Change 6 sharps to 6 flats for transposing instrument?

• Nov 17, 2019 - 01:37

I have a section of a score whose global key is switched to 4 sharps, and the B-flat clarinet part has 6 sharps, which is correct, but I want it to be 6 flats (if you ask me, I'm more accustomed to seeing flats on my score when I play the clarinet). Is there a way to do so?

I know I can do so if the global key is 5 sharps, so attaching a local key signature of 7 flats to that part will make that part 6 flats, but 4 sharps doesn't have an alternative flat representation.


See Not ideal. There have been some suggestions for ways to improve this. FWIW, I think this would be a most excellent project for you to take on :-). See for instance #39176: Option to convert transposed instrument key signatures into enharmonic equivalent when number of accidentals exceeds limit and #288495: Allow user to select flats or sharps for enharmonic key signatures, but also the various other threads that reference it or show up in a search on some of these terms. The main hangup really is deciding how the user should specify this - a property on the staff, on the key signature, a score style, or something else. There are potential compatibility issues no matter how one decides, but here I think we can live with them. My sense is we could make it so a score created using the new option(s) would still load correctly in an older version, it just might do the wrong thing upon toggling concert pitch.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Isn't #288495: Allow user to select flats or sharps for enharmonic key signatures a duplicate of #39176: Option to convert transposed instrument key signatures into enharmonic equivalent when number of accidentals exceeds limit?

Well, OK, there's a difference, but I personally prefer the latter, because you might have different settings for different staves and making it a property of staves/key signatures is most feasible.

In reply to by Howard-C

Well, the idea would be the threshold at which we make an automatic change, so there wouldn't be ambiguity. if the max was five, then a transposition that yields six sharps would automatically trigger a conversions to flats. But it was just one suggestion, the others are workable too.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The way I see it, there are only a few key signatures we're talking about - B/Cb, F#/Gb and C#/Db. All other keys would be unambiguous since MuseScore does not support doubles in key signatures. If the option for the key signature is to prefer flats (my suggested default) then you would get a key with flats, otherwise you get the one with sharps for those transposing instruments. Instruments with a transposition of 0-Perfect unison or 12-Perfect Octave would not have this option since they are in concert pitch key.

In reply to by Howard-C

It's too easy to apply a local key signature for situations like that. We don't need to ever have someone ask why their contrabassoon or violin is in the Key of Db while the flutes are in C#, which is what will happen if you set it to prefer flats and keep this a possibility.

In reply to by Howard-C

That should be possible already - just add the keysig locally to that staff (hold Ctrl while adding).

Elsewhere it has been suggested that adding a local keysig should honor it literally - that is, it shouldn’t treat it as concert pitch and transpose it for you.

If this were implemented, then perhaps that would actually be all we needed from a UI perspective. We’d still want a way to remember the original (concert) key, though, so toggling concert pitch preserves everything, even after save/restore.

In reply to by Howard-C

That's the idea, yes. It came from a totally unrelated use case - someone enter music for just a single part, not the whole score, and they are copying an existing part. So they are looking at a piece of paper that shows, for instance, one flat. They add the one flat keysig to their score and are surprised to see two sharps instead. So the idea of using Ctrl+drag (also Ctrl+double-click) has been suggested as one workaround to that problem. To me, it's questionable as I figure it's not a very discoverable solution for that use case, but this transposition one actually seems a more natural use for the same facility.

In reply to by Howard-C

I started on the alto and played it a lot also. The key and the fingerings are identical (with 1 exception) so all Eb sax players have the same preference. I've noticed English horns (which are also in Eb) usually have sharps in their key signatures also if there is a choice.

In reply to by mike320

Yeah, alto and baritone sax are both in E-flat.

Isn't cor anglais in F? I remember I had to change an auto-created C-sharp major key signature into D-flat major key signature for cor anglais when I was transcribing my own copy of 1812 Overture. So in this case cor anglais probably prefers flats.

In reply to by mike320

The alto clarinet is usually considered an alternative to the basset horn which is actually a clarinet in F (usually: there are early examples in G). I believe the latter is recently more favoured in US concert bands but my experience is in UK bands where alto clarinet is rare and basset horn rarer. Both are used in uk clarinet choirs.

The basset clarinet is usually in A, less commonly in Bb at the same pitch as a "standard" clarinet, but with an extension that allows notes below written E to be played, usually down to C. Early examples were not fully chromatic, the Db/C# and possibly the Eb/D# might be missing. Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is believed to have been written for a basset clarinet in A. The score is lost, however and the published version for (non-basset) clarinet was put together after Mozart's death. In the 1970s an attempt was made to reconstruct the basset version and it is now often performed on a basset clarinet. YouTube has some examples.

In reply to by Howard-C

The clarinet family is big.

I play in a clarinet quartet. Between the four of us we can select from clarinets in Ab, Eb, C, Bb, A, Eb (Alto), F (basset horn), Bass in Bb, contra-alto in Eb, and contra-bass in Bb (in order of descending pitch and increasing length.) Our usual line up is chair 1 Eb doubling Bb. chair 2 Bb, Chair 3, Bb doubling Alto or Basset horn, Chair 4 bass doubling contra-alto. The Ab is a curiosity really, of no real practical use in the quartet, but it is fun to get it out to show audiences a teeny-weeny clarinet sometimes. I understand that they are fairly popular (or perhaps tolerated is the better word) in Italian military bands The contra-bass has potential but is too big to make it worthwhile lugging along to gigs as it would have to be transported together with the bass and contra alto. If we used the contrabass it would be like having a double bass rather than a cello in a string quartet. its owner plays it in a clarinet choir. The contra-alto is a fantastic instrument and we prefer it to the bass if the music works for it. We have never used A clarinets in the quartet but they are part of the standard orchestral player's kit so we all have them. The C clarinet is an optional part of an orchestral players kit, and 3 of the quartet members own them. I will be playing mine at the weekend in an orchestral concert (Beethoven, Overture - Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus). Some players prefer to transpose Clarinet in C parts and play them on the Bb, but I like the slightly more "perky" sound of the C and it just feels more agile somehow.

In reply to by SteveBlower

After I saw your comment in the topic about "B-flat Clarinet or Clarinet in B-flat", I bought a C Clarinet too!! I'm currently playing oboe II part in the orchestra, we only have one real oboe player (and yeah, the orchestra isn't professional, it's a 70% complete orchestra of amateur players, so using clarinet to play oboe's part is OK), and since she is absent from almost every rehearsal, I've been playing oboe I part too. It's amazing, not only does it free me from the trouble of transposing, I can reach concert D6 to E6 easier too! And most importantly, I feel like I can control the timbre much better. I don't really know about that "perkiness" you mentioned, but the fact is, I can even produce a very soft and smooth sound and use it to play along with the violins in pieces written for string orchestra!

I imagine it would be awesome to play in a clarinet quartet with so much types of clarinets to choose from!! I would really like to get my hands on the E-flat/A-flat or contrabass clarinet and play! I haven't played the bass clarinet too, and I know much less about alto and contra-alto clarinets. I really hope you can tell more about your stories in the quartet, just reading them lights up my mood!

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