The "Always Open" checkboxes in "Edit String Data"

• Mar 30, 2023 - 13:33

Hi all,
I'm having a look at this "Edit string data" dialog in Stave/Part properties for plucked/fretted instruments and am wondering if anyone here could supply any real use cases for the "Always open" column?


I could think of one (incidentally, from my own experience):
When arranging music for early plucked/fretted instruments. E.g., someone has given me a score for 7-course lute, and I want to arrange it for my 7-string guitar (which happens to have a ‘floating’ 7th bass string). I can simply check this box, and almost all of the manual redistribution of notes from the lute’s fretted 7th string happens automatically (and notes that can’t be played on any of the other strings are highlighted).

This is, admittedly, pretty niche.
So I'm wondering if there are other (less niche?) use cases out there that I haven't yet considered.

Please note: I'm only interested in the functionality of the "Always open" checkboxes, not any other functionality afforded by this dialog


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

I understand that (I actually own a Romantic guitar with 2 un-fretted "drone" strings).
I can still enter notation for these strings (with "0" appearing correctly on the tab stave) without needing to check this box though.
So it still doesn't help me understand the unique function of these checkboxes.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Is such a mistake possible though?
Example: My instrument has an unfretted B1 string (the lowest sounding string). The second-lowest sounding string is an E2. There's no way I would try to put any note between B1 and D#2 in my score, because they don't exist on the instrument. If I place an E2, MuseScore correctly puts it on the 2nd tab stave line as an open string. If I enter a B1, it puts it as an open string on the 1st tab stave line. Alles in Ordnung!
The only mistake I could make is to try to place a note on the stave that doesn't exist on my instrument (if you try to do this with "always open" checked, MuseScore highlights it in red, and transposes the note up an octave in the tab stave).
If this is the mistake we're trying to prevent, then the design isn't logical to support it: the user would have to first think "I could make a mistake here", then they would need to figure out how to navigate to this dialog, and then they would have to intuit that ticking this checkbox (unckeched by default) would somehow prevent them from making said mistake (a mistake which they probably aren't even aware they are likely to make).

In reply to by AndreasKågedal

So really, the only unique affordance of these checkboxes is in the case where you want to actually move notes off a tablature staff line that can't be played on that string (which, in real-world terms, could arise if you were arranging a piece of music for an instrument that had drone strings; I.e. music that was originally written for an instrument that did not posess such drone strings).
The unique functionality of these checkboxes is that they do actually shift fret numbers away from a tab stave line when the "always open" checkbox is checked.
In the case of simply entering notation for an instrument that had un-fretted strings, these checkboxes don't actually offer any unique affordance (because if you want the pitch of an open string, it will appear as "0" in the tab stave regardless of whether the corresponding checkbox is ticked or not).

My understanding is that the important of this setting is mostly about the automatic distribution of notes onto tablature staves when either inputting onto a linked standard staff, or copy/pasting from another staff.

Without this setting, MuseScore would be free to notation any given pitch using this string fretted, which would be wrong. By setting this option, MuseScore knows never to use that string fretted.

So, as a simple example, imagine a standard six-string guitar (tuned E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4) that has an additional always open string E3. Now, on linked standard staff, enter the note F3. If MuseScore didn't know this E3 string was always open, it would notate this on the tab staff as E3 on the 1st fret, because that would appear to be the simplest option. By setting the always open option, MuseScore knows to instead notate this note as D3 on the third fret.

Same story if copying a line from another staff that includes the pitch F3.

So unless I'm missing something, it's pretty critical for correct notation of these strings any time you are relying on MuseScore to assign pitches to strings, it needs to not to ignore possibilities that include fretting this string.

Again, that's my understanding of why the option exists and how it was intended to be used.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

> So, as a simple example, imagine a standard six-string guitar (tuned E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4) that has an additional always open string E3. Now, on linked standard staff, enter the note F3.

I'm very interested to see this guitar. Do you have a link to one? I've never seen one contain an unfretted string that was pitched inside the range of the fretted strings.

Indeed, for such an instrument, it would be helpful for the system to help avoid the user from placing an unplayable pitch on the open string.

In reply to by bradleykunda

I did say "imagine" :-). Indeed, the real world cases I personally know about are bass drones, where this ambiguity presumably wouldn't ever exist.

I suppose even then, though, it could if we ever add the much-requested option to specify a "lowest fret position" for these automatic conversions. Then suddenly playing one of those bass strings at the 10th fret even though the note could have been played on a lower position of a higher string.

[ To be clear, this hypothetical "lowest fret position" would probably not be part of the string data; as it would presumably change often through a single piece ]

FWIW, here is the PR that added this functionality. Author is the original developer of the tablature feature, whose main area of experience is early music:

Seems he was mostly planning for the future, but had an eye out for lute specifically, as I might have imagined.

In reply to by bradleykunda

"I don't think this feature needs to occupy prime screen estate (although we should certainly retain its functionality in any future designs)."

This has always been my point of view. I was even more categorical, I think this feature is strictly useless. Who could have the idea to fret a string that can't be fretted... And even if it was the result of a mistake, a blunder, the performer would see his mistake right away... since it is impossible to play it!
I think that the excellent Maurizio Gavioli (he was not a lute player, or theorbist, but a gambist) wanted to do too well. An excess of precaution, a useless safeguard that, moreover, has been the source of multiple confusions among guitarists (who think it's related to alternative tunings, e.g. Drop D and other specific tunings) and countless posts like yours. All this leading to completely crazy score displays, and even to somes crashes, or at least an obvious instability of the program in some uses cases.
In short, many disadvantages (and the word is weak) for a strictly null advantage.

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