Tablature for Fretted Instruments in Dorico 3

Dorico 3 brings comprehensive support for fretted instrument tablature. Regular staff notation and tab are linked and can be displayed at the same time. Learn how to display or hide rhythms in tab. Dorico 3 gives you complete control over the strings and tuning of your fretted instruments, and this tutorial shows you how to change the string for a given note and how to define a custom tuning.

🎬  This article is a transcription of one of the excellent tutorial videos posted to the official Dorico YouTube channel.

Presented here in written form with the kind permission of its creator, Anthony Hughes, this tutorial is titled “Tablature for Fretted Instruments in Dorico 3“…

Hello, I’m Anthony Hughes, and in this video I shall be showing you the new features for tablature in Dorico 3, the advanced music notation software from Steinberg.

Tab in Dorico; linked to notation (00:22)

The unique advantage of Tablature or Tab in Dorico, is that it’s simply another representation of the same music. Any fretted instrument in Dorico can be set to display using regular staff notation, tab, or even both at once. You switch it on by way of a Layout Option on the Players page. (CNTRL-SHIFT-L or CMND-SHIFT-L)

This option shows in Layout Options for instruments which support Tab.

Let’s show both notation and tab in this layout. Notice how an edit in either the notation staff or tab is immediately reflected in the other.

Tab and associated Notation staves are linked.

And because it’s a Layout Option, that means you can show the different representations in different layouts, quickly and easily preparing the same music for players who prefer notation or tab.

Automatic string allocation (01:08)

We’ve included a new ‘Guitar with tablature’ template to help get you started quickly.

You can input music on both the notation staff and the tab. When you input onto the notation staff as normal, the tab is automatically calculated using information Dorico has about the specific fretted instrument you are writing for.

Dorico will choose a string to play the note on, allocating them to the lower fret positions and, where possible, avoiding placing multiple notes on the same string.

Changing the string for a note (01:41)

You can override Dorico’s automatic allocation by setting the string yourself, which you do by way of enabling the string property.

Engrave Options String Property

Only the strings that the note can be played on are shown. You can also select the note on the tab and use the key commands N and M to move the note to the string above or below.

Notes out of range (02:04)

If two notes do end up on the same string, they are coloured green to warn you, and any notes that are not playable at all, perhaps because they are too low or too high to be played by the instrument — or because they are part of a chord that is not playable — are show in purple.

Note input on tab (02:22)

To start note input on tab, select an existing note and press Shift+N or Return. You can also double-click the string you would like to start input on, or you can move the caret from another staff using the up and down arrows.

Chord mode is effectively always on for tab input, meaning you can quickly navigate to another string and build a chord. Note duration is controlled using the minus and equals keys to the right of the numbers,

Note input on tab works rather differently from notation staves. You move the caret up and down to the string you wish to enter a note on, and then type the number of the fret. If you need to specify a fret number higher than 9, simply type the numbers in quick succession. You can also type a note name on your computer keyboard and Dorico will input the note onto the selected string, at the lowest octave possible, and when using a MIDI keyboard Dorico will again respect the selected string, as far as is technically possible, with minus selecting a shorter duration and equals a longer one.

Press space to advance the caret or use the left and right arrow key to move to a new rhythmic position.

Rhythms in tab (03:41)

When displaying tab without any notation staff, it can be helpful to indicate rhythms. There are various conventions commonly used when displaying rhythms on tab, and these are all handled by way of Engraving Options. There’s a new Tablature page, and here you will find numerous options detailing stem and rhythm dot placement; how to display tied notes, and the ability to use enclosures for chords and notes longer than a quarter note.

Engraving Options > Tablature > Stems

Dorico includes options to show elliptical enclosures in a way similar to some popular publishers, and also a more space-efficient “lozenge” (rounded rectangle) variant.

Dead notes (04:21)

You can show muted, muffled or deadened notes by selecting a note and in the Properties panel activating the cheerfully named ‘Dead note’ property.

nota muerta

Harmonics (04:31)

You can also add both natural and artificial harmonics to tab. I talk more generally about harmonics in the new video about Notation Improvements in Dorico 3, so be sure to check that out. Dorico has semantic knowledge of harmonics including where natural harmonics exist on each string, and how to notate artificial harmonics for each partial.

Appearance of tab numbers (04:55)

There are various appearance options available to you when working with tab. To change the font style or size of the numbers on tab, switch to Engrave mode and open the Font Styles dialog from the Engrave menu. Choose Tablature Numbers Font and set your preferred style.

If you prefer to keep the horizontal lines pass right through the numbers, you can set that on the Tablature page of Engraving Options.

Scale factor for tab (05:23)

And on the Staves page, you can set the distance between the tab lines by setting this option.

Guitar bends (05:30)

Dorico has excellent support for bends and pre-bends on both tab and notation staves.

Create a bend, by selecting a note and in the Ornaments panel Glissando section, pressing the new Guitar Bend button.

When adding bends in cases that involve chords or there are multiple voices, select both notes to ensure the bend is placed as you intend. You can also open the Ornaments popover with Shift+O and type bend.

The notation staff will show an angled line between the two notes and the tab will show a curved arrow with the interval extent of the bend, for example full or half. And this is editable in Properties.

Create a release in the exact same way. Dorico can work out whether you are creating a bend or release, dependent on the destination note, and correctly show a downward pointing arrow on the tablature.

To show a hold, for a tied note, select the bend and, in the Properties panel, activate Show hold. This works beautifully when followed by a release.

Create a pre-bend by selecting a note and enabling the Guitar pre-bend interval property. On the notation staff this creates an auxiliary note notating the pre-bend, and on the tab a arrow displaying the extent of the bend. You can then set the interval and the notation updates.

Choose tunings (06:59)

You’re not in any limited to writing tab for a standard tuning 6-string guitar. When you add a fretted instrument to a player, you can choose between numerous different configurations and tunings, and the tab will properly reflect your choice. You can even easily change an existing instrument to a different tuning.

Editing strings and tuning (07:20)

But this is Dorico, and of course, we don’t stop there. For each fretted instrument there is now a new Edit Strings and Tuning option found in the instrument label menu.

This displays a dialog that shows you the configuration of the selected instrument, including each string and its tuning and frets.

You can select a string by clicking on it, select multiple strings by holding down Ctrl (that’s Command on Mac), and there’s a button to select all strings at once.

You can edit the open pitch of each string, and the number of frets they have. You can even denote the starting fret for instruments like a banjo.

You can add and remove strings, and you can set the spacing of the frets, if the instrument you are defining has an irregular spacing for one or more strings.

You can export tuning so that you can import it to other projects.

When you press OK, the tab is updated to reflect your new settings.

I do hope you have found this video helpful. If you have, please… subscribe to the Dorico YouTube channel today to see many more videos like this one.

I’m Anthony Hughes. Thanks for watching.


Don’t forget to subscribe to the Dorico YouTube channel to see many more videos like this one, and thanks for reading! Please subscribe to OF NOTE and look for my music notation news and info on Twitter.

~robert puff

2 Replies to “Tablature for Fretted Instruments in Dorico 3”

  1. Thank you! I’ve been waiting for an alternate tunings feature, as ukuleles can have at least five different tunings.

    Is there a Dorico user in California—preferably on the Central Coast or in the Bay Area—who would be willing to give an in-person lesson?

    1. Hi Nancy – I might recommend you go on the Dorico user forum and see if there is someone in your area or a user group. Thanks for reading!

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