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Silly notation

I occasionally remark that when writing music, you need to consider the person who will be playing your chart.  Here's an example of lousy writing I saw at band tonight:

Background info:
I play an older bass clarinet. It plays down to a written Eb, which is encountered reasonably often:

!NoteWorthyComposerClip(2.0,Single)
|Clef|Type:Treble
|Note|Dur:Whole|Pos:b-11
!NoteWorthyComposerClip-End

Some bass clarinets will play lower, so you sometimes do see a written low D, ofen with a courtesy higher D bracketed so those without the extended bell will know they can play the note up the octave:

!NoteWorthyComposerClip(2.0,Single)
|Clef|Type:Treble
|Note|Dur:4th|Pos:-8
|Note|Dur:4th|Pos:-5
|Note|Dur:4th|Pos:-8
|Text|Text:"(        )"|Font:StaffBold|Pos:-5|Justify:Center|Placement:AtNextNote
|Chord|Dur:4th|Pos:-12,-5
!NoteWorthyComposerClip-End

The low D is not seen often, so a bass clarinet player might have to stop to think about what it is, rather than immediately recognize it.   In that context, here's an example of really crappy notation I came across tonight:

!NoteWorthyComposerClip(2.0,Single)
|Clef|Type:Treble
|Note|Dur:Whole|Pos:#-12
!NoteWorthyComposerClip-End

I've been playing bass clarinet since the early 1960s, and I confess I've never before seen the enharmonic spelling of the low Eb.  It was probably "correct" because I was in a sharp key signature, but a competent copyist would never have written that, because it is simply never encountered.

Another bugaboo is to be playing a run in a flat key, but encounter sharps as accidentals; or, in a sharp key, flats for accidentals. 

My point is that, as amateur copyists, we should always keep in mind what the musician doesn't expect.  If you write something that isn't frequently encountered, it will surely disrupt the quality of a performance, particularly if you're using a sub who is sightreading.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #1
Quote
...the enharmonic spelling of the low Eb...was probably "correct" because I was in a sharp key signature, but a competent copyist would never have written that, because it is simply never encountered.
Correct is correct.  If copyists simply write Ef because Dd "is simply never encountered," then they are perpetuating a lack of education.
Quote
...we should always keep in mind what the musician doesn't expect.  If you write something that isn't frequently encountered, it will surely disrupt the quality of a performance, particularly if you're using a sub who is sightreading.
What if the sub who is sightreading is accustomed to correct notation and not "the easy notes?"  I've come across such passages as (in the key of Ef) Be Bf Be Fd Af Bf BeThat's hard to read.  It's as bad as
Quote
playing a run in a flat key, but encounter sharps as accidentals; or, in a sharp key, flats for accidentals. 


Re: Silly notation

Reply #2
I think this is a tricker problem than first appears.  K.A.T. is right that there are some players would prefer correct spelling (and I'm usually one), because it's less confusing.  On the other hand, David is right that there are some players who prefer the familiar, because it's less confusing!

I have just sung a piece for a composer friend of mine.  She's very competent, and also plays organ professionally.  Her score only had C# Eb F# G# and Bb for the "black" notes.  It's how she thinks.  I had to import into NWC and convert to enharmonically correct, because there was no way I can sing F# to Bb (except in G minor).

I have had low A# for bassoon.  It's very rare, and only likely when playing the bottom note of a first inversion F# chord.  It definitely looks odd, but I think a Bb would have felt just wrong.

Perhaps I would suggest that music for players who are not yet ready for unusual sharps and flats (and double sharps and flats) probably shouldn't have any.  But if you do get D#, your conductor must think you're competent enough.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #3
For a singer or a string player, Eb and D# aren't the same note. The D# is a few cents higher than the Eb. The basic rule for enharmonically equivalent accidentals is to write sharps when a stepwise line is tending upward and flats when it is tending downward. For non-stepwise lines, you look at the harmonic meaning of the note: e.g, a diminished 6th is rarely encountered, so the interval D#-Bb would normally be written as Eb-Bb (or D#-A#) instead (there are, of course, exceptional times when a diminished 6th is actually what is desired by the composer).

However, I agree with David that what musicians are used to seeing needs to be kept in mind. In the case he is speaking of, writing an Eb would probably be the appropriate thing to do, at least in the part the bass clarinet is reading from. Guitarists read in the same range as bass clarinetists - down to the E below the treble staff, with an occasional D thrown in (the sixth string has to be tuned down a step to get it). If I were writing notes down there for a cellist, I would be writing them in bass clef. But guitarists never read bass clef, so guitarists have to read all those ledger lines and just deal with it. The clef change that would help the cellist would hinder the guitarist. Same with enharmonic changes to accidentals.

Another example: I play Celtic harp. On that instrument, accidentals are obtained by sharping levers - levers near the tuning pegs that press an artificial bridge against the string, shortening it by a half-step. Technically, I can obtain an Eb on the harp by engaging the sharping lever on a D string. But if I were to encounter an Eb in written music, I would be more likely to simply stop playing and say "I can't get that note," because the fingers simply aren't trained to pluck a D string when the eyes see an E. Sight-reading is basically a habit: in at the eyes, out at the fingers, without engaging the brain at all. If the brain has to be involved, things slow 'way down.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #4
I wrote a lengthy response to K.A.T. and Ewan a few minutes ago, pressed Post, and saw the warning that another message had been posted.  I continued with what I thought was "post," but the message has disappeared. 

That's actually ok, because Bill (would you prefer "William?") expresses my point of view much better than I did.  If it still existed, I would have reopened my message, changed the font throughout to "strikethrough," and end with

"What He Said."


Re: Silly notation

Reply #5
Thanks for the strokes, David, and either version of my name is fine ;-)

Re: Silly notation

Reply #6
I'm calling foul!  Harp is a special case.  We know you just ignore all the rules of enharmonic spelling, write something you have worked out the pedalling for, give it to the harpist, and then just accept that - no matter how you've written it - the harpist will change it all, smile at you and say "thank you for trying".  (Well, that's orchestral harp - Celtic harp appear to have a very similar approach to chromatic notes!)


Re: Silly notation

Reply #7
Quote
the harpist will change it all, smile at you and say "thank you for trying".  

Harpists are nice people, aren't they?


Re: Silly notation

Reply #8
Well, I think David was pointing out that the bottom notes on the bass clarinet are also a special case.;-)

We Celtic harpers have an advantage over concert harpists, in that the concert harp's pedals change an entire pitch class at once (all Ds; all Cs; etc.); whereas we change strings individually, so we can have a D# in one octave while we have a D-natural in another. On the other hand, you can't change sharping levers with your feet, so we have to free a hand to achieve an accidental. You gain a little, you lose a little.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #9
I wonder what should be done when the key signature is E major. I really can't see the notated D being changed to Eb there.

Personally I think the D# is correct, and it's only its rarity that confuses. After all a notated D# would more often than not be a key change leading note (to E) and that doesn't normally happen on the bass line (much more likely in the upper parts). So once you've met one D# you'll remember it and never have a problem again. ;-)

Re: Silly notation

Reply #10
In wind music, we often encounter enharmonic spellings of accidentals, so the use of a D# or an Eb in and of itself is really not a big deal.  However, the D# in that octave is a bigger deal, because it is never seen - well okay, I saw it the once in 40+ years.  In this chart.  One note only, only once in the entire chart.  It's bizarre.

(Edit - I should have mentioned that Peter hit it on the head:  "it's only its rarity that confuses." He said it much more elegantly than I did.)

Re: Silly notation

Reply #11
The D# may very well be correct. The question David raised was not what was correct, but what was playable. In some cases, for some instruments, the playable note may be the enharmonic equivalent of the correct note. It pays us, as composers, arrangers, or transcribers, to know what those cases are and to notate accordingly.

Here's another example - one that doesn't involve notation, so the principle may be clearer. Wind instruments (such as the reeds that David plays, or the pennywhistles that I play) get most accidentals through cross-fingering.  Often, there is more than one way to get any particular accidental. Some ways are more awkward than others. If the accurate way is awkward but there is a nearly in-tune fingering that is simple, wind players will usually use the accurate, awkward way in slow passages and the simple, approximate way for rapid passagework. When I am playing a D whistle and come across a C-natural, I am going to use three fingers in a slow aire but only one finger in a reel. Intonation is more important for slow music, attack is more important for fast music.

I think what David and I have been arguing is that the same thing holds true for written accidentals. They should be notated correctly for instruments that can play them that way, or for instruments (such as the piano) where it doesn't matter. Where it does matter, it's better to use the incorrect but playable enharmonic equivalent.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #12
Yes, everyone has his own sense of spelling. Some may prefer Silly notation but I find Silly notion less confusing.
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #13
No offense taken, Rick. You're a pianist, and when I put on my pianist's hat, I agree with you. Pianists tend to think harmonically, and when you do that, the spelling has to be correct; from that standpoint, spelling a chord wrong does seem sort of silly. But it's not so silly from the standpoint of a wind player, who associates written notes with certain patterns of open and closed holes, and who suddenly comes across a written note he hasn't seen before. Which note is that, enharmonically? Which holes do you leave open, and which do you leave closed? Because of cross fingerings, you're not just raising or lowering one finger; you have some decisions to make. And if you're sight reading, having to make decisions can be disastrous.

....Oh, well. Perhaps we should leave the last word to Papa Haydn:

Quote
If an idea strikes me as beautiful and satisfactory to the ear and heart, I would far rather overlook a grammatical error than sacrifice what is beautiful to mere pedantic trifling.

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #14
... it's not so silly from the standpoint of a wind player, who associates written notes with certain patterns ...
By this logic, a wind player need never see a double flat or double sharp.

I can sympathize with the wind player who does not want to see 8va for fear of associating the wrong fingering with a note but, at some point in his career, a wind player should be able to associate each note with a fingering regardless of spelling, especially those who only need to read one clef.

I feel sorrow for musicians that cannot read a vocal line and play it. How can they ever learn phrasing?
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #15
G'day Rick,
By this logic, a wind player need never see a double flat or double sharp.

That's pretty much right, at least in my experience - dunno 'bout orchestral wind...  Just brass band and jazz ensembles (although most jazz apart from big band is largely improv...)


Quote
<snip> ...a wind player should be able to associate each note with a fingering regardless of spelling, especially those who only need to read one clef.

I feel sorrow for musicians that cannot read a vocal line and play it. How can they ever learn phrasing?

While I feel it isn't the norm, I agree - we should be able to read anything put in front of us - that said, some of the very best musicians I've ever heard can't read a note!  Or are so out of practice at it that they might as well not be able to.

It is my observation that the average monophonic instrument player simply does not visualise things the way a pianist can.  Can't comment on strings aside from guitar who mostly seem to play chords by rote rather than actually reading music.  Most of the guitarists I have contact with are very poor readers, but are good to listen to.

Diff'rent strokes I guess.  The ideal is to be well rounded and be able to both read fluently and improvise easily - in reality the two don't seem to go together very often.

Add to that, most of us also have "day jobs" - curtails time effectively...

So, to get back on topic - I reckon it's best if the player - especially wind players - are presented with charts that fit the conventions they normally use, even, or perhaps especially, when it isn't technically correct.  Afterall, the goal is to have the music played, not argued about...

<edit> As an after thought, I play in groups with 2 very different styles and genres of music.

On Sundays, and Tuesday night practice it's stuff for Church - mostly rock 'n roll/pop styles in, usually E and A.  Do see some other keys occasionally, but to make it easy for guitars these are the keys we usually see.

On Mondays and Thursdays when I play big band or I'm at my improv class we usually see F, Bb, Eb and Ab.

Add to that the very different feel in the rhythm etc....  If I were to put something in F or Bb, or even (Heaven forbid) Ab in front of my church band they'd recoil in horror!

Likewise, E and A seem to be almost as foreign to the big band guys, though I reckon I'd get less complaint from them :)
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals 'n youfonymums - 'n I'm lernin' tubies now too

Re: Silly notation

Reply #16
Well, as an orchestral string player (Violin/Viola), I can say that Lawrie’s comments on the average monophonic instrument player are correct. We tend to see the notes as a melody/countermelody, rather than as part of a chord. There is a (dim) awareness that it is part of a larger chord, but I think only the double bass players would be able to accurately tell you what chord is being played at any single point in the piece (probably because they get bored and also get the bass part).

String players generally have fewer problems with “odd” notes as it’s just a matter of moving up/down the string (put the finger on the note, then move by a semitone). That said, we generally have problems with lots of accidentals or double sharps/flats (probably due to lack of exposure). The other thing is that we generally have trouble playing the “fiddly” parts that wind players are used to (1st Violin is so lazy, we expect the melody, or some other easy to visualise part, Viola is much more challenging mentally, but we seem to end up with the clarinets most of the time)

Anyway, the point is that string players (of equal experience) are more likely to be able to sight-read unusual part than a wind player. If Guitarist complain about the key, they should just use a capo

Re: Silly notation

Reply #17
I am also a string player and when sightreading would reach up for sharps and down for flats and would probably finger the identical piece differently for, say a F# vs a Gb version.  While I prefer to see accidental flats in a flatted piece (vice versa for sharps), if the opposite accidental prevents the same note having many accidentals in the same measure (like chromatic passages), by all means do what works.
Since 1998

Re: Silly notation

Reply #18
... when sightreading {I} would reach up for sharps and down for flats and would probably finger the identical piece differently for, say a F# vs a Gb ...
Would you then say that in a fast scale or chord run that you would prefer the accidentals to reflect the most fluid fingering?

I question this repeated idea that flats are to be preferred when flats are in the key signature. In G minor, I would much prefer an F#. If I see a Gb, I am likely to flat the next A that I see. Hymnals reflect this: F#'s abound in pieces with 1 or 2 flats. Gb's are quite rare.
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #19
Thanks, Lawrie, Globbilink, and Warren, for chiming in here.

Rick, when I got home last night and read this line from you:

Quote
I feel sorrow for musicians that cannot read a vocal line and play it. How can they ever learn phrasing?

I had just returned from a concert by an old friend who is a well-known musician on the Northwest U.S. folk circuit. The well-known musician was, in fact, upstairs in my house at that moment getting ready for bed, as my wife and I had arranged the concert and were putting him up for the night. He had admitted earlier in the evening that he cannot read a note of music and has to learn everything by ear. I have to say, I thought his phrasing was pretty damn good.

As you may have deduced by now, my musical life (like Lawrie's, and I suspect like most of us) is somewhat schizophrenic. I play guitar, pennywhistle and Celtic harp in Irish sessions around my area, and at one time my wife and I were part of an established Irish band. But I also have an MA in theory and composition and write "serious" music (chamber music, primarily). One piece, a set of variations on a theme of Arnold Schoenberg, has entered the basic repertoire of a pianist at our local university, others have been played multiple times here and in various other cities around the Pacific Northwest. And I also like to sit down at the piano and play swing-era tunes from lead sheets - it's great therapy when you're down.

So I come at music from various angles. As a composer and a theoretician - and as a pianist - I think structurally. As a folk musician, I think linearly.

The approaches are very different. Thinking structurally, you want to make certain all accidentals are functionally correct. Thinking linearally, you want to make certain all accidentals are easily playable so that music flows without interruption. As Warren stated, string players (my wife is one) tend to reach up for sharps and down for flats; so do wind players (by lipping) and vocalists. So it is best if the accidentals are functionally corrrect. But if you have to choose between correct and playable, every monophonic instrument player I know prefers playable. They bend the notes anyway - consciously or unconciously - to make them fit the functional sense of the music, which is usually pretty clear from context. As pianists, we can't bend notes. That is actually unusual among instrumentalists. Maybe that's one reason pianists are so adamant about getting the accidentals right: if you can't hear the difference, you have to see it in order to understand what the composer is driving at. Equal temperament is a curse as much as a blessing.

One last story. A few years ago, I  wrote a piece for soprano, flute, bassoon and vibes that was performed by a local chamber group. I made sure the accidentals in the soprano part were functionally correct in order to aid her intonation. The head of the composition department at the local university got a look at the music and told me I should change a couple of E#s to Fs to make it more readable. "This is the 21st century," he said. "We don't need to think about common practice functions any more."

Generally, I think that attitude is wrong. But in certain cases - the primary point of this thread - I think it is correct.

Pardon me for going on so long, but I think David has raised an important issue.

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #20
This is a very interesting thread. I have read every bit of it, and some parts more than once.
Today, I taught a friend, aged mid-forties, the basics of musical notation. He put together a theremin, and produced his first notes on it. Don't know what a theremin is: Think the main melody of the old Start Trek theme.
Well, he was a bit bewildered by all the elements that go into musical notation. We will need a few more sessions to get him somewhere.
I can understand how he felt. It's the same with me, after having read all of the above.

So, while I am not in a position to contribute along the same lines, I am very interested.
Thanks, fellow Noteworthians.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #21
I pity Rob (grin) - his pupil needs to learn a whole written language, but probably wants to know if all “right now.” 

Rick asked:

Quote
Would you then say that in a fast scale or chord run that you would prefer the accidentals to reflect the most fluid fingering?

to which I say, it depends.  It helps if the accidentals don't jar me.  A flat in an ascending passage or a sharp in a descending one is a mild distraction, but if it's consistent with the key signature, it's not so bad. If it’s inconsistent, it’ll throw me.

It's not the fingering that catches me, it's the need to think.  When I play, my fingers automatically find the right keys and holes associated with the mark on the page.  I don't consciously think the name of the note.  If I seldom encounter a particular note (or type of notation, for that matter), I have to think.  That is a distraction, and will affect the others  I’m playing with, since I may either miss the note or play it wrong. 

What stimulated my first message in this thread was seeing a note I had never before encountered.  Even though I play that note quite often in its normal spelling, I'm distracted by the odd spelling.  That’s disruptive.

This next bit needs some context:  when I write A/E, I’m referring to a note in the lower range and a note in the middle range of the clarinet, which jumps a 12th instead of an octave then the “register” key is used.     On the clarinet:

  • E/B can be taken with left pinkie, right pinkie or both. 
    F/C can be taken with left or right or both pinkies. 
    F#/C# is again left pinkie or right pinkie. 
    G#/D# can only be taken with the right pinkie unless you have extra keys, very rare. 
    B/F# has two fingerings, straight and forked. 
    C#/G# has one. 
    Eb/Ab has two. 
    F# in the first space has two
    There are fake or trill fingerings for middle line B and the C just above it. 


Fingering is critical if you're playing legato - you don’t want a ghost note caused by one key being let go while the finger moves to the other one and presses it down. So, in the E major scale in the low register, you will always play the F# with your left pinkie to allow the G# to be taken with the right.

Correctness is meaningless ot me for another reason, too.  If I'm playing the third element of the second inversion of the chord, I have no way of knowing.  I usually play inner voices and every chart I play is transposed.  The degree of transposition is different for each of my instruments, too.  Parts for my clarinet are transposed differently than for my alto sax, and neither are the same as my tenor sax or bass clarinet.  I don’t know where in the chord my note fits because I don't have a full score and I can't read the entire chord.  I just have a series of single notes.  I think Bill described my dilemna as linearity. 


Re: Silly notation

Reply #22

Quote
It's not the fingering that catches me, it's the need to think.

Exactly.

Rick (and K.A.T.) I find myself wondering something. NWC has an "Audit Enharmonic Spelling" tool that is primarily used (in my experience) to correct accidentals following staff transposition. This tool has a strong bias toward sharps and naturals, and (again, in my experience) tends to get about half the accidentals wrong, from a functional standpoint. After a transposition: do you use this tool and then correct the wrong accidentals by hand? Do you correct the wrong accidentals by hand from the beginning, without bothering with the tool? Or do you simply never use the "Transpose Staff" tool, and thus never need the "Audit Enharmonic Spelling" tool at all?

[My own technique is the first one: use the tool, then correct by hand.]

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #23
NWC has an "Audit Enharmonic Spelling" tool ...
I transpose very little. IIRC, 3 songs over the past 5 years. (The last one, "You Raise Me Up", flutes balked at 6 flats). I try the tool but, as you say, it is wrong as often as it is right.

None of my solo piano work is transposed.

For weddings, the paid vocalists all have range to spare. For the amateurs, I transpose the MIDI output of the keyboard and the flutes sit out. When they don't, half of them get lost when the vocalist chops beats from cadences or skips entire phases.
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #24
Amateur vocalists at weddings. I don't think you have to say any more. My sympathies.

I find the transposing tool useful in several different circumstances. One, of course, is preparing parts for transposing instruments. But I also use it when I have a multi-measure theme that is repeated in a different key, or (for atonal music) at a different scale position. The tipping point, for me, is about four measures. Under that, it's easier to write out the notes again in the new key; over, it's easier to use the tool and deal with its shortcomings. One thing I wish for devoutly is an Audit Enharmonics tool that can deal effectively with some of the issues we've raised in this thread. But I'm afraid that's a long way off.

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #25
One thing I wish for devoutly is an Audit Enharmonics tool that can deal effectively with some of the issues we've raised in this thread. But I'm afraid that's a long way off.
A tool that would analyze a score is, I think, beyond the scope of NWC. But a tool that would enforce some of the biases in this topic for a monophonic staff could probably be done. As currently implemented, User Tools don't get enough context to work on a selection, but that could change.
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #26
Amateur vocalists at weddings. I don't think you have to say any more. My sympathies.

<snip>

Bill
Well, I sing in a choir that is called Capellamore, a.k.a. "Het Huwelijkskoor". The Wedding Choir. All amateurs, and we do not advertise. No need. After wedding services, the newlyweds spread the word: "Contact the Wedding Choir! You'll love it!" or words to the effect. We've done a few this year.
And before that, I was once in an ad-hoc choir (of amateurs!) on the occasion of a wedding of the son of one of the basses. I still have the CD - you'd be surprised!

Re: Silly notation

Reply #27
*Sorry for the slow responses lately - [glow=red,2,300]The Hectic[/glow] has returned, with a vengeance.
Quote
...NWC has an "Audit Enharmonic Spelling" tool that is primarily used (in my experience) to correct accidentals following staff transposition. This tool has a strong bias toward sharps and naturals, and (again, in my experience) tends to get about half the accidentals wrong, from a functional standpoint. After a transposition: do you use this tool and then correct the wrong accidentals by hand? Do you correct the wrong accidentals by hand from the beginning, without bothering with the tool? Or do you simply never use the "Transpose Staff" tool, and thus never need the "Audit Enharmonic Spelling" tool at all?
I find this tool annoying when using pitches that have been entered incorrectly (by whatever means) because the incorrect relationships between the notes are maintained after using it.  If the pitches were entered correctly, the tool is fine.  An older incarnation (V1.5?) seemed not to like double-flats and -sharps so with some creative transpositions (+1, +1, -3, +1 for instance), any incorrect pitches could be changed to properly fit the line (the New Key Preferences still cannot compensate for this...).  So I guess I could say that I correct the wrong accidentals by hand from the beginning, as I am enterning the pitches, so that after using the tool the correct relationships between the notes are maintained.
 
Quote
...flutes balked at 6 flats...
Boy, do I have stories...
Quote
...when the vocalist chops beats from cadences or skips entire phases.
even more stories...

p.s. When I type a lengthy response, I will copy the whole thing before pressing Post or Preview, just in case something happens...

Re: Silly notation

Reply #28
Sorry, Rob - didn't mean to offend. I was thinking of my brother-in-law's wedding, where the soprano consistently chose the enharmonically wrong version of the note she was singing - if you could find the note in the middle of a vibrato about a third wide. She was also unable to stay with the pianist, who had to keep adjusting the tempo. Think Florence Foster Jenkins, or Jo Stafford in her persona as Darlene Edwards. But I digress.

I agree that analyzing the score is beyond the expected scope of NWC. But it might be nice if the Audit Enharmonics tool at least took into account the surrounding notes in the same staff. One beat ahead and one behind would help a lot. I just tried feeding it the line A-Bb-A. It "corrected" the Bb to an A#. That's the kind of behavior that I think could and should be programmed out of it.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #29
Hah. Before I moused "Post" I thought "well, that looks as if I am offended" - well, I am not but I sent it anyway.
I can see perfectly well why you wrote what you wrote. Sounds horrible, such a soprano, even without having ever heard her!

Re: Silly notation

Reply #30
I suspect that we need to be mindful of what an amateur actually is...

Definitions according to Lawrie:
Professional - someone who makes a living at whatever they are doing
Amateur - someone who does it for fun

While we can have a general expectation of:
Professional = highly skilled and competent
Amateur = variously skilled and not necessarily competent

It doesn't necessarily follow that the above is actually correct.

The reality is I've heard professional musicians and singers that are absolutely dreadful (some who possibly should have been strangled at birth to protect the rest of us) and amateurs who are simply sensational.

Take me for instance, I'm definitely an amateur - actually I consider myself something of a hack, but I have people who hear me on a regular basis and consistently appreciate and approve of my efforts thus I'm probably better than I give myself credit for.

OTOH, there is a phenomenon called "xxx Idol"  For "xxx" insert country of choice.  Here in Australia the televising station loves to show the "also rans".  Fair dinkum - some of them are HORRIBLE and yet these are the ones who squawk loudest when told they don't measure up.

I reckon these ones are "hammer chewers" rather than amateurs :)
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals 'n youfonymums - 'n I'm lernin' tubies now too

Re: Silly notation

Reply #31
Well, that's fair, Lawrie. The root of "amateur" is, after all the Latin word for love. And most of us love music, so we're all amateurs in that sense. It's just that some of the bad ones are so exquisitely bad. And, right, those are the ones that are most offended by a description of their shortcomings. There's a cut on Cleo Laine's album Live at the Wavendon Festival that consists of two versions of Gershwin's "The Lorelei" - first done gloriously, as only Cleo and a few others can, then done the way it might be done by a talentless contestant at an amateur jazz festival. Have a listen if you get a chance - it's even better than Jo as Darlene.

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #32
She was also unable to stay with the pianist, who had to keep adjusting the tempo.
Can't agree. In public performance, it is the pianist's job to stay with the vocalist. I tell them: "I will find you - just keep singing. The biggest mistake you can make is to stop singing."

To the rest of the ensemble, I say: "I will be where the vocalist is. If you are not, you are in the wrong place. Playing louder, waving you instrument or pointing to the music is annoying and a waste of time."
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #33
G'day Rick
Can't agree. In public performance, it is the pianist's job to stay with the vocalist. I tell them: "I will find you - just keep singing. The biggest mistake you can make is to stop singing."

To the rest of the ensemble, I say: "I will be where the vocalist is. If you are not, you are in the wrong place. Playing louder, waving you instrument or pointing to the music is annoying and a waste of time."

I couldn't agree more - in a public performance context the vocalist, no matter how far away from where the music "should" be is still the "front man" and must be supported - we do this every Sunday!  ;)

That said, some singers...  Fortunately our singers usually aren't bad though sometimes... ;)  'o course, I'm never wrong...  :)

<edit> having just read Bill's reply below I thought I'd update this comment a bit - in my response to Rick, and I assume in Ricks's post, there is an assumption that the singer involved has at least some reasonable degree of competence.

If (s)he doesn't , then as Bill points out, the entire ensemble is ultimately responsible and that includes our vocalist.

Nevertheless, when in public, all mistakes should be masked by anyone/everyone in the ensemble as much as possible.

Afterall, no performance is ever absolutely perfect.
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals 'n youfonymums - 'n I'm lernin' tubies now too

Re: Silly notation

Reply #34
Well, you're right and you're wrong, Rick. You certainly don't want to leave the vocalist hanging out there by herself (or himself) by charging ahead with your concept of the rhythm and tempo, no matter what; and you do want to try to cover her (or his) mistakes. But if those mistakes become obvious to the audience, it is not necessarily your fault as the accompanist. You may have a singer who simply can't carry her part of the ensemble. In those cases, I think it's fair to say that the vocalist can't stay with the piano....no matter how much the pianist tries to stay with her. Ensemble is really everybody's responsibility.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #35
Quote
Nevertheless, when in public, all mistakes should be masked by anyone/everyone in the ensemble as much as possible.

This reminded me of an event this past Saturday in my Ellington rehearsal.  We played a transcription of this recording Black Beauty from 1928 http://redhotjazz.com/songs/ellington/blackbeauty2.ram.

We normally cut the 32 bar piano solo because the pianist doesn't feel comfortable with it yet.  However, this weekend, I decided to keep it in to keep the overall shape of the composition, and I had an open trumpet improvise during that section. 

The clarinetist came in 8 bars early, but since he was playing the A part of his chorus, it fitted nicely with the last 8 bars of the trumpet’s AABA solo.  We had a great little unintentional duet and I let them run with it until it crashed, which wasn't until the clarinet played his bridge 8 bars before the band got there.

Mistakes will happen, no matter how good the musician is.  When disaster strikes, and the group can't recover, sometimes the best thing to do is stop, even though you have a paying audience, and have a laugh with the audience about your screw-up.  You can either start over if you think you have a ghost of a chance, or just move to the next chart.

It's all about showmanship.  If the audience is on your side, it's survivable.  A cracked egg can be made into an omelette. 

Re: Silly notation

Reply #36

Quote
Afterall, no performance is ever absolutely perfect.

Absolutely. And that's what makes us prefer live over canned, isn't it?

Re: Silly notation

Reply #37
These attachments were produced by someone using Finale, and were intended to be used for educational purposes.  They illustrate notation traps we can all fall into, and whatever program we use, there is something to learn from critiquing them.

There are a outright errors. 
The length of the opening bar differs from part to part. Trumpet 1, two quarter notes.  Trumpet 2 and trombones, whole rest.  Alto sax 1, two quarter rests, other saxes, a beat and a half of rests.  NWC2 would have made it obvious there were inconsistencies, because bar lines in the score wouldn't have lined up.   
Letter H is missing from some parts, and no parts show letters I or J. 
There is no opening repeat sign for the second set of special endings in any part. 
The title on page 2 is not spelled the same as on page 1.
There may be other errors I haven't spotted yet, but nothing that isn't correctable during a rehearsal. 

Errors aside, I would be interested in hearing your opinions about how you would make the attached parts more readable, assuming you would use Lawrie's jazz font and write them in NWC2.  I suggest you print them out before responding, because they look much better in Acrobat Reader than they actually do on paper.


Re: Silly notation

Reply #38
Hi David,

I took a look at the drum part - ((((shudder))))
Here's what I think it should be.
(Others may disagree).

[link removed :- If you really want to see this part - Email me].

A few assumptions:-
Ride cymbal at first then changing to Hi Hat then back to Ride.
The triplets are Tom figures.
I've left out the long ties on the snare - just shown a short tie to imply timing.
(These surely aren't rolls - the cymbal pattern couldn't be played over a roll).
I've placed the Foot Hi Hat in the G space with the normal Closed and Open Hi Hat and let the drummer decide what it means.
In 50+ years reading commercial scores I have NEVER seen Foot Hi Hat written down with the Bass Drum.

There are some odd chord spellings in the piano part:-
Measure 45 - B9b5 for Faug7/B ???
Measure 48 - Gm11 (over D if you like) for D7#5#9 ??

Hope you can sort out the score !!!

Regards for the New Year

Barry

Re: Silly notation

Reply #39
I've only had time to glance at the piano part, but I quickly spotted two things. One is that the chord symbols are either inconsistent or improperly spelled, or perhaps both. (e.g., sometimes "M9" and sometimes "#9": if by "#9" is meant an augmented 9th, then the symbol is wrong - should be +9; if it means simply to sharp what would normally be a minor 9th above the root, then M9 means the same thing; if he wants a minor 9th, it should be m9). Second, at rehearsal letter K, the dotted quarter note tied to a quarter should be an eighth tied to a half. The timing is the same, but the second way is a lot more readable.

Gotta run. Happy New Year to everyone -

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #40
Thank you both for your responses. 

Let me start with Barry.  I was just hoping for comments, but I am delighted that you actually redid the part.  The original was far too cluttered for my eyes, and your version is just vastly better.  I'm going to take the liberty of using your version instead of the original.  Thank you. 

I am lucky to have three great semiretired jazz drummers to choose from.  (They cheerfully swap turns at the set, and they willingly sub for each other.)  With three, our chances of not having one in a rehearsal are pretty slim, not always so for an amateur band playing only for its own pleasure.

All 3 are well past age 70 and they're happy to play with or without a chart.  However, if they must use a chart, and sometimes it is necessary, at their ages it is very important for the part to be easy to read.  Yours is.  Thank you.  The original was not.

Both Bill and Barry, thank you for your comments re the chord spellings.  I'll make sure the pianist and the soloists get a chance to look over their parts before we read them, so they can figure out what some of these chords are.  I only have a rudimentary knowledge of chords, so I can't help them "on the fly" during the rehearsals.

Bill, your comment is "spot on" about the notation at K.   You're on the same page as Sammy Nestico.  (Don't let notes cross the major subdivisions of the bar.) 

My initial thought about the piano part was that it is too hard for the eye to track from system to system on a page with both single staff and two-staff systems.  How much safer it would be to use piano braces and connecting bar lines on the two-staff systems.  Another trick to make the two-staff systems more distinct from the single staff systems is to increase the height of the top staff.  Instead of something like this:

  ----------
  ----------
{|---------
{|---------
  ----------
  ----------

we'd see this:

  ----------

  ----------

{|---|------|
{|---|------|

  ----------

  ----------



Many thanks once again, gents.  I wonder what others will have to say?




Re: Silly notation

Reply #41
Just a note on the chords.

All the chords on the piano part with M in them are minor 7th type chords (except those that are M9(maj7) which are minor type chords.
The Jazz Font version of the chord font uses a smaller upper case M to represent "m".
You can't compare with a real upper case M because there aren't any major type chords.
(personally I prefer Gmin9 to Gm9 when using the Jazz Font to avoid ambiguity).

The #9 on the dom 7th chords doesn't upset me.
I guess it's a matter of taste - I prefer C7(#9b5) to C7+9-5 combinations.
I am used to seeing chords written this way - maybe it's a just a thing with the local arrangers
I've copied for over the years.

I agree about the piano part but it would be better if the cued Clarinet solo was written as cues on an ossia staff.

If I had known you were actually going to use the drum part I would have spent some time on it.
It may have looked better at a slightly reduced percentage size so that the staves could be spaced a bit better. Perhaps some more of the repeat measures could be packed into a line.
If you have any suggestions about the layout (measures per line, systems per page etc.) or anything you would like changed (such as the pick up measure when you sort out what it really should be) - let me know.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #42
Thanks for clearing up the confusion re m/M (or in this case M/M), Barry. I have to wonder why that font is used for a lead sheet if you can't tell the difference between a major and a minor interval designation at a glance.

I find #/b easier to read than +/- when sight-reading, as well. I wrote that post in a hurry (we were on our way to our daughter's house an hour and a half away, and my wife already had her coat on), so it may not have been clear that I had my theoretician's hat on, rather than my pianist's hat. The two are occasionally in conflict. Where they always agree, though, is on the question of consistency. Inconsistent notation is hard to follow at any time. So you are correct, David, re the inconsistency between single staff/grand staff notation on this sheet. It makes life far harder for the pianist. It would help if grand staff brackets were used, both on the actual grand staves and on the single staves (a short bracket embracing just one staff; NWC can't do this without user fonts). The spacing change you suggest would help, as well.

(A word of warning: if converting the whole chart to grand staves expands it beyond three pages, don't do it. Page turns are worse than single staff/grand staff confusion.)

Finally, about the chord spelling: chords in jazz (especially swing) are largely collections of leading tones and passing tones over a root. The root is generally functional within the key; the remaining notes are primarily functional in relation to the chords before and after them. So the questions Barry raised about the chords in m. 45 and 48 aren't really answerable unless you know what function the arranger intended the chord to serve. Is the chord in m. 48 built on D or on G? Depends on whether it's serving a dominant or tonic function in the key of g minor. The ear is the best judge of that. It's not a traditional common-practice chord in either case, so we're free to judge it on its own merits. My sense, from the look of m. 48, is that the arranger thought of it as a dominant chord - hence built it on D - but realized that the existence of both a b# and an e# in the same chord might give the pianist some trouble, so spelled it out with the enharmonic equivalents as well. One indication of that is that this measure is, I think, the only place in the single-staff parts of the chart where the actual notes are written rather than just the chord symbol.

Enough. I love analysis, often get wound up in it for its own sake, and may have done that here. If so, I apologize. The bottom line is that David is right: this is messy notation, and we all need to be aware of it so that we know what not to do.

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #43
You might try the attached. Far from perfect. Accidentals still need work, especially measure 74.

I can't say I'm a fan of this. The "written out" sections are far too muddy for me to get any satisfaction from playing it. YMMV

Edit: fixed attachment
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #44
Nice job, Rick. Putting the grand-staff sections on a single staff solves the consistency problem perfectly - without requiring a page turn.

But I also have to agree with you about the chord voicing. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it fits in a small hand.

Cheers,

Bill

Re: Silly notation

Reply #45
Quote
Bill, your comment is "spot on" about the notation at K.   You're on the same page as Sammy Nestico.  (Don't let notes cross the major subdivisions of the bar.) 
I've seen this rule broken SO many times - and every time we sight-read a chart with this type of error, somebody can't get through the section without blowing it.  Every time.  Sometimes even after we know the chart, somebody blows it. 
Another thing that causes problems (mostly sight-reading, but again, sometimes after) is the notation in the Tenor part at E (among other places).  The second half of the bar is triplets, and the following bar has a-triplet-at-the-end-of-the-bar-that-someone-forgot-to-put-a-3-on - ohcrapitsjustabunchofeighths areyoustoppingbecauseofme?  Every time.
But the worst thing might be a few bars before that, with all that F natural/F# junk.  Call it a G flat, will ya?  Every time.

Re: Silly notation

Reply #46
But the worst thing might be a few bars before that, with all that F natural/F# junk.  Call it a G flat, will ya?  Every time.
Gets us back on topic. Clearly "silly notation".

I don't have much experience with Jazz charts. Shouldn't the piano part start out with 2 flats as the key? Or is it common to forgo the key signature when "comping"?
Registered user since 1996

Re: Silly notation

Reply #47
Quote
Shouldn't the piano part start out with 2 flats as the key?

It did.

Quote
Or is it common to forgo the key signature when "comping"?

I don't know for sure, but I don't think so.  You would always want to know what key the piece is in, if for no other reason that to know where you are in the chord progression. http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/appendix/blues/Bluesprogression.html

Quote
I can't say I'm a fan of this.
Me neither.  I've only heard a partial recording of it once (a 1942 broadcast), and I'm not overly impressed.  A lot of Ellington grows on you once you listen a couple of times and understand what he or his soloists were communicating.  On the other hand, he never saw fit to put it on record, so that may tell us something.  I imagine we'll play it a couple of times, and unless my people like it, I'll call it back in.  Perhaps the reason I didn't like it so much was the quality of the recording, not the piece itself.

Quote
chord voicing
.
Ellington was very creative with chords, and usually people couldn't figure out how he produced the band's unique sounds.  It may be the transcriber of the recording got them wrong, there could be a Strayhorn influence (I don't like some of Stray's writing) and it could be that while the chord is spelled correctly, it was meant to be played in various forms - open, closed, perhaps inverted, maybe with elements omitted.  While he was the composer/arranger/band leader, he was also the lead member of the rhythm section and a great accompanist. I would imagine he played the progression differently every time.





 

Re: Silly notation

Reply #49
Quote
I would imagine he played the progression differently every time.

Probably - and probably never on the piano the way they appear in the written out parts of the chart. It isn't good piano voicing, and Duke was an excellent pianist. These appear to be brass chords transcribed to piano and dropped an octave. Just a guess....

Bill