Transposing Instruments Enharmonic key signature

• Sep 10, 2020 - 01:55


I want to write an E Major composition with Bb clarinets written in Gb Major, not F# Major. I have done this successfully before, but it is failing now.

In Musescore version I cannot get this to work using the help page elsewhere on this site. It does work on my old Musescore version 2.3.2.

In both cases I use the Transpose section for the clarinet line, moving down from F# Major to E Major (concert D Major), then up a diminished third. I Version 2 I do get a signature of Gb Major. In version 3 I get the notes written in 6 flats with accidentals but the key signature returns to F# Major instead of Gb Major.

Is this a bug or I am doing something wrong in Version 3?

Thank you!


Forget how you did it before version 3.5. You can now right click the staff, choose staff/part properties and select an option under "Prefer sharps or flats for transposed key signatures"

In reply to by mike320

That works fine. But I have a question.

The first part of the piece is concert E Major which I want the Bb clarinets in Gb Major. However, later in the piece there are modulations. So when I wind up in later in concert A Major, the clarinet part then is coerced by the flat preference to use a key signature of Cb Major, where there I want a key signature of B Major. Does the "Prefer sharps or flats" option apply to the whole part, which is what it seems to do. Can I apply it to particular key signatures within the part?


In reply to by jerryv

You can overcome this with a little bit of trickery. At the measure where you want the key of B (for the Clarinet) put in an instrument change to a Bb Clarinet (same instrument). You can then right click a measure after the instrument change and change the sharps/flats preference. You will probably want to make the instrument change text invisible, but if you have something like espress. at that point you can simply change the text and style of the text and use that rather than entering a second text. You can't use it for a functional dynamic though.

This is all much easier than previous versions.

In reply to by mike320

Thanks. That will work. So therefore in a "normal" change from say Bb clarinet to A clarinet the option can be set separately for each each instrument used on that staff, correct?

BTW, I have used the old option many times without any problems. Was the operation of the old method of transpose in regards to the enharmonic key signature changed deliberately?

I just tried the diminished third method and it worked fine for me - both notes and key signatures are transposed as expected. Can you attach the score (or a relevant excerpt) where it fails?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I have attached three simple files: Transpostion Test 1a, Transpostion Test 1b and Transpostion Test 1c. File 1a = original file: violin in E Major, Bb clarinet in F# Major. File 1b = take file 1a and on clarinet line use transpose down by key to D Major; now violin is in E Major, clarinet written in D Major. File 1c = take file 1b and on clarinet line transpose by interval up a diminished third. The clarinet notes are now correctly shown with accidentals of Gb Major but key signature is F# Major. Note that on earlier versions this all worked correctly. Now is does not.

In reply to by jerryv

1c seems very strange to me - the concert pitch version is written with flats while the key signature is sharps. That really should never have worked. Go to concert pitch mode, fix the spelling of the notes to just plain E F# G# A, then change the transposition interval to diminished third, then turn concert pitch off - works perfectly.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

That sort of works. But when you are modulating through different keys, the Major Second transpose is what you want for Bb clarinet , not the diminished third. If you toggle this and the Concert Pitch button, it affects other notes already on that staff elsewhere that are in portions of the score in other key signatures.

In version 2.3.2 and up to version this all worked correctly with the transpose interval on key signature method. I was happy with that. This method "broke" with the introduction of version The new method recommended is to use "change instrument".

If I had my wish, I would like to just enter the written key signature on a particular line as needed. That is, set the key for the full score in that particular measure, then as needed enter a particular key signature for a particular staff line, and let that key signature stand as the written key signature, regardless of transposition considerations. Note that this issue only occurs when the underlying "concert pitch" of the desired written key is not expressible in terms of the 7-sharp to 7-flat key spectrum. It is only a problem when double sharps or double flats are implied in the underlying concert key signature.

In reply to by jerryv

Right, if you want to change transposition mid score, simply insert an instrument change text. This will work perfectly as well - right notes, right key, both with clear very pitch on and off. This was not possible in 2.3.2, because transposition settings were always global - no way to change mid-score. And setting transposition to diminished third does the wrong thing with the notes in all versions for the cases where you actual lot want major second. So I’m not quite understanding how you are saying you somehow got this working before. Can you post an example of a score that includes changes of key signatures and uses diminished third transposition and actually works perfectly for both notes and keys in both transposed and concert pitch for 2.3.2?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

You misunderstand. I did NOT use the instrument transposition settings. I only changed to the key signature required. So almost all the time, all you had to do on a particular key change was select the concert pitch key signature for everybody, the go to the particular line you wanted to change the key signature set key signature for that instrument only using the usual method. If this could not be expressed (eg the Bb clarinet F# vs Gb problem) I used the "Transpose..." function (in the menus on screen top) to change just that key signature. The "Transpose..." function exists and works as I needed in versions 2.3.2 and 3.4 (though it did change which menu it was under). This function still exists under 3.5 but now does not work the same way as far as key signature is concerned. It transposes the notes correctly but not the key signature. That is why my example file 1c before shows the notes as Gb Major but the the key signature as F# Major. This is new behavior under 3.5. I also think the new "change instrument" is a bit clumsy as opposed to just changing a particular key signature directly.

In reply to by jerryv

OK, but if you only change the key signature, how did you get the notes to transpose correctly? Or did you rely on the same hack you used in the ewxample, allow the spellings to be incorrect in concert pitch mode? To me, that's not working ("you play the guitar on the MTV..."), but still, if you're OK with that, it should still work the same way as ever. So again, can you post a specific 2.3.2 score where it works in that sense there but doesn't in 3.5? I'm still having trouble understanding your specific workflow here.

I'm not clear on how you were using the "Transpose" command in this context. So maybe another way to help me understand what it was you were doing is post a 3.x score before you applied your workaround, then give precise step by step instructions to follow so we can see how it used to work compared to how it works now.

There shouldn't have been any changes to how anything worked in the past, the changes were intended to only give important new capabilities. but since everyone works differently, it certainly is possible your specific workflow was never considered or tested. That's why it's important we understand how to reproduce the issue.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks. I see how you re looking at. Yes, it has to do with my workflow.

BTW if a whole piece or movement were in E Major, one would likely write for an A clarinet, not a Bb clarinet. Also, the introduction of the "open/Atonal" key signature is extremely useful.

For my purposes, there is very little copying and pasting from one line to another as the parts are generally independent. I am basically entering the notes onto each line of the score. So once the key signature is correct, I am very happy entering the notes as I need them.

When there is a need to copy and paste a passage (as there sometimes is) It works like this: copy the original from some other part (at concert pitch), paste it into the transposed part leaving the passage highlighted after the paste, and them simply press the up-arrow followed by the down-arrow. The part is now exactly what I want.

In my tiny example using say version 2.3.2: violin part in E Major, Bb clarinet part in F# Major. Select first measure of clarinet part, first transpose by key down to D Major, then transpose by interval up a diminished third with key signature option selected. Now the violin is in E Major, the Bb clarinet is in Gb Major. Enter the notes E, F[#], G, A, A#, B in the violin part. (The "[#]" notation here means the F[#] is implied from the key signature, while the A# (with no "[ ]") means that the A has a written accidental on it.) Select that passage to copy. Click on the measure desired in the clarinet part. Paste the passage there. The passage remains highlighted in the clarinet part, the notes reading F#, G#, A#, B-natural, B#, C# (with the Gb Major signature). While the passage remains highlighted, simply press up-arrow, then down-arrow in that order.. After the first-arrow. the notes read G-natural, A-natural, B-natural, C-natural, C#, D-natural. After the second arrow the notes read G[b]. A[b], B[b], C[b], C-natural, D[b] with the C-natural being the only written accidental, which is exactly what I want. The select and paste takes much more time than the simple near-instantaneous flick of the up-arrow down-arrow combination.

To copy from the clarinet part to, say, the violin part is the same procedure, except here press down-arrow then up-arrow. It all works splendidly. But that may be because my way of working fits it.

The selected highlighted passage can be as long as is needed. I often use it even on the same part to copy a sequence, where just pressing the up-arrow (or down-arrow) moves the passage to the pitch level I desire.

The only slight difficulty I have run across is that sometimes the passage I have copied from one part to another does not remain fully highlighted in the new part, but rather only the accidental on one note will be highlighted alone, not the whole passage. This does not happen often, but it looks like in some rare circumstances the focus moves away from the complete passage and moves to a single accidental.

In reply to by jerryv

I'm having trouble following everything without a single clear example that I can use to compare the versions side-by-side. So, if you're saying you have a process that works completely correctly in 2.3.2 or 3.4.2 - correct pitches and key signature in concern pitch mode, correct pitches and key signature in transposed mode - but not in 3.5, again, what I'd really need in order to investigate is a short example showing exactly that. Ideally, the score created in 2.3.2 in the state it is in just before you do the magic to get the transposition, then the precise steps to do the transposition. That way I have a simple case where I can do a direct comparison between the version and try to understand where any differences came from.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I've attached two files.

The first (transpose_2) a sample of a short extract of some woodwind parts from part a score that was entered directly in version 2.3.2.

Note the "enharmonic" key signatures of the Eb and Bb clarinet at the beginning, the the "regular" (non-enharmonic) key signatures at the key change in measure 10. In this example I have made sure there is a concert-pitch instrument doubling of anything in the Eb or Bb clainet part.

I can take this as and load it into version 3.5 and everything remains the same.

In version 2 and 3.4x and earlier, I can set any (transposed) key signature as I like it, using the transpose by interval method. In version 3.5 I can no longer do this. Instead I must use the staff/part properties to select flats on the clarinet parts.

The second file (transpose_3) is a copy of transpose_2 loaded into version 3,5, then altered to use the new "default/flats/sharps" staff/part properties option. I then appended some new measures (after the old "Final double barline" of the original, measures 16 onward).

Now look at the appended measures. In measure 17 I changed key back to four sharps, with the clarinets in flats again. I then copied the measures 1-3 of the flute part into measures 17-19. Then I copied those three measures from the flute part to the Bb clarinet part. (For demonstration purposes I am deliberately not copying multiple parts at a time, as if this was really new different musical material being entered here.) You can see that the clarinet part shows up as if in 6 sharps, not the 6 flats of the key signature. Likewise, I copied measures 5-8 of the flute part into measures 20-23, and then copied those measures into the Eb clarinet part. This again shows as if in 7 sharps, not the 5 flats of the key signature. Is this how it is supposed to work?

Note that both of these new clarinet parts can be easily changed to properly display using the key signature. Simply highlight the new measures in the clarinet part, then press up-arrow, then down arrow. Now everything shows as it should.

If you reverse the copy (ie, copy original clarinet part, then copy that to flute part) the part in the clarinet shows correctly as flats, but then the copy to flute is not correct enharmonically. The flute part can be corrected by selecting the flute measures, and pressing first down-arrow, then up-arrow.

At the end, I have added a modulation from concert four sharps to three sharps (just the key signature changed, no notes in last measure). Here is likely I would want the Bb clarinet in 5 sharps, not 7 flats. But to change the sharps/flats option would change everything before this, so I have to "change instrument" to get a new enharmonic signature here, and then remember to "change instrument" back should the original key returns later in the movement.

Attachment Size
Transpose_2.mscz 23.19 KB
Transpose_3.mscz 25.69 KB

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