User defined TABs needed

• Oct 31, 2016 - 17:38

Hi all,

over a year ago I switched from Lilypond/Frescobaldi to MuseScore. In Lilybond I could define custom TABs which allow some rather uncommon properties, eg.:

  • individual number of strings: I used 9, 12 and 15 strings in a TAB
  • individual tunings: the strings are not tuned in order from a deepest to a highest string

With the help of these TABs I could easily notate Koyabu / Chapman Stick or Kalimba compositions. For example, a Kalimba may have 5, 7, 9, 11, 15 or more tins (think of a "tin" as a string), a Chapman Stick may have 10 or 12 not consecuted strings and each of those can have different tunings.

So, dependend on the tuning, it is much, much easier to notate in a TAB because it makes doubtlessly clear what and where to tab, grab or plug a string (or a "tin" as far as the TAB refers to a Kalimba).

My question is: Is there a way to define custom TAB string numbers and non-conscutive string tunings with MuseScore?

Attached are screen shots of how that looks for Kalimbas and Koyabu in Lilypond/Frescobaldi. I offer to post the Lilypond source code of these examples also it that may be of help.

Thanks in advance vor any useful hint,

Attachment Size
FS-Kalimba-9-and-15..png 106.94 KB
FS-Koyabu-1.png 36.01 KB


In reply to by cadiz1

Hi cadiz1,

thanks so much for the example - this is very useful for my needs. I will modify the instruments tuning and link the TAB to the standard notation so that I may enter notes in the TAB and get the standard notation above.

The Kalimba TAB has only "empty strings" ie. only number "0" may appear on any given line. Every line represents exactly one note pitch which cannot be changed while playing.

Thanks again,

In reply to by cadiz1

Sorry ... I'm stuck, can't get the string tuning right though I thought that would be easy.
The required string tuning is a' d#" c#' g#' b f#' e' e" b' where a' should appear as a "0" on the highest TAB line, d#" on the second highest and so on until b' on the lowest line.

Certainly, only zeros (0) should appear, one on each TAB line. This is not the case and I'm clueless about the error's origin. Your help is again much appreciated, screen shot and *.mscz file attached.


Attachment Size
FS-Kalimba-TAB-Error-01.png 19.87 KB
Kalimba-B9-Test.mscz 6.99 KB

In reply to by EsDur

The tuning of this instrument is really a nightmare for the code! Eg, first string = A4 and ninth string = B4 (thus, only a difference of a tone, but a jump of seven strings between both) and other similar cases (eg second string = Eb5, vs. eighth string = E5, so only a semitone between both).
To mix the brushes, on can not do better or worse!
This is a limitation, you just have to know, and do with.

There are other limitations, for example, for diatonic instruments (there are some requests to that effect).
But as mentioned in my previous message, you must enter notes (numbers), first, into the Tab staff, and then copy-paste into the standard staff.
And it will work:
tab vers standard.jpg
Otherwise, by entering the notes in the standard staff, then copy-paste in the Tab staff, you will get this (as in your previous message)
standard vers staff.jpg
Perhaps it would be useful to have as a reminder near you, as a grid of numbers/Tab corresponding to the notes. And with the habit, maybe it will become almost "automatic" in your mind.

And so, if you want eg a sequence of notes as A4 -> B4 -> Eb5 -> E5, simply enter in the TAB staff the number 0 on lines 1, 9, 2 and 8. Then copy-paste. Maybe a bit less comfortable, but I do not think there is the choice. And above all, you can achieve the desired result (but not with the first idea you were thinking) :)

In reply to by cadiz1

Hello again,

I understand now I should put the music in the TAB at first and then copy the TAB notation to a standard notation line. This works quite fine with very basic notation as shown in the discussed example.

After this first Kalimba TAB success, I started notating polyrhythms in the TAB. The "3 over 2" polyrhythm was easy, the "4 over 3" not so easy - probably because the display of n-tuplets in the TAB while inputting notes is not as clear and obvious as it would be when utilizing standard notation.

Finally I think I can live by that. The "3 over4" was set into the TAB and then copied to a standard notation system. Though it's correct, it looks a bit too stuffed for my eyes. I think I'd rather prefer putting the standard notation in two voices (like I did in "3 over 2") and make use of dotted notation.

What do you think / suggest?


  • Two polyrhythm notation screenshots: "3 over 2" and "4 over 3"
  • Screenshot displaying the "Beautiful E Tuning" of the Kalimba from left to right (left sideof image) and the "Beautiful E Scale" played from the deepest (center tin) to the highest (rightmost) tin on the right side of the image.
  • The full source code - please try the "Marimba" sound from the standard GM sound file


In reply to by Shoichi

Hi Shoichi,

thanks for the links. When I posted my request I was clueless about where to start. Because I want to notate TABs, I started searched the Manual for "tablature" at first. Later (like 10 minutes ago) I started searching "instrument" properties and proceeded a bit further ... I'm on the right track now :)



I know this is an old thread, but were you able to figure it out? I create kalimba tabs, and this would be so useful.


In reply to by Jandalf81

Hi jandalf81

... and sorry for the delay on my side. I have a template for Kalima-17 in C major and attach it here. Please save it as a template and don't change anything within unless you really understand how it works.


Make a copy of the *.mscz file and try it out: Fill the TAB with only "0" (zeros) as I treat the Kalimba TAB internally like a fretted instrument with only 1 fret per string.

Enter your notation in the TAB carefully and then copy the TAB contents into musical notation. If you do it the other way (from musical notation to TAB) expect severe problems.

In fact, Kalimba players only want TABs, but I wanted a "normal" musical representation also. I used two colours for easier visual connection only.

Attached is also a PDF and an OGG sound file is temporary available from my server:

Good luck and patience!

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