tie and slur

• Apr 27, 2020 - 22:04
Reported version
S5 - Suggestion

There is general a missinterpretation of the so called tie.
If there is a slur between 2 notes of the same pitch the musician interprets this as tie. So the tie is a special kind of slur. In notation the tie can tendentially be more flat arc to underline a bit the different function of this special slur. For the musician however the tie is NOT recognized by the shape of the slur.
If a slur is between two notes of the same pitch and there is no articulation included it is to be read as a tie and the two notes are played as if it were one.
(Hope you can follow because my english is far from being perfect)
MuseScore as others has a special Element for ties as there is no articulation. Moreover it is - let me say - better style to draw it bit different than other slurs. For this element everyone obviously accepts that, if a tie is between two measures, that an accidential is also automatically transfered from one to another measure. So if there is a tie e.g. starting from an alterated tone at the end of a measure the note at the end of that slur in the next measure will get the same alteration.
As I said, we can't expect that musicians differenciate slurs and ties by its shape. So in consequence there are cases where a slur is between two notes and over a bar on the same line, but should be of different pitch. Then the slur could be interpreted as tie if an alteration is not reset.
Another case could be a portato notation (slur + articulation) over a bar for notes of the same pitch. This should be handled exactly like ties except for the articulation.
Unfortunately all I found in the internet about ties was not that clear to avoid a missunderstanding.
Sibelius at least automatically sets the correct accidentials also in special cases of slurs. If you are in doubt, please do not ask notation specialists without a good musical background.


Hello! I'm not quite sure what you are suggesting. But, to be clear: a tie and a slur are completely different things. They just kind of happen to look kind of similar. It's perfectly possible, on some instruments at least, to slur two notes of the same pitch, and it's also possible to tie notes of (enharmonically) different pitch. So, use a tie when you mean tie, use a slur when you mean slur. If you use the correct symbol, MuseScore draws them correctly (ties are generally shorter/flatter, all else being equal). And if you require an accidental on the second note of a slur across a barline, just add it, MuseScore will handle it properly as well.

Probably I'm misunderstanding something about what you are writing. If you do have a specific request, maybe it would if you attached a sample score and then told us about some particular measures where you think something different should happen, or how some new command you propose would work in that measure.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc You are wrong, your opinion is perhaps the Same jojo's but still wrong. I dont want to repeat the whole discussion i had already in German.
If you do not want to know what is right then ignore this but it does mit change that musicians read it as I say and not like you would like to.

Like I said, it's possible I misunderstood some aspect of what you are talking about, and that you are misunderstanding some aspect of what I am saying. I can assure you that what I am saying is the absolute truth, but it's possible it misses some aspect of your point. It's certainly true that the average musician isn't so aware of how to tell the difference just by looking, but I don't see how this changes anything about what we do We can't invent new, cleaerer notation, all we can do is try our best to produce correct notation according to the standard rules of engraving. Anyhow, again, I definitely encourage you to post an example and trying to explain in more detail what you mean, so I can and understand and respond better.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

It is wrong to only read engraving rules. If you dont understand the musical background. I played thausands of pieces before any Notation Software existed.
A tie was always defined as a slur between two notes of the same pitch with no artikulation enclosed. This is the only criteria for the musicians that tells it is a tie. That score engraving wants support the correct reading by a slightly different shape is something nice to have.
If you do not accept this as true then any further discussion is useless. If you accept then a slur between two notes needs also some "intellicence". I feel that you do not trust me. So ask a Musician you trust. If you do not have an expert it bad luck.
Seems at least Sibelius understood it as I do.

Let's ignore the rather bad tempered language that is being used here and try to get some clarity on what is being discussed.

I think that OEST is suggesting that where a slur crosses a bar line and the note before the bar line has an accidental but the slur ends on note at the same stave position but without an accidental then a courtesy accidental should be added to the second note automatically so that the slur can be distinguished from a tie to a note of the same pitch.

Of course I may have misunderstood what OEST is saying, but even if I have misunderstood that, I think that in the situation I describe a courtesy accidental is pretty much obligatory and therefore automatically adding one would be a Good Thing.

I'm going to add to the confusion by saying that i have frequently seen, in published repertoire, staccato notes of the same pitch and duration slurred (into "groups", even pairs), obviously neither legato nor continuations of the same note.

To be clear: I read music, all the time, I am a full-time professional and I have a masters degree in it. I'm not just a programmer who read one book on music engraving - practically every waking minute of my life for the past several decades has been completely immersed in music.

Anyhow, again, everything I have written is the 100% truth, as recognized not only by books on engraving but any resource you might find on the basics of music. Nothing I have said in untrue or inaccurate. But it remains possible that there is something you are suggesting I am not understanding. Which is why, once more, I ask you to please attach a score and explain precisely what suggesting you are making here. I can neither agree nor disagree with you until I actually understand what you are suggesting.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Oh, ok, i have no certificate for music or programming. This is may be the Problem as I tend to explain things as simple as possible. Of course this then is much below your level and therefore you have problems to understand. This is called assymetrical communication or so.

I think it’s really a simple language barrier- your explanations I’m sure we’re clear enough in German but are not in English. That’s why I’m practically begging you to provide an actual example to help clarify.

Anyhow, if you are requesting the ability to add a courtesy accidental to a note after a barline, this already exists. Forcing people to have them added by doing it automatically is not something I would favor. But an optional automatic courtesy accidental facility that does not rely on slurs is something all users would benefit from, so I definitely support that.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I do not request anything. I Just know some thousand german brass band or big band arrangements where you would never be able to identfy a tie by its shape. I do also not find anything in the Internet that exactly describes a clear point to identfy a tie by the shape.
Unfortunately I had a pipe break and all my books are packed in boxes. These are of course in German and more ore less describe "modern" Musik. Mozart at least used different rules. So but If we accept that
a) a tie transfers accidentals to next measure.
b) a slur could be Interpreted as a tie ( In my opinion would definitely If it is between two notes in the same stave)
then e.g. if there is an alterated note at the end of a measure and slurred note in the next measure which should not get the alteration, e.g. g# - g , then an accidental is necessary (and in my opinion has nothing to do with courtesy ).
Think this can be understood without an example. But If you absolutely need, just scroll through the german thread and you will find it.
Think about this and do what you like. It's just a hint.

Indeed, it can be next to impossible to tell the difference between a tie and slur just by the shape, it is a very unfortunate fact of history that the symbols chosen for these are so similar. We do our best to differentiate them according to standard rules, but there will always remain some cases where it is ambiguous. I am not sure what that has to do with accidental, though, and that is why I keep pleading with you to provide an actual example of what you mean, here in this thread, with an accompanying explanation in English.

Courtesy accidental are definitely important, though, and they have nothing to do with slurs. That is, consider the following example:


The first note of measure 2 is a C natural, but this is completely unacceptable notation. Even though the rules of notation technically do say that the C# is canceled by the barline, one should never rely on that so literally. People sightreading this will likely play a C# because the brain doesn't process the presence of the barline and its significance that quickly. One should always add an explicit natural sign to this, which is called a courtesy accidental, so the reader see this instead:


This again has nothing to do with ties or slurs, it is basic common sense and although not technically required by the rules of notation, it is so strongly encouraged that most editors act as if it is a rule. Right now, MuseScore allows you to add these, and we provide a plugin to do that automatically. But I absolutely support the idea of providing an option to make this automatic. Thus if you enable the option, the natural would show up automatically the moment you add the C in the second measure.

The question of slur versus tie is not really that relevant here. I mean, yes, if you add a slur, it becomes even more ambiguous:


So yes, it becomes even more obvious that a courtesy natural is needed:


But that possibility isn't the only reason the courtesy natural is needed. It's just as necessary without the slur. Either way it's almost certain the average reader will get it wrong. That's why courtesy accidental are considered mandatory even if technically they shouldn't be.

So again, yes, absolutely, positively, you should use courtesy accidentals, always. MuseScore lets you add these manually, and we provide a plugin to help automate it - just run the plugin and it finds the right places to add them and adds them for you. Some day I hope to see us add a facility to make it possible to have them added completely automatically. But no, the presence of a slur is not the determining factor. Courtesy accidentals should be used whether or not there is a slur, and if we add such an option, it would surely behave that way - adding it always to the next measure in these cases, not only if a slur is present.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for providing this examples.


The musician will read this as a tie and play C sharp in the second measure. But if the composer in fact entered a slur then the musician will be wrong. That's the only case where the musician cannot find out by itself that he have to play C natural. I wouldn't even call it a courtesy accidental in that case. IMO this is a mandatory accidental.

1st Line only one c#
2nd Line same but would not set courtesy accidential and if .. in brakets
3rd Line definitely read as 4 c#
The point is that a musician cannot take the time and measure arc length and height relation and distance to a note head and after discuss if this is a tie or a slur... it is a tie.. if you want or not

To be clear: it's definitely a "courtesy" accidental (some authors use the word "cautionary") with or without the slur. And indeed, they are considered mandatory - again, with or without the slur. Don't get fooled by the usual English connotation of the word "courtesy" into thinking this means it's optional or just something you do to be "nice" but you don't really need to. It is considered mandatory indeed by most editors. With or without the slur, it's quite likely people will play the passage wrong. There exist no situations when anyone should ever choose to add the courtesy accidental only if there is a slur. Either you want you music played correctly and thus you follow the universal guidelines to use them always - slur or not slur - or you don't care about readability and you use them never. Please don't make the mistake of only using them when there is a slur. Then people won't mistakes when there is a slur but will make mistakes all other times. Who does that benefit?

So once more: I totally support the idea of a new (optional, but arguably should default to "on") automatic courtesy accidental facility. Meanwhile, you can use the plugin, or do it the manual way and add them individually - slur or not slur.

The point is that only for your 3rd example the probability of missinterpretation is close to 100% if this should not be a tie, but it is.

Indeed. As opposed to only 92% in all other cases. Still, the lesson is - use proper courtesy accidentals, always, without fail, slur or no slur. Do it manually if you don’t feel like using the plugin, use the plugin if you wish to make your life simpler, voice support for a more automatic courtesy accidental facility to be added in the future if you want to make everyone's life simpler.

What exactly makes you sure that in the 3rd example is not a tie ?
You do not have a convincing argument ? Ok, then an accidental is mandatory and does not need further discussion.
I will play a bit with the plugin but if I put courtesy accidentials this must be in brakets. The one here would not be of that kind as for me it is doubtless mandatory.

Accidental is mandatory according to standard convention in first case also. And no, it should not be in brackets, those should normally be used only for reminders within a single measure.

Anyhow, there exists no situation ever in the history of written music where anyone should add a courtesy accidental to to #3 but not #1. Once again, courtesy accidentals should not be seen as optional, so I totally support anew feature that would add them automatically in all standard places.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The rule is that an alteration is valid only the measure it appears except that note is slurred to the next measure ( you remember, I said a tie is just a special slur). Some literature tells that this rule should be dropped and an alteration in case of tie should be repeated. At least for your first example I would expect no accidential or better one in brakets because there is no doubt but there is a certain risk for misstakes.
For line 3 in my eyes it would be a misstake to read that as slur.

Status active duplicate

Look at any sheet music you have from any legitimate publisher and tell me if you see cases like #1 where the publisher elected not to include a courtesy accidental. I will guess you will fail, you might at best find one or two measures here or there where some editor forgot to include one, particularly in older editions before it became possible to automate this. But I will bet that you won't find any publisher who as rule does not include courtesy accidental in cases like #1. It is universally accepted by everyone; this is not some weird affectation I am inventing.

As for parentheses, their use was more common a century or more ago, back in the day when music was mostly diatonic and accidentals were relatively rare, but in the past century that practice has mostly gone away. Parentheses are seldom used today except in special cases like in a run of sixteenth notes where there is a C# at the very beginning of the measure, then a whole bunch of other notes with various accidentals, and then another C# occurs towards the end of the measure and the editor deems it likely the reader will have forgotten the first:


There are a few other special cases where parentheses are still commonly used. But not in basic case we have been discussing; the modern standard is to omit the parentheses. But since some people might have a need to reproduce the look of older editions, it's likely that any automatic facility would be configurable to add the parentheses automatically as well (the plugin allow this too, BTW). But again, no one - literally no major publisher at all for the past several centuries - chooses to omit the courtesy accidentals in these cases. Leaving them out simply is not an acceptable option. They are just as mandatory here as in the slur example.

So again, I totally favor an automatic facility to produce what everyone in the world agrees is the correct things to do - add courtesy accidentals in cases 1 & 3. I do not support an automatic option that does what everyone int he world would agree the worng thing - adding them for 3 but not for 1. If you wish to create non-standard/incorrect notation, you are welcome to do so manually, or write your own plugin to automate this. But MuseScore should not be in the business of automating incorrect notation. If/when we create an automatic courtesy accidental facility, it must work correctly, adding them for both 1 & 3.

So I am closing this issue as a duplicate of #7598: Automatic Courtesy Accidentals. Once an automatic courtesy accidental facility is in place, #3 gets rendered correctly automatically, along with #1.

Ah, ok, tested a bit the add courtesy accidential. Sometimes it is bit much esp. if there are multiple measures between an alteration an the courtesy accidential but I think it is at least better than missing some. Strange enough, I found that I had set all my courtesy accidentials without parenthesis in that case...

The plugin is configurable, you can set whether you want courtesy accidentals added only if they occur the next measure, or for a set number of measures, or up to the next double bar, etc. Any fully automated facility would need to maintain a similar level of flexibility.

Thx for that hint. I jumped through some (>100) arrangements last night. I came across Editions from 1955 to 2000.
I did not systematically analyse as a musician still has to deal with that kind of stuff. Just wanted to get a rough overview. Intrestingly I found also one score under the oldest where courtesy was without parenthesis, most after about 1970. Courtesy accidentials I found the next measure, not after. For the shape of ties it is a hell, as expected.