I imagine there are one or two MuseScore users here? I've just moved to it from Sibelius, after losing the computer my version was was housed on. I've just downloaded MuseScore 3.5, and naturally have a few basic questions.

I'm writing out some A-system pieces which might eventually be put in to C-system plus tab. At the moment I'm okay with inputting notes and timing, and also ornaments and slurs. It's all looking okay. I managed to change the tuning of the Standard Banjo to eAEG#B, but don't know how to save that as an alternative banjo choice for future scores. Plus, when I copy and paste the treble clef dots into the tab stave, it appears an octave higher - an open string is the 12th fret, for instance. 

So, how do I save the tuning as an alternative for future use, and how do I get the tab down an octave? 

I tried temporarily lowering the treble clef notes an octave, copying that and pasting into the tab, but it still comes out at the higher octave. 

I'm sure there will be many tips and tricks for banjo (with or without tab) typesetting with Musecore, so maybe you could include some of that here? 

With thanks,


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Hi Rob,

I switched from TablEdit to Musescore about a year ago. There are tricks to it all, unfortunately.

The good thing is Musescore has an online forum and they are very quick to help out. I used them a lot when I started out.

I learned to not invoke tab until I had the notational score the way I wanted it and in the tuning I needed. Now I simply enter the A notation piece as if it were a treble-part piano score, transpose it to the C notation key, sort out all the bits and bobs. This is where I make sure I've gotten all the slurs and ties correct.  Once it is stable state, I bring in the tab staff and cut 'n' paste the whole score into the tab. Then, I attack the fingering and 5th string issues.

I've never bothered to save a tuning for future use. That one I'd have to ask the forum about. Musescore 3.5 changed it a lot and I haven't keyed in a score in that version yet. There is a cool technique for entering dotted rhythms that is a huge timesaver...esp. if you have large swathes of dotted stuff. I'll detail it if you need like in a later post.

It took me a while to learn Musescore but I still find it easier than TablEdit and the output is much nicer. It isn't perfect, not really designed around banjos (naturally) but it works quite well for me.

I use Musescore because it is free. One of the "benefits"(characteristics) of its free-ness is its buggy-ness.  Certain things work on Tuesdays and Thursdays but not on Wednesday.  It also does stupid things to my scores that I didn't ask for.  But it looks pretty good and entering notes and symbols is quick and easy.  I use the first version which I like better than later versions. I am unfamiliar with any of the options you mention. Perhaps the best thing is to consult the Musescore on-line handbook.

My sister uses Sibelius and encounters none of the problems I have with Musescore.  As for Finale I've heard this: "Finale is very clever and very stupid."

I downloaded Sibelius First, which is completely free. Unfortunately it cannot do banjo tab.

Digging deeper on the Sibelius website, the intermediate-level Sibelius has very limited guitar tab, and I assume from that no banjo tab. The only version that has full tab for many different instruments is the "Ultimate" version, which is available by subscription of £16.58 per month, or a one-off lifetime subscription of £499. I've done 20 books for Mel Bay with Sibelius, so know how to use it, and what its limits are for my needs. But that price is too much. 

I'll persevere with MuseScore 3.5 for the time being, if I can figure out what I'm doing wrong. 

I also use Musescore.  I have not used any tab features and do not expect that I ever will if I can help it.  I am afraid I can not help with that.

Most of the problems with 3 have been addressed with updates, it is open source so it takes awhile to find all the problems.  It depends on users to point them out.

There is a learning curve.  I actually read the manual when I stared using the early version.  Pretty much everything is movable-- which is super cool.  If I am transposing a piece from A to C notation I like to make it lay the same way as the original.  Same number of lines per page with the measures arranged the same.

One of the biggest helps was a recommendation of the book "Musical Notation, Preparing Scores and Parts" by Matthew Nicholl and Richard Grudzinski.  What it taught me was what not to do.  Things like leaving in measure numbers, the hanging 8 under the treble clef, unbalanced pages, proper spacing, etc..  

For the double flagged 5th I use a second (or third) voice.  I plot rests for all but the 5th Gs, I then go back and delete the rests and adjust the direction of the stems.  It takes some practice but works perfectly.

I do save and use "styles."  That might be what you are looking for.

Thanks, Joel. But what's wrong with the hanging 8?

Right, here's my first presentable score. Constructive criticism always welcome. Let's not discuss here the rights and wrongs of tab. 


We do need to establish the intended user.  This is not a pro or con-- just market analysis.  I speculate that consumers will not use the notation and all the presence of it does is double the page count.

There are people who read notation, and people who read tab.

I would presume that your market would be better served with tab only as people who read might just go to the original source.  There is the question of A to C which in this case transposes it, and is an advantage. 

The truth is that the numbers of people who read for banjo are in the dozens and that does not make for a good business strategy.

If I were proposing a book I would separate them out, tab on one page and notation on the other, much like publishers who published A on one side and C on the other.  The page count remains the same and prevents awkward page turns.  Simply separating the two is more user friendly for all.

If the publisher's requirement is for them to be mixed on the same page, my only advice would be to take off the hanging 8 (see below).  Since it is unlikely that the notation will even be looked at there is no reason to add banjo specific edits (like double flagged fifth string Gs).

RE: Hanging 8.  In the thousands of pieces of notation for banjo (both A and C) that I have read or looked at I have yet to see the hanging 8 used.  Some time after 1910 (I don't remember exactly but there was an explanation printed in the "Cadenza") Walter Jacobs started using a treble clef with a slash to indicate that the music was noted one octave higher than it sounds on the instrument.

Jacobs' banjo notation was part of a bigger system.  They published parts for complete bands and orchestras and all the parts went together.  The banjo solo would work with the oboe part and piano accompaniment, etc..  It makes sense for them to use the clef for a conductor or director who was not well versed in popular banjo.

Banjoists don't need to be reminded on every line that they are reading an octave higher than the actual pitch.

Other than the flagged 5th string, I use the old fashioned way of showing triplets with a slur over the 3.  That is just me and I believe the "modern" form uses a bracket.  I try to conform to the notation standards that were used when notation was the way.  I feel like there is no reason to change what worked until the 1950s and "folk" banjo became popular.

Rob MacKillop said:

Right, here's my first presentable score. Constructive criticism always welcome. Let's not discuss here the rights and wrongs of tab. 


Here is how I would edit it...


Thanks, Joel.

As this might end up being a Mel Bay product, they do prefer to have notation plus tab in case other instruments want to play along. Anyone dedicated to classic banjo would very likely seek out the original scores, but the book would not be aimed at them. The whole point of these books is to open up this world for those who don't find their way here - only a small percentage do, I imagine. Even then, there are some decent notation readers who are happy to use tab, some of them well known to this forum. And there are several players who arrived here as a result of buying Mel Bay books - I know so because they tell me. Once here, they are quite rightfully encouraged to take the time to learn to read banjo-specific standard notation. 

So the tab is the main thing, but instrument-specific standard notation is not. The treble clef stave should be seen as a transcription of the tab for other instrumentalists. 

Interesting that you changed the key signature after the Finale. I can see why you did it, Joel, but as it is not done in the original, I've kept it as is. 

That is what I suspected and in that case it looks like you have a good grasp of the software.  Which is excellent as the learning curve for me took a month or two of off and on playing with it if I recall.

Yeah, If I was resetting it for the 5 stringer in C notation I would likely include the modulation as it reads better.  That is not needed for tab as often key information is not provided and people still seem to use it.  Plus, I understand and support being true to the source material.

That said, I often find and correct obvious mistakes.  The books and sheet music are full of them.

I think it is in the James Buckley book where an A minor piece is written in A major and all the sharps are canceled throughout the piece, I thought that was pretty funny.

I always assumed that the boy setting the type would have just followed the manuscript and not corrected such mistakes.

Oh, following up on the hanging 8 I had a look at guitar music and it does not seem to be used in any professional publication but is found on amateur set music. 

Ha, that's amusing. Strange things happen in typesetters minds and printing rooms. I have a ukulele book with treble clef plus tab. In one single piece the tab is above the staff - but not in my original. How it got changed is anybody's guess.

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