Chord notation systems

Updated 6 months ago

    A chord notation is an abbreviated way of representing musical chord and harmony

    Chord symbols

    Note: To fill measures with slashes, see Fill with slashes or Toggle rhythmic slash notation.

    MuseScore supports:

    Chord symbol

    A-G alphabetical chord name plus chord quality

    Enter a chord symbol

    1. Select a start note or a slash;
    2. Press Ctrl+K (Mac: Cmd+K);
    3. 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, Alt+3 on a UK keyboard).
      • Flat: b (small letter "b").
      • Double sharp: x (small letter "x") or ## (two hash symbols).
      • Double flat: bb (small letter "b" twice).
      • Natural: Ctrl+Shift+H. Note that these don't transpose nor play back (other than the root note), nor export to MusicXML properly.
      • For other symbols, see Chord symbol syntax (below).
    4. Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing chord symbols (see below);
    5. 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)

    Entering accidentals

    Entered accidentals will be converted into a professional glyphs automatically, for example "#" (hash character) is automatically converted into a sharp sign (♯).
    Do not input or copy and paste unicode character U+266F(sharp sign, ♯), U+266D (flat sign, ♭) etc, as MuseScore does not interpret them in chord notation properly.

    Keyboard commands for navigation

    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, the Greek omicron, otherwise)
    • Half-diminished: ø (entered with 0, number zero, shows as ø if using the Jazz style, as 0 (zero) otherwise). 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 FormatStyleText StylesChord 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

    Also see Fonts.

    To access formatting options for chord symbols:

    • From the menu, select FormatStyle…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.

      Standard chord symbols

    • 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.

      Jazz chord symbols

    • 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.

    Note spelling

    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,...
    Automatic Capitalization

    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.

    Convert chord symbols into notes

    To lay down chord notes onto a score, as heard in playback configured in Playback: Chord symbols / Nashville numbers:

    1. Select one or more measures
    2. From the menu, select ToolsRealize Chord Symbols.

    Change chord quality

    Use a plugin such as:

    Nashville Number System

    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    The Nashville Number System 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:

    1. Select a start note;
    2. From the menu, select AddTextNashville 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.

    Nashville Number example

    Roman Numeral Analysis

    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    Not to be confused with Figured bass.

    The Roman Numeral Analysis system is 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: MuseScore interprets RNA with an algorithms separated from standard chord symbols and Nashville notation. Visual formatting is applied immediately after each character input. RNA uses the free and open source Campania font, see also Fonts.

    Enter RNA

    1. Select a start note;
    2. From the menu, select AddTextRoman Numeral Analysis. Alternatively, set up a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing in Preferences;
    3. 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: enter hash character (#) for a sharp, small letter b for a flat and h for natural, see entering accidentals above (jump to).
      • If you wish, instead, to show the plaintext character but not the automatically converted professional glyph or superscript, prefix the character with a backslash, "\". For example, "\h" adds a literal letter "h" instead of a natural symbol.
      • Inversion notation using alphabet a,b,c,d can be created with the method described above.
      • Inversion notation using vertically aligned arabic numerals without accidentals such as 64 can be created with the method described below.
      • Inversion notation using vertically aligned arabic numerals with accidentals such as 6#3, ie altered chord, is unsupported, workaround : create Figured bass text instead; or create separate text objects and manually nudge them into place.
      • For other symbols, see the images below.
    4. Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing symbols for other chords;
    5. When RNA is completed, exit by pressing Esc, or by clicking on a blank section of the score.

    RNA input offers the same keyboard shortcuts for navigation as in chord symbols (see above ).

    Examples of RNA

    Type this:

    RNA Example, type this

    To get this:

    RNA Example, get this


    (MuseScore 3.3 and above)

    See Playback: Chord symbols / Nashville numbers.

    Identify harmony or chord

    Use a plugin such as:

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