Slash Notation in Dorico Pro 2

I am glad to see that so many of my friends from Just Jazz Guitar have taken the time to email me about this blog. I welcome all of your email, even (sometimes especially) the critical ones.

Many of you are waiting for tablature to be implemented in Dorico, and so far it is not in Dorico Pro 2. The “Clefs” menu includes “TAB6” and “TAB4” but at this time they just create the standard “TAB” as the clef but do not adjust the lines to become “strings”; if you create a guitar player you get the five line staff and notes, not numbers.

However, one new feature that you have asked for has shown up: Slash Notation. This allows the composer or arranger to specify the chord and rhythm to be used, but the voicing is left up to the player. John Barron discusses Slash Notation in the May 2018 edition of Discover Dorico on YouTube, so I thought I would show you how I used it to re-create a very interesting timing issue in a classic song, Jimi Hendrix‘s version of All Along the Watchtower. If you have tried to play this with a band, or even paid close attention to the timing, something sounds wrong when you use most standard sheet music.

The secret is that Jimi used anticipation chords on the eighth-note before the downbeat of each bar, and then accented the first three chords of the following bar. This gives the proper accent to the downbeat, which does NOT coincide with the chord change. A good place to see this (as well as the solos in the song) is in Hal Leonard’s “Signature Licks” series Jimi Hendrix: Volume 2 by Chad Johnson. Chad does outstanding transcriptions, so I thought it would be worthwhile to try to reproduce the first 4 bars of the song:

Here I created a “slash voice” from the Write menu in Write Mode. There are a couple of interesting things here. First, the slash notation displays on the middle line. Although it is displaying slashes, I am actually typing notes but getting just the slash noteheads, which I want. However, some stems go down and others go up. This might have been OK, but I have chosen to notate the guitar that plays the rhythm pattern at first, then plays the lead (the three notes at the end are the start of it). This is a great feature: you can combine slash notation and regular notation in a single voice, or so it seems when entering it. But you can see in that final bar that rests fill in the bar for the notes, while under them rests fill out the slash notation.

 

My first decision was to force all stems up. I did this from the Edit menus in Write Mode.

Next I selected all slashes and moved them up to the top of the staff. I had to choose each slash individually. There may be an easier way to select them but Select All is not it. Choosing the rests kept it from working for some reason I do not understand, but it looks OK so far.

Finally, I added the chord names. Usually you would do this earlier but since the whole idea was using slashes, I figured I’d make sure they worked OK first. I also added the accents on the first three notes of each bar. The documentation says that the accents are attached to the noteheads but you can see that in the last bar they are on top of the stems, probably because the note voice is considered the lower one (at least now that I have moved the slashes up;  it was the higher voice earlier). If you do compare this to the Hal Leonard book, you will see that the slashes in Dorico are not at such a steep angle, so that while both of them place the chord name over the notehead of the slash, they tend to cover the whole thing in the book, while Dorico puts them directly over the notehead (e.g. the B chords above).

Of course there is more tidying up you can do, like hiding some of the rests in the last bar. And I must admit that this is a bit of a “cheat” since in the HL book the slashes float above the staff and are clearly separate. In Dorico I had to move them to the G above the staff; any higher and I started getting ledger lines, which I did not want. Still, this is a constructed example, since most slash parts are just slashes, and Dorico does those very  easily. The notes are a different story. There are no guitar notations to show the slide into the first note, nor the bend to the third note.

Of course the guitar is not the only instrument that plays from slash notation, but it is a very handy feature for guitarists. Given the level of interest in guitar-related features, I thought this was a good place to start looking at Dorico Pro 2.

 

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Ultimate Guitar Acquires MuseScore – Win/Win/Win

It must be great to have a product that dominates its field, but how to you keep progressing when your flagship product is FREE? MuseScore2 is most likely the most popular notation software in the world, and for good reason: it is of higher quality than almost every competitor, even the commercial ones (except, of course, the highest level professional publishing ones). If you have taken even a quick glance at this blog you know that I have Dorico and Sibelius 7.5, but I still use MuseScore2 for particular projects for which it is better suited.

The huge user community can’t wait for MuseScore3 to appear, but even the brilliance of the original MuseScore team is stretched to the limit as they work on this labour of love while keeping the wolf from the door with their web site for music producers as well as MuseScore Pro. But with the amazing response from all over the world, some change was needed to keep the company flourishing. Thomas Bonte, one of the founders, explained why their joining with Ultimate Guitar was the best choice here. (Actually the note is signed by all three founders: Werner, Nicolas, and Thomas.) If you have ever searched for a guitar or bass tab, you have met Ultimate Guitar. Not only are they a similar powerhouse in the field of sharing tablature (with over 100 million guitarists reported to use the site), more importantly they have a strong business model that will help MuseScore3 arrive quicker and with the company in even better shape. Already they have negotiated several worldwide licensing arrangements for MuseScore thanks to their own relationships with music publishers. This means that MuseScore can host scores of some of the most popular music today in superb quality. And more is coming.

MuseScore fans are reassured that things will only get better from here on. Here is a post by Eugeny Naidenov, founder and owner of Ultimate Guitar on the plans for MuseScore going forward.

Note that MUSESCORE WILL REMAIN OPEN SOURCE AND FREE!

So MuseScore is on a firm company footing, Ultimate Guitar has another gem with which to share music for ALL musicians, and users can look forward to more music in more formats, while resting assured that MuseScore will remain free. That sounds like Win/Win/Win to me.

Make Money While Practising

Every few months the guitar magazines rediscover that regular practice improves playing. This is often touted as the “secret” of the current great guitar player. I’m going to assume that you all know that by now. (If not, try doing 15 minutes of focused practice every day for a few weeks and see what happens.)

I have a few suggestions for your practice sessions that can actually save you money, which is like having more money to spend on that dream instrument while being able to play it better when you get it. It’s like getting paid to practice.

Here’s how: Focus on something you need to learn, not something that you can already play in your sleep (chances are you stopped hearing it a while ago). If you don’t know the whole neck of your instrument, learn it several ways. Up and down one string, across every position, skipping notes, in scales and modes, there are all sorts of ways to make sure that you know where Bb is on the D string, for example.

The second thing is to listen as you play. This will train your ear, and it will also let you hear your guitar (or any other instrument you play). This is crucial, because if you don’t know what your guitar sounds like, and what you can do with it, you won’t be able to spot a better-sounding one in the music store.

Third, I suggest having a set routine that runs through the whole neck, every string and at least every three frets. This should be short and one of the first things your play every day. Notice the changes in tone in all of the various ranges of your instrument. That’s why you want to cover the whole neck.

Finally don’t forget to learn a few songs so well that you can play them perfectly even in front of the person who wrote or played it. You want to be able to listen to the tone you are getting without worrying where your fingers are or if you are hitting the right string.

OK, now that you’ve done that (or when you have) let’s save you some money. Most players tend to freeze when they go into a guitar shop and there are a lot of players there. “Man, is everyone else great on the guitar but me?” Naw, they are just playing their “store set” of exercises and songs. But now you have a store set too! So no matter what that guy in the corner who thinks he’s the second coming of Eddie van Halen is doing, you can do your own thing and listen to the guitars you play. And play a lot of them. Bonus tip: there are subtle differences between every guitar, even ones from the same company in the same model with the same configuration that come off an assembly line. The great thing about wood and the other materials that make up guitars is that you never really know how one piece is going to react to sound. A tip that you won’t need if you listen is that the price of a guitar has little to do with the sound of a guitar. I did a test one day of 15 Les Paul’s in one of my favourite music stores, about half Gibson and half Epiphone (actually 8 were Gibsons). The best two were about the same with slightly different tonal ranges, and they were both Epiphones, over $500 cheaper than the cheapest Gibson (in THAT shop on THAT day; your mileage may vary). The point is that it’s always worthwhile to compare. A friend did a similar comparison with Telecasters and found a Godin that was the best sounding one in the store for less than half the price of a Fender Tele. In that case he wasn’t sure which sounded better, but since I knew a song he’d just learned I suggested he play it on all of them and see which one sounded best. There was no doubt in his mind when he bought the Godin.

You probably see my last example coming, but I’ll tell you anyway. Years ago a friend in a band I was in wanted to upgrade his “Strat knock-off” with a real Fender. We both knew the sound of his guitar well, so we expected great things at the store. He played three Strats and asked me to play them too. Our consensus was that they sounded no better than his guitar — no worse, but no better. In this case we were lucky enough to find the same type of amp that he used, because a better amp can bias you, but in this case he made the biggest savings of all and had a new respect for his knock-off guitar.

So a regular focused practice routine can save you money. At the very least you will end up as a better player. You will also be ready to try out instruments at unexpected places and times. Look into how Geddy Lee and Jack Casady found their favourite basses — the ones their signature models are based on — and you will realize that it was their ability to hear the special tone of the instrument that was crucial.

A lot of the guitar biz is based on players not realizing what they actually have already. As with anything in life (cars, significant others, phones, etc.) be sure to know what you have before you try to upgrade. And if you do upgrade, check out what you are really getting.

 

 

Spotting Fake Fender and Gibson Guitars & Dorico Review Soon

Several problems here have slowed down my writing but my full review of Dorico 1.0.10 should be ready today or tomorrow at the latest. I truly hope it is worth waiting for.

Meanwhile, since several of you may be hoping for Fender or Gibson guitars this holiday season, you should watch Kennis Russell’s videos on how to spot fakes. Some clues are easy, some are combinations of clues, and others may be difficult for those who aren’t luthiers or qualified guitar repair folks. If you don’t grasp all of these tips you might want to bring along a friend who does, preferably a luthier or guitar tech. In any case, spotting a fake could save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars so these videos are well worth your time. They’re interesting even if you don’t plan to buy one of these guitars too.

Click here for spotting a fake Fender Strat.

Click here for spotting a fake Gibson Les Paul.

There are also some general tips on spotting fake Fenders and Gibsons that apply throughout the product lines.

My  advice is to listen and trust your own ears. For example, I’ve found Epiphone Les Pauls that sounded better than the actual Gibsons I compared them with, side-by-side using the same amp and settings. Brand and model are good starting points but your ears and fingers should make the final decision, along with the gooey stuff between your ears (and I don’t mean the wax).