Indicating that certain notes in a bar are at a lower volume

• Jul 25, 2020 - 10:58

I have used the inspector to reduce the volume of certain notes in a bar, as heard in the song that I'm scoring. This works just fine in the playback but is there any way of indicating this to the player, without writing "quieter" over the notes?


In reply to by bobjp

They are alternate notes in various bars as they are part of the accompaniment so these markings could end up messy. I've had an idea though: I could make ALL of the voice 1 notes quieter, then manually make only the melody notes of voice 1 louder and add some instructions in a text frame to say, "highlight the melody by playing it louder than the accompaniment". (Voice 2 has the bass notes.)

In reply to by yonah_ag

Not sure I understand. I think you are saying that you have a piano accompaniment that in some places, has the melody. In sections where the piano in by itself, I think most players would normally bring out the melody. The other way to do it would be to write the piano part in a way that brings the melody out. That is, not so many notes that the melody is obscured. Unless you are transcribing.

In reply to by bobjp

It's a solo for fingerpicking guitar. Voice 2 has the bass notes and voice 1 has both the melody and non-bass accompaniment. I need these notes to be played at a lower volume than the melody or the piece doesn't sound right, (based on the video I'm scoring from.)

In reply to by yonah_ag

If you are writing it out for real players to play, volume marks and accents should be adequate. If you are writing it out to then use a digital object to play it, I would think that is the volume marking and accents are not enough, you will need to go in and change each one individually.

Or for playback, explode the parts and give each voice their own staff. Then you may be able to get what you want in the mixer.

In reply to by xavierjazz

I've got the playback working by using velocity but a real player can't see this info, (of course.) I haven't come across volume marking, (unless you mean mp, mf, f etc.) and accents but I'll check them out in the manual. The main intention is for me to learn to play the piece but I will upload it to as well.

In reply to by xavierjazz

Thanks. I've found the articulations menu but it looks like I need to learn Italian to understand any of it. For my current score I can go with bobjp's solution. It's a simple piece and hearing it shows where the melody is, (e.g. red notes in these bars and I've given them more velocity.) I may need markings and accents for something more complex.


In reply to by yonah_ag

It can help to use a different voice for the melody than the accompaniment. For instance, putting the bass notes as half notes stems down in voice 4, arpeggios as eighth notes stems down in voice 2, and melody in quarter notes stems up in voice 1. At least, that sort of thing is typical and clear in standard notation. May or may not work as well in tab.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I have been down that route previously but got strongly "told off" in these forums for using so many voices with guitar pieces. I have taken that on board and now only use 2 voices. I think that the main argument against 3 (or 4) voices is that there can be confusion between stems which point in the same direction but belong to different voices, since a bar can appear to have too many beats.

If I stems in voices 1 & 3 could be combined then I could use voices 1:melody, 2:bass & 3:accompaniment. This would keep the rhythm adding up correctly above and below the stave and have the benefit of independent control of melody and accompaniment, which could really help with note durations (and avoid the PRE.)

So, if I move the accompaniment to voice 3 then this happens:
I can sort out the rests easily but the rhythm has become unclear.

Moving to voice 4, (basically your suggestion), gives this:
This actually improves the melody rhythm, (and will allow crotchets now), but messes up the bass. I like the way this one is heading but what can I do to fix the below stave rhythm?

I'm not sure if there is a solution which can fit all the requirements!

In reply to by yonah_ag

As I recall, the situations where you were using more than two voices were different cases, ones where it wasn't needed and actually caused confusion. Maybe I'm misremembering. Anyhow, again, I'm less familiar with how this is done in tab, but it's definitely common enough in standard notation to use three voices for this exact situation.

See for instance, not exactly the same thing, but it shows the general idea.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

It was exactly this sort of situation. All my tabs are this type of fingerstyle. Maybe I didn't explain well.

The score you show works very clearly but notation has the advantage over tab here because it handles stems better.

Your suggestion gets me here:
which is better apart from the below stave rhythm having too many beats. Is there a way to "fix" this without making the tab unclear?

In reply to by yonah_ag

Helping with images is never the easiest. A score is so much better.
But just for the record, have you ever tried to change the Staff type of the Tabs ? Namely the "Full" type, instead of Common, or Simple, in Edit/ Instruments.
For some scores, it can work, like this one, for example, the polyphony is well rendered, the luck here is that there is a systematic rest in one of the three voices :
And only TAB, full type: Valse_Marine TAB Full.mscz

For others, it will most likely be necessary to juggle with stems, beams, toggle them, edit them, or move somes notes (X offset) to avoid collisions, in the first or third voice, eg. But it remains to be seen, depending on the content of the score.

In reply to by cadiz1

That TAB only solution is really neat. How do I get one of the voices to show stems within the stave as well as 1 voice with stems above and another voice with stems below?

Here's an extract from my score with the accompaniment notes in red to have "within stave" stems. This covers the worst case scenarios from the whole of the score.

The direction of TAB stems do not appear to be togglable. SInce I've moved my rests out of the stave to go alongside the corresponding stems, I have the stave available for rests in the third voice.

In reply to by yonah_ag

I think that the first image you posted is the clearest and easiest to read. All the other ones clutter things up. I'm not sure you need the melody in red, or the stems, or even the rests. As a hack guitar player, I would like to see a notation staff along with this. Just to clear up any rhythm questions. You may not want to go that route, but I think it better than cluttering up the tab.

In reply to by bobjp

Depends on the scores, then. And in this case, I'm not at all sure it's a good idea to associate the coloured notes (E and A) with an independent voice. In my opinion, there's nothing interesting here to deserve such a status in its own right. They are notes that support and embellish the bass notes, but that's all.

Still, with three voices you get that. Doesn't works.

With the "Full" type, better, but not much (confusing)
Full tab.jpg

So I think the best thing to do for this piece is to keep it in two voices. We can get that.
2 voices.jpg

But, for my part, I think I would write it (and IMHO, guitarists too) in that way. Perfectly clear, neat, and the playback works perfectly by adding "let ring" in the right places - image below, and score: final Voc.mscz


In reply to by cadiz1

@cadiz1: Thanks. The first 3 are non-starters because the below stave rhythm appears to have too many beats, although it actually doesn't because of the voices. The final option works well and I can use let ring as you say. I think that this is clearer than my first image as the melody shows better.

I just have to apply velocity at the note level rather than voice level if I go for this option.

In reply to by bobjp

@bobjp: The red was just to show the notes in question for this discussion. In my actual scores I colour code the fret numbers according to suggested left hand fingering. Cadiz1 has posted an interesting TAB which moves the accompaniment to its own voice and has the stems within the TAB stave but I'm not sure how it was achieved. This means that the melody rhythm becomes very clear and the bass rhythm is not "contaminated" with the accompaniment. It also makes it easier for adjustments since a whole voice can be selected.

I would prefer to do everything in TAB as it results in fewer printed pages and I find it easier to read compared with reading pitches in one staff and rhythm in another. The trade off could be clutter so once I know how try do cadiz1's idea I will be able to judge.

In reply to by yonah_ag

I get it. I guess it depends on who this music is aimed at. To satisfy my own questionable ability, I would use the tab for fingering and the notation for other things that might come up. More and more, people are not printing out music,but viewing it on their devices.

In reply to by bobjp

I make one version of the score for printing at standard sizing, (1.764 sp), and an XL version for use on a tablet at sizing of 3.5 sp but I prefer the print version. I could make another version of TAB + notation but I don't post many scores so it's probably not worth it.

I have a love/hate relationship with notation: I love the idea of it but I hate trying to learn it!
Hence this:

In reply to by yonah_ag

Once again, you're complicating things unnecessarily, at least for this score. Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good...
There's not enough consistent and interesting material for three voices. To help determine that, can you imagine a guitar trio playing this piece?

The score "Valse marine" - see above - had the content to display it in three voices, although it could also have been written in two voices.
Some pieces require three voices (but a well-established polyphony is already needed, in classical guitar for example).
Here it's useless, and it confuses things unnecessarily.
So, possibly the first picture, but either you have to display all the ties, or none, but not a mixture of the two which brings imprecision, or even confusion.
By the way, take a look at this well-known hit (
Everything is one voice (and yet apart from the first few measures, there's a mixture of singing and accompaniment), and do you think guitarists are completely lost and don't know how to do things?

In reply to by cadiz1

You're right, I am overcomplicating – again.

I realise that guitarists know how to do things but it bugs me a little that the 2 voice version shows the main bass notes as quavers when they're not.

I will display no ties as this means less clutter. Since voice 2 would now essentially show 8 quaver stems in each bar then should I hide these as they don't really add anything?

In reply to by yonah_ag

"but it bugs me a little that the 2 voice version shows the main bass notes as quavers when they're not."

Do you really believe that guitarists are not capable to evaluate this situation on their own? Would it occur to them to cut the bass on purpose, or to stifle it? There's an underlying chord and that's it. There are lots of examples like that. Like the Police score (on YT, link given above).
Or classical composers, like this study, among many others by Fernando Sor.
allegretto sor.jpg

This study was written in two voices, wasn't it? Whereas the C basses are supposed to (and must be held) for the time of a dotted quarter note. So, once again, don't complicate things unnecessarily, or else that add confusion. And trust the guitarists a bit more :)
Especially since, as you said yourself, they have the file playback, to help them if needed.

In reply to by cadiz1

I have already stated that, "I realise that guitarists know how to do things".
I DO trust them to evaluate it properly.
I recognise that the "issue" is only in my own head.

So, is it even worth showing any rhythm in the tab's lower voice for this score?

In reply to by yonah_ag

"the voice 2 notes nearly all become quavers so I'm not sure that they convey anything useful or are just clutter."
Clutter? 😳 Do you see any disorder in Sting's score, or Sor's. I don't, on the contrary. It's when you add a third voice that has no function to the being that it becomes confusing and counterproductive.

In reply to by cadiz1

No, that's not what I meant. The scores that you show are not cluttered because their rhythm is an inherent part of the notes in standard notation. However, in my particular tab only score then maybe they are clutter.
I will end up with variants of this:
and I think it would be better without showing the lower rhythm.

(Voice 3 has been permanently retired so it's no longer an issue)

In reply to by yonah_ag

I don't think theses variants are a good idea. In the first measure, there are fewer eighth notes, but it introduces a syncopated rhythm that has no place here IMHO.
And for the second measure, there are totally useless ties that cluttered the score.
So I prefer my display (comment above):
Possibly too by hiding the tied notes.
Probably in a published score, it would be displayed like this, i.e. with hidden tied notes (but I'm not sure it's really any better for a good understanding of the rhythmic setting)
Probably a personal choice here, sort of preference.

In reply to by cadiz1

They were just examples covering the range of possible variants. I would not show tied notes in this way. You have added a couple more which are between my "extremes". (Why no tie on the middle fret 2?)

My point is: do any of these variants, or any other possible variants, convey any useful info in the lower rhythm that helps to play the score. If not then they may as well be hidden.

In reply to by yonah_ag

What exactly could/would you be hiding? An image to illustrate?

And "Why no tie in the middle fret 2": well, in version 2 and beginning version 3, it was implemented like this!
And some users had gotten used to displaying it this way, then regretted not wanting to do it anymore! (at least directly by an option)

In reply to by yonah_ag

? And who's telling me, how can I understand that I have to play eighth notes? In fact, you ask the player to calculate what he has to play? For example, the first bass A is in front of a quarter rest in voice 1. This is an obvious case of confusion if not mistake. Why, seeing that, wouldn't I be tempted to play the first bass like a quarter note? Because no other information is available in the other voice.
So, disagree. I explained my point of view, arguing things with various examples. Then you do as you like, of course. For my part, the discussion is now finished, I have a new guitar that can't wait to see me arrive to play it! :)

In reply to by cadiz1

But you even showed scores with a quaver indicated bass that would then play for all 4 beats. By your reasoning, why wouldn't I play those as quavers? It's guitar music and I'm treating you as a competent guitarist. You contradict so much of what you have already said so I just don't really know where you stand.

The bass A note is clearly NOT In front of the crotchet rest.

How do you think that guitar players managed to cope in the days of plain text tab?

I too am finished. Bobjp's suggestion makes sense so I will go with it.

In reply to by yonah_ag

Don't worry, I know exactly where I stand!

"How do you think that guitar players managed to cope in the days of plain text tab?"

Funny question. I thought we were talking about a two voices score, right (?) since it seems to me that you attach importance to the clarity of the melodic voice.
This being the case, it can very well be displayed in a single voice, like that.

1 voix.jpg

It's a very plausible alternative. Guitarists (and other lutenists, in another style of music) will adapt and find the right way to determine - perhaps not for beginners, hence the importance, in my opinion, of keeping 2 voices - where the melodic line and the bass is to be held.

In reply to by bobjp

It is very clear. I'm just reluctant to make space for the notation but it might well be worth it.

The tab in this example has the edge over MS in that the fret numbers are in a bold font. If a bold tab font is used then the slurs and ties appear less intrusive.

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