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[All] Comparison of guitar bend (bending) expressions in music notation software

In this article, I will focus on several types of music notation software currently on the market that are especially suitable for producing rock guitar scores, and compare the methods used to express bends, which can be said to be the most typical performance method of rock guitar. 


As an example, I picked up products that can write Japanese-style stemmed tablature. This is possible with high-end products such as Finale, Sibelius, and Dorico, but as a representative example, this time I will focus on Finale which is a standard tool in the Japanese music publishing industry.


Note that the guitar bends notation differs greatly between Western and Japanese styles.


In Western-style bends, the bend on the staff side is shaped like an angular slur (hereinafter referred to as a angular slur), and the bend on the tablature side is shaped like a curved arrow (hereinafter referred to as curved arrow).



This time, I will only focus on Western-style bends, which are included as standard features in most music notation software.


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


(1) Finale 27


In Finale, symbols that transform according to changes in the score layout, such as slurs and crescendos, are handled in the Smart Shapes Tool, and bend symbols are also included in this category.


Specifically, if you click the “Guitar Bend Tool” icon in the Smart Shape Tools and double-click the note to which you want to add a bend, a bend arrow will be input and the bend amount value will be displayed as a numerical value next to it.



The bend amount value is automatically entered according to the interval to the note placed to the right of the note that starts the bend. For example, a semitone bend from D to Eb is written as “1/2”, a whole tone bend from D to E is written as “Full”, and a one and a half step bend from D to E# is written as “1 ½” . (For a whole tone bend, you can use “1” instead of “Full”. )


Bend symbols can be freely selected, whether curved arrows or angular slurs, regardless of staff or tablature.


(2) Guitar Pro 8


In the case of Guitar Pro, which is good at guitar scoring as the product name suggests, you can enter a bend symbol by selecting a note or a number on the tablature and pressing the “B” key, which is the initial letter of Bend. 



By default, an angular slur is applied to the staff side, and a curved arrow bend is applied to the tablature side, but it is also possible to use a curved arrow bend expression for both.


What's unique about this is that the notes you pluck are notated as usual, but brackets are automatically added to notes whose pitch changes with a left-hand bend after plucking.


This notation is unique to Guitar Pro and is not found in other major music notation software, but there are published scores that actually use this notation, and it can be said to be an easy-to-understand expression from the perspective of determining which note should be plucked or not. 


(For example, if you want to do this in Finale, you have to write the brackets individually using an expression tool.)


Regarding playback, it is noteworthy that Guitar Pro is equipped with a unique feature that allows you to adjust the bend expression independently on two axes, time and pitch change, just like on a real guitar. 


(3) Dorico SE/Elements


Dorico Elements is the amateur version of Dorico, a new music notation software released by Steinberg in 2016, and Dorico SE is the free version. To add a bend, select the note, press Shift + O, and enter "bend" in the popover that appears above the note.


This example score was created using Dorico Elements, but the bend-related functions are similar to Guitar Pro, with angular slurs applied to the staff side and curved arrow bends applied to the tablature side.



In addition, in the case of Dorico SE / Elements, the stem of the tablature does not connect to the numbers. This feature is available in the top version of Dorico Pro, but it may be sufficient for those who consider tablature rhythm notation to be just an aid.


(4) MuseScore


In MuseScore, a free music notation software that has become increasingly sophisticated these days, you can input bend marks by selecting a note and pressing the Option+B keys.



On the staff side, it seems that only angular slur bends can be selected, but apart from that one point, both Japanese and Western style bends can be expressed almost on par with Finale. For whole tone bend you can use “Full” instead of “1” by changing the configuration, just like other apps.


Which one you should pick up


Apart from the expensive professional product Finale that we introduced at the beginning, Guitar Pro is recommended for those who write mostly guitar scores. You might want to install the free trial version and try it out first.


On the other hand, people who write scores for various instruments, or who want to write arrangements for horns and strings as well as orchestral music in the future, should step up to Dorico Pro, which is a versatile professional product. With that in mind, I think it would be a good idea to first use the free version of Dorico SE, and then use the entry class Dorico Elements.


And no matter what you end up buying, I recommend that you first try using MuseScore, which has probably the best performance among free music notation apps. Since it is a free app, there is no guarantee of operation, but I think it is quite practical if you are careful about how you use it, such as saving files frequently.

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