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Figured Bass

    Does anyone know whether anyone - and Rick would have been the obvious man -
has done anything to let NWC read/write figured Bass?  I can guess that the figures would be inserted as a lyric, and that they could then be read and converted, possibly in real time, as the Score is played, to the relevant notes (which could perhaps then be inserted in ordinary note format into the Score).

   MusicJohn, 30/Jan/22


Re: Figured Bass

Reply #1
Perhaps an application for a user object?

Otherwise, I don't really know anything useful about figured bass, but I would have thought one way to approach it would be to have a hidden staff.  The visible staff would be muted and have the notation and text entries to provide the "figures", the hidden staff would play and have standard notation to realise what the figures indicate

<edit> Sorry John, I see from melismata's post below that I misread your post.
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals, youfonymums 'n tubies.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #2
   Does anyone know whether anyone - and Rick would have been the obvious man -
has done anything to let NWC read/write figured Bass?  I can guess that the figures would be inserted as a lyric, and that they could then be read and converted, possibly in real time, as the Score is played, to the relevant notes (which could perhaps then be inserted in ordinary note format into the Score).

   MusicJohn, 30/Jan/22




Possibly, if not quite probably as well,  it can. 

There is already a user tool, called ChordPlay.nw, that allows one to insert chords like C7 etc and plays them as well in real time.  Figured bass is essentially a chord text (numbers) configuration built on a bass note.

Probably it simply requires somebody with the skill and time to do it.

However, ChordPlay.nw is read and play only.  Writing script that works the other way round, ie writes figured bass or chord symbols from a score, is another kettle of fish and may be more diffident to achieve.


Re: Figured Bass

Reply #3
I have never seen this notation before (although I live a relatively sheltered life, musically), and I agree it would be a perfect application of a user object.  I did a few searches and found a number of examples, including the Wikipedia page (here).  There seem to be several styles, so one of the first questions a potential object coder might ask is, which style(s) are needed?

And I think that playback should be left off the table (for now), unless there is something obvious I'm missing that tells how it should work.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #4
I typically write figured bass with Texts and XText.hmm objects; I have attached an example rewriting this excerpt from Bach's St.John Passion from Wikicommons:

<Image Link>

... There seem to be several styles, so one of the first questions a potential object coder might ask is, which style(s) are needed?
All  ;)  German notation is heavier on strokes, whereas elsewhere # was used routinely. The meaning is "by convention" and ambiguous; e.g., # can either mean "with sharp" or "a semitone higher" - which is formally different if the degree indicated has a flat in the current key; but in practice it might mean the same: Remove flat.

Playback is, IMHO, (also) impossible because we are talking about improvising music! What might be possible, is a tool which creates a rough chord expansion as a basis for writing the filling chords.

H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #5
Having fiddled with it some times, even recently, I wholly agree with H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #6
Just for fun, here is another example, which uses a few more symbols. When you open the attached NWC file, you see only the bass line - you can try to decipher it, i.e., write the expanded chords manually in a separate system. I have given an example expansion in another staff, which you can - then? - make visible and check your (and my!!!) expansion.

How, on earth, can one play this from "just the numbers" in real-time?? First, it's actually ok to just ignore almost all numbers! The only ones you must watch out for are 4 and 6 without 3:
- 6 alone is a sixth chord (sure);
- 6 and 4 is a 64 chord (ha!).
- 4 alone or with a 2 is a some sort of fourth - if there is a 3 later, then it's (was) a suspended fourth; if not, fine, you just played the fourth of a dominant seventh chord.
Otherwise, just play a normal triad on the bass note. This will work almost always. If in doubt (or panic), just play nothing in the right hand ("t.s." = tasto solo).

Second, music in those periods used lots of standard patterns - thus, one could risk to just "play by ear with some number-checking".

Last, learning those "changes" is also not that hard - practice, practice, practice, and it will come as second nature.

... says one who never ever mastered this art.

H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #7

   Thanks everyone for your comments.

   I am keying in Handel's "Nabal" - which is an Oratorio made up after Handel's death by his associate John Christoper Smith by taking bits from several of Handel's other Works and mashing them together plus some Recitativs that he probably wrote himself - and it has lots of Recits in which the backing is either solely a Bass Continuo line or a Figured Bass - such a Bass line plus the relevant chord-defining Figures.  The Recits are rather boring without a fully realized Backing, and I was hoping that NWC might be able to help by either constructing one or by realizing the ones indicated.  I am not sufficient of a musician to do that myself.

   The "Rules" for realization seem, on the face of it, to be quite simple - see, for instance

   https://hellomusictheory.com/learn/figured-bass/

- and so in theory pretty suitable for computer implementation ... and even in real time by NWC.  And I can see that Melismata's suggestion to do something employing the user tool, ChordPlay.nw, might be an excellent starting point.

   I am not conversant with ChordpPlay.nw - indeed, I am a real stick-in-the-mud, not having changed to NWC2 but still using NWC1 (!!), which doesn't employ User Tools, which is more than adequate for my purposes of preparing Learning Midis for singers of Choral Works - and if anyone is prepared to invest some time and effort trying to use it to implement Figured Bass realization, or expanding a Bass Continuo, I'd be very interested.

   MusicJohn, 31/jan/22

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #8
      The "Rules" for realization seem, on the face of it, to be quite simple - see, for instance

   https://hellomusictheory.com/learn/figured-bass/


The difference between Text Chords like C7 or Em is that they always contain the same specific notes.  With figured bass, the notes , say in a 6 - 4 figure, would depend both on the note being figured as well as the key of the music being played.  Realisation will therefore be trickier for sure.

Also, if you are not using the latest version of NWC, then I suggest that you upgrade as you are missing quite a lot, both through the native upgrade itself as well as to the add on tools by 3rd parties.

Enjoy!



Re: Figured Bass

Reply #10
My brother Jack just happens to have co-authored the definitive guide to realizing figured bass.
Looks great!! - but, I'd guess: There is no algorithm in it how to play, or write, figured bass.

H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #11
No, probably not - just the knowledge necessary to develop the algorithm.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #12
No, probably not - just the knowledge necessary to develop the algorithm.
Mhm. Being a software engineer, including theoretical background, and - hopefully - having a little bit of musical knowledge: I'd argue that there is no (useful) algorithm. Look at my first example (Bach): The sixteenth on "bin's" is a musical decision that stresses the "nicht" some more - I'd say no algorithm would do this (whether it's ok or not ...). Maybe some sort of AI would be able to do this ...

However, the main problem with playing figured bass is, in my humble opinion, voice leading (as with all chord writing): Putting a following chord is always also a melodic enterprise, including decisions about leaving out notes; using typical patterns, most important, of course, countermovement - at least of outer voices; deciding how much movement there is in the chords - one-on-one movement, i.e., one chord per number, is typical, but also arpeggiated chords may be an option. A very wide and, I'd say, "under-determined" (in the mathematical sense) area ... so algorithmic solutions would probably have to be quite inventive, at places.

But, being a hobby musician, I don't see why I would want an algorithm to do this at all: Doing, and learning, it myself is the whole fun!

H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #13
Conclusion: figure it out for yourself?  :))
Always look on the bright side of life!

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #14
.....the main problem with playing figured bass is, in my humble opinion, voice leading (as with all chord writing): Putting a following chord is always also a melodic enterprise, including decisions about leaving out notes; using typical patterns, most important, of course, countermovement - at least of outer voices; deciding how much movement there is in the chords - one-on-one movement, i.e., one chord per number, is typical, but also arpeggiated chords may be an option. A very wide and, I'd say, "under-determined" (in the mathematical sense) area....
Right. But I think the problem for those who are unfamiliar with figured bass is deciding which chords they're supposed to be harmonizing the line with in the first place. An algorithm could do that. It's unlikely to be able to create a satisfactory realization, but it could provide a skeleton for the arranger to work from, without having to go through the mental gymnastics necessary to figure out which notes the composer wanted above the bass line. Figured bass originated, and was primarily used, before Rameau wrote the book that originated the functional analysis of chordal harmony, so composers were not yet thinking in terms of chords - just how individual lines came together. Good lines would still have to be developed, but modern arrangers who haven't studied Baroque harmony could get a head start by knowing which chords they were working in. I suspect that's all the OP wants.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #15
Right - that's definitely something that would be useful - and yes, for more untypical numbers, I also have to "figure it out".

H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #16

   Yeeesss.  That would be a start.  But - and perhaps more relevant for me personally - would be doing it the other way round, and thus realising a Figured Bass Score into standard notation form.  That ought to be relative easy, no?  Though even then there'd be problems, with many of the "tune" notes not having any figuring directly associated with them.

   MusicJohn, 3/Feb/22

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #17
   Yeeesss.  That would be a start.  But - and perhaps more relevant for me personally - would be doing it the other way round, and thus realising a Figured Bass Score into standard notation form.  That ought to be relative easy, no?  Though even then there'd be problems, with many of the "tune" notes not having any figuring directly associated with them.
The point we've been trying to make is that there is no single "right" realization of a figured bass. The figures tell you in one specific place in the music what chord notes the composer expects to be played above the bass line. They don't tell you what register those notes should appear in, or what their order should be above the bass, or how they should lead into the next chord - and voice leading is critically important for figured bass, because it was used in the contrapuntal era, before harmony as we know it had been developed, so every note in every chord arrived and departed as part of a contrapuntal melody. These things were all left up to the performer. There were certain conventions, but the best composers (Bach; Frescobaldi; etc.) broke convention a great deal of the time, as good artists always do. So, no, you can't mechanically realize a figured bass into standard notation, without putting a great deal of AI to work to simulate what a performer might come up with (emphasize might, because different performers would likely come up with different, but equally valid, realizations). You can mechanically indicate what notes the figured bass implies, in standard notation. But that's not the same thing.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #18
"The point we've been trying to make is that there is no single "right" realization of a figured bass. The figures tell you in one specific place in the music what chord notes the composer expects to be played above the bass line. They don't tell you what register those notes should appear in, or what their order should be above the bass, or how they should lead into the next chord .... So, no, you can't mechanically realize a figured bass into standard notation, without putting a great deal of AI to work to simulate what a performer might come up with (emphasize might, because different performers would likely come up with different, but equally valid, realizations). You can mechanically indicate what notes the figured bass implies, in standard notation. But that's not the same thing."

   No, I see that such a mechanical indication may well not be the "right" solution, but it would - at least, for my purposes - be much better than nothing.  After all, in a Rectitativ there is not too much scope for making the whole musically wonderful; really, all I want is a simple indication of what chords the Composer thought should be associated with the Soloist's notes.  And yes; I appreciate that were I a better musician I'd be able to do that myself.  But I'm not, and so I'm hoping that NWC - perhaps a User tool - can do it for me.

       MusicJohn, 6/Feb/22

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #19
Yes, you're right - adding "learning support" is definitely useful and valuable, even if (or exactly because??) it "only" shows steps on which to build more knowledge*. I don't have time right now, but this would be interesting to write

* We also have a tool "Note Names in Staff" - certainly not the most important tool to use, but nice, nevertheless.

H.M.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #20
<snip>
But I'm not, and so I'm hoping that NWC - perhaps a User tool - can do it for me.
<snip
Whether a user tool or user object, you will need to migrate to NWC V2.75.  Or at least run it in parallel with V1.x...

(You noted on the 31st of Jan that you're still using V1)
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals, youfonymums 'n tubies.

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #21
   Thanks, Melismata and Laurie.  I do in fact have a copy of the current NWC2, and I have even used it once or twice, when I needed to print something out.  But as I said, NWC1.75 (to which I have updated myself in various steps since the days when I first installed 1.1 back in the very early 90s) has served me well, apart from the absence of User add-ons, and I continue to upload stuff to the Scriptorium using it, and to make Choir learning tool Midis with it which are then uploaded to my Website.

   MusicJohn, 7/Feb/22

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #22
   Thanks, Melismata and Laurie.  I do in fact have a copy of the current NWC2, and I have even used it once or twice, when I needed to print something out.  But as I said, NWC1.75 (to which I have updated myself in various steps since the days when I first installed 1.1 back in the very early 90s) has served me well, apart from the absence of User add-ons, and I continue to upload stuff to the Scriptorium using it, and to make Choir learning tool Midis with it which are then uploaded to my Website.

   MusicJohn, 7/Feb/22
I confess to being curious John.  Given the advantages of V2.x I assume there is a specific, MIDI related reason(s) that you choose to continue with V1.x.  Care to share?
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals, youfonymums 'n tubies.

 

Re: Figured Bass

Reply #23
   Well, I suppose that in truth it was really just the fact that when I got it NWC2 seemed different that put me off.  There were a few completely trivial matters - I didn't like the new cursor, I couldn't immediately grasp the new Midi Instrument menu, I missed the staff size +/- magnifying glass - and I was in the middle of a largish job and didn't want to spend time becoming accustomed to new things. 

   And I only used NWC2 seriously once, when I had both to key in and to print out a new orchestrated Choral 4-Part Work with lyrics for a friendly local composer and have it look good (as you know, normally I never print anything, so I don't care what it looks like, and normally I never include any words [one of the things that really lets NWC down is its rotten way of inserting lyrics; surely it must be possible to add them directly to the Editing Screen, so you see them line up with the notes?]), at which point I needed to learn about several "new" features, such as User Objects and Tools and Boundary Changes.  And I managed all this quite well, but ... but soon relapsed back into NWC1, which I know and love.

   As I said: trivial.

   MusicJohn, 12/Feb/22