Figured bass text could be translated to extra notes

• May 1, 2019 - 07:52
Reported version
S5 - Suggestion

When you add figured bass text, it doesn't play, just shows the text. I wish, that it could be possible to translate the text to extra notes. Or no extra notes would not be visible, they just sound when playing.


Figured bass realization, which is what the process of turning figured bass into music is called, does not consist of "adding extra notes", but writing additional self-consistent parts. It is a simple form of assisted composition. Figured bass is not equivalent to "chord symbols", the latter typical of repertoire in which there isn't much choice about how to play (most) chords on (simple) guitar; figured bass is a notation for encoding contrapuntal and harmonic gesture recognizably which, with the human skill called "figured-bass realizing", can be revivified into music featuring those (connected) gestures. That is, "realizing figured bass" is "hard" (see my continuo tutorials, starting at .)

As the original author of the MuseScore figured bass feature, I could have not put it better than @BSG put it!

Even ignoring the contrapuntal aspects (one cannot expect an "automatic realisation", whatever this may mean, to be "artistic" or even "beautiful", "correct" would be enough), even harmony cannot be automatic. Two points come to my mind; for sure, there are other.

1) Signs changed of meaning in the two centuries of life of B.c.: initially b meant minor interval and # meant major interval; sometime during the XVIII c. (and in different times in different places) this changed into meaning actual flat and sharp resp (with the addition of the natural sign, initially useless). In many cases they amount to the same notes, but not always.

2) Not all figures are written. Monteverdi just writes a scant sharp or flat now and then, but this does not mean that all other bass notes are realised with triads! Usually, 'they' wrote only the figures they though "necessary", the "obvious" ones were skipped. In the early times more than in the late times, in Italian music more than in French or German and, of course, "obvious" may (and usually does) mean very different things for different peoples or cultures. Just as an examples, one can compare the differences in numbering between the 1730 Hamburg and the 1737 Paris edition of Telemann's Quadri: same music, different numbers in different places (I can't say why: different culture? different publisher? who knows... the first edition is by Telemann himself, the second by Boivin with Telemann acknowledge; an edition with both continuo parts has been published by VistaMare Musica and can be downloaded for free).

So, continuo realisation CANNOT be deterministic. Even stripping it down to an ugly 3-part first mode counterpoint ("nota cum nota") , it would still be "wrong" in many places and would convey an incorrect idea of how "it sounds really".

In reply to by Miwarre

My near-certain surmise remains that the output of this feature will quickly become the de facto standard for "figured bass realization" on the .com site, "endorsed" by the software, and scores with these left-hand block chords will proliferate, as beginners unaware of any of the issues use the new hammer as a screwdriver, wrench, and tweezer. Some things that are possible and easy just should not be done, and the idea of this in hard-wired C++ code (not user-reprogrammable) is deeply disturbing to me.