Tranposed instruments imported in MusicXML

• Jul 12, 2018 - 14:07

Apologies if this has been asked before but although I found references, I didn't really find the answer.

A friend has exported a piece from Finale for our music group in MusicXML format. It loads, displays and plays pitches correctly for the instruments in MuseScore but the music is displayed in concert pitch. Clicking Concert Pitch does nothing (apart from show the button changing state).

It's as though all the imported instruments are treated purely as concert pitch instruments.

For clarity, the original sheet music for the clarinet is in D major (2 sharps). The imported MusicXML score displays the clarinet parts as a tone lower and in the key of C major.

The only workaround I have found so far is to select part of the music staff for each Bb instrument in turn and right click -> Stave Properties... Transpose down 2 (Major second). I would then have to repeat for any other transposed instruments.

Now, when concert pitch is on, the score looks like it did on original import (Clarinet parts represented in C). When concert pitch is off, the Bb instrument notes move up 2 semitones and the key signature has 2 sharps, matching the original sheet music. It always plays the pitches correctly whether concert pitch is on or off. With concert pitch off, I can play my real instrument from the music on the screen and hear the correct pitch with the other instruments as expected.

So..... is this what I have to do for all transposed instruments in a piece whenever I importi from MusicXML? Or is there anything in the MusicXML that indicates the transposition of an instrument?
And is there a setting in MuseScore that I should set to make this process work correctly?

The music was exported from Finale (which I don't have). Is there a setting in Finale which would have exported transposed instruments 'correctly'?

Many thanks.


In reply to by TheOnlyMagicbean

After examining the xml, it seems the score was exported in concert pitch. To fix this, right click each transposing instrument, select Staff Properties, then use the Change instruments button on the left near the middle to change the staff to the proper transposing instrument. This will change the notes and keys as appropriate automagically.

Since I've never seen Finale function, I don't know what to tell the person who exported this how to fix it in the future.

In reply to by mike320

Thanks for your help - that worked too. The advantage of your method is that you can select the instrument and not know what key it is in. The disadvantage is that the original part names (Clarinet 1, Clarinet 2 etc) all get replaced by 'Bb Clarinet' so you may need to manually rename them afterwards.

Manually transposing in the Stave properties keeps the part names but you have to know how many semitones you want to transpose by. Most players probably know that for their own instruments.

I'll ask the friend with Finale if turning concert pitch off is an option during export to MusicMXL because that would be the nicer option.

In reply to by TheOnlyMagicbean

After changing the instrument pressing the change instrument button and selecting the instrument, the transposition is displayed in the Staff Properties dialog. You can make note of that, press cancel, then use those values rather than allowing MuseScore to change the instrument names.

In reply to by mike320

Yes, that's what I was doing to start with except that I just entered the values because I already knew what they should be. I was hoping there was enough information in the MusicXML file to save me doing it manually for each instrument every time a received a file.

In reply to by mike320

Ah OK. I also tried editing the XML file by adding a transpose attribute to the Clarinet parts but it changed the pitch output and left the written score the same. Exactly the opposite outcome I thought might happen! What I was trying to achieve was a transposition of the written partonly because the pitch in the Music XML is correct.

However, it did make the Concert Pitch button 'work' in that selecting it adds 2 flats to the key signature and lowers each written pitch by two semitones which is the correct action. However, the part sounds 2 semitones lower than it should.

This is a bit academic unless someone who knows both Finale and MuseScore knows what settings to apply to make transposed instruments work between the software in MusicXML.

Otherwise I'm always going to have to transpose the parts in MuseScore after receiving them.

In reply to by TheOnlyMagicbean

"the part sounds 2 semitones lower than it should"

So it still sounds concert pitch as I described. I didn't mention the difference in pressing the concert pitch button because it did not function correctly. The XML tells which pitch to write on the staff and the playback software (MuseScore in this case) must interpret how to play it. Since MuseScore is expecting transposed notes, it keeps the notes in the XML even when the offset is entered.

Changing the transposition as we have discussed is the only way until the scores are properly exported as transposed.

In reply to by TheOnlyMagicbean

If I'm understanding correctly, I'm getting the same or a similar problem importing MIDI files containing transposed instruments - or a mix of transposed and non-transposed.

For example, I see guitars and alto saxes, all showing a key signature of Eb. It sounds right, so clearly the alto sax is playing in C, in Eb transposition. I thought maybe that's just the convention for writing multi instrument scores, until I tried to change the alto sax to a flute - which changed the key signature from Eb to Gb(?).

Going back to that instrument being an alto sax (e.g. reloading the score), pressing the concert pitch button had the same effect - the Eb key signature changed to Gb.

The solution, in that particular case turned out to be to just change the key signature of the transposed instruments to match the others (View->Palettes etc). To avoid confusing myself further, I did it with the concert pitch button pressed, so I could see the results. I didn't change or transpose any notes, I just changed the key signature.

I'm still using 2.1.0. I wasn't aware there was a 2.3, and now I see there's a newer one, but it looks like installing it will overwrite my instruments.xml, losing the changes I made to it, so I haven't sorted that out yet. Possibly the behaviour is different in the new version; I don't know.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Thanks, Jojo. That's not where I keep it, but I am on Windows, yes. Will my old instruments.xml still be compatible though?

I'd read something relating to it in the release notes, which made me think I might be expected to use the new one. I wouldn't mind, but it would take me a while to work out what I changed. Mostly, I just made some more instruments "common", so I didn't have to dig for ones I use often, but I also added a couple.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Thanks. I didn't know that. Are they allowed to have overlaps, or would I need to delete everything from mine that's in the original?

In particular, how would it work where I've just added

(genre)common(/genre) (but with angled brackets)

to an existing instrument, so I can see it in the main lists?

E.g. I probably added the "common" for C trumpet myself (or lets assume I did, for the sake of argument), so there would be an entry with genre common, in my instruments.xml, but not in the official one... that seems like it might cause problems.

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