Note duration

• Apr 1, 2023 - 00:27

Not wishing to re-hash this old horse chestnut - it got quite a few members in a serious lather over the restrictions contriving to conflict with Composers' normal instinct to write the melody first and note length later. A huge chorus of objections arose from being forced by MS4 to declare note length first then assign pitch. A plug in was developed for MS3x but deprecated in MS4

I would need many hours to go through all the previous postings during MS3 day 2017 +

Where are we now with this issue SVP ?

last update was

an_internet_stranger • May 24, 2022 - 01:38

I think I have it solved.
(For reference, I'm using Windows 10 (latest) and Musescore 3.6.2)


Not helpful, I know, but I go all the way back to the dark ages when I had to write on paper. Gasp!!

Guess what! I had to write a note duration as well as a pitch at the same time. Oh no!

It is impossible for me to conceive of a different method. Normal instinct? If you don't know what you are writing, how can you write it. Sorry I don't get it. And, of course, I don't have to get it. Someone should be able to write the way they want. But the reasoning behind pitch first seems suspect and un-natural. Now I'll set back and take the hits. Not a problem for me.

In reply to by bobjp

Just for the record, Sibelius (wash your mouth out) has both methods instantly interchangeable

Song first then duration
Duration first then Song

BTW in MS4 terms a note without a duration is a rest. A cardinal function is that a bar will balance note durations with sufficient rests to make the total fit the time signature within a bar and also across its corresponding staves

You can can see how both ways have different uses Song vs Dance

Which came first - historically Song then Rhythm I believe.

BTW IMHO looking globally across all cultures Song is invariably tied up with Dance. The "biological" reward (as we are all mandated to reproduction of our species - like animals), is that Song and Dance promote tribal cohesion for self protection. Why do we cluster together in villages

Song can exist as a solitary personal action - like dreaming, but Dance is essentially a communal affair

I am Museful for the moment of that Shepherds Song Canteloube - Chants' d'Auvergne - Baïlèro - Kiri te Kanawa

Can you envisage an equivalent Dance in solitary performance on a hillside?

Song needs Dance → Biological reward
Song needs Rhythm → Non essential
Dance needs Song → Non essential but can lead to chant
Dance needs Rhythm → Essential
Rhythm needs Dance → Non essential (eg drum solo)
Rhythm needs Song → Non essential

All 3 together → Modern popular music

What do I know when philosophers have maundered over the meaning of music for 1200 years.
If S******* can do it, why not MS4 (MS3 had a functional plug in)

In reply to by 123bedford

Actually I can't input pitch before duration in Sibelius because I input notes with the mouse.
The thing is that we are talking notation here. I'm not against either method. I'm just trying to understand how pitch before duration works. In Sibelius, you can select or play a pitch. But before you can place the note on the staff, you have to give it a duration. I suppose that would be a way to preview the next note. But until I hear it in rhythmic context, I have no idea if it is the note I really want. Same for duration first. So no advantage for me.
Notation is not music. It is blobs on a page. The chicken or the egg discussion makes little sense to me in this case. Music does not require notation. Just because there is notation doesn't mean there is music.

In reply to by 123bedford

@123bedford • Apr 1, 2023 - 11:04 new
"BTW in MS4 terms a note without a duration is a rest."

Are you sure? Are you saying that rests have no duration property in the MS4 object model, or that the property always has some default value? This could prove very inconvenient for some plugins. (In MS3.6.2 rests have a duration property just the same as notes and they share a parent element with notes called ChordRest).

In reply to by 123bedford

@123bedford • Apr 1, 2023 - 11:04
You said,
"In MS4 terms a note without a duration is a rest. A cardinal function is that a bar will balance note durations with sufficient rests to make the total fit the time signature within a bar and also across its corresponding staves."

I've been thinking a bit more about this but I still can't make sense of it. How can MS4 "balance note durations with sufficient rests" if rests don't have a duration? How many notes without a duration does it take to balance a quarter note in 4/4 time?

In reply to by 123bedford

You wrote:
BTW in MS4 terms a note without a duration is a rest.

There might falsely appear to be some truth to this as "in MS terms" a rest is entered by pressing 0 (zero) - compared to a note which requires pressing a number other than 0 for a duration.
This is only an illusion because the 0 should be considered the rest's 'note name', completely different from its duration. (Long ago the rest was entered by pressing the spacebar - more in keeping with the concept of the spacebar, when used in text, as a 'sort of rest' between words.)

Anyhow, in reality, rests have durations - as do notes. The only difference, for example, is that, unlike notes, a measure filled with quarter rests "sounds" identical to a measure of half rests.
Both rests and notes need durations to completely fill measures.

I am not a composer so I can't comment on any "normal instinct to write the melody first and note length later."

From a performer's perspective, and as a guitar player, I have experienced this issue of the correlation of melody and rhythm.
Envision this (melody first) scenario:
Years ago (before MuseScore and computer notation) a hit record might contain a lead guitar solo that would become the rage for every aspiring guitarist to learn. I would sometimes obtain the lead as a "TAB version" - i.e., numbers typed (or handwritten) on one of 6 lines, each line denoting a string, each number denoting a fret (and so melody notes only). The tricky part was for me to "hum" the lead in my mind while fretting strings in the written sequence hoping to make everything cohere. However, if the author of the TAB was off by one note from what I "hum" in my mind then it would throw me off until I could somehow make the TAB jibe with what I "should hear" in my mind; or for me to make TAB adjustments and then notate it my way.
The ultimate solution, of course, would be for the TAB author to actually 'show me' in person:
The picture likely shows the earliest way of learning the notes/durations of a song, especially when having never heard the song at all.
(Image from Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo)

I, also, am struggling with the concept of "melody first and note length later". What does that mean? Can you have a melody without note lengths? And if notation software sees a note without duration as a rest, then is there a melody? Perhaps I am not understanding what a melody is. "Mary had a little lamb", as far as I know, is a melody. It exists even if it is not written down in notation. But let's say I want to write a new melody. So I open notation software and select a pitch. Great. Now what? No idea. I guess I'll make it a quarter note just to get started. OK, next? Oh how about the next pitch down. OK, how long? Hmmm, maybe a half note. Eventually, I'm a few measures in. But I need to change something at the start. Sure I can do that.
Except I can't imagine working like that. When I write, I already have a good idea of the melody I'm going to put into the software. Pitch and note length. Not one pitch, and eventual associated length, at a time.
Again, everyone has to work the way they have to work. I'm just trying to understand pitch first. Maybe it's better than the way I work.

In reply to by bobjp

Can you have a melody without note lengths?

Certainly not when performing a popular melody.

Notation, especially TAB, is a different matter.
The crudest TAB guitar leads had no "melody" (which implies rhythm), rather they showed only a sequence of strings/frets. It was up to the player to know when to hit each note based on having heard the song a million times on the radio. No rhythmic precision was shown in the TAB notation at all.
That's the way music was often copied when listening to records - just get the correct pitches down, worry about the timing later (or not at all if Tabbing it). Lots of talented players could hear a guitar lick and duplicate it, even TAB it out, but to give it to someone who never heard the tune would require entering note lengths and meter in standard notation. That's what I had to do when writing parts for guitarists who were more comfortable with standard notation.
Over the years, however, TAB notation has assimilated many of the characteristics of standard notation. The addition of note durations, rests, voices, key signatures, time signatures has allowed TAB to be available in different 'flavors'.

As I said earlier, I am no composer, and I wonder if composers like Lennon and McCartney just got the correct pitches by initially "composing/improvising"" with instrument in hand, then passed it on to George Martin to "notate" the music correctly with "proper" note durations.

There's validity on both sides here. Consider a world without bars (my pal a Canadian Postie from Calgary delivered mail mostly on a skidoo and would love a world without bars)
Just some toilet roll and you hum you song putting 1/4s, 1/8s 1/16s etc some crude rhythmic rests etc, tap it out on a table while counting. Eventually you may get something you like then dive into MS4.

BUT OMG put a rest in the wrong place, try to move it horizontally within the bar CANNOT DO (even though its not violating the total 1/16ths count) - so frustrating - WHY must it be like that. Cant moves note horizontally either within a bar (eg swap crotchet position with a semiquaver rest). Makes fine tuning rhythm really clunky and thats very counter productive for your muse.

OBTW if its a solo performance piece who needs bars ;-)

In reply to by 123bedford

I guess I don't understand why I would try to move a rest or a note, rather than just re-enter it. And be done with it.
Notation is not music. Music does not rely on notation. We only need notation if we want someone else to be able to play our music. There are other ways to learn a piece, but notation is the quickest in most cases.
I don't go to bars, so I probably wouldn't miss them.

In reply to by 123bedford

I'm still on MS3 but editing note/rest positions within the score can be quite frustrating.

I don't understand your "OBTW". Why would solos be any different to non-solos in the need (or otherwise) for bars? It would be easier to lose your position without bars.

In reply to by yonah_ag

Bars were put there to help musician(s) keep time. If you are solo, no other player needs to stay with you. You can slap your hand on your OH derriere as per a capella. Think of Celtic folk songs sung solo to and audience for example. The original Viderunt Omnes score didnt have a time signature (sung in two triplets with a rest for breath (breathing space?) - reminded me of kids nursery rhymes but it was over 1000 years old - I cant get over that piece yet, I under analysis

There is no problem in MuseScore to enter pitches without fixed durations. Just remove the time signature and the barlines and write with only noteheads.
This is done all the time in chant and plain song.
So I see no problem to accomplish what you seam to want.
If later you want to change things then you can add time signatures, barlines and durations as you please.

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