Chord symbols are an abbreviated way of representing musical chords (see Chord names and symbols (Wikipedia) for further details). For example:
Enter a chord symbol
- Select a start note or a slash;
- Press Ctrl+K (Mac: Cmd+K);
- The cursor is now positioned above the staff ready for input. Enter the chord symbol just like normal text, as follows:
- Root note: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
- Sharp: # (hash symbol).
- Flat: b (small letter "b").
- Double sharp: x (small letter "x") or ## (two hash symbols).
- Double flat: bb (small letter "b" twice).
- Natural: natural. Note: There should be no space before the word "natural", but any chord text following it should be separated by a space—the latter inserted using the command Ctrl+Space. Thus, to write B♮m: enter "Bnatural", then pressCtrl+Space, then type "m". Note that these don't transpose nor export to MusicXML properly.
- For other symbols, see Chord symbol syntax (below).
- Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing chord symbols (see Keyboard commands below);
- Exit chord symbol mode by pressing Esc.
When you exit a chord symbol, the characters entered will automatically assume the correct format: by default a root note typed in lower case will turn into upper case (for alternative options, see Automatic Capitalization); a "#", "b" or "natural" will turn into a proper sharp (♯), flat (♭) or natural (♮) and so on. Do not try to use actual flat, sharp and natural signs as MuseScore will not understand those properly.
The following commands are available during chord symbol entry:
- Space move Cursor to next note, rest, or beat
- Shift+Space move cursor to previous note, rest, or beat
- Ctrl+Space (Mac: Alt+Space) add a space to the chord name
- ; move cursor to next beat
- : move cursor to previous beat
- Tab move cursor to next measure
- Shift+Tab move cursor to previous measure
- Ctrl (Mac: Cmd) plus number (1 - 9) move Cursor by duration corresponding to number (e.g.; half note for 6)
- Esc exit.
Chord symbol syntax
MuseScore understands most of the abbreviations used in chord symbols:
- Major: M, Ma, Maj, ma, maj, Δ (type t or ˆ for the triangle)
- Minor: m, mi, min, -
- Diminished: dim, ° (entered with lowercase letter o, shows as ° if using the Jazz style, as o otherwise)
- Half-diminished: ø (type 0, zero). Alternatively, you can, of course, choose abbreviations such as mi7b5 etc.
- Augmented: aug, +
- The following abbreviations are also valid: extensions and alterations like b9 or #5, sus, alt, and no3; inversions and slash chords, such as C7/E; commas; parentheses, which can enclose part, or even all, of a chord symbol.
Edit a chord symbol
An existing chord symbol can be edited in a similar way to ordinary text: See Text editing.
Transpose chord symbols
Chord symbols are automatically transposed by default if you apply the menu Transpose command to the containing measures. If this is not required, you can untick the "Transpose chord symbols" option in the same dialog.
Chord symbol text
To adjust the appearance of all chord symbol text, use any of the following options:
- From the main menu, choose Format → Style → Text Styles → Chord Symbol. Then edit the text properties as required.
- Select a chord symbol and make changes in the Inspector, pressing the "Set as style" buttons as you go.
Chord symbol style
To access formatting options for chord symbols:
- From the menu, select Format→Style…→Chord Symbols. Adjustable properties are listed under the following headings:
Three options are possible: Standard and Jazz and Custom. You can select between these using the radio buttons.
In the Standard style, chords are rendered simply, with the font determined by your chord symbol text style.
In the Jazz style, the MuseJazz font is used for a handwritten look, with distinctive superscript and other formatting characteristics. The Jazz style is selected by default if you use any of the Jazz templates.
The Custom style option allows you to customize the look of chord symbols (and also ensures compatibility with older scores). Select a customized Chord symbols style file in the field below: this can be created by copying and modifying one of the pre-existing files in the "styles" folder. Documentation can be found in the same folder. Note, however, that this is for advanced users only, and there is no guarantee these files will be supported in the future.
By default, MuseScore uses letter names for chord symbols. For users in regions where other note naming schemes are used, MuseScore provides the following controls:
- Standard: A, B♭, B, C, C♯,...
- German: A, B♭, H, C, C♯,...
- Full German: A, B, H, C, Cis,...
- Solfeggio: Do, Do♯, Re♭, Re,...
- French: Do, Do♯, Ré♭, Ré,...
By default, MuseScore automatically capitalizes all note names on exit, regardless of whether you entered them in upper or lower case. However, you can also choose other automatic capitalization options:
- Lower case minor chords: c, cm, cm7,...
- Lower case bass notes: C/e,...
- All caps note names: DO, RE, MI,...
You can also turn off the automatic capitalization completely, in which case note names are simply rendered the way you type them.
- Distance to fretboard diagram: If a fretboard diagram is present, this value is the height at which the chord symbol is applied above the diagram (negative values can be used).
- Minimum chord spacing: The space to leave between chord symbols.
- Maximum barline distance: Changes the size of the gap between the last chord symbol in the measure and the following barline. You only need to adjust this value if there is a continuous problem in the score with overlap between the last symbol in one measure and the first symbol in the next.
Note: In addition to the settings described here, the default position of applied chord symbols is also determined by settings in the Text Styles dialog. The effect is cumulative.
Enter the number of the capo position at which you want to display substitute chords, in brackets, after all chord symbols in the score.
Nashville Number System
The Nashville Number System (NNS), available in MuseScore since version 3.3, is a shorthand way of representing chords based on scale degrees rather than chord letters. This allows an accompaniment to be played in any key from the same chord chart.
To start entering Nashville notation:
- Select a start note;
- From the menu, select Add→Text→Nashville Number.
Just as with standard chord symbols, you can type Nashville notation normally and MuseScore will do its best to recognize and format the symbols appropriately. The same shortcuts used for navigation when entering standard chord symbols (e.g. Space, see above) are available for Nashville notation as well.
Roman Numeral Analysis
As of MuseScore 3.3, the Roman Numeral Analysis system is supported—a type of musical analysis where chords are represented by upper and lower case Roman numerals (I, ii, III, iv etc.), superscripts, subscripts and other modifying symbols. It is used to notate and analyze the harmony of a composition independent of its key (see External links for further details).
Note: Unlike standard chord symbols and Nashville notation, which MuseScore formats using its own algorithms, RNA uses the free and open source Campania font to format the symbols. This allows MuseScore to format the symbols as you type, rather than applying the formatting only when you are done. Also, if you install the Campania font on your system normally, you can use it in other programs as well and benefit from the same formatting.
- Select a start note;
- From the menu, select Add→Text→Roman Numeral Analysis. Alternatively, set up a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing in Preferences;
- Input the RNA symbols for the chord just like normal text, as follows;
- Major chord: Upper case roman numerals
- Minor chord: Lower case roman numerals
- Diminished chord: o (lower case)
- Half-diminished chord: 0 (zero)
- Augmented chord: +
- Chord inversions: Enter up to 3 single-digit numbers, top note first
- Accidentals: # (sharp), b (flat)
- For other symbols, see the images below, "Examples of RNA".
- Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing symbols for other chords;
- When RNA is completed, exit by pressing Esc, or by clicking on a blank section of the score.
Just as with standard chord symbols, you can type Roman numeral analysis normally and MuseScore will do its best to recognize and format the symbols appropriately. The same shortcuts used for navigation when entering standard chord symbols are available for Roman numeral analysis as well (see Keyboard commands (above)).
Examples of RNA
To get this:
As of MuseScore 3.5 Chord symbols (and also Nashville Numbers, but not Roman Numerals) do play back.
Whether and how they do, can get influenced via the Chord Symbols Inspector.
By default they do play back using a Piano sound, that can get changed via the Mixer, by 'unfolding' the Instrument in the Mixer (via the → button), selecting the "harmony" or "Chord syms." channel (the rightmost one) and then selecting a different sound.
Whether they sound on entry and edit can be configured in Preferences > Note input