A chord symbol is an abbreviated way of representing a musical chord and its harmony.
MuseScore supports the following notations:
- Chord symbol: Alphabetical chord name plus chord quality. e.g.
- Nashville Number System (NNS): Arabic numeral plus chord quality. e.g.
- Roman Numeral Analysis (RNA): Roman numeral plus chord quality. e.g.
Adding chord symbols to your score
Entering a chord symbol
- Select a start note, note slash, or rest;
- Press Ctrl+K (Mac: Cmd+K). The cursor is now positioned above the staff ready for input.
- Enter the chord symbol using the following characters:
- Root note: a, b, c, d, e, f, g. (the lower case will automatically change to upper-case when you exit the chord symbol)
- Sharp: # (hash).
- Flat: b (small letter "b").
- Double sharp: x (small letter "x") or ## (two hash symbols).
- Double flat: bb (small letter "b" twice).
- Natural: Ctrl+Shift+H.
- Space: Ctrl+Space (Mac: Alt+Space);
- For other symbols, see Chord symbol syntax (below).
- To move the cursor forward to the next chord/rest/beat, press Space. For other ways of moving the cursor, see navigation commands (below);
- Exit chord symbol mode by pressing Esc.
Chord names and accidentals
When you exit a chord symbol, any characters entered are automatically converted to the correct format. A root note typed in lower case turns into upper case (for alternative options, see Automatic Capitalization). And characters entered for accidentals are automatically converted into professional glyphs. For example, a "#" (hash character) automatically becomes a sharp sign (♯). Don't input, or copy and paste, unicode characters, such as U+266F (sharp sign, ♯), or U+266D (flat sign, ♭) etc, as MuseScore will not render them correctly in chord notation.
The following is a summary of keyboard shortcuts used to move the cursor in chord symbol entry mode:
|Action||Command (Windows)||Command (macOS)|
|Move cursor to next note, rest, or beat||Space||Space|
|Move cursor to next beat||; (semicolon)||;|
|Move cursor to previous note, rest, or beat||Shift+Space|
|Move cursor to previous beat||: (colon)||:|
|Move cursor to next measure||Ctrl+→||Cmd+→|
|Move cursor to previous measure||Ctrl+←||Cmd+←|
|Move cursor by duration number||Ctrl+1-9||Cmd+1-9|
|Exit chord symbol entry||Esc||Esc|
Chord symbol syntax
MuseScore understands most of the abbreviations used in chord symbols:
- Major: M, Ma, Maj, ma, maj, Δ (type t or ˆ for the triangle)
- Minor: m, mi, min, -
- Diminished: dim, ° (entered with lowercase letter o, shows as ° if using the Jazz style, as o, the Greek omicron, otherwise)
- Half-diminished: ø (entered with 0, number zero, shows as ø if using the Jazz style, as 0 (zero) otherwise). Alternatively, you can, of course, choose abbreviations such as mi7b5 etc. Note: to get Dø, type "D0", not "Dm70" or "Dm0"
- Augmented: aug, +
- The following abbreviations are also valid: extensions and alterations like b9 or #5, sus, alt, and no3; inversions and slash chords, such as C7/E; commas; parentheses, which can enclose part, or even all, of a chord symbol.
Editing a chord symbol
An existing chord symbol can be edited in a similar way to ordinary text: See Text editing for details.
Entering Roman numeral analysis
Not to be confused with Figured bass.
The Roman Numeral Analysis (RNA) system is a type of musical analysis where chords are represented by upper- and lower-case Roman numerals (I, ii, III, iv etc.), superscripts, subscripts and other modifying symbols. It is used to notate and analyze the harmony of a composition independent of its key.
Note: MuseScore uses a specialist font, Campania, to provide the correct formatting for RNA. This is free and open source.
- Select a start note;
- From the menu, select Add→Text→Roman Numeral Analysis. Alternatively, set up a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing in Preferences;
- Input the RNA symbols for the chord just like normal text, as follows;
- Major chord: Upper case roman numerals
- Minor chord: Lower case roman numerals
- Diminished chord: o (lower case)
- Half-diminished chord: 0 (zero)
- Augmented chord: +
- Chord inversions: Enter up to 3 single-digit numbers, top note first
- Accidentals: enter # for a sharp, b for a flat or h for natural. These turn into a proper (and superscripted) ♯ , ♭ or ♮ right away, see entering accidentals above.
- To prevent any character from being interpreted or superscripted, prefix the character with a backslash, "\". This could be used, for example, to add a literal letter "b", "h", a hash symbol "#", or a non-superscripted number etc.
- Inversion notation using alphabet a,b,c,d can be created with the method described above.
- Inversion notation using vertically aligned arabic numerals without accidentals such as 64 can be created with the method described below.
- [ TO DO: This is from MS3, pls check if this is correct for MS4] Inversion notation using vertically aligned arabic numerals with accidentals such as 6#3, ie altered chord, is unsupported, workaround : create Figured bass text instead; or create separate text objects and manually nudge them into place.
- For other symbols, see the images below.
- Move the cursor forward or backwards to continue entering or editing symbols for other chords;
- When RNA is completed, exit by pressing Esc, or by clicking on a blank section of the score.
RNA input offers the same keyboard shortcuts for navigation as in chord symbols (see above ).
Examples of RNA
Entering a Nashville number
The Nashville Number System (NNS), is a shorthand way of representing chords based on scale degrees rather than chord letters. This allows an accompaniment to be played in any key from the same chord chart.
To start entering Nashville notation:
- Select a start note;
- From the menu, select Add→Text→Nashville Number.
Just as with standard chord symbols, you can type Nashville notation normally and MuseScore will do its best to recognize and format the symbols appropriately. The same shortcuts used for navigation when entering standard chord symbols (e.g. Space, see above) are available for Nashville notation as well.
Aligning chord symbols
Using the Style menu
The default vertical alignment of all Chord Symbols can be set from the style menu, Format→ Style→Text styles→Chord Symbol.
Or you can do the same thing from the Appearance section of the Properties panel (refer to Saving and restoring default settings).
If this results in an irregular line of chord symbols, try varying Max shift above/below (Format→ Style→Chord symbols) to bring the symbols into line.
Using the Properties panel
You can align a selection of chord symbols by pressing Appearance, and changing the "Offset" values; and/or by changing the "Alignment" or "Position" properties in the Text section of the Properties panel.
Transposition of chord symbols
Chord symbols copied to a transposing instrument staff are automatically transposed in equal measure. For example, an A7 chord copied from a Flute part (non-transposing) to a B♭ Clarinet part (sounds a tone lower than written) will be transposed to a B7 chord.
Note that chords associated with guitar fretboard diagrams are not transposed automatically.
Chord symbols are automatically transposed by default when using the Transpose dialog. If this is not required, you can untick the "Transpose chord symbols" option in the same dialog.
Capo fret position
The Capo fret position property automatically transposes chord symbols in the score (without affecting playback) and puts them in brackets after the existing chord symbols. The aim is to provide an alternative accompaniment on a capoed instrument.
To apply, select Format→Style→Chord symbols, and enter a number in the Capo fret position spin box.
Changing Spelling of Chord Symbols
By default, MuseScore uses letter names for chord symbols. For users in regions where other note naming schemes are used, all chord symbols in the score can be changed.
Chord Spelling Systems
From the main menu, choose Format→ Style→Chord symbols. Then choose one of the following radio buttons in the spelling section:
- Standard: A, B♭, B, C, C♯,…
- German: A, B♭, H, C, C♯,…
- Full German: A, B, H, C, Cis,…
- Solfeggio: Do, Do♯, Re♭, Re,…
- French: Do, Do♯, Ré♭, Ré,...
By default, MuseScore automatically capitalizes all note names on exit, regardless of whether you entered them in upper or lower case. From the main menu, choose Format→ Style→Chord symbols. Then choose from of the following options:
- Lower case minor chords: c, cm, cm7,...
- Lower case bass notes: C/e,...
- All caps note names: DO, RE, MI,...
You can also turn off the automatic capitalization completely, in which case note names are simply rendered the way you type them.
Changing appearance of chord symbols
- Font settings
- Style settings for appearance, scaling/offset
Changing Playback of Chord Symbols
Enabling and disabling playback
You can disable/enable playback of all chord symbols in the score by clicking on the cog icon to the right of the playback controls and deselecting/selecting Play chord symbols.
You can also disable/enable playback of a selection of chord symbols, by unchecking/checking Play in the General section of the Properties panel .
Default playback settings for all chord symbols in a score are available in the Playback section of Format→ Style→Chord symbols.
You can also customize the playback of selected chord symbols in the Chord symbol section of the properties panel.
- Interpretation: Literal or Jazz.
- Voicing: Automatic, Root Only, Close, Drop two, Six note, Four note, three note
- Duration: Until next chord symbol, Until end of measure, Chord/rest duration
Generating chord voicings onto a staff
MuseScore allows you to generate chords on the staff from selected chord symbols. The voicing of these chords depends on the playback settings (above) for these chords.
To realize a selection of chord symbols:
- Make a selection of chord symbols;
- Right click on any chord in the selection;
- Click Realize chord symbols;
- Optional. Check "Override with custom options" and set the options as required;
- Click OK.
Chord symbol properties
Properties specific to chord symbols (i.e. playback) are covered in Changing Playback of Chord Symbols (above)
Other non-specific properties are detailed in Properties.
Chord symbol style
Default properties for all chord symbols in a score can be edited from Format→Style→Chord symbols.
The Chord symbols style menu contains the following headings:
- Style: Three options are available— Standard, Jazz or Custom.
In the Standard style, chords are rendered simply, with the font determined by your chord symbol text style.
In the Jazz style, the MuseJazz font is used for a handwritten look, with distinctive superscript and other formatting characteristics. The Jazz style is selected by default if you use any of the Jazz templates.
The Custom style option allows you to use your own customized chord symbols style file (advanced users only).
- Extension/Modifier scaling: This affects the size of the chord extension or of the modifier.
- Extension/Modified vertical offset: This affects the vertical position of the chord symbol extension or of the modifier.
See Changing Spelling of Chord Symbols (above).
Distance to fretboard diagram: Affects the distance between fretboard diagrams and any chord symbols above.
Minimum chord spacing: The minimum distance allowed between chords.
Maximum barline distance:
Maximum shift above/below: This is used to line up chord symbols whose vertical alignment is irregular. Experiment until you get the apperance you want.
See Customizing playback (above).