Guitar Tab / Music Writing Software - Recommendations?

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by Gretschzilla, Aug 22, 2021.

  1. Gretschzilla

    Gretschzilla Gretschie

    Apr 20, 2021
    Saint Paul, MN USA
    Hey Everybody,
    I'm going to get a bit more serious about my song writing. I'm wondering if y'all have experiences or recommendations regarding software that writes guitar tabs and musical notation.

    Plus and minus information is great; if you've tried something that was awful, that would be just as helpful as your positive experiences.

    Thanks for any guidance you can offer.
  2. I’ve looked at the cheaper stuff & it tends to be lame.
    GuitarPro looks sort of chintzy too, but the feature set is pretty rich despite a 20 yr old interface.

    I haven’t found anything I’ve liked enough to recommend enthusiastically.

    While Capo is not writing software exactly & does not suit your description above,
    its a nice app for your desktop to tab out existing music. Useful to help work out your own arrangements, if you blend multiple guitars into a one-guitar arrangement.

    It used to be Mac/iPad only.
    Gretschzilla likes this.
  3. Gretschzilla

    Gretschzilla Gretschie

    Apr 20, 2021
    Saint Paul, MN USA
    Thank you, Runamok. I’m having a similar experience looking at online reviews and product websites. I’m really just looking for a handy tool to help me easily create tab illustrations, either in the ‘strings vertical’ style (frets horizontal, finger positions are black dots) or ‘strings horizontal’ style (strings are horizontal dashed lines and finger positions are numbers on each dashed line/string). I found a pretty nice freebie site ( that produces the horizontal style.

    Seems that most of the software wants a midi controller as input. I might just go totally old school and get printed tablets of musical staffs and write the tabs above.
  4. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Guitar Pro is easy to use.

    Band In a Box is a little different but also pretty useful.
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  5. Gretschzilla, since you tagged the earlier reply, I will add a new one vs append it.

    I think tab software is just not well-evolved. Maybe just as easy to do it the old way manually. All this stuff gets in the way. As I said, GP looks like an interface intended for 90’s era Mac. But its fairly quick to learn.

    No idea what it looks like running Windows or Linux.
    I test drove it for a month & dropped it.

    You’d think somebody could do it better by now.
    There are a few apps that show promise, but not as far along (in my limited experience).

    One thing with Capo:
    1) You can play your stuff as digital, mark it to help flesh out what you played in Capo.

    2) Then send it off as midi once you tag the spectrogram &

    3) introduce it into GuitarPro (or a cheaper analog) to see it as rough tab & clean up the tabbing, fix any timing problems.​

    A bit tedious. Definitely circuitous.

    Capo displays a best guess at chords, has a visual drop box to change voicings, either indiviually or globally. Those do not export, however.

    There is TuxPro, or something like that which is free, a little underwhelming & I think it was coded in Java, or requires Java be installed (thus is like Flash, a slight security risk).

    More: I used a graphics program to create my own templates & chord charts as well. None of those work terribly well without derailing any process. Best to create a template & get a good 7mm mechanical pencil?

    By hand: Could get a fretboard stamp off the internet. There are several sizes available.
    Use medium blue ink or gray stamp pad to fade the frets into the background.

    If you can operate in std notation there are several applications, Finale, Sibelius (& Amadeus I think, though there used to be an older music application called Amadeus as well).
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2021
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  6. Different in what way? Never seen that one up close.
  7. NJDevil

    NJDevil Country Gent

    Jul 9, 2014
    Commack, NY
    I've tried, and I can't.....regarding any type of software. It all comes back to my notepad and a pencil. In parallel with this is having an acoustic always right there. Experiments are tried, noted and changes made with the notes of what was and now what will be.....always includes the date.

    Having the guitar makes the process ingrained into what I want to so and most times I couldn't forget where I am, changes and where I want to be even if I tried. I have developed my own language/notation. This actually applies heavily to all of my electric work.

    For acoustic? Same, but with lyrics.

    Sometimes I keep it tidy by transferring what I have on paper onto MS Word and redline and keep notes as if I'm reviewing a contract.
  8. Manually. Beats banging the hell out of your guitar while trying to run a computer at the same time!

    Btw, looked at a few Band In A Box videos to get some idea & answer my own question. Looks interesting. Does one own the software version, or just rent it annually like most things digital these days? Do you lose access to style samples, or do you buy them in “perpetuity?”
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2021
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  9. Gretschzilla

    Gretschzilla Gretschie

    Apr 20, 2021
    Saint Paul, MN USA
    I greatly appreciate the thoughtful responses. I am going manual. This is about efficient capturing of ideas; maintaining a thought process.

    This reminds me of why I keep a (giant) dictionary in my office. For me, it’s faster to look up a word there versus the online sites because I usually want to look at multiple definitions and word origin. Plus it’s fun to journey to the word; the distractions along the way are rewarding.

    Again, many thanks for sharing your experiences and deliberations.
  10. Electrosynthesis

    Electrosynthesis Gretschie

    May 11, 2011
    São Paulo
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  11. Gretschzilla

    Gretschzilla Gretschie

    Apr 20, 2021
    Saint Paul, MN USA
    Thanks Electrosynthesis! I will check that out. The song I just wrote ended up as a Word doc. Clunky but it let me share it with my kids who are helping me record it while we develop and refine it.
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  12. S.R.Cash

    S.R.Cash Gretschie

    Aug 29, 2019
    Ontario, Canada
    Pencil, Ruler, Blank Paper. Not sure why but somehow it just feels more in the end like I'm actually accomplishing something? Plus, less things to fidget with keeps the creativity flowing.
  13. Electrosynthesis

    Electrosynthesis Gretschie

    May 11, 2011
    São Paulo
    Hey, MS Word is fine! Whatever gets you through the night, as Lennon sang. But recording... of course! I've already come across some songs that I'd written down the chords but I couldn't remember how they went, it was kind of frustrating. Sometimes a phone recording is all it takes to register that moment. I've got some of those myself... :p
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  14. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012

    Wow - I had never heard of Capo. Just downloaded it and it seems to have some good features. Thanks for sharing.
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  15. Finding a way to use it is key — Capo is really pretty nice once you use imagination & can help learn busy pre-recorded music, slow down tracks, & my favorite: help. in creating solo versions of multiple guitar songs. But you already realize that.

    Another full-featured app, if you have any drumming skills, is PolyNome.
    Written by Wishbone Ash’s drummer. A class act in that it is not subscription-based.

    CORRECTION: there is a membership model & they jacked the prices to $15 std & $31 Pro at this writing for version 3.0. What’s that—a loaf of bread & salami today. I think mine is v 2.x & not subject to annual fees.

    PolyNome is over my head. Bought it anyway just to support well-written software. Good interface. 2+ years later — wish I could apply it. Advertised as a metronome, works s a band-wide click track with full drums too. Download other people’s drum tracks, or create your own.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2021
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  16. Hammerhands

    Hammerhands Country Gent

    Aug 26, 2011
  17. Groutsch

    Groutsch Synchromatic

    Jun 9, 2018
    Maryland, US
    The tabs that I get from an online instructor are .gp files, which I assume are Guitar Pro. I haven't tried the software myself, but the output looks nice. I use a pencil and a music composition notebook for drafts, but I want software to produce a neat version to share.
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  18. dlew919

    dlew919 Country Gent

    Jul 18, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    I’ve got guitar notepad. It’s pretty good and intuitive once you get used to it. Easy PDF creation. Plays the tabs for you. You can tab many instruments, and even customise the tuning. So mando, banjo, Ukelele, bass, etc. The one thing I don’t like is you can’t add lyrics. But is good for tab.
  19. Electrosynthesis

    Electrosynthesis Gretschie

    May 11, 2011
    São Paulo
    I use Musescore, it's free and works fine for my use. I have tried Guitar Pro, and I found the ease of use slightly better and the interface much better. I believe it's the standard for musical notation among guitar players. It also has a lot of tabbed out and noted quality material for the whole band you can buy for a few bucks. I never got around to buying it though.
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  20. Hmmm. I’ve looked at MuseScore. Do you actually use this?
    LilyPond is text based & too much like coding. fwiw, I prefer something visual [- but then I’m not the one looking -]. So maybe I should shut up: Just curious what drew you to it.

    “Free” too often means klunky. It might be a good start, but frequently has its shortcomings. If there is a steep curve & requires learning its scripting quirks, investing the time just to find out if you like it, or tolerate. It is way too 1990’s.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2021
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