Some thoughts about instruments.xml and ease of engraving

• Oct 15, 2020 - 12:25

When I asked some engravers to input orchestral scores, I found there are some limitations in the current instrument definition strategy, so want to discuss here. I wanted to transcribe some Richard Strauss scores into braille, and you know, there are lots of instrument changes in late-romantic scores. Also, sometimes the horns use treble clef, transposed a 5th lower; but sometimes there's a bass clef, transposed a 4th higher. There are cases where horns, trumpets and timpani don't have key signatures. Sometimes a bass clarinet may use a bass clef without octave down transposition, etc. So, I think in the future development:
1. Is it possible to include a definition for second clef transposition, so that we can use a single instrument rather than a self-defined instrument change to apply different transpositions caused by the clef change? The engravers did lots of work to invent such kind of things, and there are quite a lot of changes even when there're only horn in F staves.
2. Is it possible to suppress key signature for individual instruments rather than applying open key by dragging it to the corresponding staves? Sibelius has built-in horn, trumpet and timpani without key.
3. So, if there are multiple such instruments, can we use the description field in the instruments.xml instead of the long names? Then if we see Horn in F (no key), Timpani (no key), the long names will still be Horn in F and Timpani, no need to change names if not needed.
4. If possible, can we implement a dialog to create and edit instruments instead of first making a change then edit the properties? This will ease both instrument creation and software development, and we can store the newly-defined instruments in a customed xml file, either for self use or sharing online to expand the instrument library, bringing convenience for other engravers.



  1. Yes, some transposing instruments to that, esp. some octave transposing instruments, like Bass Guitar and Guitar (G-Clef), they sore a different clef in concert pitch vs. sounding pitch
  2. I don't think this is possible via the (current) instruments.xml. Maybe via a special 'never transpose' option?
  3. The description file is currently not used at all AKAIK, maybe it should, at least as a tooltip in the select instruments dialog
  4. That is on the Todo list since quite long IIRC

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

So, can I contribute by creating such special instruments and include appropriate description so that they can be included in the default instruments.xml in future versions? I'm no a developer, so I don't know how to pr, but I can send it to another person who can do this.


In reply to by hhpmusic

Version 3.x doesn't have the ability to have different transpositions for different clefs so I have a custom transposition I use when the switch between treble and bass clef. Multiple transpositions would be great and I'll put in a feature request for it. I don't expect to see it before 4.0 but we'll see what happens. Perhaps when the alpha and beta get released we can revisit this if needed.

For the Bass Clarinet (Bass clef), it already exists for German scores such as Richard Strauss songs. There is also an A bass clarinet in both the treble and bass clefs even though they are quite rare.

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