Accidentals applying only to individual note before which they stand

• Sep 9, 2019 - 16:31


I am currently working on engraving the work of a composer who uses this common convention, that accidentals only apply to the single note they are next to. For example, in one measure you might have a Bb, followed by a B without accidental, to be interpreted under this convention as a B natural, not Bb.

I haven't found a way to do this yet, could anyone help?


This is completely against the rules of writing and reading music.

However, you can put an accidental on the next note and make it invisible (with the v key on your keyboard).

...this common convention...

This is absolutely forbidden. An accidental applies to all notes on the same line or space until a barline or another accidental changes it. You learn this rule when you are introduced to flats and sharps when learning to read or play music.

For the record: while this is indeed not the norm, and would have been consider just plain wrong 100 years ago, it has become a thing in the past century. We don't support it directly, but check out the courtesy accidentals plugin (see Download menu above) for a way to add the necessary accidentals semi-automatically.

Thank you, Marc. And exactly about the convention—I'm working on engraving a score from 1933, when this kind of thing was super common in dissonant styles. I'll check out the plugin.


In reply to by Timothy Ruszala

There are actually four plugins with "Accidental" in the name or category, mostly about retuning and quarter tones. Perhaps Marc means the "Courtesy accidentals" one: I'm not sure, but as far as I can see (from the description) this is all about implementing the (traditional) system, by guessing whether a courtesy accidental is required. This is almost exactly the reverse of what you want, since if accidentals only ever apply to the current note, there can be no "accidentals".

Here is another approach. If you are engraving a careful copy of an existing score, for use as a score (rather than the view of Musescore as another device for "playing music" on your computer), then you do not need to use the playback function at all. So you simply write the notes where they are, and print out your beautiful score. You have written a Bnat where Musescore "thinks" you have written a Bflat, but Musescore is simply mistaken, because it doesn't know the rule you are working with. (As evidently some humans don't either.) For fun, you can report this as an "issue", and giggle at the responses.

Musescore doesn't really implement any "musical rules"; imagine if it did, then it would be impossible to write parallel fifths. The academy would not have needed to kick Debussy out, they simply require him to use their software. Musescore (the part that I use) is about producing beautiful engraved scores which you interpret by your rules. (But did you know it can also be used to design jigsaw puzzle pieces?)

In reply to by Imaginatorium

I did indeed mean (and say :-) "courtesy accdidentals" plugin. While it is primarily for traditional notation, it also supports a dodecaphonic mode. It's intended, I assume, for adding the necessary accidentals after the fact, not as an aid to re-copying music already written that way, but perhaps there would be a way to make use of it.

In reply to by Imaginatorium

Thanks for the information! Yes, this is definitely something to check out. The alternative method you suggest is basically what I've been using up to this point, although I thought I'd see if maybe Musescore had the capability for playback purposes. Not only would it make proofreading easier, but it would also bring me the personal satisfaction of hearing at least the correct notes of the piece. So I'll investigate the "Courtesy accidentals" plugin. And thanks for bringing up the Debussy! Much appreciated.

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