Partially surprised — MS 4.1 raises capoing to new heights!

• Aug 3, 2023 - 22:51

Many thanks to the individual or team that implemented MuseScore 4.1’s new capo element and updated and expanded MuseScor's capo functionality which now includes partial capoing. It's welcomed that MuseScore 4 abandoned its prior approach was managed by a kludgy text object properties and it's quite heartening to see a new stringed instrument feature in MuseScore!

I’ll list pro and con observations on this development below, but first I'll underscore that the newly added partial capo option is wondrous! Surely the partial capo features will prove valuable to many guitarists and those notating for guitar. I love it!

Here’s a partial capo score I created late last night:

Multiple simultaneous capos please

The next major improvement for capoing in MuseScore 4 would be support of a full capo plus a partial capo—this is because we change keys with a partial capo primary by adding a full capo "beneath" the partial capo. Also the need for multiple partial capos is not far fetched, as discussed here:

Here's a piece I wrote that is playable in the following three ways:

    • with the guitar retuned to CGDGBG
    • with a single partial capo 002220 over Drop D tuning (DADGBE)
    • with double partial capos 024442 with the guitar in standard tuning as illustrated by the double partial capo image at the top of page 2.

Fret calcs

Regarding fret numbering with Partial capos MuseScore almost got it right. But there’s a serious issue with uncapoed strings.

Fret numbering relative to the partial capo relative

The default fret calculation method should number all frets above the capo as relative to the partial capo. (Naturally any open string is indicated as 0, and we already have that.)

Presently frets on uncapoed strings are expressed as strictly relative to the nut. If we check with those reading Partial Capo tablature we'll surely find that nut relative fret numbering is contrary to what they would expect. Nut relative fret numbering is needed only on uncapoed strings and only as a means of indicating frets at the partial capoed fret or below it.

So then, for uncapoed strings, the partial capo fret calculation function should offer an option of governing whether the fret number is written relative to the capo or relative to the nut. And there must be a means to identify nut relative vs. capo relative frets for the reader—I could see using italic (or a user defined style that's not strictly colored) to identify notes written relative to the nut.

To be clear, by default, freted notes on uncapoed strings should display as relative to the partial capoed fret whereas open uncapoed strings should display as relative to the nut. We have only the latter. For example:

With a partial capo at fret 2 on strings 5, 4, 3:
    • the open 5th string is fret 0 (and this is correctly implemented)
    • the open 6th string is fret 0 (and this is correctly implemented)
BUT on any of the uncapoed strings, by default:
    • fret 3 from the nut should be written as 1 (that’s the 1st fret above the capo position)
    • fret 4 from the nut should be written as 2 (that’s the 2nd fret above the capo position)
    • fret 5 from the nut should be written as 3 (that’s the 3rd fret above the capo position)
    This makes all frets above the capo relative to the capo, by default.

Fret numbering relative to the nut

Anyone who wants nut relative fret number should have that option. And here's the obvious use case. Uncapoed strings need an option that displays frets below the partial capo AND at the partial capoed fret as relative to the nut. In some circles (and GP7) the parlance uses the term "absolute" rather than nut relative.

Partial capo documentation here

Better guitar sounds

Along with various notational improvements and enhancements for stringed instruments, MuseScore 4 needs some realistic, non effect-drenched built-in guitar samples for both nylon and steel string guitar.


    • As described in detail above, a capo element/dialog supports partial capo (or as previously available, a standard full capo)
    • Transposition occurs automatically, so you can notate in the transposing perspective as if there were no capo in place—a quite welcomed automatic feature!
    • The capo element offers an automatic capo description based on the fret choices
    • Alternately the user can write a manual description (see caveats below)
    • The dialog remembers the settings after toggleing Off and ON


    • No support yet for a full capo + a partial capo (Guitar Pro has that, image attached) or multiple partial capos ... or a full capo and multiple partial capos.
    • Double-clicking the capo element quickly toggles its dialog opened and closed.
    • There’s no option to move the dialog from its default position. (Is that an unwelcomed step toward mobile UI?)
    • Similarly there's no option to move the element from its default position. A single click opens it.
    • Weirdly there’s no OK/Apply options. Just Escape or click outside of the dialog to dismiss it. (again, seems like mobile design leaking into the desktop domain.)
    • As mentioned under pros, there’s an option to enter a capo description manually, unfortunately there’s a typing limit of 40 chars.
      But after closing the capo element dialog the displayed text only only 35? chars show.
      The manual description affords no option for line breaks (despite the default description displaying on two lines.)


Despite the issues discussed, the new capo functions are a much-welcomed harbinger of expansions and improvements of stringed instrument notation and tablature!

I'm looking forward to more guitar, stringed instrument and tablature enhancements. Thank you and please keep 'em coming'! Robust guitar features will undoubtedly contribute significantly to MuseScore's popularity.


Attachment Size
Guitar Pro - Partial Capo (sm).png 26.88 KB


Wow, Scorster this is fantastic. Thank you so much for such detailed and helpful feedback on this feature. I'm so glad you like it, and I'm even happier to read your suggestions about how we can improve it.

The option to show fret positioning relative to partial capo for uncapoed strings was an eye opener for me. I'm sure we can find a way to implement this option.

Just to be certain that I've understood your request correctly, can you please have a quick look at this explainer video I've just made?….

If I've understood you correctly, the next point to clarify would be whether this might be a global setting saved to the score – which I suspect it should be, because you wouldn't want to mix fret indicators relative to the nut v. partial capo within the same piece (surely??). OR is there a case for having both fingering positions displayed simultaneously?

If it's a global setting saved to the score, we can easily put a setting in Styles.

And the preference for default would be: relative to partial capo?

(An extra point just to be sure I've understood things correctly: in the example shown in the video, "0" on string 1 would play an E, whereas "1" would play G, right? And this, despite there being no capo at all on string 1? This seems like madness to my guitar brain, but from what you've described it also seems very common!).

On a separate note, we are in discussions this very moment about a new guitar library for MuseSounds. Watch this space!!

Thanks so much again for your extremely helpful feedback here. It's very much appreciated.

Best wishes,

In reply to by bradleykunda

@bradleykunda wrote: The option to show fret positioning relative to partial capo for uncapoed strings was an eye opener for me.

Hi Bradley,

Glad I was able to illuminate.

@bradleykunda wrote: I'm sure we can find a way to implement [fret indicators relative to the partial capo.]

That's excellent news!

The description in your explainer video is 100% accurate. And you concisely express the nut vs. capo concept at 1:58.

Regarding the matter of a setting for designating the relativity of fret indicators, I think a setting in the "capo element" would suffice. I can't think of a benefit from using style/score setting.

We understand that fret indicators on uncapoed strings can be numbered relative to the partial cap." or relative to the nut. The former is the recommended default because it logically handles fret notation ... the only exception are when the player frets uncapoed strings "behind" a partial capo or at the partial capoed fret. For those exceptions I prefer to think of those frets as relative to the nut (because this nicely avoids the need for negative numbers), and it's already how MS4 displays them in v4.1:

    If the capo is set as 022200 (i.e. at the second fret of strings 5, 4 and 3):

        • then the open 1st string (the high E string, which is uncapoed) sounds at the nut and is numbered 0
        • not surprisingly, the 1st fret above the nut is numbered 1
        • the 2nd fret above the nut is numbered 2

So a mixture of relative fret indications (nut vs. partial capo) would naturally coexist, and would operate with the partial capo itself designating the divide.

In the 022200 partial capo scenario, fret 2 relative to the nut could be written as 0 relative to the capo. But I'd rather see all frets "behind the capo" and "AT the capo" as relative to the nut. And thus 0 is always truly the open string. That said, I could envision an underscored 0 for indicating open relative to the capo. PLEASE NOTE: Though I'd like to indicate frets "at or below the capo" that's far less important than getting frets above the capo relative to the capo on uncapoed strings, so I could see disallowing an "at or below" option for now.

The important matters now are:

     • on uncapped strings, designating frets above the partial capo as relative to the partial capo
     • allowing a simultaneous full capo and partial capo
     • eventually allowing multiple partial capos, for situations like 024442, which is a a partial capo a fret 2 of strings 5 through 1 and atop that a partial capo at the 4th fret on strings 4, 3 & 2.

I'm really glad you're understood my points and had such an enthusiastic response regarding recommended improvements.

Partial capos can initially chaff one's "guitar brain." And partial capo tutorials and discussions usually provide incomplete and poor explanations. But people figure it out—at least enough to comfortably make music—and the results are so worth it. I wrote a brief treatise on the topic here.

Excellent that MuseScore is giving attention to new guitar sounds! I'll keep my ear to the rail.

Best, Scorster

In reply to by scorster

Here's an image that should further illuminate the points discussed above. I've also posted it to illustrate "negative frets" ... not my preferred approach but it's an option some users will surely want. See the attached PNG.

UPDATE 2023-09-16: I've refreshed the attached image to fix a couple of mistakes and because I reorganized it.

UPDATE 2023-09-18: Yet another update to the attached image.

Attachment Size
Partial Capo and Fret Identifications.png 485.38 KB

In reply to by scorster

Thank you, this is indeed helpful.

What would also be really helpful – if you have some (preferably published) examples at hand – is some scores displaying both fret position indicators relative to the nut and relative to the partial capo.

I can indeed see how confusion could arise if, say, you wanted a full barré after a partially-capoed fret, and it displayed a mixture of fret positions rather than just one. In this case, it would make sense to show all fret positions as relative to the partial capo (even for un-capoed strings).

In reply to by bradleykunda

Hi Bradley,

Thanks for following up. (BTW, I just saw your messages because is sending notifications to an email account that's recently been problematic! I hope to fix that this week.)

Partial capo notation is a wild west frontier. There is no consensus on the best approach. Apocryphal and incomplete thoughts abound on the topic, so we must use our pioneering spirit to blaze a trail to a tenable solution. Ideally MuseScore will be the first to accomplish this and thus open the floodgates of the mysterious and wonderful world of partial capo techniques.

There are some sign posts along the way but published materials are weak and (due to the challenge) they naturally veer away the problems we're primed to tackle here.

I developed my partial capo understandings on my own. And I've taught the partial capo for over 30 years thus I can assure you people instantly resonate with frets written relative to the nut, and they definitely struggle with absolute notation on frets located at the business end of the neck (i.e. "above" the capo in the higher numbered frets.) But what about the need for frets numbers relative to the capo, which becomes more essential when the capo is place higher on the neck, like capoing at frets 004440, which entices people to play behind the capo.

Published materials likely won't afford a serious notational roadmap for "absolute" fretting. One of my students loaned me some partial capo books, thinking they'd be useful to us. But we dismissed them shortly. I found them sparse on notation ... and they showed frets only relative to the partial capo, thus no fingering behind the capo.

The reasons for this are understandable. I don't think any notation software allows the user the choice of frets relative to the partial capo vs. frets symbols relative to the nut (absolute, like Guitar Pro) AND the option of mixing the two notational styles in a single score. I suspect that authors and publishers were uninterested in creating handwritten or graphically produced scores, so they used the notational tools available, though that provided them very limited options.

I'll look through some of my graphically produced notation to find an example of mixed absolute and capo-relative notation.

>> I can indeed see how confusion could arise if, say, you wanted a full barré after a partially-capoed fret, and it displayed a mixture of fret positions rather than just one.

Yes. Excellent example! It's a special kind of mind torture: seeing parallel frets written with different fret numbers. I've encountered that with tenths, when one of the notes is on a uncapoed string

>> In this case, it would make sense to show all fret positions as relative to the partial capo (even for un-capoed strings).

Agreed. It's just the logical way ... unless one needs to indicate frets located "behind" the capo. I've covered the possibilities in the images attached in a prior post in this thread.

= = = =

Another matter is whether the standard clef notation is scordatura (merely representing finger positions) or if it indicates the sounding pitch (as it naturally would.) None of this is for the faint of heart, but we can work it out. I've done a lot of scordatura for violin, fiddle, mandolin and guitar so I should be able to illuminate a path.

= = = =

In other upbeat news: About a week ago I sent you a private message (via MuseScore) that you may have missed. It's regarding a wonderful new stringed instrument feature soon to be available in MuseScore. If we can't connect via PM, let's find another way. This will be a wonderful tool particularly for finger-picking.


In reply to by bradleykunda

Hi Bradley,

Here's a score I created yesterday that demonstrates a mix of capo-relative frets, nut-relative frets and even frets AT the partial capoed fret—and for the latter a special symbol needed, and I've suggested © for "at capo."

• The first two lines of the score show reasonable fret notation, but playback sounds incorrect due to MuseScore's purely nut-relative notation.

• Lines three and four playback as intended, but I was forced to use all nut-relative frets on uncapoed strings to the tablature doesn't make sense above the partial capo on uncapoed strings.

As mentioned in a previous post, I don't think "high quality" partial capo publishings exist. Nor is there much quantity to peruse. So I created this score in an attempt to address your request.

Harvey Reid has some prolific rambling musings on partial capo notation on one of his sites. You'll find the crux of his points on the linked page, just below the subtitle The Problem. Here are my responses to the two numbered points he made there:

     Regarding 1: I think there should be an option for scordatura notation and notation that sounds actual pitches.
     And each of those options are currently manageable in MuseScore.

     Regarding 2: Reid's main point highlights the need for fret numbering relative to the partial capo,
     and the three of us are in agreement on that. He writes "There is no question that as a player you think of the capo as the nut,
     which you do whenever you use a capo, partial or not." Which surely is his vote for capo-relative fret numbering.

Reid has a book on Amazon entitled Capo Inventions which contains 14 notated pieces for guitar with partial capo 022200. I haven't looked at the book so I don't know if there are any notes requiring "relative to the nut" notation. But I expect the book contains examples of capo-relative frets on uncapoed strings.

Ried has lots of other books on partial capo, thus potentially more notation. When I've glanced at some partial capo books they merely show various capo configurations, and chord diagrams, and they attempt to explain the effect of a partial capo.


In reply to by scorster

I wrote the six bar phrase (that's embedded in the previous post) merely as an example of using capo-relative frets and nut-relative frets in a single score. And then it caught my ear. So I exported to Logic, looped it four times, added an arpeggiated accompaniment, acoustic bass and a shaker. The original partial capo part is in the left ear.

You can hear the result here:

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