Flutes are not legato

• Oct 30, 2016 - 20:32
Reported version
S5 - Suggestion

When playing a score, it's impossible to make the flutes sound legato. They come out sounding very jerky, with a clear break after every note. No other instrument has this problem. I believe it's because of this line in instruments.xml, which sets the gate time for flutes to 95:


I believe that line should be removed. If you haven't marked any articulation on flutes, they should sound legato, just like all other wind instruments.


As far as I know this in intentional, to give the effect of tongues notes, and adding a slur supposedly disables that. The effect is pretty darned subtle, though - I'm surprised you can hear it at all. Flutes don't really sound any less legato than any other winds to me - note all of them were sampled using tongued notes, so really *nothing* sounds slurred. If you are hearing something you consider "very jerky", can you attach the score with this problem? Also say what soundfont you are using - that could easily be what you are hearing as well.

Anyhow, there is a change a future release will provide true slur playback, rending this moot.

This is using the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra sounds. The effect is really obvious—there's nothing subtle at all about it. Also, when you export a MIDI file and load it into a sequencer, you immediately see the difference: in the flute line, there are gaps between the notes, but in all other instruments, there aren't.

As you say, the sounds were already sampled with tonguing, so you don't want or need a gap to create that effect. In fact, what you really want to do is the opposite: extend the slurred notes to make them slightly overlap each other. That's what I end up doing manually in the sequencer after I export. But in any case, you certainly don't want gaps (unless you've specifically marked the notes as staccato or something like that). And this applies equally well to all wind instruments. There's no reason to treat flutes differently from the others.

Ah, using a non-default soundfont probably explains why the effect is jarring for you - the value was chosen to sound pleasing with the default soundfont. Eventually we'd like to provide controls over these values, but also as mentioned provide true slur playback.

I seem to recall that the flute was treated differently as an experiment - to get feedback from people as to whether they found this approach effective. I think it is, as I mentioned, far too subtle using FluidR3 for anyone to have noticed, as it essentially never comes up in forum discussions. Apparently there are issues with the soundfont you have chosen that make this value not as pleasing. You might consider using a different sound, if not for everything, then maybe just for flutes. Or you could create a customized instruments.xml and load it via Edit / Preferences / Score.

I tried the default flute sound, but it's just as bad. It doesn't sound the least bit legato. If I put a slur on it then it's a little better, but of course, that's not what a slur means in a flute part. Slurs indicate tonguing, and lines should always be legato unless marked otherwise.

Slurs indicate tonguing? No, exactly the opposite - they indicate *lack* of tonguing. Only notes *without* a slur are tongued (hence hence not as legato as slurred notes). Again, currently, the only way Musecore can make any audible difference at all is by tweaking the note length. If it were set to 100% there would literally be no difference at all. Hopefully a future release will provide true slur playback, and then we're won't need to play games with note length.

As for the subtlety of the effect (or lack thereof), it occurs to me or is also speed dependent. The gap is less perceptible on shorter notes than longer ones, because it is a percentage of note length rather than an absolute amount. That could also explain why you are perceiving a more noticeable difference than anyone else seems to. It's indeed not a good solution, so hopefully it won't be needed much longer.

> Slurs indicate tonguing? No, exactly the opposite

There's no need to be pedantic here - I think you know what I meant. Slurs are used to indicate where you do (or don't) use tonguing. They have nothing to do with whether notes should be played legato. My point is that currently if I want to force it to play notes legato, the only way to do that is to add slurs. And then my score is totally wrong, because it indicates that none of the notes should be tongued, which isn't at all what I wanted to indicated.

Right now, the playback is simply wrong, and sounds bad. If you don't indicate any articulations, the correct thing to do is play it legato. That's how flute parts work. And fortunately, this is something you could fix really easily by changing one number. There's absolutely no reason not to.

It will also tongue every note, regardless of slurs, which isn't ideal, but it's better than the current behavior. But if you really want to make it sound as good as possible, have it extend slurred notes slightly so they overlap. That works surprisingly well, and would benefit strings as well as winds. Note that the amount of overlap needs to be a fixed value (somewhere around 50 ms is probably good, but try it out and see), independent of the length of the note. It just needs to be long enough to overlap the attack time of the next note.

Well, no, since you are hearing some sort of clear difference that no one else seems to be hearing, I thought it was entirely possible you really were misunderstanding something. After all, I have no idea what level of musical knowledge you have.

Anyhow, I still don't understand how you can say that slurs have nothing to do with legato. Of course they do. Slurs are always more legato than tongued notes. Sure, you can have greater or lesser degrees of legato within the realm of tongued notes, but the point is, slurs should sound markedly different from tongued notes, and right now, MuseScore simply does not have this capability. So it is being faked by slightly - to a degree most people never notice - shortening non=slurred note. Some day hoepfully we won't have to do that. If this bothers you, you are free as I mentioned to produce your own customized instruments.xml. Playback will still be wrong =- it won't show a difference between tongued and slurred - but if that particular error bothers you personally less than the error you are hearing now, then go for it. And yes, we could replace one playback error with another by changing the default, but everyone else seems happy with this compromise.

Why do you think no one else can hear it? More likely they just take it for granted that flutes sound bad. It was one of the first things that bothered me when I started using MuseScore, but I also took it for granted: that was just how the flute samples sounded. It was only when I started exporting MIDI files and editing them in another program that I discovered it was a problem introduced by MuseScore, not anything wrong with the samples themselves.

> I still don't understand how you can say that slurs have nothing to do with legato.

Because they don't. That simply isn't what legato means. Legato (vs. staccato) refers to whether there are gaps between the notes. Slurs indicate whether to tongue the notes. Any flute player can tell you those are not the same thing. If a score doesn't indicate any articulations, and also doesn't have any slurs, that means to tongue each note but not insert any breaks. The way MuseScore is playing it is simply wrong. There's no other way to say it. If you don't believe me, ask a wind player.

Please consider the following:

1. Your argument basically comes down to, "We can't play slurred notes correctly, so let's also play non-slurred notes incorrectly." Two wrongs do not make a right. You are making the playback worse, not better.

2. It's not true that you can't play slurred notes correctly. In fact, I described above how to do it.

3. It only does this for flutes, not for any other instrument. How does that make any sense? If this were really a good idea, it would be an equally good idea for all wind instruments. But I doubt anyone has complained that other winds sound too smooth when they aren't slurred? No, I didn't think so.

OK, let's just say that based on available evidence, no one else seems to be bothered by this compromise. If you are, I have told you how to get different results. And like I said, hopefully a future release will provide true slur playback so we don't have to try to fake it.

FWIW, I *am* a wind player, I am well aware of what slur and legato mean. Slurred notes *are* by definition legato. Which is to say, all slurred notes are legato, but not all legato notes are slurred. But given that we can't currently have real slurs, using tongued legato seemed a reasonable compromise. If you disagree, feel free to discuss this in the forum to see if you can build a consensus.

Btw, it's not just about slurs. One of the original complaints that led to the discussion that resulted in this compromise was about tenuto markings - several people were quite adamant that these (or slurs) should be required to get 100% duration. Some of these people actually wanted only 90% by default. There was quite a bit of discussion spread out over multiple issues, forum threads, and IRC chats before the compromise was agreed upon - I think only for flutes as a sort of trial. I do think it could be worth revisiting this, but again, any such discussion needs to take place in a public forum, not in the issue tracker.