Microtonal Tablature request

Hi! I’m happy to say I downloaded the trial today and am extremely impressed by the microtonal notation capabilities. Several softwares have attempted flexible microtonal notation in some way or another but only here is it in any way pleasant and practical to use. So thank you for this incredibly powerful feature!
I come to request the ability for microtonal tablature. Knowing the microtonal notation capabilities, and seeing that the guitar tablature had features such as uneven diatonic fret spacing or banjo style starting frets (features not included in even the most fully featured tab softwares), I assumed there may be full flexibility. I am a little sad to see that isn’t the case, and, whilst microtonalists make an incredibly small portion of the user base, would love to request support for that.
It seems to manage writing and playback of the diatonic natural notes how they are tuned in a custom tuning, but of course has no reference as to how the inbetween notes should be handled - instead displaying “?” on the tablature and sounding a random note of choice.
It would be lovely if we could use the custom guitar tuning setup to specify on which fret numbers the diatonic notes appear, and which accidentals are mapped to the other frets surrounding them. Along with the existing per-string independence, this would allow even the wildest of fretboard designs.
Thanks for the fantastic software, and I hope you can consider this in future

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Welcome to the forum, Noisemother. I’d be very interested to see some examples of the kind of tablature you’re after. Can you upload a few examples, or point me in the direction of any published examples that we might be able to buy?

Hello Daniel and Noisemother,
Daniel, I suppose he is talking about tablatures for instruments like arabic/turkish oud, saz/baglama, buzuq… and bowed instruments like kemence and rebab?!
Daniel, personally I could contribute about long and short neck saz, if you are interested to create usable tablature for these instruments in Dorico. Just let me know on P.M. :slight_smile:

Best wishes,
Thurisaz :slight_smile:

Thank you , and thanks for the great software!

Here is an example I made in Sibelius - purely visual, no correct playback here of course. This is a recycled image not made for you - please note the top staff is a treble+bass piano staff, and the tabbed string is tuned to a low C.


You are seeing:
Top staff - Notation for 19-tones per octave. This tuning would be constructed in your editor by a 3323332 diatonic scale instead of 2212221, with flats and sharps making 1/19. So we have C, C#, Db, D, etc. This is the approach used by historic meantone tuning (though more often than not they took a 12 note subset - however there were some keyboards with split black keys).
Dorico makes notation like that perfect, which I am extremely grateful for!

On the third staff, is how this would be played on a regular 12 tone guitar - without distinction between sharps and flats.

On the second staff, is 19 tone guitar tablature. This is the normal approach and one I think would be nice and simple to support. One could apply the same system as your tonality setup - defining the frets on which the diatonic scale appears (Dorico already calculates this but instead with numbers up to 12 and ? in the gaps), and defining what the inbetween frets are.
One can achieve this visually in Dorico of course and I am currently doing so with a separate tablature instrument which is muted. It would be nice to have them on one instrument linked for a faster workflow and the option to write in tablature with playback of course.

The last staff may confuse things a little here, it isn’t so relevant to discussion ( and please ignore the little arrow). However the last staff is a good example of what currently happens in Dorico on a linked microtonal notation+tablature staff, if you imagine the .5 notes replaced with a question mark. Dorico knows where the diatonic frets are using numbers up to 12, filling the gaps with question marks as it is unsure how they should behave. The third staff here is a system I came up with that serves to retain muscle memory moving between different tuning systems, where 0-3 would always be a minor third, etc. Displaying 19 frets with only 12 numeric values. This (visual only) tablature happens to be supported by Sibelius because their 1/4tone implementation allows .5s to be written in tablature rather than using 1-24 for an octave. I wouldn’t expect playback support of this, but given I think this ‘muscle memory friendly’ version is useful, it would be nice if (without functional playback) a tablature staff could have other characters entered such as decimals or arrows v5, ^5 to make this possible too. But again, I’m here mostly asking for simple literal implementation of fret numbers as in the 0-19 example, linked with playback to reflect the divisions of the octave defined by the tonality system. Whilst open strings are typically diatonic, if you do move to support this - you should not overlook the ability to have the open strings tuned to inbetween notes either, please.

The main tuning I use is actually 31-tone, which again your notation system supports wonderfully (notation here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/31_equal_temperament#Scale_diagram )
5 notes inbetween each diatonic note. Your tablature would currently read 0 ? ? ? ? ? 1 and so on, rather than the ability to read 0 1 2 3 4 5 6

To put it most simply and summarise:
Please make the Divisions Per Octave result in tonality settings affect the Octave fret along a guitar string - they should be the same number, which would take care of the Divisions For Specific Intervals in tablature form and allow linking of individual frets to the pitches defined by custom accidental settings :slight_smile: The Edit Strings and Tuning dialog would also require Tune up/down octave division buttons rather than half steps , to ensure strings are not limited to diatonic pitches

Sorry to have taken a while to come back to you, Noisemother. Please excuse me asking remedial questions, but I’ve never had the pleasure of coming across a guitar that can play 19-EDO meantone tuning. How do you physically play the difference between a C# and a Db on such an instrument?

Method 1: refret your guitar with 19 frets per octave not 12. That gives you 19-EDO, but not the meantone tuning.

A 19EDO minor third is very close to just intonation, though a major third is worse (but better than 12EDO).

You can use that fact to tweak the string tuning to give all the meantone notes accurately somewhere on the fingerboard (but not on every string). One method is to tune in just-intonation fourths E-A-D-G-C-F. There are other variations on the same idea. See https://sethares.engr.wisc.edu/tet19/guitarchords19.html

Actually, 19-EDO sounds more “in tune” than 12-EDO even if you ignore the second step.

Method 2: stay with 12 frets per octave, but change the shape of the frets. See https://www.truetemperament.com for a company selling replacement fretboards to fit popular guitar models.

Rob, I was almost ready to think this was a joke. I’m glad you included the links.
To me this is all pretty amazing stuff (in a good way).

That’s fascinating – I had no idea such things were readily available. And tablature for these kinds of guitars always uses whole fret numbers and not fractional numbers, I guess?

There’s nothing really new here. In the renaissance, fretted instruments for “serious music” (e.g. lutes, but not guitars) had frets that were simply loops of gut tied around the neck, so the players could adjust the temperament to whatever they liked.

I have no idea how you might write tab for a guitar with unequal spaced frets (e.g. a practical playable selection of 41 or 53 EDO), or something like the "18th Determinant Overtone Guitar " here: http://metatonalmusic.com/Conversions.html :wink:


What would happen if one used a capo on such a guitar? I’m guessing that would be avoided if possible.

A capo just frets all the strings at the fret you select, so if won’t do anything special.

The frets don’t move when you use a capo, so the pitch of the available notes doesn’t change!

I just wondered whether a capo would throw off the relative intervals above it since the relationship of the frets would no longer relate to the open strings. (Perhaps I need to take a refresher course in acoustics :confused: ).

The “standard” notation for 19 EDO is a bit unsymmetrical: C C# Db D D# Eb E E# F F# Gb G G# Ab A A# Bb B B# C

There is no deep logical reason for choosing E E# F and B B# C rather than E Fb F and B Cb C. But if you want exactly 19 different notations for different pitches, you have to leave out two of 21 possibilities.

The result is that the notation doesn’t have a simple way to transpose “scales” etc that corresponds to the concept of “play all the notes x frets higher up the fingerboard”, which is one reason to use a capo.

That’s what I thought. Since I do not play guitar myself, knowing as much as possible about the various iterations of the instrument is doubly important. Thanks for your help.

I would also like to have the option to write tablature parts for different types of equal temperament guitars, namely 22edo. It seems that this would be easily doable if it were possible to input more precise decimal values under the irregular fret spacing option. Otherwise a system a bit like the custom tonality system could be adopted, where you simply had the option of increasing the number of frets per octave. Do you think this could be achieved in the near future?

Back as a Dorico owner now, bumping up support of this ! There would definitely be multiple ways of implementation , and it may be useful to discuss with users what is needed if implementation is intended

I have an 19 EDO guitar and have written music for it in the past and just use the standard notation, with no enharmonic equivalents.

The capo issue is interesting, but very specific. Even within the very small microtonal world this sounds like an individual and EDO type problem.
Its only possible in equal temperaments to use a capo, any just intonation you just can’t do that and modulate a piece into another key without getting different intervals.

Though I’m about to try and see if I can figure out how to write with different colours on keys for pitches to work with a friend’s prototype of the Lumitone keyboard, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable asking for that to be included in the software. Way too specific.