Changing tablature stem direction

• Sep 2, 2021 - 23:38

Hello. I am trying to convert a score in standard notation into a guitar tablature score. It has been going well, mostly. But I am having difficulty making the stems point in the most sensible direction.

In the attached measure, the third (lowest) voice descends in eighth notes, while the two highest voices play a quarter and then a half note on top, ending with a quarter note. Unfortunately, the stems for the (lower) eighth notes are above the staff, while the stems for the (higher) quarter notes and half notes are below. And I can't seem to fix it. I've tried "x", I've tried changing it in the inspector, but nothing happens. I've tried the button beside the voice selector at the top of the screen. Nothing.

And this is just a single measure. Is there any way I can change it globally so that all Voice 3 stems would be below?

Attachment Size
Tab stems.mscz 3.09 KB


In reply to by Jm6stringer

Yes, in the example measure voices 1 and 2 could easily be a single voice, but through the whole piece they really are two distinct voices. In fact, the score I am converting was originally a three-staff score which I imploded and tabbified.

Thank you for the example, but how did you do it? I don't see anything in that handbook page telling me how to change the stem direction of an existing voice.

In reply to by Robert41

You wrote: did you do it?

Click on a measure and observe the colors of the highlighted notes. Each voice displays in a different color.
Compare your (upper) staff to my (lower) staff. Stem direction depends on the voice.

From the handbook:
"You can have up to 4 voices on each staff line. In a polyphonic measure, voice 1 (and 3) usually takes the up-stem notes and voice 2 (and 4) takes the down-stem notes."
"Enter the notes in the top voice first. On inputting, some notes may have down-stems, but these will flip automatically when the second voice is added."

For already notated voices:

In reply to by Jm6stringer

I have tried exchanging voices, but the stem directions do not change. Even in your corrected version, the lower eighth notes are voice 3, just as in mine, but your stems go down while mine go up.

What you quote from the manual regarding entering notes is fine, but I haven't been able to get it to work for notes that have already been entered. Simply exchanging voices isn't working for me.

In reply to by Robert41

You wrote:
Even in your corrected version, the lower eighth notes are voice 3, just as in mine, but your stems go down while mine go up.

The file I attached, "Voice stems.mscz", contains 2 lines of music.
The first line is your original which uses 3 voices. The voice 3 note stems (for the lower eighth notes) point up.
The second line, my corrected version, does not use voice 3 at all. It uses voice 2 for the lower eighth notes which is why the stems point down.

You wrote:
I haven't been able to get it to work for notes that have already been entered.

OK.... open your original attachment, "Tab stems.mscz" and do the following:
1. Click on a blank spot in the measure (to select all the notes).
2. Use Tools -> Voices -> Exchange voice 2-3

In reply to by Jm6stringer

Thank you for your help with this. Exchanging 2-3 was one combination I guess I hadn't tried.

So if I have this right, it seems to all come down to the fact that anything designated as Voice 3 cannot have stems pointing down in a closed score. When I have a three-part open score, and set the lowest/third part to have stems pointing down, and then implode the score to make it closed, the stems for the bottom part automatically change to pointing up. (I'm only dealing with tablature -- I assume it's the same for standard notation?)

Is this by design? If so, why? In a case like mine, the workaround is to call the bottom part Voice 2 and the middle part Voice 3, which is counterintuitive. It would be great to be able to modify the stem direction of Voice 3 in a closed score just like Voice 2. (And if it isn't possible, it would be helpful for this to be indicated at the Stem Direction dialogue.)

Thanks again for your help. I have managed to get it to look right.

In reply to by yonah_ag

Thanks. Glad to know I wasn't the only one looking for this.

The Y-offset idea works well in a pinch, but I'm not sure how suitable it would be for a whole staff. (And if the stems have beams, it seems the beams would have to be moved separately.)

Suggestion for a new "Note Values" tab:


The new UI allows full control over the note stem orientation for each voice.

In reply to by yonah_ag

I believe the normal way of hiding stems in tablature is in:

Style>Staff/Part Properties>Advanced Properties>Note Values (tab)>Stems and Beams (visibility toggle)

In other words, the stem visibility property is in the Note Values dialog tab not in the Frets tab.

Hopefully MuseScore 4 will better consolidate and better organize tablature properties!

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