Feature Request? Alternate clef for transposing instruments

• Nov 4, 2014 - 13:58

I want to check here to see if I should submit this as a feature request or not.

MuseScore 2.0 handles transposing instruments in scores quite well. My feature request is for an enhancement for instruments like Tenor Sax whose display while in "Concert" mode is different by quite a bit as opposed to non-concert mode. In particular, the Tenor Sax is transposed by an 14 semi-tones (an octave plus a whole step).

Typically, this is displayed in treble clef, and when not in Concert mode, looks just fine. However, an "F" on the lower part of the staff in non-concert mode displays as an Eb an octave below the staff when in Concert mode, usually overlapping with adjacent parts on staffs below the tenor sax in a multi-instrument score. At the same time, this is difficult to read.

MuseScore already offers a treble clef with a tiny "8" below it indicating that it sounds an octave below what is displayed.

So, my proposal would be to allow transposing instruments to not only specify how many semitones they are transposed, but also what clef they should use when being displayed in "Concert" mode.

Thanks for any thoughts, and thanks again for this wonderful piece of software!

- Mike.


It should already be possible to change the clef to the score to change it, and that change will only apply to the "mode" (concert pitch on or off) in which you made the change.

So for tenor sax, create the score normally, which creates a treble clef. Now turn on concert pitch mode and change the clef to treble-8. When you turn concert pitch back off, you'll see it's back to regular treble clef. MuseScore keeps track of the concert and transposed clefs separately.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yep. I had worked that out. It would be nice, however, to have that be able to be set up in the instrument selection for the score. In Sibelius, for instance, they offer 2 different tenor sax instruments, one standard, and one that sounds an octave lower. Similar with the Bari sax.

In reply to by carneyweb

At one time during 2.0 development, I thought we did support a "concertClef" tag in the instruments.xml file and that would have set this up automatically. That seems to be gone now though. I know we had quite a few bugs and issues with settings initial clefs and how that interacted with changing instruments or staff types later; maybe this support was removed to make the code simpler to maintain.

The code seems to still be in place though, and worked on a brief initial test I just did. All we would need to do is add appropriate concertClef tags to the insrtruments.xml file for the relevant instruments. Anyone know of a reason not to?

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

OK, let's decide on a strategy and do this. It should only be an issue for instruments that transpose at an octave or more. For instruments like tenor sax and bass clarinet - instruments that transpose at the ninth and display in treble clef normally - I propose we set "concertClef" to treble-8. Not sure is we should also change from "clef" to "transposingClef". For bari sax and any other instruments that use treble clef but transpose at the thirteenth, I propose we use bass clef. The other octave transposing instruments I know use octave clefs already in MuseScore rather than transposition per second and thus don't need anything more (eg, guitar, bass). I guess there are probably otherwise winds that need consideration (Contrabassoon? Bass sax?)

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I like to give my contribution regarding brass instruments.

At present it is already easy to print parts in Bb transposition and C using concert pitch
from the same score. There is no change for the clef.

French Horn
Mostly notated in F transposing treble clef.
If there are extra transpositions desired - e.g. to Eb - separate stave are neccessary.

In Europe we use two different notations for the euphonium.
Some players read bass clef (='loco' like the trombone) -
some others read treble clef and play a major ninth below the notation.
At present I have to generate two different parts therefore - like French horn.

If Musescore can distinguish 2 different clefs for concert pitch off/on
--> maybe I could use this ability to printout the 2 different versions I need:
- the treble clef version with concert pitch off - including the treble clef transposition
- the bass clef version with concert pitch on - including the bass clef
and don't need to copy an extra stave in the score.
This would be a benefit and reduces the handling with euphonium parts.
I think 'treble-8' is unusual for euphonium players.

In reply to by Rudi cj7tb

For euphonium / baritone horn, see http://musescore.org/en/node/12269. It's come up a few other times too. The simple solution seems to be to have two entries in the instruments.xml file - one for bass clef / concert pitch, one for treble clef / transposed a major ninth. I think maybe because we added a British brass band template, the idea of adding these variations to the instrumentls.xml file kind of lost support, or at least, no one seemed interested enough to do anything about it. I still think it makes sense for these two instruments. Not so sure about tuba, but there is some preference for that too.

BTW, changing the actual behavior of the instrument dialog is probably beyond the score of what would be considered for 2.0 at this point. Changing clefs via the palette isn't particularly more difficult than doing in in the instruments dialog anyhow.

So back to the original issue. I did a search of instruments.xml, and found there are indeed very few instruments that transpose at the ninth or thirteenth:

9th: bass clarinet, tenor sarrusophone, tenor saxophone, bass trumpet
13th: contra alto clarinet, baritone sarrusophone, baritone saxophone

There is also a generic "saxophone" entry in the list that for all practical purpsoes seems to be intended to be a tenor. There are also two bass trumpets in the list, BTW - one just listed as "Bass Trumpet", the other as "Bb Bass Trumpet", but otherwise identical.

As for instruments that actually transpose at the octave (as opposed to simply using one of the octave clefs), there are a handful:

contrabassoon, reed contrabass, melody saxophone, C bass trumpet

There are a few instruments with a transposition of two octaves:

contrabass clarinet, bass sarrusophone, bass saxophone, glockenspiel, crotales

My earlier suggestion stands: I'd propose setting concertClef to treble-8 for the instruments that transpose at the octave or ninth; bass for the instruments that transpose at the 13th. For the instruments that transpose two octaves, we could octave clefs I guess.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Instead of having different clefs on the palette, would it be easier to allow clef selection at the time you add an instrument to the score? Instead of - at present - just showing you what clef it is you could have a drop-down box to select the clef with the default being the standard accepted (orchestral) one. You could offer Bb Tuba or Euphonium players the option to have orchestral or Brass Band, you could offer Viola players the option of C-clef or treble, the trombonists treble or bass etc. You just need a meaningful name for each of the clef choices but I can't see there being too many.

In reply to by underquark

Confirmed with the limitated choice of clefs - for some instruments only.

We could select the requested clefs (1 or 2) from this choice during staves are atached to the score. So - in case of 2 clefs - a linked stave could be defined self-acting - as a copy from the first to the second line but with spcified tranpositions. All changes in the music apply both lines.
One of the lines could be hidden - if possible.

As my best proposal it could be possible to create single parts for all this linked staves of the score - or just some of them.

In reply to by Rudi cj7tb

2 different clefs / transposition for the same instrument works almost correct.
Using different clefs for each mode (Concert pitch on/off) is an excellent solution therefore.

Only one thing could be optimized:
The partname does not show - wheter it is in concert pitch - or not.
I think for the lower brass it is not so important, because ist's clear for the player that a treble clef is always transposed in Bb.

For trumpet players however it is confusing if the partname shows 'Bb Trumpet' and it is switched to concert pitch.

Could there appear an indication to the partname - if using concert pitch?
Otherwise I have to add this manually - if it does not come up automatically.

Attachment Size
Concert pitch on-off.mscz 2.21 KB

In reply to by Rudi cj7tb

You would never normally print a part while in concert pitch mode - that mode exists mostly for your benefit while using MuseScore, so you can enter notes that if you like. If you really intend to print a trimpet part at concert pitch, you should create it for C trumpet, not for Bb trumpet. I guess maybe you want to create one part but be able to use it for two different instruments? That's a nice thought, but concert pitch mode wouldn't be the way to do that. After, it *only* handles the case where one of the instruments happens to be C instruments. It won't handle using the same part for clarinet and alto sax, or bass clarinet and bari sax, or French horn and tenor sax, etc. The correct way to handle these cases is to actually use the Change Instrument command within Staff Properties, or change the transposition and name yourself in that same dialog. And indeed, it would be nice if this were possible to do using linked staves, although I suspect this won't work well right now as it was never intended to be used that way.

Anyhow, since the main purpose of the concert pitch mode is not to produce an untransposed part for printing, I don't think it's behavior should be changed just to make that special and very unusual use case slightly easier. It would be confusing for everyone else who would wonder why their part names keep changing when they have no intention of changing to a different instrument. It's OK, if unexpected, to use concert pitch the way you are, but having to edit part names manually is the price you pay.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I understand that any automatic changes in partnames are confusing - and impossible therefore.
However the recent behaviour with switching modes and use for parts is almost perfect and a big advantage.
OK - main purpose of concert pitch mode is - actual - making it easier to read/edit mainscores (for orchestra, bigband, ensemble) with transposing instruments included.

But how can I differentiate between both modes on my copy?
I can print a score - but there is no hint if using concert pitch - on the paper.
To type a text manually is too unsafe because the text dont change when you switch the mode.

My proposal - as a feature request
--> Automatic Identification e.g. in header or footer area of the page or on title frame.
Could help and give clarity wheter the printout is - in concert pitch or not.

Don't have any idea how to manage that in MuseScore.
Maybe as a flag to analyze an indication text 'Concert pitch' (???)

I went through instruments.xml and added the concertClef / transposingClef tags for instruments that transpose an octave or more, also added treble clef / transposing versions of low brass instruments. Here's the PR:


I won't guarantee I got everything perfect - read up as much as I could, tested everything, but it's certainly possible I missed something. Once this gets merged, please report any issues individually.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc.

I grabbed the instruments.xml from that pull request and put it in my local copy of a nightly build (I did a diff and saw quite a few changes, including the "concertClef" etc. changes discussed here).

I then started up the nightly build, created a new Jazz Combo score (using the template) and noticed no change in the behavior of MuseScore. I still had to go back and change the clef of the tenor sax in concert mode to the 8vb version.

I only write this to say that there might be more work required to finish this off than just the xml config file.

In reply to by Nicolas

Yes, I thought of this but never while I was at my computer. We'll need to regenerate the template for other reasons, but I'm thinking that just loading them and re-saving them won't be good enough - we'd need to delete the instrument and re-add, or edit by hand.

I'm on board to do the jazz templates. Could someone else take a look at others? Any template with saxophones, sarrusophones (!), bass clarinet, xylophone, crotales, celsta, I forget what else but the commit diff should tell all :-)

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