Fretboard note entry

• Jun 13, 2015 - 22:55

As a long time Sibelius user I'm having a look at MuseScore 2 to see if it meets my needs. The feature that has led me to consider MuseScore is tablature, specifically lute tablature, as one of my main interests is transcribing lute music for guitar.

One feature of Sibelius I use a lot and which MuseScore doesn't seem to have is fretboard entry. In addition to a piano keyboard for note entry there is a guitar fretboard that can be customised to alternate tunings. This is by far the easiest way to enter music from lute manuscripts.

It is possible that his feature could be included in a future release of MuseScore?


Hi pogmoor,
Welcome aboard and happy to see you here.
Good idea. I tried with Sibelius (trial version) just now, but I don't understand how to customise the guitar fretboard (number of strings, eg 6 to 13, and for the alternate tunings). How do you make this? Thanks.

In reply to by cadiz1

In Sibelius you can customise the fretboard tunings. You can also edit the number of strings displayed on the tablature staff though I’ve never tried customising the number of strings on the displayed fretboard. Lute tablature (which is what I’m used to) uses 6 lines. Lute courses below the sixth were referred to as diapasons and notated as letters or numbers below the tablature staff. I suspect the main reason for this was the difficulty both in notating and in reading more than 6 lines accurately.

Tablature letters written on the tablature staff play back as notes, but diapason notes written below the staff do not, which is a drawback of using Sibelius for lute tablature.

Sibelius version 7 has a lot of built in tablature instruments, but you can also create new instruments via: Home > Instruments > New Instrument, click the Tablature notation option > Edit Staff type > Tab. You can then edit the sounding note of each of the 6 strings. The tuning you choose or create is then reflected in the fretboard.

A fretboard note entry feature could be implemented and several of needed 'building blocks' are already in place.

However, I'm wondering about priority; honestly, it would seem to me a rather cumbersome way of entering notes with respect to using a keyboard (I mean a regular PC keyboard, not a music keyboard), much like entering notes on a standard staff with the mouse is slower, and less efficient than using the keyboard.

If the user is entering music originally in tablature, reading the letters/numbers in the source and pressing the same letter/number on the keyboard seems to me the simplest way. Also, for a 13-course lute, a 13-string fretboard would be a maze hard to cope with, I suspect.

OTOH, if there is a level of arrangement involved (the OP quotes the example of arranging lute music for guitar), the relationship between fret marks in the source and fret marks in the arrangement is no longer direct and there would be an intermediate layer of calculations anyway.

So, I believe it could be implemented and possibly it would not even be exceedingly complex, but I would like to be sure of its real usefulness (more than a mild case of 'featuritis') and of this being higher priority than other improvements, like for instance, in the TAB dept., ornaments and/or a richer selection of fonts.



In my opinion, other features such as the above-mentioned richer tab font selection etc. are of a higher priority than the interactive fretboard entry feature. I think, entering tablatures by their letters/numbers is as easy and effective as it could be.

In reply to by jschwalm

Agree of course. Priority one: richer tab font selection

@Miwarre: "it would seem to me a rather cumbersome way of entering notes with respect to using a keyboard "
Not agree at all. I tried many times with the GP fretboard, and I can say that is a pretty way of entering notes. Pretty because it's "your" instrument. You are in direct relation to the fretboard, as if you were playing with the instrument...!

So, second priority ! :)

EDIT 1: Also, this is a good way for beginners to learn the location of notes on the fretboard (and for more advanced users to check they know it well!) Educationally, the interest is far from useless, really.

Thanks to @jschwalm and @cadiz1 for their comments; note taken about priority.

@cadiz1 about the usefulness of the fretboard note entry: I play an instrument (viola da gamba) which, among many difference, has many similarities with plucked string instruments like lute or guitar, in particular the left hand works on exactly the same principles (with just a few numbers different).

When it happened to me to use a fretboard entry, I found it totally counter-intuitive: it is not "my" instrument at all; it is a specular representation where, for instance, fingers are in reversed order (you cannot slide your left hand 'underneath the screen'! or you have to use your right hand as a reference, but then strings are reversed!) and so on. So, on this point, I believe we have to agree than we disagree...

However, as I value your opinion and it shows there is a real interest for such a feature, could the OP (or somebody else) file an 'official' feature request in the Issue tracker? So that the request does not vanish covered by the dust of time? (I did a quick forum search and "fretboard" did not bring any issue up).



In reply to by Miwarre

Thanks Miwarre for the interest.
I have already filed this "official" feature request there is a week! :)
For the intuitive way or no, opinions may differ.
That said, I know that you are a strong supporter of the keyboard input. I totally understand.
But ask to a beginner, a child or even an adult who does not know the music (and who lives in France and Latin countries) if it is intuitive to type C to obtain a Do, type D for a Ré, type E for a Mi, etc. I know the answer! (I have experimented with my pupils!) But I digress from the initial topic... :(

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Keeping on the digression...:

"Do many people actually do that?": I do that; actually it is the first thing I change when I install a new MuseScore version.

And I neither go for 'A', 'B',... or for 'D'(o), 'R'(e), ... or anything acrostic; I go by position, grouping all notes under the right hand in (more or less) home position: U I O P J K L so that I can 'play' them with one hand. With the left hand on the numeric row, I can 'play' the durations.

(I even remap octave-up/dn, pitch-up/dn to the right of the notes, to be 'played' with the right little finger and #/nat./b/augm. dot to E R T Y, to be 'played' with the left index).

With this setup I can usually write Renaissance music parts as fast as (or even faster than) they would be played. Of course, any time I have to move the hands to reach the mouse or anything else, it is a BIG annoyance!

In reply to by cadiz1

@cadiz1: "I have already filed this "official" feature request there is a week! :)". Indeed! I sort of remembered the pictures in that post, showing Sibelius and GP fretboards, but I could not retrieve it any longer...

...until I noticed that the search function is now (now? maybe since months, who knows) split between Handbook, Site and Issues!

One never stops to learn!

In reply to by Miwarre

Thanks to cadiz1 for posting an official feature request. Just to amplify my original comments about this feature, I find Sibelius fretboard entry gives me a couple of advantages in entering tablature and I am convinced the same feature in Musescore would give me the same advantages.

Just to give the context; when I make guitar arrangements I often copy lute tablature (usually from the facsimile of a manuscript) into Sibelius then I paste into a notation stave to work on the arrangement. In this situation fretboard entry:
1) Takes less clicks per note than mouse entry.
2) Provides direct one to one correspondence between what is on the page and what I am entering.

Point 2) means I am much less prone to make errors than if I use piano keyboard entry (which involves a mental translation).

I'm not so familiar with other uses of tab, but I can imagine that among guitar players who use tab there are some who like to compose at the guitar and it seems to me that fretboard entry would be the easiest way to do this.

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