular books I could not find even one Polychord.
In my view there are 2 kinds of Polychords....there is one with a triad over another triad as in D over G. That chord is a rarity in modern music. Then there is the Polychord which is a substitute for what I call "Brain Twister" chords like C13(#11) which is D/ C7 or C13(b9) which is A/C7. This the Polychord that I believe most musicians are referring to. It is used mostly in Jazz and Gospel. I use these chords quite often in my sessions, but I play it with only the 3 and 7b in the left hand and the triad in the right hand. I usually allow the guitars to play only the upper triad if they wish, while the left hand of the keys with the bass on the root delivers the desired sonority.
There were several sites re: Polychords with diagonal lines but I was only able to re-find 2:
Google Interpreting Slash Marks in Fakebook Leadsheets Jazz Ed. Open the second one down and scroll down to 3. Polychords. Also Google....The Jazz Language definition of Polychords scroll down to The Jazz Language : A Theory Text for Jazz Composition Pg. 30 Polychord Nomenclature.
One last thing...I play piano in a large Southern Baptist Church. I have a six piece band. The charts we use have a variety of musical styles. Most...(90%) have slash chords with horizontal lines instead of diagonal, and some have Polychords, but they are written out as in G13(#11) instead of a fraction. There are 47,456 SB Churches similar to mine in the US telling how many musicians that entails...and that's just one denomination. That's a huge universe of musicians playing Gospel Music charts with slash chords with horizontal lines...not to mention the enormous amount of printed music. My point is...Why would anyone insist on such a hard line position in this matter (You Must Use A Horizontal Line Or It Is Not A Polychord), when it is obvious that there are so many who don't concur? IMO it would be beneficial to relax the position e.g
"A Polychord is usually written with a horizontal line but can also be written with a diagonal line"
My email is I'll scan some Gospel Music. Let me know where to send it.
Finally...(I promise) I enjoy our conversations and have much respect for you, however if this is getting too much, feel free to tell me...I won't be offended.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

I'm not offended in the least, I find this an interesting discussion. And I take you at your word that some publishers have chosen to notate slash chords using the notation that is more commonly used for polychords, so I don't actually need to see a sample. But if you wish to post one, just do so here - an image of a single measure is sufficient and constitutes "fair use".

But to be clear: I have no "hard line position". I never once told you what you "must" do - in fact, that word never once appears in any of my posts in this thread). I am merely providing information for you to use or not use as you see fit. I have been quite clear in saying that if you wish to use this type of notation despite the disadvantages I cited (more work to create, more vertical space used, potential risk of confusion - and you can add incorrect MusicXML export to the list), then go for it, neither I nor MuseScore will attempt to stop you.

It's true polychords themselves are not common in the grand scheme of things. So it's not surprising you wouldn't find any in fakebooks focusing on pop music or even jazz standards. Polychords are more something you'll see in big band charts, original compositions by modern jazz musicians not typically included in fakebooks, etc.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I should have been more clear. You have never told me what I must do, I'm sorry if I implied that. I have read what many " Polychord Gurus" have been teaching, and they all insist that a Polychord must be written with a horizontal line, there is no other way. I disagree with that said that, I will drop the subject. I'm sure there will be much more you can help me with as we go along. Thanks for listening.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

Marc, I have a simple question...In 4/4 time I have an A whole note tied to another A whole note...easy enough,
Now I'm adding an F whole note below the A and trying to tie it also but I can't seem to get both the A and the F tied. Whenever I try to tie the F the tie on the A goes away. What am I doing wrong?...or better yet, what is the correct way to do this. Thanks for your help.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

Normally you'd add the ite when entering the notes: from note input mode, type F to enter the F, Shift+A to add the A, then "+" to add the tied chord. But if you are trying to go back do this retroactively, that should work too. How are you trying to do it? For instance, I clicked the first A, pressed ShiftF to add the F, Cltr+Down to move it below, then "+". Worked for me. Maybe some older versions didn't support that, but current ones do.

In reply to by gospelmusic1234

Oh, I thought you were saying the A was already tied. So one more tie needs to be added. But even if you have only the single A - or two A's not tied - my instructions work. Tested using the current version (as of today 3.4, but I tried this yesterday with 3.3.4) it works as I said.

Since this isn't really related to this thread anyhow, I'd suggest starting a new one if you continue to have trouble with this using 3.4. When you do, be sure to attach your score and give precise step by step instructions, as I did.

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