Too many ledger lines???

• Mar 14, 2013 - 21:36

I've just completed this transcription of Dieterich Buxtehude's Chorale Prelude Ach Herr mich armen Sünder. for Tablet PC or iPad

I would love the groups opinion on this...

The highest note of the left hand part is the A above middle C. If you follow conventional score engraving rules this means constantly switching between treble and bass clefs in the left hand, which, quite frankly looks a mess, besides being a little confusing to the player.

Do you agree with my decision to leave it all in bass clef, despite the 4 ledger lines every time the A above middle C appears?

I await your answers with interest :)


The ledger lines don't seem very problematic to me. I take it migrating the line to the top staff every so often doesn't appeal to you, as the assumption is that it would be played in the LH and you don't want to cause confusion on that point?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

This particular piece is designed for the right hand to play the decorated chorale melody a a solo on one of the organ keyboards, and the left hand to play the accompaniment on another, so using cross-staff to to move the notes to the upper stave is unfortunately not available as it would cause even more confusion.

Unless you fancy C-clef, changing instrument or transposing it I think it's just one of those pieces where changing up and down from bass to treble doesn't male it any easier to read. Most of the high notes are slow and even with my limited keyboard skills I can follow the LH. Sure, at Measure 18 treble clef looks OK but you have to change back again very soon to avoid ledger lines far below the stave (which I always find more difficult to read).

In reply to by underquark

The ledger lines do not seem particularly problematic to me too: the general layout is 'airy' enough to cope with them (but there is no way to 'file' just a couple of mm away from the margins to increase just a little bit the distance between systems?).

As the LH goes down to the A in the lowest space of the bass clef, the 'right' clef could probably be tenor which, if I'm not mistaken, would accommodate the whole LH with just one ledger line above or below the staff.

Now, the tenor clef is probably not so familiar to keyboard players (unless they happen to play the cello too), but some 'rewamping' of the 'old' clefs would be perfectly in tune with the piece, wouldn't it? Perhaps worth making another version with different clef(s)?

Which raises the question: you had a source for your edition, which clef(s) did it use? Any hint of a more or less compemporary source?

Thanks for the edition!


In reply to by Miwarre

I had 2 sources available to me, the Wilhelm Hansen edition produced in 1952 which keeps changing from bass to treble clef in the LH, and Max Seiffert's revision of Philip Spitta's 1888 edition in 1903-4.

The Spitta edition fluctuates between bass and alto clef.

Contemporary sources, I believe, are written in organ tablature, so of little use in ascertaining clefs.. Spitta was, according to the Hansen edition using JG Walther's collection of 5 volumes as his main source.

I agree that the logical clef to use for the LH would be tenor, but given most organists' unfamiliarity with this clef today, using bass clef with the 4 ledger lines seems to be the choice for making the score accessible to the most number of people.

Production of a second edition with the LH in tenor clef is an option I may well take up in the future as it will be a more elegant solution from the score engraving point of view.

1) Notating the lower keyboard wholly separate from the decorated chorale melody (treble clef) seems logical.
2) For the most part, the appearance of the ledger lines fortunately occur when there is the least activity in the treble clef, see measures 22 - 24 also 36 - 37.
3) There is sufficient room for the ledger lines in the bass clef, as the treble clef notes do not drop below middle C. For instance, measure 25. The upward pointing stems in the bass clef do not have to contend with ledger lines from the treble clef. "Looks nice".
4) As a long time guitar player recently playing keyboard, I am comfortable reading ledger lines (usually up to 3) and actually prefer seeing each hand written solely on its own staff. It also makes for easier separation of parts if, say, one wanted to play the melody on a solo instrument like the flute.
5) I checked out the MuseScore version of the score and couldn't find an instance of the four ledger lines you mention. The most I saw are three, which isn't too bad.
Therefore, I agree...

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