Triplet Notation

• Aug 19, 2016 - 01:27

I'm re-setting an old Male voice song from a book published in 1937.
This song makes great use of triplets, basically in two styles.

Example 1.
The first note of the triplet is tied to the previous note and also to the second note of the triplet
That's shown in bar 1 of the attached file.
I find that confusing and it's not quick to work out the duration of that series of tied notes.
How I've re-set it is shown in bar 2 of the attached where I've replaced the first two triplet quavers by a triplet crotchet.

Example 2 is similar except it's all contained within the triplet. Again, tied quavers in the triplet and I've changed those to a crotchet within the triplet.
The original notation is shown as bar 3 and my version is bar 4 of the attached.

I've had a quick look in Gould's "Behind Bars" but couldn't see any guidance on this topic.

My question.... Which is the correct (or better) notation for this situation, the original or my version, or am I totally wrong to do what I have done?

As always, guidance and comments very welcome.

Attachment Size
Triplet Notation.mscz 19.28 KB


For example 1, yours looks infinitely better. I'd say the same about example 2, except the original version (measure 3) appears to have become corrupted somehow, so I can't quite tell what it was supposed to look like. If you have any insight into how that happened (eg, steps to reproduce the problem), please share so we can fix the bug that caused the corruption. That said, your measure 4 does look good and is almost certainl an improvement over what measure 3 was supposed to be.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I don't recognise this piece, so I can't pinpoint the period of the original work closer than late 19th or early 20th century. Even so, the use of tied equal triplets (example 1) in the original shouldn't be considered an essential expression of the composer's intent. I agree with Marc that your revised notation is better. If you are producing an urtext, of course, a note to that effect should be given in the critical report.

As to your second example, I opened this with 2.0.1 (which the score 'info' tells me you used to create it), but measure 3 was still corrupted. Once open, it runs and plays normally, but there is a distinct difference in rhythm between the 'original' and your revised version. As a performer, I like your version better, and my suspicion is that most performers would sing/play it that way. Again, however, if you're producing an urtext edition, you should mention what you changed and why in the critical report.

Thanks for the comments.
Not sure how bar 3 was corrupted, but it will have been something I did and doubtful that it's a bug within MuseScore. I simply copied the bar (bar 4 in the example) into an empty bar and then edited it to match (as I thought) the original. Obviously, didn't do it correctly, though it was the "wee, small hours" when I finished.

I'm using MS 2.0.3 Rel 3c7z69d on Win 7 Pro

The original song was composed by James McGranahan, (1840-1907)
Afraid I'm ignorant of what a URTEXT is, all I'm doing is re-working various books of "old" songs to improve layout for the singers in a Male Voice choir of which I'm a part and most of us are older than 70, with eye-sight to prove it and being able to get virtually all songs onto 1 or 2 pages of A4 with the clarity of MuseScore is brilliant, a vast improvement over the originals (copy attached as 001.jpg) where the layout has two staves of music, two lines of "Tonic Solfa", then the lyrics, then two more lines of Tonic. Trying to follow lyrics and the notes is difficult when they are so far apart, hence my re-working them, I'm about half-way through a pile of 600 songs.

Thanks again for the helpful comments.

Attachment Size
Triplet Notation.mscz 19.58 KB
001.jpg 195.33 KB

In reply to by Ewart North

Ah, yes; in the second version of your score the tied eighth-note triplets in m.3 showed up and indeed your revision in m. 4 is clearer notation while preserving the same rhythm.

The scan of the hymnal page is interesting; I have rarely seen a c-clef used in that manner.

An 'urtext' edition is simply an edition of a musical work that purports to be as authentic as possible and relies upon the composer's original MS and/or first published edition for source material. As such it is different from a transcription and very different from an arrangement. Editors producing urtexts are expected to refrain from making any changes to the music itself, only correcting actual errors found in the source (and justifying them to other musicologists!). Modernising notation such as transposing c-clefs to bass and treble, or re-notating triplets as you have done, is permissible because it does not affect the playing of the music in any way; it only makes it more accessible to modern players not used to reading old notation. However an urtext edition always contains what is called a 'critical report' that describes the editor's methods, and gives a detailed list of every individual change he made to the original.

In your situation, none of those restrictions applies, but for posterity's sake you might want to write a brief editor's foreword to your edition mentioning your sources, what you've done and why, all in general terms.

Good luck! It sounds like a worthwhile project.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

In that case, I'll try to recreate but I suspect I won't be successful. I do know that I started with the bars in a different order and with different bar lines. Then inserted a bar and cut/pasted what I wanted form my original before making my changes.

I'll see what I can do and if I can re-create, I'll report back.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Apologies Marc, but I can't replicate the problem even though I spent most of yesterday trying. Whatever it is, it's obscure but if it (or anything similar) happens again, I'll probably be able to recreate because I'm now using a note book to record what I'm doing when I do anything out of the ordinary.

Thanks again for all your comments and help-- much appreciated.

Thanks for that.
Nothing so sophisticated for me, I'm just trying to produce decent, working and legible documents (and by and large succeeding thanks to MuseScore and its so helpful users.)

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