Alternate string tunings

Updated 6 months ago

    This page describes features added in MuseScore 4.2. For string tuning in older versions of MuseScore 4, see Customizing a tablature staff.

    Applying string tuning instructions

    To apply a string tuning instruction to a stave:

    1. Go to the Guitar palette
    2. Click and drag the String tunings element to a measure

    A tuning fork icon will appear above your stave.

    Alternatively, first select a measure, then select the String tunings element in the Guitar palette.

    String tuning instructions are added to measures, and affect only the stave to which they have been applied (including any linked staves). You can apply multiple string tunings at different measures in your score. Each string tuning will apply from the start of the measure to which it has been added, up until the next string tuning element.

    Specifying string tunings

    Once you've added a string tuning element to a stave, you can specify the tuning you want for your instrument.

    1. Select the tuning fork icon (outlined in the steps above)
    2. In the widget that appears, choose from the many common tunings in the Preset dropdown

    The tuning fork icon will be replaced with the conventional tuning text instruction, comprising encircled numbers for each of the instrument's strings, and text designations showing the new pitch of each string.

    You can customise the string tuning text to display any number of strings, as well as any pitch you like:

    1. Click on the string tuning text
    2. In the widget that appears, toggle on or off the 'eye' icon to show or hide instrument strings
    3. Adjust the pitch of each string using up and down arrows in the text boxes alongside each string

    Note that the 'eye' icons merely show or hide the text instruction on the score. The actual tuning of each string, insofar as it affects playback and tablature fret positions (see more below), is determined by the pitch indicated in the text field alongside each string – regardless of whether that string's tuning instruction is shown or hidden in the score.

    Alternate tunings affect tablature fret positions

    When an alternate tuning element is applied to a stave, the pitch specified for each string will be shown as an open position ("0") in the tablature stave.

    During playback, the pitch of all fret positions along each string remains relative to the pitch of the open string: For example,

    • If the sixth string is tuned to E, the open position will sound like an E during playback, and the first fret will sound like an F;
    • If the sixth string is tuned down to a D, the open position will sound like a D during playback, and the first fret will sound like an E-flat.

    The notation on any linked standard stave remains unaffected by the presence of alternate string tunings. This allows the player to continue reading the sounding pitches of each string.

    Reading transposed pitches on the standard stave

    Sometimes, especially in cases where every string on the instrument has been uniformly tuned down, it will be preferable for the player to read the standard notation at the ‘regular‘ (i.e. pre-tuned) pitch rather than the sounding pitch. In order to achieve this, the standard stave can be transposed.

    1. Right-click on a measure in the standard stave
    2. Select Stave/Part properties...
    3. In the Transposition dropdown menu, select your desired transposition amount.

    A common example is to want to tune the guitar down a half-step without affecting the standard notation. To achieve this:

    1. Apply an alternate string tuning element to your stave (see steps above)
    2. Select the Tune down 1/2 step preset
    3. Where required, add a key signature that corresponds to the pitch of the song/work (I.e. its concert pitch)
    4. Right-click on a measure and choose Stave/Part properties...
    5. From the Transposition dropdown menu, select 1 – Minor second
    6. Select the Down radio button
    7. Finally, if you are using a linked tablature stave and wish for the tablature fret positions to continue showing the expected standard fingering, select the Don't reflect transposition in linked tablature staves checkbox
    8. When you're done, click OK.

    Both the standard stave and any linked tablature stave (where applicable) will show the fret positions and standard notation at the standard playing pitch (as if no alternate tuning had been specified). Playback will, however, reflect the alternate tuning.

    Toggling on Concert pitch will show the sounding pitches notated on the standard stave.

    [Draft only: more content forthcoming]