Fretting about frets


I’m trying to set up a bespoke fretted instrument in Dorico and can’t seem to get the 8ve of the strings to notate properly, no matter what I try:

  • If, for example, I open up a very simple patch with just a violin and an off-the-peg fretted instrument (e.g. an Electric Guitar), then use my midi keyboard to enter notes I hit a problem. The violin inputs the notes at pitch i.e. I press ‘middle C’ on my midi piano and I see a middle C on the score. But the electric guitar puts it up an 8ve - so when I press middle C on the midi piano, and switch to the electric guitar line, the middle C is notated an octave up i.e. in the third space up on the treble stave. This happens whichever fretted instrument I use, even when I use them straight out of the box, without playing around with any transpositions or so on. Fretted are treated middle C as an input - and not just in the notation - differently to non-fretted instruments.

I’ve found the ‘Clef and Transposition Overrides’ and couldn’t make them change things. They brought the notation to the correct point - but when I went back to my midi keyboard, it still entered notes on the electric guitar line in the wrong 8ve, relative to the violin, so it’s not possible to swap between lines without compensating for this.

I also played around with Expression Maps - tried every thing I could thing of there to no avail.

Can you explain how to fix this? I need to be able to press middle C on the keyboard and see middle C on both a violin and a fretted instrument. I feel there are so many ways to play around with C3, C4, C5 difference it’s not at all clear which one will solve the problem. I’m not worried about it playing out in the wrong 8ve as I can compensate for that with Konakt. I should point out this problem exists, even if I’m using no VST sounds at all - it seems to be on the input side.

By the way, the bit that works really well is the tabulature - once I’ve corrected the octave. Am working with scordatura on some ancient fretted instruments and it’s been really helpful to explaining them to players.


Guitar is a transposing instrument, violin isn’t.

Why don’t you start your piece off with a mandolin, its fretted but not transposing?

That’s fixed it - thanks so much!
Had no idea the guitar was a tranposing instrument (but the mandolin not) - didn’t spot an 8 by the clef. I was unlucky as all the instruments I opened (guitar and tenor lute) must have had the same problem. That’s prevented another hour of headscratching. Thanks!

I have never seen an octave clef used in an actual published score. Ever.

Guitar (and bass, too, for that matter) are universally written an octave above sounding.

I would disagree that a guitar is a transposing instrument. It is always written an octave above the sounding pitch. As TylerE said, the octave clefs are just for decoration (and of course computers make it possible to add pointless decorations to printed scores for no extra cost, unlike hand copying or engraving).

The fact that some software (but not Dorico) might notate it at sounding pitch just means that software has a bug in it.

The practical reason for writing it an octave above sounding pitch is that otherwise the notation would become a mess of treble and bass clefs, or would need two staves instead of one, since it is easy to play one string open and another string at the 20th fret, at the same time!