Piano notation question

• Aug 3, 2018 - 10:11


I have this measure for piano


How do I best notate it?

And I need pedal markings there as well.

Attachment Size
Piano1.mscz 5.88 KB


In reply to by G-Sun

As a professional pianist and someone reasonably knowledgeable about engraving:

I would strongly recommend against using octave clefs for piano - they are essentially never used for this purpose and most pianists have probably never seen one and would have no idea what it means. Instead, I'd probably just change clef mid-measure. Except in this case, the tie of the whole into the next measure makes that less practical. So I'd probably go with bass clef throughout. Still lots of ledger lines, but consider, the bottom note of the chord is "E", anyone can see that quickly enough, and then I can see its a triad because the notes are stacked vertically, so I don't need to count ledger lines. Whereas the way you have it, there is no way to figure out the first low note without counting ledger lines. If using bass clef, I'd flip the ties to avoid collisions with the staff above. BTW, I only just noticed you also used an octave clef for the top staff - no can do there either. Change to regular treble clef and use an ottava.

Other points:

Pedal lines should always go below the bottom staff. There is no way to independently control pedaling for the two staves.

Unfortunately, I just realized the when using the old-style Pedal marking (speaking of which, I'd recommend you not use these and instead go with the modern lines) they don't space correctly under whole notes. The workaround, believe it or not, is to add a hook - the algorithm for pedal line layout uses the hook style (straight or angled) to determine how to position the end point. The old-style markings should behave the same as the straight hooks; that's a bug. But anyhow, add the hook and things are better; it won't print since the line is invisible. But then another bug I just noticed - the presence of whole notes in both voices prevents the angle hooks from lining up correctly by default, so you'll also have to fine tune the start point of the second segment of the pedal line.

Normally in my experience vocal parts are placed above the piano accompaniment, not below, so unless you have a special reason to have inverted that here, I'd stick with the usual arrangement. Also, I don't see any reason for the extra bracket here. If there are multiple vocal staves, you can bracket those together, but the piano shouldn't normally be included.

Finally, whatever spacing issues you see here probably will exist elsewhere in the score as well, so instead of relying on spacers throughout, I'd consider adding extra space between staves score-wide (eg, Staff Propertues, Extra distance above staff). But if you place the vocal staves above, you may not need to, as lyrics will allocate space automatically.

Bottom line:


Attachment Size
Piano3 + sopran - marc.mscz 7.65 KB

In reply to by Aldo

Thank you very much!
Are that kind of standard way of notation,
or just your preference?

btw: I'll merge voice 1+2 in right hand, as the pedal will show length

btw2: Sopran soloist is above piano. SATB choir sopran is the one shown here, and below.

In reply to by G-Sun

I'm a bit late to the party for this one, but...

  1. I just want to reiterate, never use octave clefs for piano music! I have never seen anything like that in any piano music in all the ~7 years I had been playing the piano. In fact, the only octave clef I have seen before, is the treble clef with an 8 below, used to notate music for tenor vocals. In fact, even using two treble clefs or two bass clefs is written very verbosely when they occur at the start of a movement: clef_change.png

  2. Merge voice 1 and 2 in the right hand? I see only one voice in the right hand. It is anyway impossible to play what you have written 100% accurately on the piano -- nobody has hands able to span two octaves and more! Not that piano music like yours doesn't exist -- I just don't see the point moving the e minor chord from the left hand to the right (I guess that's what you mean by "merging voice 1+2 in the right hand). It is better where it originally was in the left hand.

  3. Preferably put the parts in this order:

S solo
S choir
A choir
T choir
B choir

It is the standard way of notating a solo voice with choir and piano (or organ) accompaniment. The piano (or organ) is normally at the bottom of the system.

In reply to by G-Sun

In my opinion "standard" should be replaced with "common" (with "unusual" as its opposite).
Anyway, in my opinion notating that e minor chord on the upper staff is a good idea, as it looks quite obvious that a piano player would play it with his right hand (the following notes are overlapped with those of the chord itself). Of course, one can't keep a key pressed while the very same key has to be hit again, so the 4/4 assigned to the chord is somewhat "symbolic" -- that's why I think that the second e minor chord can be removed with no regret.

Attachment Size
Piano3 + sopran - marc_0.mscz 7.02 KB

In reply to by Aldo

My read is that the RH arpeggio is an octave higher than the LH chord, hence the separation into staves. It's the ill-advised use of the octave clef that made this hard to see at first.

If the notes were in the same octave, I'd skip the notation of the whole notes completely as obviously meaningless.

In reply to by Aldo

You are ABSOLUTELY right! Sorry for my mistake -- I missed (didn't take into account) the "octave higher" line.

Case in point of why it is a bad idea to use an octave clef for piano music: most pianists would completely miss the digit above or below and read the clef as a normal treble or bass clef. I also missed that at first, so don't feel bad about it ;-)

In reply to by Aldo

Yes, flipping the stems on the top staff is probably a better idea than flipping ties on the bottom, I like that.

To address some other comments:

  • Unless you have some specific reason to deviate form the normal convention, all vocal staves should be above the piano.

  • I am not sure what you mean about merging voice 1 & 2, but if you mean you are going to lie about the note lengths and hope the pedal fixes it, don't. This will just confuse people, and most pianists would probably choose to release the pedal in order to honor the note lengths you actually wrote. Feel free to move the whole notes to the top staff if you like - but be sure to dd a "LH" indication - but keep the durations as they are. I don't think that's an improvement over what we've already suggested though.

Thank you so much!

Merge Righ hand voice 1+2: Sorry, typo, should be left hand

Octave clefs: My reason for using these is because Musescore handles these clefs perfect,
but that's not the case for ottava, as they always need adjusting notes up/down manually.
But, I'll use whatever is easiest/common for a pianist would interpret correctly. So, ottava it is :)

Pedal-markings: I placed it where it was space for it. But, if that's "wrong", than I'll put it below as you said.
I'm not sure I understand what hook is. Thanks!

Em-chord: Yes, that 2-measure span is wrong. 1 measure is correct

Vocal soloist
SATB Choir

In reply to by G-Sun

Not sure what you mean about ottava requiring adjusting of notes - that shouldn't be the case at all. Maybe you are making the mistake of entering the notes as you want them to sound first and then adding the ottava rather than just simply entering what you want to begin with? Even so, moving notes down an octave takes but a couple of seconds.

Pedal lines: the hook is the short vertical segment that indicates the precise attachment point when using the modern marking rather that the old-fashioned one.

If "obo" means "oboe", that's should also be above piano. Piano is basically the last thing in any score of this type.

In reply to by G-Sun

Clef changes do not change the actual notes you enter. They always remain in the same spot in relation to middle C. The location of middle C on the staff changes when you change a clef. When you add an ottava the notes remain in the same place on the clef but they sound the appropriate number of octaves higher or lower. To see this affect in action, place a 15va ottava on a voice part and watch all of the notes turn red because they are out of range.

In reply to by G-Sun

Right, clef changes keep the original pitches, ottavas do exactly what they are supposed to do: raise pitch an octave. So if you enter notes first then decide you want to raise them an octave, an ottava does exactly that.
if you enter notes but then decide you want to have the same pitch but write them differently, indeed you'd need to transpose them back down. But normally you'd just enter the notes correctly in the first place. That is, if you know you want a top space E with an ottava over it, just enter that directly. No need to transpose anything.

Not sure what you mean about concert pitch; that's not related.

In reply to by G-Sun

There is such an option - select the notes and hit Ctrl+Down :-)

Just consider, how weird do you think people would find it if they added a "fortissimo" dynamic and it didn't make the music louder? Or if they added a staccato marking and it didn't make the note shorter? Or added a pedal marking and it didn't make notes sustain? Added a sharp sign but it didn't make the note sharp? Added For exactly the same reasons, of course if you add a symbol whose entire reason for existing is to raise the pitch of something an octave, it's going to have that effect, and people would immediately and rightfully report it as a bug if it didn't.

So simply enter the notes where you want them to appear before adding the marking. If you've already made add them an octave too high, that's fine, just move them down first - that's the option you are looking for.

In reply to by G-Sun

Please don't think of this as "my" box. I am simply trying to help you understand how MuseScore works and why it works the way it does. That way you can be less surprised by its behavior and less likely to make similar mistakes in the future. Hopefully you can see that the way it works makes sense as a general policy even if it isn't to your advantage in this particular case. While the idea of adding an option, or a separate command, to do the same basic thing but do it differently can seem attractive sometimes, but it's a slippery slope. Ultimately you end up with a much more complicated interface that is much more difficult to support.

Here is an updated score for the whole section.

A musical question: I started with the piano-figure m.2-5,
but it felt too slow. I wanted a support for the etheric quality of this section.
Changed to the figure of m.6-9. Any feedback or suggestions for this?
The bass coming in is not in question (develops later)
I changed from 4 note arpeggios in Em to 3-notes in D, for playability. Is this a wise choice?
Skill-level aimed at 3-4/5, but ideally should work for both 2/5 and 5/5.

Engraving questions:
- The D in LH m.8 is now a little strange. Recommendations?
- Skip tied whole-notes LH in m.3 +5 ? (Pedaled)

Thank you so much
as there are so many questions for how to and what is common practize.
(Not to mention all the musical, instrument-specific, genre-specific (opera) and practical questions :) )

Attachment Size
Section S + Pi + SA.mscz 23.13 KB

In reply to by G-Sun

Don't use ottava when a clef change works better. Right from the begining, the piano LH shoudl just use treble clef.

Your pedal marking aren't attache correctly. When using the angle brakcets to indicate change, you attach to the note on which you want the change to occur, not the previous note. Little or no manual adjustment should be involved.

In reply to by G-Sun

Unless writing for an instrument that uses octave clefs, pretend you'd never heard of them - just like 99% of the musicians who might be reading your music. But yes, putting the bottom staff in treble or top in bass where appropriate is perfectly fine.

In reply to by G-Sun

Yes, that is perfectly normal and common piano scoring to use a clef change for one note only.

As an aside: why do you use the arpeggio symbols with arrows on top? I have never seen that before. The ones without any arrows are more usual. I don't know where the ones with the arrows are used (I would guess in guitar or similar instruments), but I don't know it in piano music. Someone else might be able to explain to both of us ;-)

Sorry to be two years late answering this. The middle pedal on the piano is called the sostenuto. There are two different ways the middle pedal works, depending on the piano. The simpler of the two sustains all keys in about the bottom third of the piano. This gives the left hand a chance to work with the right after hitting low sustained notes. But in your sample it will only work with the more sophisticated sostenuto. It grabs keys the full length of the piano that are at that moment down, leaving all other keys to continue not sustained. Thus for your sample measures to press the sostenuto with the left hand chord but hesitating slightly with the right, the left hand chord will be held and that hand released to play anywhere else on the piano without any other notes sustained. The right hand notes will not be held as long as the sostenuto is pressed first. The musician, in artistic application, may play the left hand just a fraction ahead of the first beat or the right hand just a fraction after the beat to employ the sostenuto for this set of measures.

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