What is the best way to score NAF Nakai tablature? And a related enhancement suggestion.

• Jul 6, 2022 - 23:21

I am struggling with scoring music for my A-minor Native American Flute.

In Nakai tablature convention, all NAF flutes are transposing instruments. The music is always written with a 4-sharps key signature, but played in whatever key your flute is.

(I wish that R. Carlos Nakai had chosen a key signature with no sharps or flats, like most transposing instruments, but, for a reason that I don't fully grasp, he felt that F#-Dorian was a better choice).

MY QUESTION: What is the easiest way to score Nakai tablature in MuseScore, and to have it play back in the key of the NA Flute of your choice. You need to be able to transpose the playback pitch without transposing the written score itself.

One could of course define 24 or more different instruments to cover the note range and octaves of each possible NA Flute. But then they would not be mainstream until MuseScore incorporated them, and they would clutter the MuseScore list of instrument choices.

ALSO, can you suggest a voice that is closest to NAF? One could use the recorder voice with a flexible Nakai notation capability. But currently, choosing "Recorder" presents transposing issues.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: If MuseScore 4.x were to consider developing a flexible facility for scoring non-standard transposing instruments, then the 4-sharps Nakai notation would just be a particular case of using that facility. One possible implementation would be to provide an option in "Staff/Part Properties" specifying how many half-ones to play back above or below what is written on the score. That is similar to what you already have, but without actually moving the notes on the score or changing the key signature. It is essentially providing a hidden, default "Tuning" parameter for each note, but with a greater range than the current +/- 300 cents.

Less elegant, but a simpler to implement stop-gap, is to just increase the range of the note "Tuning" parameter to perhaps +/- 2400 cents. The user would need to occasionally highlight the entire staff (ctrl+A), select "Notes" and change the "Tuning" parameter for all notes.

Another place to put such a capability might be within the "Transpose" tool.

In summary, this post is
(1) a request for the best way to score Nakai tablature in the current version of MuseScore, and
(2) a request to support non-standard, transposing instruments (incl. NA Flutes) in MuseScore 4.


Start from a recorder, adjust the transposition in staff/part properties.
Changing to a different flute is a two step process then:
1. Change transposition in staff/part properties
2. Tools > Transpose in the opposite direction to restore the transposed score view

You currently can't avoid the transpose step because MuseScore uses the Concert Pitch of notes as the source of truth and I don't see that change anytime soon.

> "One could of course define 24 or more different instruments to cover the note range and octaves of each possible NA Flute"
That would be my exact proposal though.
Create a 2nd instruments.xml file and define your NAF flutes in there.

You can then create a feature request in the issue tracker to have them incorporated into MuseScore in a future version. Perhaps mention the one or two most common versions, so those could perhaps be in the Common instrument listing; but I'd indeed leave all others to be shown only under "All Instruments" or when searching for them.
Just like currently for Clarinet you only see the "Bb" and "Bb bass" versions under Common, but when filtering on clarinet you get to see 19 of them..

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