Position of articulations (accents) vs. fingering

• Jan 24, 2020 - 23:24

Why are accents automatically placed above fingering in the treble staff of a piano score? Articulations are primary to the music, not secondary like fingering. I tried giving the accent a bigger stacking order number than the fingering but this didn’t work.


Stacking order is about which overlaps which when they are allowed to overlap, not which is drawn closer to the note.

Default relative positions for the various markings was the result of an in-depth analysis of the published literature to learn what traditional engraving guidelines recommend. In some cases, there were extremely clear rules to govern this, in others it was a bit less clear. This was one of the less clear cases, but it does seem in keeping with Elaine Gould's suggestion to keep fingering "as close as possible to the relevant notes".

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for your explanation, Marc. With all due respect to Ms. Gould, whoever she is, I think she's clearly wrong in this case. Articulations are usually part of the original composition. Fingering is typically editorial. In any event, the attached poor scan from a Henle Urtext edition of a Chopin Etude demonstrates that one of the most meticulous music publishers in the world sees it this way (see near bottom of scan).

Attachment Size
Chopin Etude (Henle).pdf 43.7 KB

In reply to by darkstream

She’s considered the world’s foremost authority on music engraving, author of the definitive reference “Behind Bars”. But to be clear, she was speaking about fingering generally, not about position relative to accents specifically.

Anyhow, I don’t doubt t that some editors may place some articulations closer to the notes than fingerings. Probably not all editors, all articulations, however. So unfortunately we had to pick and choose. So for these cases you can disable autoplace on the accent.

The urtext, though, is not a good example, as it’s more likely to go out of the way to move fingerings further than the composer’s own markings. Ordinary editions may be more likely to do it differently.

Checking the first piano edition I have handy - Schnabel edition of Beethoven sonatas - I see accents, staccato, and tenuto closer to more head than fingering, other markings (slurs, fermatas) seemingly treated more ad hoc. We place staccato and tenuto as close as possible but allow accents to float. It’s not out of the question that we could have called this one the other way around; like I said, it was one of the grey areas.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you, Marc. Is there a "logical" way to arrange different categories of signs/symbols. For example, accents/articulations are part of the music (what the composer wanted to express). Bowing comes next as bowing is part of music as well as how everyone should follow in an orchestra. Finally, it is fingering which is quite persona. So to me, the "logic" should be that accents/articulations should be closest to the notes, bowing next, and fingering comes after. Of course, I am just thinking of this from a string player's perspective. Other instruments may be different.

In reply to by EYMUSE

There are lots of "logical" ways, and MuseScore tries to obey the most common ones. As mentioned, in this case, there is nothing super specific in "Behind Bars" (the most well-known reference on the topic) but we chose our defaults based on the general advice given there to place fingering as close to the notes as possible. I suspect that line of thinking makes more sense on piano or guitar where there are often chords, and the further from the chord the fingerings are, the harder it is to match up which finger is for which note.

Anyhow, someday indeed it would be nice to have some customizable controls for these more subjective cases.

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