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[All] Comparison of guitar ghost notes, brushing, glissando, and pick scratch expressions in music notation software

In this article, I will focus on some of the various music notation software currently on the market that are especially suitable for producing rock guitar scores, and compare the expression methods of noise-like special playing techniques such as ghost notes, palm mute, brushing, glissando, and pick scratch.


As an example, similar to the previous article about the guitar bends, I picked up software that allows you to write Japanese-style tablature with stems. Among the high-end products Finale, Sibelius, and Dorico, I will use Finale, which is a standard tool in the Japanese music notation publishing industry, as a representative example.


Specification comparison (Finale, Guitar Pro, Dorico SE/Elements, MuseScore)


(1) Finale 27

(*Tablature is enlarged to 120%.)


・Ghost note (1st measure)

In Finale, you can individually select various shapes for noteheads, and it is common to use an X notehead for ghost notes, as in bar 1 of the example.


・Palm mute and brushing (2nd measure)

In the 1st and 2nd beats of measure 2 of the example, the text "M" is placed as an expression symbol for the palm mute, but you can also use the preset "Palm Mute" in the Smart Line Selection.


Brushing chords like those on beats 3 and 4 is basically expressed by changing the note heads of the notes that make up the chord to X note heads, just like ghost notes.


If you want to use the brushing effect found in Japanese publications, you can also use a vertical X notehead that spans two staff spaces. However, in this case, you will be modifying the original notes a bit, so the original chord will not sound during playback.


・Glissando (3rd measure)

In Finale, the glissando shape symbol is a slur from the Smart Shape tool. This has an extremely high degree of editing freedom, and allows you to draw various curves including the S-shape.


・Pick scratch (4th measure)

For pick scratches, use Finale's standard glissando graphic symbol. In the music example, the notation "Pick Scratch" uses the symbol in the Custom Line tool, this can be used by loading the "Guitar & Bass Integrated Library" for guitar. (Please see this article for details on the library.)


This library was created uniquely in Japan during the development of v27, the current version of Finale, based on the notation used in Young Guitar, one of Japan's leading rock guitar magazines. A major feature of Finale is that you can create your own expression symbols and custom shapes and create a library like this one.



(2) Guitar Pro 8


In the case of Guitar Pro, if you change the notehead to match the playing style, that tone will be applied during the playback. Among the preset noteheads, using a “dead note” with an X-shaped notehead produces a more authentic sound than a “ghost note” expressed as a parenthesized note.


Bridge mute applies the graphic symbol ”Palm Mute”, which is the conventional English notation. Special graphic symbols are also available for glissando and pick scratch.


There is no special graphic symbol for brushing, so it seems best to express it with dead notes as in the example above.


If you want to use the brushing expression found in Japanese publications, you could use “Slap with Ghost Note” for bass, but the graphic symbol may be a little too large for guitar tablature.



(3) Dorico SE/Elements


In the case of the Dorico series, it doesn't have the same sense of realism as Guitar Pro, which specializes in guitars, but if you change the notehead according to the playing method, that tone will be applied to some extent during playback.


When it comes to notehead types, the free version of Dorico SE has as many choices as Finale. There are several types of X noteheads that can be used to express ghost notes or brushing, in this example I chose the “decorative X notehead” for the second beat of the first measure.


The noteheads on the tablature side are not the same as the noteheads on the staff side, and by default they remain numbers, but this can be changed to X notation by selecting “Dead Note” on the properties screen.


For glissando and pick scratches, it is best to use “Jazz Articulation”, which is also available on the property screen. There are also enough types of graphic symbols available for both before and after notes. For measures 3 and 4, I picked up several types of graphic symbols that could be used in rock guitar.


With Dorico SE, it is possible to express brushing as seen in music notation published in Japan.


Dorico SE does not have the ability to freely arrange text and cannot write text symbols on the tablature side, but this is possible with the paid versions of Dorico Elements and Dorico Pro, which have an engraving mode.



(4) MuseScore


The free music notation software MuseScore is equipped with a wealth of symbols for rock guitar special playing techniques, both in text and shapes, and can be expressed in a manner similar to Finale.


Note that the double X noteheads used in pick and scratch are SMuFL symbols, and the same symbol is also included in the Dorico series and Finale, which are also SMuFL compatible software.


Which one you should pick up


My impression that Guitar Pro is the best choice for guitar scores is the same as my previous article about bends. However, since Guitar Pro is not compatible with SMuFL, I feel that it is somewhat lacking in terms of graphic symbols.


In that respect, MuseScore is still excellent as it is free but also supports SMuFL symbols. 


I was also impressed by the Dorico SE, which is compatible with SMuFL, various graphic symbols that can be used for rock guitar’s special techniques are organized and easy to use, and it is reproduced in the playback to some extent.

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