TAB numbers question

• Oct 14, 2019 - 15:30


I was trying to figure out how to do something with the TABs so I made a snapshot and opened the snapshot in an image program. When I enlarge the image I see that the numbers in the TABs seem to be frames inside "boxes".

TAB screenshot.png

This makes me wonder if those TAB numbers are actually small images that are inserted over the TAB lines.

Does anyone know if that's actually the case?


Attachment Size
TAB screenshot.png 17.19 KB


They are text, but with a white background rectangle drawn first to blot out the staff line behind it. Not sure how you took that image - was it with the buil-in image capture tool? - but those outlines should not be there, and I don't see them on my system.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for your quick reply.

Yes, I took the image with the image capture tool and then I opened that captured image in GIMP on a Mac. When you zoom in you can see these outlines.

I am actually hoping to figure out a way to have colored TABs for kids. For example, 7 with a red background, 9 with a purple background, and so on.

I guess there's no easy way to do that, is there?

It's something I've been thinking about for a long time.

In reply to by Adinol

In Musescore 3 you can color the numbers directly. (nice!)
If you want to color the background then export (!) each page or selection as SVG and edit this Vector Graphic file in "Inkscape" or Illustrator etc. This way you have direct access to the background rectangles. (not so nice looking)

In reply to by musikai

Wow. This is really helpful. Thank you very much for pointing me in this direction.

I do have a couple of questions, to make sure I am doing it right.

To be colored in MS3:

I open the Inspector window.
I highlight the TAB number.
In the inspector window I click on the "color" under "elements" and when a palette opens I pick the color.

This works but is time consuming and I wonder if I am doing it right.

To be colored in Illustrator:

I export the SVG file and I open it in Illustrator. However, when I do that, the entire score is 4 or 5 times larger than the paper size. So, I select it all and scale it down. However, when I do that, the line stroke weights stay the same, so the score looks like a blob of thick black lines. At that point I have to select each line individually and change the stroke weight, in Illustrator.

This is of course time consuming.

Is there a better way to do that?

Many thanks...

In reply to by Adinol

You can select sever tabs at the same time by selecting a section of music (or nothing for the entire score), right click a tab number and choose select>more... and check the appropriate boxes. This will allow you to all of the same numbers at once. The options should be sufficient since every C# on string 5 is on fret 2 (a random number I chose in an existing score of mine). Short of using a plugin to automate it, this is the easiest way to select the numbers. Note that you need to do this after the score is entered because the colors do not apply to new frets.

In reply to by mike320

Wow, this kind of selection filter is really great!

Multiple numbers can be selected by ctrl+clicking, but the way mentioned above is even better.

Regarding SVG:
1. Yes, the SVG page size as it is now is really bad. In earlier Musescore SVGs were correct points-defined page sizes. This changed somewhen in MS 2 to pixel-based pagesizes. I complained about this when it changed, but wasn't heard. So now we have to correct this manually.
2. I used Inkscape, and there all gets scaled down equally. I don't have Illustrator but I'm sure, there also must be another scaling option to achieve the same result.
3. Doing the coloring directly in Musescore has more Advantages than the whole SVG-Route:
it looks better IMHO, multiple objects can be colored easier (by using the intelligent selection filters) and you don't have to redo all the coloring-work again if you change something in the score.

In reply to by musikai

I have to experiment more with Illustrator because I can't quite do what I am hoping to do in MS3. The problem I'm having is with the fret numbers that fall between the dots on the neck. Basically, I am developing a system for kids. The dots at the side of the fret board would be colored in rainbow colors. So, the 5th fret is purple, the 7th fret is red. Those two numbers on the TABs are straightforward, but how do I color the number 6? What I'm thinking to do is to have the 6 sandwiched between purple and red. That can't be done in MS3.

I know the numbers already make it easy to read music, but for small kids it is still tough to figure out which are the higher number frets. But if there's a color reference then they pot that fret right away and gradually remember which number falls there - the remove the colors.

It's all just experimental and I'm not sure how it will all develop. But at this point I just need a way to experiment and hand out music to kids. At the end it will all boil down to feedback that I receive from the kids (and the parents).


In reply to by Adinol

I don't have experience with using colors in teaching notes or tab.

Can you explain the logic of your coloring more in detail? I ask because you mentioned fret 5 and 7.
Do you start the coloring with fret 1?
1 3 5 7 9 etc?

The colors are related to fret board positions and not to note pitches?

What do the sandwich numbers look like?

Mh, what about writing the numbers onto the colored dots on the guitar. Perhaps no need to also color the tab, or no need to color ALL numbers?!

In reply to by musikai

I'll gladly explain more in detail.

So, unlike some other color teaching methods, the color TABs do not have anything to do with the pitches. The colors are just to help the kids find the higher numbers, quicker. It is frustrating for a kid to spend time counting 1,2,3,...8,9 to figure out which fret is the 9th fret. But if the 9th fret has an orange dot on the side of the fretboard, the kid sees the number 9 on the TAB and also the orange color. On the fretboard the kid sees the orange dot and knows (without counting) that this is the 9th fret.

So, for the 10th fret I am thinking of having a background that starts orange at the left side and becomes yellow on the right side. The octave has yellow dots, so that's why.

I experimented a bit in Illustrator and came up with this (see image).

color TABs.png

On the actual fretboard there are dots at the side, like so:

fret 0 (the nut) - blank (but will be yellow at octave)
fret 1 - green
fret 3 - blue
fret 5 - purple
fret 7 - red
fret 9 - orange
fret 12 - yellow
fret 15 - blue
fret 17 - purple
fret 19 - red
fret 21 - orange

This is all experimental and I only have 2 students as my beta testers.

I am not sure that this will work, it is simply an idea I am experimenting with, to eliminate the need for the kids to count the frets. The idea was in my head for a long time but I've only just started using it with kids.

Attachment Size
color TABs.png 16.4 KB

In reply to by Adinol

Ah, I see your are getting good results with illustrator. It's a good tool to have available especially because you can also use it to create SVG and import that into Musescore. (eg. drag and drop a SVG-file onto a Tab Number)

Hehe, your 2 beta testers will give you good feedback how well the concept works :-)

I did some experiments how to achieve the same results like you have in Musescore. The single color dots can also be created by using a custom TextStyle and just putting these above (in front of, covering) the tab numbers. Sandwich colors are not possible this way. But you can create little SVG graphics and drop the onto the Tabnumbers the same way. per copy and paste you can work quite fast. It is a lot of fiddling but the workflow would be better than having to export the whole score and then work in Illustrator.

I also attach 2 of the little sandwich SVGs in case you want to do some experiments with Illustrator.

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2.svg 3.91 KB
14.svg 3.84 KB
UserTextstyle_and_importedSVG.mscz 26.9 KB

In reply to by musikai

Oh, WOW!

This is amazing, that you figured out how to do this straight in MS3.

I have a very busy day ahead of me and I know I'll be very distracted for the rest of the day, now, thinking about doing this. This is very exciting.

At this point I don't quite understand all of you instructions, but it's just because I have not started to follow them in MS3, yet. I'll have to do that tonight.

This is really great and I think it's the best solution I can hope for, without having some kind of plug-in that would automate the process.

It is exactly what I need at this stage to continue experimenting with the kids.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.... like a million times.

I'll do some work tonight and let you know how it went.

Thanks... I mean, really... THANKS

In reply to by musikai

Musikai, I tried to figure this out but I am not making much progress.

So, I opened you .mscz file and I did manage to figure out that I can go to the top menu "format>style" which opens a "style" window. At the left I scroll all the way down to "Text Styles" then in the sub menu of "Text Styles" I can see that you made some custom changes to the "User-1" style sheet. This is as far as I was able to go on that front.

In the actual document I am unable to select just the colored dot, without selecting the TAB number along with it. Basically, if I click in the green circle with the number 1 in it it selects the whole thing. So, then I copy it, then I select another number (let's say number 6) and when I paste the green dot with the number one replaces the number 6.

I am also not clear how exactly you were able to use the SVG files in the style sheet.

And also, I noticed that if I edit the note heads in the staff, the numbers in the TABs do not change. Also, if I add new notes in the staff no new numbers appear in the TABs.

I actually tried to troubleshoot for a while before posting this, but I can't seem to be able to figure things out.

I'm hoping you'll have time to explain more in a step by step manner.

Much appreciated.


In reply to by Adinol

Hi Adinol,

thank you very much for your thanks!!
Yes, in my file I just used 2 independent staves. So you are using a linked combination.
(I wondered what you used for creating a 3-line tab but didn't find a default template for it.)
Anyway I think you should just create a score with all numbers and then use this as a source to copy the colored numbers from into your new true song file.

Good you found out about the user textstyle. This I used as a base to create the individual colored versions.
They are all based on the usertextstyle, where you can set the font size, but each has a different fill color.
I found out, that when you want to copy this from one score to another you also have to either edit the user textstyle of the new score to also have colored circles or you do it the following way:
from the source score you export a style template (format->export style) and import this into the new score.

Oh yes, for selecting a colored number (or SVG graphic) alone you have to click on the edge of the object.
The imported SVG graphic can be selected, copied, and pasted like other objects. To change the size you have to double click on it or use the Inspector (especially for changing multiple selected graphics).
To import an own SVG graphic from your computer you select the file in your file browser and drag and drop it into the musescore window directly on the tab number.

At the moment I wonder if it perhaps would be a better idea to only use SVG-Graphics because then you don't have to fiddle around with the Textstyle at all.
For creating the little SVG graphics I exported a SVG from Musescore with all numbers and copied and pasted these numbers into the small files. This way the numbers look the same as in Musescore (which uses some internal hardcoded fonts which are not available in the OS system). I attach a little SVG with only numbers for usage in Illustrator (or Inkscape etc.) as a copy-source for creating new SVGs.

Now I let you do some more experiments. :-)
As you can see in my file the colors don't match quite yours. If you post a mscz with your chosen colors for each number then I could look more into it.

edit: Aaaah! Just found out that when using linked staves SVG-graphics also appear on the note staff. This makes the SVG solution more complicated for linked staves!!!!
Then you have to select the SVG on the note staff and in the Inspector uncheck "visible". To see the result you also have to set the view options:
View->show invisible (uncheck)

Attachment Size
MS_Tab_numbers.svg 9.9 KB

In reply to by musikai

OK, so I've been playing around with this concept for a couple of hours and I tried to do it all in Text Styles. I don't fully understand how these Text Styles work, but I did come up with something interesting. This is what it looks like.

Allegretto 1 CTABs.png

Can you figure out how I did it?

I am attaching the .mscz file so you can have a look. I also came up with a name for this concept and I call it CTABs - which stands for Color TABs.

Now the question is, do these colors actually add clarity for the kids or do they just clutter the music notation? Or can it be developed into something that is usable and helpful for the kids?

What do you think?


PS - as you can see there are some problems with stuff overlapping, which you can see in the 5th bar. But all I did was copy and paste from another bar.

Attachment Size
Allegretto 1 CTABs.png 57.01 KB
Allegretto 1 CTABs.mscz 23.77 KB

In reply to by Adinol

Yes, I'm also learning how the textstyles work. :-)

I see you are also very creative in finding solutions. The overlapping can be fixed by assigning the Z-order of the objects (lower number = more in background)

If you ask me I would say don't do too much. A landmark is a helpful orientation as long as not everything is marked. (eg. the dots on a guitar are on 5 and 7 and not on 1-12 )
Or: If you would give each number its own color, then you wouldn't need any numbers at all. etc.

These are just some thoughts. I don't know what is the final answer.

Just a question: the note staff in your scores has an unusual transposition. Usually the notes on a guitar are notated an octave higher. Is this by intension?

In reply to by musikai

Thanks about the Z-order tip. This really needs to be assigned if anything is stacked.

I was also thinking that less is more and that more colors create clutter and not clarity. And I was also thinking to assign colors only to the numbers that fall on the dot markers on the fretboard. The problem with that approach is that if a child seed number 10, it would still not be clear that it is right next to the orange marker, unless there happens to be a colored 9 on the TAB, right next to the 10.

So, I came up with another idea (let's call it version 2). In v2 there would be a color indicator right before the number that does not have a dot marker. So, in case of number 10, the child would know right away that it is higher on the neck from where the orange dot falls, but not yet where the yellow (octave) dots are.

Here I display CTABs v1 and CTABs v2 back to back, so we can have a look at both together.

CTABs v1
Allegretto 1 CTABs v1.png

CTABs v2
Allegretto 1 CTABs v2.png

CTABs v2 is not as cluttered and there's less information for the kid to process. I'm not sure that this is the final solution, but perhaps it's on the right track.


Attachment Size
Allegretto 1 CTABs v1.png 51.52 KB
Allegretto 1 CTABs v2.png 49.35 KB

In reply to by Adinol

At first I found v1 more pleasing aesthetically. But v2 really is easier to read and not to think too much about. Eg. You easily see the 4 is just after the blue dot.
V2 also looks better than other alternatives I was thinking of eg. a blue dot with a purple contour.

I would make the blue color lighter (and also check the brightness of the others)
I don't understand what color will get fret 11? (your system is inconsistent at fret 11 and 12)
Do you really want the notation staff to show the actual sounding pitches opposed to the convention of notating it an octave higher? I just ask because all regular guitar music is notated this way.

But I understand that the melody of the czerny piece would look awkard if notated this high.
So I suppose you prioritize the tab in your lessons and the notation is just an addition.
Or are you actually using another special kind of instruments (with 3 strings) and not guitar?

Just asking.

In reply to by musikai


First of all, I have to give you anther big thank you for helping me out on this. I have been trying to figure out a solution for my idea for a couple of years and here you helped me our tremendously. I can't even begin to express how much help this is for me. Thank you.

I agree, v2 is better. In fact, I am now building a template sheet, from which I will be able to copy and paste the color codes. And on that sheet I will actually have 2 versions for each fret that falls between the dotted frets. So, for example, if the kid is supposed to play fret 8, as part of a position that uses fret 9, then fret 8 will be color coded as a "flat" fret 9 - in other words, it will have a partial orange rectangle following the number 8. But if the kid is playing a position that uses the red 7, then fret 8 should be color coded as a "sharp" 7 (withe a partial red in front of the number 8).

With this system I can eliminate a clutter of colors. And in effect it is kind of like making the decision to call a pitch F# or Gb. Almost the same logic. The main objective is to simplify things for the kids.

Here's a screen shot.

C-TABs sharps flats.png

Good question about the frets around the 12th fret. Well, here's a screen shot of that, too.

C-TABs around octave.png

Basically, these frets get assigned either as "sharps" or "flats" depending which colored fret they are closer to. I think the screen shot explains well what I mean.

Now is the question of the inconsistency of the 1st fret compared to the 13th fret. Well, I struggled with that decision. It's like the zero fret... if 12 is yellow, then zero should also be yellow. But the guitar nut does not have any dots, so I left the zero fret blank. But some guitars do have a marker for the 1st fret, so I used green for that. And since no guitars have any markers for the 13th fret, I can't really put green there, so it has to be a "sharp" yellow.

The guitars I am using are in fact special guitars that I build. They are available as rental instruments for my students. I call them JumpStart guitars. The have either 3, 4 or 5 strings. I break down the complicated instrument that is a 6-string guitar into several special instruments that simplify things for the kids. Often guitar teachers seem to teach the kids only on one string, for several weeks. The question is, why do we need the other 5 strings? They are just dead weight that make the guitar more complicated and more difficult to play, because the nut width is still too wide, and so on. But by starting the kids on 3 strings, I am able to have them play all 3 strings on the first lesson. The 3 stringers are also great for explaining triads, and so on.

My guitars are light weight and they have narrow necks, so the little fingers can reach all the way to the uppermost string. And I make the string spread really proportional to the little fingers. Here's a picture of a 4 stringer slide guitar.


I am also trying to make them look like guitars make for kids. But they are not toys, they are actually well intonated instruments with proper setup, etc...

Lastly, about the pitches on the notation. Basically, I am not very good with software. When I start a new score in MS3 I simply select the preset for the guitar with TABs. Then I edit the TABs, to reduce the number of strings and I work from there. The pitches are the way they are in the standard MS3 guitar templates. I guess I should figure out how to make my own template. But there are still so many things I have to learn about the software and generally speaking I am not very good at figuring things out, with software, on some levels. I guess in due time...

I hope all this that I am saying makes sense.


Attachment Size
C-TABs sharps flats.png 18.55 KB
C-TABs around octave.png 37.4 KB
Home-Depot-Caster.jpg 286.8 KB

In reply to by Adinol

Ah, cool! Nice guitar!

Nice, this way your system also works for fret 11!!!
Regarding the note pitches: When I insert a guitar+Tab instrument then the notation staff has an 8va treble clef (with the little 8 on the bottom). In your score, if you would change the treble clef to 8va treble clef then all notes will be notated an octave higher. (no good idea for the czerny piece of course :-) )

In reply to by musikai

OK, I did some finessing for the past 2 days. TABs were actually printing a bit too small so I had to increase font size and margins for the boxes around the numbers. This called for an adjustment of staff line distance in the TABs staff. By default line distances are 1.50sp and I had to increase to 1.83sp. Looks a bit chunky, but that kind of works OK for kids' sheet music.

The way I adjust the line distance is as follows.

I open an existing score and I control+click on the TABs staff, then select the "staff/part properties" from the popup menu. In the new window I change the line distance to 1.83sp.

I'm thinking there must be a more practical way to do that, and especially if I want to write a new score from scratch.

Of course, I also have to load the style sheet, so that I can paste the color numbers from my template. However, that style sheet (that I exported from my master template) does not have any line distance information, even if my template had 1.83sp line distance.

What am I missing?


In reply to by Adinol

mh, if you have to change the font size AND the line distance then you could just increase the whole scale of all systems by: Format -> Page settings -> Scale (Spatium)
This is the usual way to make things bigger. Of course this also enlarges the note staff but why not.

In reply to by Adinol

Don't adjust the line spacing, always keep it at 1. If you want to make a single staff larger, use the scale field. The line spacing only affects the space between the lines and leaves everything else (like fret number or notes) where they would normally be.

In reply to by mike320

Just to be clear on one detail. The line spacing for the standard staff is 1sp by default. But the line spacing for the TAB staff is 1.5sp by default. So I increased that to 1.85sp and left the standard staff at 1sp.

I did pay with the overall scale, but I didn't like enlarging the note heads. In fact, in my case, because I use 3, 4 and 5 string guitars, there are less lines in the TAB staff, so when I just increase the spacing for the TAB lines it looks pretty balanced.

Here's a snap shot.

C-TABs line spacing.png

I think it looks pretty balanced in terms of proportions.

About my last question, though... I think I figured out how to increase productivity when writing a new score. What I did was just saved a template, which now shows up as under "Custom Templates" when I create a new score. So, for purposes of writing new scores I now have a solution to go through less steps.

However, I am still trying to figure out how to deal with the existing scores. I don't think I can apply a custom template to an existing score. But perhaps there's a trick I don't know about.


Attachment Size
C-TABs line spacing.png 18.27 KB

In reply to by Adinol

I'm always learning more of Musescore. It's really great.
Thanks to mike320's little message I just now discovered what he meant:
Instead of going to the advanced properties of a staff (and changing line spacing and font size there) you can easily scale it by using the "Scale" property of a staff:
(This is even better here in Musescore than eg. in Sibelius.)

So you have different possibilities:
Adjust the overall Size in "Format"->"Page settings" which affects all systems.
Then either decrease the scale of the note staff or increase the scale of the Tab staff in its Staff Properties.

In reply to by musikai

I noticed that the scaling you used is 78%. There is another option called "Small staff" in English that I think is Kleine Notenzeile in German. This makes the staff 80% of the size by default (this can be changed in the style dialog).

The point is that, as you have discovered throughout this thread, there are an abundance of options. You can select the one that is easiest for you to maintain.

In reply to by mike320

This forum is like MuseScore University. I'm really grateful for all the help and all the tips.

So, there is another thing that I might be doing more effectively, if there's a trick I don't know about.

In order to select all my TAB numbers, I have to go through popup menus and three checkboxes. Here are the screen shots.

Selection Menu 1.png
Selection Menu 2.png

This is time consuming. So, is there a way to do some kind of hack, so that I might be able to have some kind of more automated process? Or at least go through less steps?


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Selection Menu 1.png 62.78 KB
Selection Menu 2.png 57.72 KB

In reply to by mike320

Yes, of course. I was just hoping there might be a way to hack the software, so that the desired selection would show up right away on the first dropdown menu. Kind of the way the we already have "All similar elements" appearing, but it would be an added selection choice, just for my purpose.

I hope I'm making sense.


In reply to by mike320

I understand. But perhaps there are more people that could have some use from this kind of quick dropdown selection option, for both, TABs and standard notation.

I'm not sure exactly how things work with furthering the development of MuseScore. Perhaps there's a way to submit a suggestion for new features to be added in future upgrades and perhaps this feature could be a good candidate. There would probably be many uses for this if it was available.

In reply to by mike320

Hello again...

I've been applying the C-TABs to some of the scores and I am now facing an issue I have not been able to figure out how to resolve.

Here is an example of a tied note that is carried over a line break.

C-TABs tie on.png

So, the kids should not really be looking at a C-TAB that shows the 8th fret on the 2nd string, because that might make them pluck that G note one more time. When I select and remove the C-TAB image this is how the conventional TAB number would show up.

C-TABs tie off.png

As you can see I've minimized the font size of the conventional TAB numbers, because some were sticking out from the edges of the C-TABs.

What I would really like to do is to somehow be able to edit that one conventional TAB number, so that the brackets would expand beyond the edges of my C-TAB. Even when I select the (8) all by itself I can't really edit it. It would be good if I could somehow be able to add spaces in front and behind the 8, so that it would make the whole thing expand, to look like this:

( 8 )

Or perhaps there is another solution.


Attachment Size
C-TABs tie on.png 13.26 KB
C-TABs tie off.png 12.85 KB

In reply to by Adinol

These numbers in brackets only appear on a system break, right?
I would think of 3 different solutions:
1. You could just add the brackets into your added CTAB:
2. You could set the bracketed number to be completely invisible (in the inspector).
3. You could change the way tied notes are shown in the tab.
When you edit the advanced properties of the tab staff you can tick something like "show backwards tied..."
Then the number will apear as usual and the tie itself will be shown (as in regular notation). This will also show on tied notes even when there is no system break)

In reply to by musikai

Thank you, again, for your time, musikai.

Once again, you propose good ideas. But I am having some issues with the software. I am not sure if those are bugs.

I like the part of solution 3, that would show ties in the TAB staff. However, when I apply that option this is what happens.

TAB offset 1.png

As you can see, in this example, the F note that I chose to be on the 10th fret, 3rd string, now automatically defaults to 1st fret 1st string. Further, when I select the number 1 on the 1st string and I want to move it to another string, the tie seems to drag the original number along with it, as see on the next screen shot.

TAB offset 2.png

So, my next solution was to try and make those numbers invisible, and still keep the ties in the TAB staff. But here I also ran into an issue. I did exactly as you said, but the numbers don't become invisible. Instead they become gray.

TAB invisible.png

This last issue is puzzling, because you clearly were able to make that number invisible on your computer, to make the screen shot.

Any ideas?


Attachment Size
TAB offset 1.png 13.88 KB
TAB offset 2.png 15.43 KB
TAB invisible.png 19.01 KB

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