Add option to display letter note name in tablature in place of fret number.

• Feb 4, 2016 - 16:14
Graphical (UI)
S5 - Suggestion

For non-fretted instruments, such as bass and violin, it would be nice to have the option to display the actual note name in place of the the fret number in tablature. Right now there is a way to switch between fret numbers and letters in the Advanced Staff properties for tablature, but it does not appear that the letters represent the note value but rather a letter value for the fret.

I could probably fake my way around this by setting up a tab line with the letter option selected and input the correct letter for the note that is being played, but if I tried to set up a linked stave and input the tab note on the regular staff notes would be all wrong.

Here is an example for an upright bass:

Current TAB with numbers:

Current TAB with letters:

Proposed additional option:

Proposed alternative option, with a zero(0) value for open strings:


FWIW, it's a common enough request to want note names inside note heads for standard staves, and there is a plugin that can do this. If some day we incorporate this functionality into the program itself, it seems a no-brainer to extend this to work for tab as well.

I'm probably missing something obvious but in tablature staff, how would MuseScore knows the note names if it only has the string number and the string tuning?
It seems to me a tablature with only notenames is a very different kind of tablature no? What do I miss?

I think that even if all musescore knew about the tab was the tuning and the fret number, that should be all it would need to know to figure out the actual note value to display. But I suspect that even for tablature musescore is, in the internal logic of the program, already working with the absolute note values. When a TAB staff is used the program is taking the string tuning information and translating that absolute note value into tablature. But that is just my guess as to how the program is working.

In my experience Musescore definitely seems to know, one way or another, the underlying note value for tablature, at least it does when a linked staff is set up. I know I have gone through and added or edited a note in the regular music staff of the linked staff and seen the tablature symbol adjust to match. I believe I have also been able to copy and paste notes from a regular staff into a tab staff. So those experiences indicate to me that knowing the absolute note value should not be an issue.

We can indeed figure out the note names given the string and fret number. However, now that I think about it, it does seem rather strange not to *see* the fret number. If all you see is the note name, you would you know what fret to use? I would have thought the whole point of tab was so you didn't have to figure that out but could just play the fret/string. Otherwise, why not just use standard notation? Also, FWIW, there are multiple C's on the same string, so really, just showing a note name on a string wouldn't be enough information to actually play from.

So even though it does seem technically possible, I am not sure I see the point. Is music actually published this way? In what context does it make sense?

Granted this is an odd request. It only makes sense for non fretted string instruments, such as a fiddle or bass, and then only for certain cases. In the bluegrass world there are some people who write Fiddle TAB using finger positions instead of fret numbers. This would just be a variation on that. In my case I am think specifically of using it for music for a bass player who plays well by ear and know where the notes are on the instrument but does not read notation. Regular TAB does no good as he is playing an upright bass, so no frets.

Why not use standard notation? Well if the musician in question could read music notation on the bass well enough then they would do so. They are not able to currently do so at any reasonable speed so I was trying to come up with another useful option.

I think for now I am going to use the plug-in mentioned above that adds the note name above the staff. It will add the note name above a TAB staff and that is pretty close to what I was looking for.

I may dig into the code and see if I can't code up a working solution myself and see if it would be considered for inclusion in the main codebase, that is after all supposed to be one of the points of open source projects right, scratch your own itch? There are probably not enough people interested in this option to warrant normal developer time ahead of other more popular features.

Yesterday I wanted to make a score for a guitar student using tablature with note names instead of fret numbers, and discovered that I couldn't do it. I sometimes do this by hand, but I've never seen it on a typeset score.

I think it's useful to have this ability because, in my experience, students remember where a note is on the instrument more easily than they remember how to read that note on a standard notation staff; for example, if I tell them to play a C note, they usually do it readily, but if I show them a staff with a C note on it and ask them what note it is, they tend to be less able. Hence, reading notes names wouldn't be too challenging for the average student who has already learned where those notes are on the fretboard; what's more, where it is a challenge for a student, it would be a good thing for them to have to learn where a particular note is on a particular string.

I read another thread about this:

A critical thing that normal tablature lacks is the ability to show musical relationships between notated notes. If the note names were shown on the score, then the sound of the notes played would be related to the note names they read; for example, if a student is playing a C major triad, they would be able to see the notes, "C E G" on the staff and relate it to the sound of a C major triad, instead of seeing fret numbers, which does not relate so easily to what they hear. This is a significant advantage over normal tablature, as most "non-reading" guitarists who learn by reading tab are missing out on this critical part of their musical understanding. I find it to be the major factor that determines whether a guitarist will be an average player or an advancing musician.

Of course, if students aren't interested in the relationships between notes, then using only fret numbers is a quick and very effective way to teach a piece. However, as a teacher, I find I'm always trying to fill this gap in my students' understanding of theory, and having note names instead of fret numbers or, dare I say it, instead of "dots on lines" would promote this understanding. (Granted, in standard notation the arrangement of noteheads on the lines does promote this understanding, but it does add an extra layer of language to the process.)

The issue of there being two of each note name on each string could easily be overcome by placing an indication of capo position on the score, similar to the standard way, such as "CV" for capo five. If all the notes are in the first 12 fret positions, then maybe "C0" could be indicated at the beginning of the score. I would think that for most scores the choice of which of the two positions of a particular note (eg, fret 3 or fret 15 for a D note on the B string) would be clear from the context of the other notes. This is similar to standard notation for guitar, where the choice of string is generally taken for granted and only written where necessary.

We realise that for fretted stringed instruments both standard tablature and standard notation are limited - the former doesn't show note names and the latter doesn't show string or position. I think showing note names on strings is a possible alternative that goes some way to address these limitations.