Improved Concert Pitch mode

• Nov 28, 2012 - 13:33
Reported version
S5 - Suggestion


To have an additional mode, in which Concert Pitch only transposes tunes but not octaves. Tentatively called 'Concert Tuning" in this document.

This can be implemented in some ways: by changing the Concert Pitch button to a popup box with an additional mode, as shown in this mockup image:


Or simply by letting the User choose how Concert Pitch will behave, with a checkbox in Score preferences:



I am a composer. I am no conductor but sometimes we have to conduct. In practice, there are two kind of scores that Composers and Conductors use, in different circumnstances, and both have a reason to be.

TRANSPOSED SCORE: it allows to see what musicians are playing from their point of view. So you can tell the Clarinet player: "Hey Mr. Frost, please put a little more accent in that D note in measure 1". If the score was in concert pitch, the conductor would see an E. But since D is written both in the instrumentist part and the conductor's part, nobody has to lose some time transposing to give or take instructions.


CONCERT TUNING SCORE: (Or 'Score in C') All instruments show the real tones as they sound, EXCEPT FOR TRANSPOSING OCTAVES. This allows for a quick overview of harmony in a score, and a more efficient analysis of a multi part piece from harmonic point of view, because in a transposed score with several different key instruments it would be an epic task to transpose every note mentally just to find out that the orchestra is playing a C minor chord at some beat. This would be the additional mode I request here, as shown in this score:


Currently, Musescore can show the TRANSPOSED score, but instead of CONCERT TUNING, it only can display CONCERT PITCH, which transposes keys AND octaves showing absolute real tones. In practice, there are very rare situations in which you would need such a score. Usually there's no need to have, for instance, a guitar score transposed all the way down, or a baritone sax or a piccolo transposed to the exact real tones including the big octave jump, because the so many additional lines in the staff ruin the purpose of having a quick harmonic overview. Instead of an easy reading, all the score gets messed up, with lots of overlapping attachments (which have been corrected here, but require a big space to be a 'clean' score):


Of course I am not proposing that this mode is removed, because it can be used sometimes and maybe there is people used to it since it has been the way in MuseScore for years. But it would be very useful, practical and professional to have this additional mode, which only transposes the key but not the octaves.

Attachment Size
dropbox.jpg 35.47 KB
tuningprefs.jpg 47.42 KB
transposed.jpg 61.63 KB
concert_pitch.jpg 58.54 KB
concert_tuning.jpg 55.86 KB


I wouldn't be opposed to this, but really, the more usual way of handling this would be to simply have a different clef for the concert pitch score than the transposed score - typically, either bass clef or treble-8. This isn't supported in the current version but apparently will be in 2.0. By using treble-8 in particular, you het exactly the effect you desire although for some instru,ents (eg, baritone sax), the bass clef is probably more appropriate.

In current nightlies, it's not automatic if I understand well, you have to drag the right clef on each staff. It's a lot of work, to be done on each score, over and over again. Am I wrong?

I like the approach of elerouxx and I would propose to remove this feature, and make the concert pitch toggle work without considering the octaves. As far as I understand it's how Sib and Fin work.

The only problem with that Nicolas is people scoring for Brass Band

All parts are written in treble clef assuming the transposition required including octaves.

Not to indicate the octave transposition would be to end up with basslines appearing to be higher than melody lines, and I don't know about anyone else but my brain would seize up at that!

No, Finale and Sibelius definitely do *not* work that way. Concert pitch means concert pitch - all notes shown as sounded. It's OK to add a separate mode that is neither concert pitch nor written pitch for the benefit of the few who might want it, but concert pitch should definitely remain what it it always has been and is in all other software.

What Finale *does* offer are two separate staff attributes for starting clef - one for concert pitch, one for transposed. So there is nothing to have to set up manually. When you create a score for bass clarinet, it is already configured to use treble clef for the transposed version, bass clef for concert. So concert pitch really is concert pitch. Same with Sibelius. They both default to using bass clef for most if not all of the instruments that transpose by more than octave, but presumably it can be configured somewhere (in a template, staff properties, or in whatever their equivalent of out instruments.xml might be) to use treble-8 if you really want it to come out that way. I like to write tenor saxophone with treble-8 because it's range works well there, but I use bass clef for bass clarinet and baritone sax, which have a lower range than the others. I use also use octave-transposing clefs for guitar and bass for the same reason.

Ok I should have checked more precisely.

In Sibelius 7, you can choose when you create your score how you want it to work. For example, the instrument list has 3 bass saxophones.

  • Bass saxophone: it will work like our current concert pitch, always in treble clef
  • Bass saxophone (score sounds 15mb): will work like concert tuning as described by elerouxx, always in treble, not considering the octave
  • Bass saxophone (bass clef, treble tranposition): display score in treble in concert pitch, bass clef if not

I don't opposse to anything, and also don't just want to have things 'my way'. It would be great If we could have all methods for everyone! But I think the important thing is: what's more useful and easier. I believe the best improvements are the ones with the minimal investiment in effort, in proportion to they usefulness.

I don't see harm in adding the additional mode ignoring the octaves, (or a checkbox in the preferences to choose how do you want your Concert Pitch) and leave the current Concert Pitch as it is so brass band musicians won't have their brains seized up.

However, my opinion is that the automatic clef change adds unnecessary complications. All we need is a mode in which we see the untransposed harmony, but notated as closed as possible to the original (transposed) instrument part so the score doesn't get unnecessarily messed up.

For instance, if you are writing for relatively modern instruments like bass clarinet or saxophones, all they know is the Treble clef, so a Bass clef would be a strange element. Except if you are trying to play the full score on the piano.
Okay, so we could use the initial clef of Treble-8 or even a Bass clef for them. But then, what about a contrabassoon, or a double bass? Usually these instruments use up to 3 different keys along the score. Basson players are used to change between F, 2nd line C, and G clefs all the time. Should we create the "C minus 8va" clef and add it to the already long (and somewhat hated) list of C clefs?

When composing for Contrabassoon or Double Bass, you use the same notation as Bassoon or Cello, respectivey. You write your score planning carefully your clef changes so the players have the easiest possible sight-reading, and the clefs don't collide with dynamics, slurs and articulations all along. You don't want that messed up, for instance, by having a C-clef automatically changed into something else. And of what use is to have a Double Bass part that, even with carefully planned clef changes all around, draws a lot of additional lower lines, as in current Concert Pitch mode? In the case of this 'Concert Tuning' mode, instruments that transpose octaves like the guitar or double-bass (not really 'transposing' instruments from the harmony point of view) are simply untouched. IMO, the less you mess, the better.

To me, what you describe is unnecessary complication. I am not accustomed to reading parts an octave away from where written, because I don't do it all that often - I am mich more accustomed to reading low parts in nass clef. So any solution that forced me to read concert pitch parts as treble down an octave is inferior, in my book, to one that allows me the choice of treble down an octave or bass clef. And that's what the Finale / Sibelius method of having separate clefs does. I gives you exactly what you wNt - instruments that appear to display on concert pitch an octave away from actual pitch (because they are actually using treble-8 clef) , amd it gives me and other former Finale users what they are accustomed to: the ability to read concert pitch in bass clef.

So given that the clef method satisfies *both* of our desires, whereas the new mode only helps those who are prefer reading treble clef down an octave to reading bass clef, I'm not understanding what possible advantage the proposed solution has over simply extending the current model to allow separate concert and transposed clefs like Finale and Sibelius. The clef solution satisfies both of our needs; the mode solution satisfies only those who prefer treble down an pctave to bass.

I generally only know keyboard-based instruments, but I do transcribe transposing instruments too. As a result, this function would make it simpler for people like myself.

However, I wonder if it's genuine feature, or something to aid someone that isn't able to use such notation.

It maybe useful, however, if you intend to present such instruments with a 'keyboard' approach (and the other way around?).

The current MuseScore already supports different clefs for concert pitch and transposed. If i understand right only the initialization from a proper instruments.xml file is missing.

Well as I'm currently working on that :)

What needs to go into the instruments.xml to make this happen??

[btw I have just completed tuned percussion - will be submitting a pull request shortly]

I added two new tags which work similar to , and . sets both initial clefs for concert & transposing view.
I will commit the changes after testing...

Since it's gone because of the formatting. In #13, Werner meant

I added two new tags which work similar to clef, concertClef and transposingClef.
clef sets both initial clefs for concert & transposing view.

I shall be adding the transpose clef info to the file next time I am free to work on it.

The next large chunk of time I have is unfortunately after Easter, but I will have the odd hour here and there before that.

This feature doesn't seem to be working for me...

<name>Bb baritone</name>

</home/.../instruments.xml>:line:4641 col:28 instrument:instrument-group:museScore:: Unknown Node <transposingClef>, type 1
</home/...instruments.xml>:line:4642 col:25 instrument:instrument-group:museScore:: Unknown Node <concertClef>, type 1

Am I doing it right? Musescore 1.3, Rev 5702.

Righto, built the head source from git now. I think I may have been confusing build numbers with release numbers...

Much better! :-D Thanks

See for some more recent discussion.

I personally am still glad to have, and satisfied with, the current solution of allowing different clefs for concert and transposed modes. As I argued previously, it's more flexible than forcing the user into seeing the same clef but transposed down an octave. But it does have the slight disadvantage of involving octave clefs for the concert score, and if you are philosophically opposed to them, you might prefer an alternative.

The OP in that thread suggests what could be a pretty simple solution: a flag you set on the the octave clef to hide the "8". Internally, it would really mean using the ordinary 8-less glyph. Heck, we could just allow you to specify the glyph itself, so you could have a clef that *looked* like treble but *acted* like bass, or *looked* like percussion but *acted* like alto (so you can give percussion parts to your violist). This attribute could be set on the "main" clef(s) for a staff, and would have to affect all the subsequent generated clefs as well.

Another possibility is to add another field in staff properties - or maybe a global style option - to specify whether the octave portion of the transposition field should be honored in concert pitch mode. This seems like it would be quite a but more work to implement, as we'd have to find all the relevant places in the code apply the octave portion of the transposition in concert pitch mode if this flag is set.

I’d also just add different clefs, we do this all the time in vocals (Tenor gets 8vb treble clef in concert pitch, some paper sheets our Kantor distributes omit the 8vb). Probably a bit tedious to do that manually especially when changing clefs… maybe these could be done as “fake” parts instead?

For Tenor (the male voice) it could be done in a similar manner to how it is done for "Guitar (Treble clef)", there the concert pitch button toggles between an G clef with octave transposition and a G8vb clef

I think we just remove octave transposition entirely and force people to use 8va or 8vb clefs, but have an option to make the 8 invisible (but still displayed in grey if "show invisible" is enabled). This would prevent ambiguity over octave transpositions.

Or equivalently, we could remove all octave clefs, and have it so that enabling octave transposition adds an 8 to the clef. Again, the user could choose to make the 8 invisible, but it would still be there under the hood.

In reply to by shoogle

I don’t think so. Especially the second option has me surprised.

Let me take a Tenor vocal part as example.

It’s usually set in 8vb G clef, and toggling Concert Pitch will not change anything. (That’s the way I use it.)

The other method is to set it in the standard G clef and have the performer implicitly transpose down (i.e. without the small 8 below the clef, in non-Concert Pitch mode, it will look exactly the same). But as this implies transposing, I would expect toggling the Concert Pitch button to transpose them down, i.e. move C4 from the second hole from above to the first ledger line below.

Note that I normally only work in Concert Pitch mode myself, because I’m only using non-transposing instruments (well except for Tenor voice and recorders, which are also traditionally notated octave-shifted) but feel using the 8vb and 8va G clef for those is 100% appropriate.

I think the already-proposed solution of switching the clef to an octave-transposing clef in Concert Pitch mode would work well and get people more used to the existence of those. (On the other hand, I’d prefer to keep those clefs even in non-Concert Pitch mode…)

@mirabilos, I don't think you have fully understood my suggestion. Probably the idea of removing octave clefs or octave transposition was confusing. Perhaps I should have said "I think enabling octave transposition should be made equivalent to octave clefs".

What I mean is, if you enable octave transposition then you should also get an octave clef, and if you ask for an octave clef you also get octave transposition. There should be no way to get one without the other.

> I’d prefer to keep those clefs even in non-Concert Pitch mode.

That's exactly what I am suggesting.