Request for a Diatonic instrument definition

• Jan 31, 2021 - 09:17
Reported version
S5 - Suggestion

As explained in this "Idea" of the Google Summer of Code (2020), this feature is currently missing in the program:…
This included the demand about fretted instruments (eg Appalachian dulcimer) as explained in a previous feature request: #153016: add mountain dulcimer incl. a tab preset
The all first links (discussions, various other links for assimilated instruments) remain valid.


For the Mountain Dulcimer it is important to understand that it is not strictly diatonic. For historical reasons (which Don Pedi can explain) the fret numbering system deviates off the strict diatonic scale at what would be fret #6, where it jumps, instead, to fret number "6+" (spoken as 'six and a half'). Same at fret #13, which becomes "13+." Also, it is quickly becoming standard to include the 'one and half' fret on modern instruments, shown in TAB as "1+." In addition, some of those playing fully chromatic dulcimers are continuing to use the 'half-fret' numbing system for the entire chromatic scale.

So, in cariz1's screen shot of an example score he has actually made an error in the bottom Mtn. Dulcimer staff. Where he shows that "6" fret for the C# (key of D), it has to be shown as "6+" for the C# (in standard DAd tuning, key of D). Fret number 6 (without the plus sign) is a C-natural on the mtn dulcimer, thus is off the diatonic scale.

So in my head there are two challenges in designing the TAB code for this. One, it isn't strictly diatonic, so I don't think you can use a simple formula to compute the fret number given note pitch (I believe you have to hard-code a translation mapping). Two, the TAB user interface, and internal data structures, have to now accomodate that plus symbol - it ain't just plain integer numbers. Not only for display, but for TAB note input.

If it helps to see how the Mtn Dulcimer fret numbers lay out against the chromatic numbers, I have created a chromatic to dulcimer mapping and included it here in the attached LibreOffice calc document. Compare the 'Chromo Fret' line (row 5) to the 'Transposed Fret' line (row 9).

I have also included a PDF of what a typical Mountain Dulcimer score looks like. (NOTE: The standard convention in the Mountain Dulcimer world is to show the SMN staff above the TAB staff, but to hide the chord notes on the SMN staff so that it shows only the melody-line notes. The theory is that this provides the performer a clearer view of the note durations and the tune's rhythm. I have a personal suspicion about why this came about, but no point in getting into that here. Just might be useful to be aware that 90% of the Mtn Dulcimer players who may come over to Musescore will expect to be able to format their scores this way.)

About the error in the Screenshot, I removed this image. I had attached it quickly this morning without sufficiently checking the attachment seen in this thread :
Anyway, rest assured, this issue has been debated, re-discussed, re-done, etc. for several years - I had filed the request in 2015! But it was discuted before on the forums. See all the many threads and discussions in this previous feature request: #153016: add mountain dulcimer incl. a tab preset
For example also:
All the players of this instrument, and I have no doubt that the developer or developers who will have the time and will be willing to look into this wished feature, know perfectly well these characteristics of the diatonic and hybrid/chromatic character sometimes of this instrument (with the C/6 and C#/6+)

In reply to by cadiz1

Very good, thanks cadiz1.

I am trying to work up a plugin that would either transform a chromatic staff to mtn dulcimer diatonic+; or build a diatonic+ TAB staff from an SMN staff. Just as an interim work-around. I thought I pretty much had done the former, but the result won't save (see Issue #316484, Changes to TAB made by PlugIn not saved). I am still in the learning curve for QML and Plugins, but given the limitations of both my knowledge, and the plugin API, I cannot guarantee I can accomplish it.

I saw this thread, and tested your plugin. Congratulations. It's encouraging, except unfortunately at the time of Saving, where something goes wrong, indeed. Maybe you'll find more help in the "Plugins" section of this English forum (unless you've already done so and I wouldn't have seen it) ?
Here :

In reply to by cadiz1

I have searched through the plugins forum for clues; haven't been able to find any. I spent a few hours yesterday pretty much reading through the entire plugin API documentation - no help there (although that was still useful as a learning exercise in general). As soon as I save this post I am going to start in on experimenting with the 2nd approach of building the TAB from a SMN staff, starting with an empty TAB stave.