Microtonal Playback

• Oct 28, 2016 - 12:31

Dear team,
I recently heard that Nicolas Froment has been working on implementation of microtonal playback into MuseScore, and I just want to let you know that I welcome this feature, and that I have long been longing for it. Thank you!
All the best,


Note that microtonal playback is already available (be it very cumbersome and work intensive) in the current stable release (2.0.3). Select a note and then use the inspector to apply the desired tuning offset to it.

Hi Nora,

(I'm also known as Nicolas Froment)

As you know, microtonal playback and notation is a mine field. Many different notations, sometimes using the same accidental for a completely different playback.

I indeed added some more accidentals in the current development version of MuseScore, more precisely, the most used accidentals from the Extended Helmholtz-Ellis system. I also wrote a plugin https://github.com/lasconic/extended_HE to play a score correctly with this notation.

Accidental symbols already exist in MuseScore 2 but they will not be layouted correctly by default. I added the HE accidentals as "true" accidentals so they acts like koron and sori for example. They will replace any existing accidental and be positioned in front of a note. Still, they are not first class citizen like the sharp/flat, double flat/sharp.
Also note, that the HE system sometimes requires to have two (or more) accidentals on a note. MuseScore currently doesn't allow it and in this case, the user needs to use a symbol...

Regarding playback, the plugin , given the root degree of the current scale, is basically going through the notes of the score, check the pitch tonal class, the current accidental and the current symbol and adjust the tuning of each note accordingly. As noted by jeetee, this is all possible manually in MuseScore 2, if you have the patience. As a drummer, it took me a couple hours to understand how the playback should work and the help of Jim Dalton from Boston Conservatory has been invaluable.

To conclude, if this "hack" (because it's still an hack, not a 1st class support) would be useful for more people than just Jim, it would be great. If it's an inspiration for other people to add support for other systems, even better. Personally I don't plan to work on this further except if I get requests from people who have the time and patience to describe their needs.

In reply to by Nicolas

Dear jeetee and Iasonic (Nicolas),
thank you very much for your replies! I work with microtonal scales quite a lot, and by now the detuning of single pitches is cumbersome, indeed. As far as I got it I have to detune every single note, there is a very limited way of detuning accidentals. But I already love the easiness of microtonal accidentals in MuseScore! Microtonal accidentals have become almost impossible in Finale since 2011 or so.That's why I suggested MuseScore to Jim Dalton a while ago, and I am glad to see he likes it, too. The work on extend HE you and Jim did together are a great step forward, and I know that many people will appreciate this feature.
Thanks again!
All the best,

In reply to by Nicolas

Many thanks, I'll be very happy if microtonal playback is included in next musescore stable version. By the way, if this happens no to be feasible, a perhaps less ambitious goal could be drawn, i.e., the hability to input the width of the fifth (e.g. from a dialogue box), so that the traditional notation would be left in place as such and a wide spectrum of tuning would be automatically able to be playbacked. For instance, 5th := 701.95 cents would produce Pythagorean, 5th := 696.578 cents would produce quarter-comma meantone, and so on. Many tunings would be left out, but this would be a great step forward nonetheless. Many thanks, anyway :) Bests,

One suggestion/request: for using a fixed scale (e.g., an equal-tempered n-tone scale) throughout a piece (or section, or staff, thereof) it would be a tremendous leap forward just to be able to redefine the meaning of an accidental-pitch pair for the extent of that piece (or section/staff). (Not knowing the code, it seems like the basis for this _might_ already exist, in as much as, i discovered last night scoring 15-, 16-, 20-, and 24-tone equal-tempered scales from C2 to C6, perfect octave interval transposition preserves custom tuning, i.e., i defined the first octave, then took a chance, cut and paste it into the next bar, transposed the whole scale, and everything was transposed correctly--nice job!) That said, kudos for even having this; now, can anyone point me to readings on microtonal harmonic theory (assuming such exist)? Thanks!

Hi ! very excited to read that the HE accidentals are being implemented. I think it would be so great to have a notation software that could do either ratio based just tunings or equal division systems easily so we could type in the notes and have them play accurately for musicians! For JI-systems, it seems to me the the implementation of a basic definition (ratio OR cents) for each of the diatonic notes, and then a second layer which defines the modification (ratio OR cents) produced by any symbol prefixed to the note would be the best way to go. Does any one have an idea if this is possible within the current data structure used by Musescore?

For equal division systems there are already proposals out there, but essentially it still means defining what the diatonic notes and accidentals mean...

I am really curious how this develops. It would be great to integrate it with the scala file format and with alternative expression-based definable microtonal controllers like the Continuum fingerboard etc.

best greetings
Marc Sabat
Plainsound Music Edition

Attachment Size
HE-font-2016.zip 1.62 MB

In reply to by 000masa000

Hi, nice to run into you here!

I don't think the current data structures are quite so flexible as what you've laid out, but they could certainly be extended. I think thus far the assumption has been the accidental itself would contain information about its effect, but of course it can't be that simply, since the same accidental could have a different effect depending on what note it is applied to.

I am interested to take up the issue myself towards implementing a seamless integration of
microtonal accidental notation and playback in musescore 3 with a possible
MIDI output option. I am new to coding, github, etc. but not afraid of the
command line and learning. My basic approach would be to allow a definition
of the tuning of the standard notes based on the (enharmonic aware) pitch
class property: essentially to be able to tune the series of fifths as one likes, and
working with the assumption that the note pitch class property (being a
signed integer) can be extended to represent various "cycles" like 31ED2 etc.
(making circles of fifths at whatever point desired, or leaving them
untempered, or defining them for example as quarter-comma fifths, etc. ---
thus the standard definition would be -1/12 Pythagorean comma tempered which
gives an enharmonic equivalence after 12). Then USER-defined accidentals (not
the standard b n #) could be added to precede any note (including strings of
accidentals), and these could be defined as modifications by ratio/cents.

One concern here is the proposed move to eliminate composite symbols. Ideally
it should be possible to only to use the preset symbols in Bravura as single characters,
but as STRINGS, so that one can combine (for example) the major third (syntonic comma)
with the seventh harmonic (raised or lowered) etc.

Then one could (for example) have the program automatically determine the
tuning for any symbol combination and calculate cents deviations which could
optionally be made visible globally or case-by-case. Since musescore already
supports a polyphonic retuning note-by-note I believe it is the best
candidate to move in this direction, which would enable it to be the notation
of choice for microtonal notation/composition/sequencing workflows. I would
appreciate your help and advice moving forward. best, Marc Sabat

In reply to by 000masa000

I myself am not involved in any coding of MuseScore yet (though perhaps, one day), but I would simply like to say that Marc Sabat ("masa") is a respected expert in the field of tuning, just intonation, microtonality etc., and any ideas from him that could be implemented in MuseScore would be warmly welcomed by a sizeable community of microtonal composers and tuning theorists. I firmly stand by Marc and say we should support or help him, e.g. with accidentals as user-defined strings instead of single characters, etc.

In reply to by 000masa000

Hello! I absolutely agree it would be great to have this in MuseScore, and we would very much value your expertise in getting it done. I sent you an email with some further info. I' happy to advise as I can, although there are others who are more familiar with the details of MIDI output and hopefully some of them can help as well.

I recommend starting a new thread in the Development and Technology Preview forum, basically same info as this, and keeping discussion focused there and on IRC (which we use quite a bit).

I'm searching the forum for info on microtonal notation and playback. Microtones are not only used for a single pitch in a scale, but often for parts of a single pitch. A slur from an A 220 up to 222, 223 etc until arriving at a Bb, may visit 5, 6 or 7 subtle pitch differences without names that can be accurately applied to these pitches. Sometimes one of these pitches can be called "B double flat." The only way to really work with them is to measure them by their exact frequencies. 220 is A, but 223 is 223 and nothing else. No names can suffice but to lead to more confusion.

Since doing this search I see that I can adjust the frequency in the Inspector. But, the microtones of a fretless instrument like the fretless banjo or Arabic oud are only parts of the pitch. The whole pitch is a series of several frequencies. This can only be adjusted for and corrected in a DAW.

Are there any other imaginative alternatives? One is that two or more copies of Musescore could be pitched a cent apart from eachother and a palette of 50 or so microtones could be composed by putting the systems together. How can that be accomplished? Musescore 5?

If i work directly with the audio, I could first pitch Musescore and generate the sounds, then put them together in the DAW, but then how do I get the note durations? I can get the note durations in the copies of Musescore, but I still need to put the copies together into one score.

Is anyone thinking about this problem? Because this is where the real value of a digital notation system comes in to play for composers - being able to fully explore previously unexplored territories.

Question: If I adjust a single note in the Inspector (say, Bb) will it affect all of the other Bb's or does it only affect that one instance? Because, if so, I could get all of those tones between A and Bb by specifying each instance in the Inspector.

In reply to by Rockhoven

There are several plugins available at https://musescore.org/en/plugins that return notes based upon accidentals used as well as other things, such as a variety of temperaments (which probably isn't what you need but could give you programming ideas). I suggest that you take a look at these and see if any of them will meet your needs off the shelf or if you could adapt them for what you want. I don't use any of these so I cannot tell you which ones might be useful to you.

In reply to by mike320

Hi Hello, a few month ago I used this forum to get tuning plugins workings as provided for MSC, it was a bit difficult to implement from the handbook. But once you got it working it can meet all the requirements mentioned before, i-g- automatically tuning all the corresponding cent values to a chosen scaleform. What really is needed in the future MSC s to implement tunings like Hermode tuning TM as used already by Capella and others. This figures out the correct cent values during live play, so as to stay always in perfect tune say within a pythagorean tuning of pure fifths, they harmonize i.g. true fifths and true fouths the best possible way. Musescore would need this to experiment. Get more from Hermode wikis, websites and utubes.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Someone special should experiment of how to implement hermode into the present tuning plug in. All the present tunings are static, non reversible but hermode is a program that makes dynamic tunings, real time. There are utubes with Vienna Soundfonts and Hermode Tuning, a real step foreward.
link http://www.hermode.com/Videos/Example/Gnann%20Wagner-Einzug-der-Gaeste-…
See also my troubles…https://musescore.org/de/node/302757

I forked the tuning and temperaments plugin and created the Modal Tuning plugin that is here:
It also has dialogs where you can customize your tuning, save it and load it.
I made an update to it in September 18, 2020, adding more tunings, correcting errors and using just intonation based on Pythagorean sometimes combined with small adjustments based on syntonic comma.
It is intended to be used to compose Middle Eastern music but probably will also be compatible with some Indian intonations.
And the good news is that if anyone uses different tuning systems it's possible to edit the plugin opening the .qml file with a text editor.
Each tuning has an internal name (tuning01, tuning02...) Go to the line where that tuning is specified in numbers that represent the circle of fifths starting on C in cents, change it, scroll down to the line where that tuning is named after an Arabic maqam, change its name and the save. Next time you open Musescore your plugin will be changed!

Attachment Size
Modal_Tuning.qml 59.7 KB

In reply to by fernandoamartin

Fernandes M.,
Thank you so much for your continued efforts to update the plug ins. From my research I found that mid eastern maquam and Indian raga music had the same source, ultimately reaching back to pre Sumerian times. To me an equally balanced Pythagorean pure fifths scale of 7 tones was used as an archetype. If dynamic tonality apps ( see wiki) can eliminate or reduce pre chosen odd harmonics of the Pythagorean pure fifths from the sound spectrum at real time we might come much closer to that early music as we can imagine yet. In 12 th century Indian manuscripts some scores of the ancient musical sources were still preserved.

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