Improper handling of accidentals with 8vb and loco

• Feb 22, 2015 - 22:00


1. 1 bar. No Key sig.
2. add 2x 1/2 note F#s on the same line. (Bass Clef_
3. Add 8vb under the first F#
4. Add loco for 2nd F#

2nd F does not add an accidental.

Expected: a sharp sign would be added to the 2nd F#

Discussion: Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me an accidental should be added to the 2nd F#. Even though they are "on the same line" they are different octaves.

Am I wrong?


In reply to by xavierjazz

I have asked among my educated friends and will post the relevant answers here.

Some have suggested that there SHOULD be at least a courtesy accidental.

This is the clearest so far: "Definitely yes! My first glance at this, i.e. sight reading, after checking the key sig. I instinctively saw the second note as F natural. Sheet music is a means of communication so it's best to be". "(Oops - that damn return key!) best to be as clear as possible in your communication to the player. Try not to make him/her have to guess what you want."

Another's response: "Yes, totally".

In reply to by xavierjazz

"Absolutely YES. The second F is 100% natural since the bracket indicates that the previous one is sharp up an 8va and accidentals don't extend to a different octave. HOWEVER, serious composers/arrangers would enclose the second F in courtesy natural parenthesis, just to make sure there is no second guessing. We want players to read our work as quickly and efficiently as possible...
One problem that music writing softwares in general have is bracket's width (1. 2. endings included), you write something that looks great on the screen but when you print, the bracket is not long there you have another problem...
Don't leave any loose ends."

In reply to by xavierjazz

"Nope, added accidentals outside of the key signature go the full length of the bar for notes that reoccur. You would only have to put the accidental back in for the next bar. This is actually correct. Oh, wait, I don't know about the octave rule that xxxxxxxx mentions? Haven't heard about that issue before - could be right?"

(xxxxxxxx is quoted above)

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I think a smart editor would include an accidental there either way. So whichever MuseScore assumed by defualt, you'd need to add an explicit courtesy accidental for the other case. To be safe, I'd probably get in the habit of adding an explicit one no matter what the default was. For example, what if the second F were actually the *same* octave (sounding) as the first - a bottom space F# with ottava follow by a top line F# without ottava. "Logically", the sharp isn't needed - we already know that note should be F#. But would anyone successfully read it that way? Highly doubtful. I think there need to be an explicit accident - sharp or natural - no matter what. So it's really more a matter of treating notes under an ottava as if they were totally separate and could not affect notes outside the ottava in any way.

It would *probably* be a pretty simple change to make this happen by default. There's a function to calculate where accidentals need to appear, and we'd to teach that function to special-case notes under an ottava - ideally, as I suggested above, by completely ignoring them.

But realistically, there have been enough bugs in this area that I would be extremely reulctant to make any such change before 2.0. I think just getting in the habit of adding explicit accidentals is the way to go for now.

Interesting to think about, though!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

My own sense is that MS SHOULD add a courtesy accidental by design. A bit more clutter but way less confusion.

Here's another response:
"In such an isolated context it's not absolutely clear which is the preferable assumption. Notation is a matter of both compositional and personal style to some extent, and the question of how much information to put on the page is also part of one's style.

So from this one isolated example, I cannot determine how you (this composer) generally treats this issue. And then is the accidental to apply only for one staff or for all staves?

In classical music, where a scale or chord might readily be expected to shift inflection from one octave to another, one would not assume that they were both sharp. Same for bebop and definitely no assumption in contemporary music. So in this situation, you have to be a bit of a theorist or a musicologist and look at the composer's general style of composing and their style of notation. And that's basically why there are such things as courtesy accidentals. If it were my own score, I'd make a point of being as clear as possible (which not burdening the score with unnecessary markings). So I would put in the courtesy sharp or natural. Once I did, however put int the courtesy #, I would not necessarily repeat it in parallel occurences.

I don't know if that helps or not. There's no standard. I don't like clutter but lack of clarity is worse. "

In reply to by xavierjazz

A continuing response from an earlier post:

"One last point. If you were using Finale or Sibelius, (the standard industry softwares) the second F will add - by default - a "courtesy" natural because they do not recognize page markings such as the ones you have placed on your example, which means that not even the very best programs are a substitute to least yet."

I do not have Finale or Sibelius so cannot confirm this.

In reply to by xavierjazz


"Accidentals apply within the measure and octave in which they appear. If you want that second note sharp put on a full accidental. The earlier sharp doesn't apply to the second as they are different octaves."

I agree with this, and I feel that it should be the default for Musescore.

In reply to by xavierjazz

To be clear: I agree MuseScore should probably add the accidental either way. But from what I know of the code, while it's a likely to be fairly simple change, it's also a dangerous place to be messing with because there tend to be unexepcted side effects that haver been the source of numerous bugs. Feel free to file an official issue in the tracker, but my sense is, this might be too risky to try to fix for 2.0, so it may have to wait.

In reply to by xavierjazz

Not really. I did find the reference to this in Elaine Gould's "Behind Bars", p. 78:

"Repeat an accidental if sounding at a different octave, even when the same pitch is used with an octave sign - the location of the changed octave is likely to be different". The second part of the sentence isn't really clar to me, but no matter, it was meant as justification for the first, and the first part does seem clear.

Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with implementing this, and finding it's tricky. You want to get the tright answer both going *into* and coming *out of* the ottava, and you want to get the right answer *within* the ottava, and in all cases it needs to work right whether the new pitch is the same or different than the old (eg, both sharps versus a sharp and a natural). I have something working that handles "most" cases as I think should be, but I don't see an easy way to fix the last one fixed (see last note bar 3) without breaking anything else.


BTW, just noticed a typo, the second to last note of bar 3 really is a G, not a G#.

I'm not giving up, but I think my assessment will remain - while it's not very difficult to address this, guaranteeing we are getting it *right* without breaking anything else is going to be hard. So even if we don't do this for 2.0, I'll save my work and look at it again later.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Another view - high quality performing pianist: "As far as I know, within the same bar, if the note shares the same line you do not have to repeat the accidental. I am guessing that if the octave changes, you should indicate a change. So, I would read the below as two sharps unless you put an accidental in front of the second note."

Courtesy Accidentals:

Choral score - Key of D, Tenor - meas. 11 starts with halfnote CNatural. Measure 12, 2nd half note is CSharp. I want a courtesy accidental there showing the sharp. (Singers need all the hints they can get... I know - I'm a singer )

I tried to find it in the help and I tried to look it up here, and apologize if it's here and I don't see it. (Still using 1.3 - didn't have time to d/l ver. 2.0 when this project came up.)

Love the programme - and finally getting faster at it....

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc, that works fine but looks like an accidental, just like all the other accidentals. Maybe I don't really know the convention, but I was taught that a "courtesy accidental" is enclosed in parentheses beside the note, as in:


Maybe that's not a "universal" rule but, to me, the "courtesy accidental" is a gentle reminder that, yes, we really are in the Key of D, and that last C natural really did die at the bar line so this is what you've been playing all along.

Whereas, without the brackets, it's "Look out - this note is not in the key you've been singing/playing in."

I don't know how it "should" be done and, beyond simply adding a #, I don't know what else MuseScore can do. So I thought i would ask.

Many thanks.

In reply to by Roger Priddle

Enclosing courtesy accidentals in parentheses is not the norm, but some editors do it. Mostly it is done for unusual cases, like in a very long measure that has an accidental near the beginning then the same note appears much later in the same measure and you want to provide a reminder. But the ordinary sort of courtesy accidental that occurs in the *next* measure is normally presented with no parentheses by most modern editors. I think the idea is, modern music tends to be pretty highly chromatic, and the need for courtesy accidentals is greater than it might have been centuries ago, so all thsoe parentheses would clutter the page.

Anyhow, you can add parentheses using the parentheses in the Accidentals palette in both 1.3 and 2.0.

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