Fix Confusing Accidentals

• Aug 24, 2018 - 00:31

I made another post before this but I don't think I phrased it correctly, like the doofus I am. I am aware of how accidentals work, I know flats are preferred in flat keys and sharps for sharp keys. I'm wondering if it's possible for Musescore to have a mode where, when input with a MIDI device, notes with accidentals don't automatically appear on the same/line space as the notes before it and make it easier to differentiate at first glance.

Confusing Accidentals.JPG

I occasionally write original songs for my local choir, and they think MuseScore's default accidentals are confusing.

Line Space.JPG


See my response to your previous question. I understood you just fine, and my response addressed the best ways of achieving something along the lines of what you are saying but also why it isn't that simple. For example, running Notes / Respell Pitches gives you exactly what you ask for. But as a professional pianist often asked to sight-read music like this, I would suggest that while the first measure might have been improved in this case, the second was not. The prevailing harmony in the second half of the bar is probably something like A7b9. If the left hand of the accompaniment, or the lower voices of the choral arrangement, had a prominent "A", then lying about the spelling of the C# would be counterproductive.

BTW, it is also an oversimplification to say that flats are always preferred in flat keys. As the above example demonstrates, C# in the key of F is actually going to be quite common for very good harmonic reasons. A7 is V7/vi, an extremely common chord. Db would occur in the context of a iv chord, which is admittedly common too but probably not as common, and in any any case, the correct spelling absolutely depends on knowing this context. Deliberately using a spelling not consistent with the harmony is almost always a mistake and will be more likely to lead to reading errors for the accompanist. Also, there is a huge difference between rules for spelling of "essential" (to the harmony) chromaticism versus "non-essential" (eg, passing tones). In the latter case, key doesn't enter into it much at all it's about the direction of the line and which way the note resolves.

Bottom line, never depend on defaults, nor on a simplistic linear analysis to always produce the best results. If you must use MIDI to enter your pitches (not very efficient for exactly this reason) then by all means try Respell Pitches afterwards, but please do the accompanist a favor and go through again and correct spellings by hand according to actual harmonic context.

It's also worth noting that even the "simplistic linear analysis" is not so simple. For example, you suggested the algorithm be to not use the same line/space as the previous note, but that's actually the wrong answer half the time. As with much in music (and life!), it's not about where you came from but where you are going. So, C-C#-C might not be as good as C-Db-C - in this case, Db is better than C# - but C-C#-D is absolutely better than C-Db-D. That's because the optimum spelling of the middle note depends not on the previous note as much as the next. And this is why it is necessary to wait until you are done to run Respell Pitches, because at the moment you enter the C#/Db, MuseScore has no way of know what the next note will be.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Not alot of the people I sing with don't think about harmonics, I guess you're right. We're not worried about harmonics as much as producing sound, it seems. Would it be best, then, for someone to make a plugin for this? If not, i'll be happy respelling pitches. MuseScore has been amazing to me otherwise.

In reply to by jeronjoseph

Singers won't necessarily think about harmonic context, but as I said, the accompanist or anyone else looking at the whole score (eg, conductor) surely will. So often it makes sense to spell things differently for accompaniment than for the singers. Similar issue in instrumental music, score versus parts.

Anyhow, I think you might be misunderstanding what I mean by "Notes / Respell Pitches". I mean go to the Notes menu and click "Respell Pitches". You don't need a plugin - this built-in command already does the sort of thing you are talking about - respelling according to a linear analysis of the music. And it gets details right like spelling C-Db-C but also C-C#-D. It's just that even this is more subjective and context-dependent than you might think, so most likely you still want to check things manually.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

What I was thinking of was more like a time-saving thing, like how the TempoChanges plugin inputs tempo markings along a selected string of notes for rit./rall. and accel. eliminating individual entry of tempo markings for gradual change in tempo.

Often i'll write accompaniment with SATB, and individually correcting accidentals consumes an unpractical amount of time for my writing. TempoChanges is probably easier than what i'm asking, but time-saving is important for me.

In reply to by jeronjoseph

Right. It still seems like somehow I am not making myself sufficiently clear: Notes / Respell Pitches is exactly what you are asking for. No need to do it one note at a time, it works on the whole score at once, instantly turning what you showed as your starting point into something very much like what you said you wanted to turn it into. Have you tried this yet?

In reply to by jeronjoseph

No apologies necessary!

To be clear: it works on whatever you have selected, analyzing the content of that selection to determine which accidentals need to be respelled and which do not. The most basic part of the algorithm is to spell an accidental by raising the pitch if the note resolves upward, lowering the pitch if the note resolves downward. Hence the C-Db-C and C-C#-D. But there is more to it than that; I just haven't really studied the code closely enough to say more. Frankly, I find I disagree with the results reasonably often, but I write extremely complex chromatic passages. The simple cases do work very well, and the more complex ones are going to require more thought on my part anyhow.

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