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!

This works for this case.

Select the notes you want notated in 6 flats instead of 6 sharps.

First, under tools, transpose by interval with 'transpose key signatures' checked up a major second, press ok. (The key signature will now be 4 flats.)

Second, under tools, transpose by interval with 'transpose key signatures' checked down a major second, press ok. (The key signature will now be 6 flats but enharmonic equivalents will be wild.)

With the notes still selected, press the up arrow and then the down arrow and the enharmonically equivalent choices will be much better (at least they were for me).

In brief, transpose the notes up and down a major second and then raise and lower them a half step.

If you want a score in concert pitch (as I do despite Marc because it's chamber music and I want the score to apply to both B-flat and A-clarinet and for other dubious reasons), you will have to handle the part separately as far as I can see.

I apologize if this is a special case of more general instructions available elsewhere, but at least I understand it.

In reply to by jwpratt

Howard, who started this thread, actually implemented an option (in staff/part properties) to prefer flats vs sharps. The option is in 3.5, for which you can download the alpha now. I encourage you to try it out. Seems to work from what I've seen, but more testing is very welcome!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Alpha is beyond my pay grade. I have to treat the clarinet part separately anyway, in order to make parts for both B-flat and A clarinets. Actually, I expect the clarinetist to use A for just the second movement of three, but I don't want to require that. Would the option solve the problem that the part-score linkage fills the score with crazy enharmonics? I seem to remember coming across a fix in the Forum for all transposing instruments, but now I can't find it. It seemed complicated, but maybe only because it was general.

In reply to by jwpratt

Installing the alpha is exactly as easy as installing the release, just go to Download / Software above and click the appropriate link. It's really important if a new feature is implemented in response to sure request, that users help test the feature to make it actually works as expected and that it addresses the need. Everyone's situation is different, I don't create the same kind of scores as you, so I can only easily test the cases that are relevant to my world. As far as I know, the new feature is about key signatures only, as enharmonic spelling is something you have direct control over using J / Shift+J. Determining Whether this combination solves the problem for your particular use cases is something we could really your help with.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

OK, since MuseScore is a mainstay of my life at this point (20 years into retirement), the least I can do is try it if it might be useful. One preliminary remark--enharmonic spelling is part of it so far, since my method of fixing the part messed up the corresponding line in the (concert pitch) score for a whole movement. Admittedly I didn't try global shifts up and down of that line in that movement.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I found the lost reply. (Don't ask.)
I gave preferring flats in the alpha one try and it worked, but I assume you can't prefer sharps in one portion of a score and flats in another (a different movement, say). Also, when you go to concert pitch, you get multiple flats instead of what you started with (if you entered the part in concert pitch). You can correct that fairly well by raising everything up and then down a half step or vice versa, but then when you go back to transposed pitch, it's haywire. It would be nice if, instead of indirect control (putting in a different concert pitch key signature to change the transposed key signature, which makes me dizzy and, as someone noted, is sometimes impossible), you could just enter directly what transposed key signature you want and get something sensible without affecting the concert-pitch score.
While I'm on sharps and flats, I realize that it may be difficult to get preferred, or even sensible, enharmonic equivalents in all cases, but would it be possible to fix it so that when you make a change, the default is that that choice applies at least to the rest of the measure? It doesn't even work that way when you first enter notes. If I put in what I hoped would be Eb and MuseScore gives me D# and I change it to Eb, I would like that to apply at least for the whole measure, and perhaps even until I reverse it, but as it is now, it doesn't even apply to further Eb's in the same measure. Yes, with planning, selecting a range, selecting>more>notes with the same name in the range, and j, I can sometimes reduce the effort, but it's one more burden on my easily overburdened mind, and j may even mess up some other equivalent in the same range.

In reply to by jwpratt

If you add an instrument change, even without changing instrument, then this and other instrument settings apply only within that portion of the score.

I’m not quite understanding the rest, best to start a new thread and attach your score describe in more detail how to reproduce the problem.

In reply to by jwpratt

I think you misunderstood,. I realize you didn't change an instrument. I'm suggesting you do add an instrument change, then you will be able to have separate control of this and other settings before and after the change.

But as far as I can, you don't have a setting here at at - it's still at the default. I can guarantee that toggling concert pitch does not fo good things here, but I don't think that's connected to the setting, since you haven't made it. I think it's connected to whatever you did to get that Gb key signature in there in the first place - that shouldn't have been possible without setting "prefer flats". Cna you explain more how you did this?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

To your 00:23 comment--
I’m not sure what you’re asking me to explain. You asked me some time ago to try 3.5 alpha and prefer flats. In 3.5 alpha I took a WW4 score prepared entirely in concert pitch (for good reasons) and made a clarinet part preferring flats, which came out in 6 flats as advertised. That is what I sent. It does not do good things when you go to concert pitch or when you return. I can also get 6 flats in the transposed part using the current MuseScore without alpha by transposing the notes up and down a major second and then raising and lowering them a half step, as I wrote earlier. I believe toggling to concert pitch does the same not good things in the part created that way too. I also conjectured that in 3.5 alpha you would not be able to prefer flats in one portion of a piece and sharps in another, which you might want and which I believe could be done with my jiggling work-around. I’m not trying to sell that work-around let alone say it should be the final solution, but I think developments to date haven’t reached the final solution either.
Why would I add an instrument change? Is that some other work-around?

In reply to by jwpratt

I was asking you to explain how you got that corrupt score to begin with - a score in which prefer option was set to default - which should have resulted in sharps in this case - and yet the staff was erroneously showing flats. The glitch fixes itself on toggling concert pitch, so that's good, but I'm not sure how it happened to begin with.

The reason I am suggesting adding an instrument change is precisely what I have stated - it allows you to have independent control of the instrument properties, including this option. So you can prefer flats in one part of the score, and sharps in another. It allows you to do exactly what you are asking for, simply and easily. Sure, eventually yet other ways of accomplishing that same goal could perhaps be invented. For now, though, this works, perfectly as far as I know, and to me it's not a workaround but the usual supported way of having independent control of instrument properties in different parts of the score. It's the way you would have different sounds, the way you would have different names, the way you would have different transpositions - so of course it's also the way to have different settings for this option.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

It wasn't corrupt in any way that I know of. You said try 3.5 alpha, so I did, choosing to prefer flats, because that was the whole point. I got flats, along with the toggling problems you said you expected. If I hadn't preferred flats, it would indeed have defaulted to sharps.

I tried changing instruments just now, in the only way I know how, both at the beginning of the Adagio and with a set of bars selected. It changed the instrument for the whole part. What do you mean by "adding an instrument change"?

In reply to by jwpratt

Somehow we're not understanding each other. You say you tried choosing to prefer flats", but I open your file and see, no you didn't - not with this file, anyhow. It's still at the default. And that's why I'm saying your score is messed up right now - it's showing flats even though your settings say it should be showing sharps.

But now I can finally guess what happened: you set it to prefer flat, then changed your mind and put it back to default, but the key signature didn't fix itself to go back to sharps. I think that's a bug - it should have gone back to sharps the moment you changed the setting back to default. But at least it fixes itself when you toggle concert pitch on and off again.

By "adding an instrument change", I mean, using the Instrument text from the palette, same way you'd change form Bb to A clarinet to from oboe to English horn. Add the instrument change, then right-click a measure before the instrument change to change properties for that instrument, right-click a measure after the change to change properties for that instrument. Leave the playback and staff name properties alone since you aren't changing those. The point is, the same mechanism that has been in place for years to change other instrument properties mid-score, also allows changing this one.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I did choose prefer flats and got them. I then experimented with various things and it did not do good things, as you put it. I don't remember ever choosing default, unless that is the only way to prefer sharps, and I don't remember anything fixing itself when I toggled concert pitch on and off, but in all the wild notation I got, conceivably it was fixed at some point. If in the end I sent you a file with 6 flats, I don't see how I got it except by preferring 6 flats. If I didn't send a file with 6 flats, then I think I sent the wrong file. Anyway, the point was to see how 3.5 alpha handles this, and I think we have both seen that in spades by now.

In reply to by jwpratt

Well, we can't go back in time to see what you did, all I can say is that if I load your score, it's set to default. Meaning the thing you call "wild notation" is 100% completely correct - it's doing exactly what your settings ask for. It just took toggling concert pitch to get it to do so.

Maybe you're being thrown by the fact that the spelling of the notes themselves is not affected? It's not supposed to, we already provide independent control for spelling of notes with concert pitch on/off. Only key signatures (and chord symbols) lack that, so only key signatures are affected by this option as far as I know.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Fwiw, I have a score in 6 flats set to default which is entirely tame. I assume I got it by the jiggling (not toggling) work around I mentioned before. I am also very sure that I originally tried 3.5 alpha preferring flats and got a score in 6 flats which was also entirely tame, showing that 3.5 alpha worked for me on that score. I think that is what I meant to send you, but I probably no longer have it.

I don't understand your second paragraph. I thought spelling is what we were trying to affect, and that it has to change when the key signature changes unless the score has accidentals everywhere.

In reply to by jwpratt

It's not clear to me where the breakdown in understanding is, but let me try again:

Your score is showing something incorrect right now. The "prefer" setting is at the default, which should have resulted in a key signature of six sharps, since the default is to use the "correct" spelling where possible. And yet, your score is showing a key signature of six flats instead. That's just plain wrong. This is not what the default is supposed to be. The only way you should be seeing six flats in a score that is in concert E major is if you explicitly use the "prefer flats" setting. But your score doesn't. It is set to default, and thus should be by default by showing six sharps. The correct transposition up a major second from E is F#, so that's what the key should be. I don't know how to be any plainer about it than that? You are score is showing an incorrect transposition.

After turning concert pitch on and off, you now have what you should have had all along: six sharps in the key signature.

The notes themselves are a completely different matter. They don't magically change themselves just because you change the key signature. If you want a C#, enter a C#. If you want a Db, enter a Db, but don't expect that change a key signature from F# to Gb will magically change all the notes from C# to Db.

Because it does sometimes happen that you want the spelling of the notes when transposed to differ from the theoretically correct spelling (eg, you want to see transposed Db rather than C# for your concert B's), we provide a command just for that: Ctrl+J. This toggles the transposition of the selected note(s) in the selected mode only. But it doesn't look like you used this. You either entered Db as the transposed pitch or Cb as the concert pitch - not clear which - and the pitch in the other mode is then transposed literally.

BTW, another solution here is to use the instrument change I keep advocating to change the transposition temporarily from major second to diminished third. This gives you the desired key and the desired notes, without ever messing with the "prefer" setting or messing with Ctrl+J.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Several questions, if we're going to pursue this.
>Are you talking about something other than 6 sharps and 6 flats?
>Is all this relevant only to 3.5 alpha, since a choice other than the default isn't offered in 3.3 (or whatever it is that I have)?
>I have a score in 6 flats obtained by jiggling in 3.5 alpha with the default, I believe, though possibly obtained by jiggling in 3.3 and opened in 3.5 alpha. It does indeed say default, not flats preferred, but it looks fine. Are you saying that should not have been possible or allowed? The point of the jiggling is to give something that is musically correct but MS doesn't want to give me.
>Why is it incorrect to notate in Gb rather than F#? I'm told clarinetists prefer it.
>When I change key signature in an untransposed score, do not the notes magically change spelling? It looks like magic to me, every time. Shouldn't the same happen in a transposed score?
>Are you talking about an instrument change in part of a staff? I haven't seen how to do that.
>Can you send the file I sent you so I know exactly what it is. I thought I had it, but apparently not.
>Fwiw, I definitely entered the notes initially in concert pitch in a 4-part score and then made a clarinet part.

In reply to by jwpratt

What I’m talking about applies to any key that can be written in enharmonically. And yes, since the option is new for 3.5, it won’t apply to older versions.

You say the score looks “fine•, and I’d agree - but my point is it shouldnt look fine because your settings are telling MuseScore to display F#, not Gb. The fact that it is displaying Gb is a bug, but it fixes itself as I keep saying. I don’t know how I can explain this more clearly. If you set your staff size to 0.00001 mm and somehow still got a score big enough to read, you’d say it looks fine, but it shouldn’t - at that setting, it should be unreadable tiny. So it would be a bug. Similarly, your settings are such that you should be seeing F, since that’s the default transposition of E for Bb instruments. But you’re not getting that, so it’s a bug just like getting a readable score at 0.00001 mm would be.

Again, I already guessed the source of the problem - probably you changed to flats then back to default and the key didn’t revert.

I never said notated in Gb is incorrect, it’s just the incorrect transposition given your settings. But for the records, it’s not necessarily true that clarinets would refer Gb - quite the contrary is more likely. Maybe what you heard is that is that they general prefer flat keys, which is undeniably true if we are talking about concert keys. But transposed, they are way more used to sharps, to the point where some might even prefer seven sharps over five flats.

Instrument change is added from the Text palette. See the Handbook under mid-staff instrument change for mure. But it’s really as simple as I described it. This isn’t a new feature, it’s been there for years, BTW.

No, changing the key signature doesn’t change notes, never has. Transposing does, merely dropping in a new key signature does not.

The score you attached is still right where you attached it, you can download it from your own message if you need to.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Well, if it's a bug, it's not my problem, and I don't feel any need to understand it, except that, if I have a score that took advantage of the bug and you fix the bug and update my MuseScore version, I take it that when I open the score in the updated version it will no longer be what I wanted. Should I save a pre-3.5 version of MuseScore? I certainly have to update my 2.0 scores in 2.0. You'll probably say that if I had written them properly they would import easily into 3.0, but I'm not going to take that bait. I do/did understand that, for you, it was a bug that let me do what I did about 6#.

Thanks for the hint about mid-staff instrument change. I think I had gotten the same headings when I searched before but they didn't sound like what I wanted to do (change key signature).
Fretboard diagrams (prior to version 3.1)
Staff Type Change
I hope I remember when I need it. Fortunately my current problem is not so complicated.

I dare say I will end up offering that movement in both flats and sharps (as well as all three movements for clarinet in A). What I heard was definitely about transposed keys (as well as concert keys).

In reply to by jwpratt

Once the bug is fixed, you will simply need to set your preference to flats if you want flats. It’s that simple, that is the whole point of that option. It is supposed to give you flats when you ask for them, not by default. So ask for them and you’ll still get them.

Not sure what you mean about MuseScore2.0, but if it’s related, feel free to describe in more detail here. If not related feel free to ask in another thread.

In reply to by Howard-C

Oh, right, indeed, that's useful at times, for the people who discover it, but it doesn't really solve the problem at hand. In particular, it would be more work for the user to have to do that over and over rather than just set an option, and it won't survive toggling of Concert Pitch, unless we implement TPC1/TPC2 for key signatures (which isn't a bad idea, but should also include chord symbols).

In reply to by jwpratt

You're my hero! Thanks a million. I've been struggling to replicate parts for Bb and Eb instruments in band scores for a day now. Some of the original XML parts imported with 6 flats then switched to sharps when I began copying/pasting. No chance an alto sax player wants to read 6 sharps.

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