Better handling of chord symbols

• Nov 27, 2008 - 06:52

I'm new to MuseScore, but as far as I can see, chord symbols have to be linked to specific notes, even on a leadsheet template. This is not a good idea, because often on leadsheets, the melody note is held while chords change under it; thus some chords won't have melody notes to which they can be attached. Imagine, for example, a case where a sung note is held over a full 4 beats, but underneath a different chord is played on every beat. There are 4 chords, but only one note to "hang" them on.

It would perhaps be better to give the option to place a chord on any beat, rather than on any written note. Or perhaps to create a virtual chord staff onto which the rhythms of the chord changes can be written independently, without having to be "docked" to a note in the melody.


There are couple options in the current version of MuseScore. You can create multiple chord names per note and just drag them into place with the mouse.

If you want more precision you can create invisible rests for each chord in another voices . You can attach your chords to these invisible rests instead of the melody notes.

In reply to by David Bolton

Thanks, David, those sound like they would work. I do still think that they're both somewhat inelegant and represent an area that could be improved. Surely the most logical thing is to make chord symbol placement independent of specific melody notes. This is particularly important for someone like me, in that I write one-staff leadsheets far more often than I do full scores or even piano parts.

But I do appreciate the help. This should get me by for the time being.

Chord symbols are complex because expectations are high. I have a few simple suggestions that should help move things along:

1. Have an option to show chord symbols for notated (spelled) chords. That is have the software analyze the chord based on the score and show a symbol.

2. Those symbols should be editable because chord analysis does not always catch all the passing tones.

3. A chord staff is definitely a good option. Expand on this a little and have two types, a chord staff, which has an actual staff underneath the names where you can show beats and rests using the / symbol or actual rests. Placement of beat is important, as well as spacing, in order to make the chart readable. This would be useful when doing more than a leadsheet. (I am currently working on an arrangement of 'What Wondrous Love is This' for oboe, trombone, and accoustic guitar) Along with this have a Virtual Chord Staff, this would be the space above the staff, like in a lead sheet, where the beats for the changes are implied by the melodic line.

4. Have a chord entry mode, like the note entry mode. In this mode, you should be able to move from beat to beat and just enter the chords. In a long arrangement, it really gets to be a pain having to type ctrl-k before each chord name, enter the chord name, then press escape to complete it, select and configure the next beat. And what if it is a lead sheet and the chord changes during a sustained melody note? Virtual beat placement would solve this. Say you wanted to go from Cm to Fm with a sustained C in the melody, show the Cm on beat one, then the Fm on beat two. Just an example. This would probably be the easiest major change to implement and should be implemented with the chord staff idea or something like it.

5. Now we come to the tricky bit: playback of chords based on symbols. This is an important feature and may be thought of as one of the most difficult to implement. This is not necessarily true: why not use mma as a dependency and allow mma to handle the style and playback processing? I don't know how feasable this is, but it may be a solution to the problem. To find out more about mma, see here:

I hope this helps, at least to spur discussion. For the most part, though, musescore is more than usable, it has a clean, easy to use, and sensible design.

True story: I had to arrange the seven US service hymns (yes, there are seven, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Sea Bees, and Merchant Marines) for a six piece brass band and was given two days notice before the parade. I tried both Finale and Sibelius, downloading and installing the trial versions. I could not accomplish the notation I wished, nor did I have a support option without first purchasing (very expensive). I simply do not do not get paid for arranging often enough to warrant such an expense, but it is a serious hobby. I did a little looking and found musescore in the Debian repository. Installed and, on an early release (0.9.2) was easily able to complete all seven arrangements in a single afternoon. The important thing to note here is that musescore beat both Finale and Sibelius for usability, not that musescore is free, which is a nice plus for amateur arrangers like myself.

In reply to by slidesinger

I'm sure a plugin could be written for #1, at least for sufficiently simple music where it is possible to easily figure this out algorithmically. I don't think the current plugin framework allows new chord symbols to be creaed, but that sounds like worth requesting for 2.0 or some other future release, spto make it easier to write such a plugin. But a plugin is where such a feaure would fit best, and sure, all chords are already editable, so need to worry about #2.

I don't really understand what you asking about in #3. How would this differ from the existing staff type, which can already have chords and slashes?

As mentioned above, #4 is already how things are. Hit space to move to next note or beat, tab to move to next measure, or add shift to move backwards.

#5 is also something best handled by a plugin, I think, and hopefully someone will implement such a thing some day. mea while be aware there are already plugins to export a file in iReal b and in Impro-Visor formats, so you can those progams (which specialize in this sprt of thing) to generate the playback for you.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I agree plugins are the best way to go to deal with both of these issues. Regarding number 3, I must be missing something because when I put slashes on the staff it does NOT replace rests. From my perspective, this means that slashes on the staff do not work. I am on 0.9.6 right now as that is what is in Debian stable, so it may have been fixed in a later version OR I simply cannot figure out how to do it.

In reply to by slidesinger

Right, so knowing it was possible got me to digging a little more. It seems I was using the wrong slashes and that there are more features than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio. Insert quarter notes, select note properties, put a tick-mark in the stemless box, select slash as the note head type. Done. Cut and paste the appropriate number of measures.


In reply to by slidesinger

Ouch, that's a pretty ancient version of MuseScore. If there is any way to get a more modern version (1.1 or 1.2) running, then you can use ther Slash Notation Styles plugin to automate that. But that's all the plugin does anyhow - marks notes stelmess and gives them slash heads. Oh, and makes them not playback. The only real advantage of the plugin here is that you can select a whole region and it automatically fills them with these slashes.

I think with 0.9.6, you also don't have the nice shortcuts I mentioned to enter chords easily - space won't stop on the next beat (only the next note), and tab does nothing useful at all. Add to that the improvements to the chord name styles (made with 1.1) and the new templates (made with 1.1 and 1.2) and I think you'll find thjat things *are* already quite a lot better than your first impression.

But they do still have a ways to go. Slashes created this way will transpose rather than stay fixed, and MuseScore is rather picky about how you type your chord symbols and doens't make it very easy to customize that behavior.

If you enter a whole note, just do the usual CtrlK chord command, the box will pop up over the first beat of the note. After entering that chord just hit the space bar and the box will move to the subsequent beats without needing to drag or to use invisible rests. My little attachment was done that way.

Attachment Size
MS4Chord.JPG 18.32 KB

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