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Topic: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments (Read 18123 times) previous topic - next topic

"Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
I am writing out the piano sheet music for a song written by a friend of mine. In addition to the piano part, there is a line showing the melody with lyrics that follow along. In several parts of the music, harmony is sung by another person. I would like to show this on the lyric line as smaller notes or "optional" notes above the main melody. Is this possible and if so, how?
  • Last Edit: 2011-01-18 06:53 pm by gordonjh

Re: "Optional" Notes
Reply #1
Short reply: no. There is no way. There are a few workarounds that can sort of do it, but none of them is very good. These "optional" notes (the proper musical term for them is ossia) have been high on the NWC wish list for a long time.

One problem is that there is currently no way in NWC to do short segments of staff, or to show different numbers of staves in different systems, so if you want a separate ossia staff it currently has to run the full length of the piece. Different numbers of staves in different systems are also high on the wish list.

For very short ossia segments, there are some things that can be done with grace notes or with notes inserted as text objects directly into the relevant staff. However, it is usually quite difficult to line these up properly. My personal solution - resorted to only when an ossia staff is absolutely necessary - is to use a regular-size staff with regular-size notes on it, but with the color set to gray instead of black so that people reading the regular staff lines don't confuse the ossia line with the rest of the music.

Re: "Optional" Notes
Reply #2
Alright thanks I'll give the note color change a try. The ossia line isn't necessary, but it would be nice to have it on there.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #3
Since you're not looking for the "ossia" functionality, it seems that you're really wanting "cue" notes.  It's not too bad a solution to use grace notes as cue notes, until such time that they might be supported natively in NWC.  You'd have to live with the notes being offset a bit from other staffs, but if one is just reading the "harmony" staff in isolation, one might not even notice the offset (aside from the first note of each measure being close to the bar).  An example of this is attached.

In the staff that is to contain cue notes, you could enter the notes normally.  Then each note would be duplicated, with the first note of each pair turned into a muted grace note, and the second note of each pair set to be never visible.  A user tool could easily automate the entire duplication process if you wanted.
  • Last Edit: 2011-01-19 08:31 am by Randy Williams

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #4
The grace note option seems to work for separate lines, but I was hoping to combine both the melody and harmony lines into one. In this case, the grace notes are noticeably offset.

Re: "Optional" Notes
Reply #5
As I stated earlier....;-)
<snip> However, it is usually quite difficult to line these up properly. <snip>

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #6
Combining regular notes and cue notes in the same chord seems highly unusual to me, and I doubt NWC would support such a mixture even if/when it did support cue notes!  I guess one could hope that cue note stems in one staff would perfectly align with regular note stems in another staff, so that this might be achieved via layering.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #7
G'day Randy,
with respect, I disagree:
Combining regular notes and cue notes in the same chord seems highly unusual to me, and I doubt NWC would support such a mixture even if/when it did support cue notes!
Cues and normal notes in the same chord is a critical requirement, just as cues and normal rests in a restchord as well as cue rests and normal notes in a restchord.  Not to mention simple cues.
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals 'n youfonymums - gonna lern tubies next

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #8
Hi Lawrie,

You could well be right.  I was thinking about the MusicXML model, and what parameters it takes away when going from regular notes to cue or grace notes, and I think I got it backwards.  I see now that grace notes are not allowed a duration, and cue notes are not allowed to be tied.  So I no longer see an incompatibility with chording cue notes and regular notes, even as MusicXML does not specifically say it allows this.  As an aside, I can't see a reason to disallow cue notes being tied (playback-wise)?!  I guess cue notes by definition can never be played, so ties for playback would be ignored (while ties notation-wise are perfectly acceptable).

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #9
G'day Randy,
umm, I don't think what MusicXML allows or not is probably not an adequate criteria...

For mine, I would not only want to be able to tie cues, I'd want them to be able to be played as well.  I see no difference between normal notes and cues other than size.  For cues to be properly useful they should be treated by NWC in an identical fashion to normal notes/rests/restchords in every respect.
I plays 'Bones, crumpets, coronets, floosgals 'n youfonymums - gonna lern tubies next

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #10
Sorry Lawrie,

I was assuming that MusicXML had had time to mature, and be able to represent all classic music out there, but this may not be true I guess.  It is still interesting to me how/why MusicXML justified purposely avoiding allowing playback ties for cue notes!  Rest assured that NWC would implement cue notes (if ever) how they saw fit, regardless of MusicXML or anything I say.  :-)

If they include playback, aside from the issue of failing to be able to map cue ties to MusicXML, I'd expect they'd have to address controlling whether cues were played or not.  I can imagine them never playing, but I can't imagine them always playing, unless there is at least a global ability to easily turn off all cues.  It seems a slippery slope to me, as in my jazz band, I play some cues but not others, depending on the cue instrument type.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #11
You could well be right.  I was thinking about the MusicXML model, and what parameters it takes away when going from regular notes to cue or grace notes, and I think I got it backwards.  I see now that grace notes are not allowed a duration, ....
Grace notes can be followed by hidden rests when used as cues although a set of beamed grace notes could have one hidden rest at the end equal to the total "duration" of the grace cues: Printing Parts For Ensemble Members.
Since 1998

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #12
Grace notes do have duration: the duration is taken out of the following note. (If the grace note has a slash through it the time taken is minimal, otherwise it should normally be played at its full notated time value.) And cue notes do have to be combinable with other notes, especially when used as ossia. Think optional descant, written on the same staff as the main melody - not an unusual situation at all. Lawrie is correct. The only difference between ossia/cue/grace notes and regular notes is size.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #13
Perhaps NWC could implement this wish list capability if staves of 2 diffferent sizes could be layered together?  IIRC the point size of objects in NWC is a global option, but perhaps this could be done in a similar way to selecting different font sizes for different text functions (lyric, staff text, small text, etc.) as is currently possible.  If the color could be different for different sections of such a staff, then the partial staff function also becomes possible by selecting white for the sections one wishes to be invisible.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #14
Probably white is not a good choice.
Transparent seems more fit for this purpose.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #15
I think the problem is that the duration of a grace note is by definition open to interpretation.  I think most notation programs might at best allow "global" control of grace notes - do they steal time from the following note or from the preceding note (both are possible), how long is "minimal" for slashed grace notes (acciaccatura), how long are non-slashed grace notes (appoggiatura) as a percentage of the following note's duration (generally half, but not always), etc?  To expect a program to "interpret" grace notes on its own is of course ridiculous, but even to allow "programming" of different behaviours for different grace notes in a piece is taking the computer where it shouldn't go, in my opinion.  In short, computer playback of grace notes (or cue notes) is a slippery slope - computers might be wise to avoid this altogether, and leave playback decisions to the humans reading the music it outputs.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #16
Here is the Harvard Dictionary of Music (1964 ed.) on grace notes:

Quote
A note printed in small type to indicate that its time value is not counted in the rhythm of the bar and must be subtracted from that of an adjacent note. Large groups of grace notes sometimes make an exception to this rule in that together they fill up the time value of a single note that has been omitted from the score (as in the so-called "cadenzas" by Chopin and other Romantic composers), in which case the rhtym of the grace notes is flexible and not subject to a strict beat.

I think the proper interpretation of that is unless the grace notes are being used to show one of those very rapid runs characteristic of Romantic piano music, they should be played in strict tempo. It is a mistake for performers to assume that the speed at which they take an ornament ("grace" in early English nomenclature, whence comes the term "grace note") doesn't matter.

Re: "Optional" Notes
Reply #17
In several parts of the music, harmony is sung by another person. I would like to show this on the lyric line as smaller notes or "optional" notes above the main melody. Is this possible and if so, how?
If the harmony notes share the same stem with the main melody, the attachments may guide you to the result you seek. If you change the size of the 'Staff Metrics', change the size of 'User 1' to match.
Registered user since 1996

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #18
Very nice, Rick. It's amazing what you can do with carefully placed text objects.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #19
It occurs to me now that we've been talking about 2 different things.  I still state that a true "cue note" is by default not to be played - it exists primarily to help the performer be sure when his coming entrance is, and secondarily to be played if its instrument needs supplementing.  However, what is also needed (and supported separately in MusicXML) is a "cue size" - this allows regular notes to be displayed at the smaller size, while still maintaining all other attributes of regular notes (including playback).  When/if NWC supports "cue", I'd be perfectly happy with it only supporting "cue size", as a true "cue note" could then easily be emulated by setting "cue size" plus "mute".  If it supported only a true "cue note", it would not help the folks wanting a cue-sized regular note, so I do not like that.  If NWC does implement "cue size", I would shudder to see it called the "cue note" attribute, but at least we'd have all "cue" functionality!

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #20
Rick that's exactly what I was looking for! Thanks so much for your help!

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #21
You're welcome. I expect future versions of NoteWorthy Composer will make this easier.
Registered user since 1996

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #22
This has worked out perfectly so far. However, I'm still running into problems when accidentals are necessary for these notes. Any suggestions? Or should I just live with the larger accidentals?

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #23
I'm still running into problems when accidentals are necessary for these notes. Any suggestions?
More text.
  • Last Edit: 2011-01-22 07:07 am by Rick G.
Registered user since 1996

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #24
The NWC2STDA font which Rick's technique has you using for noteheads also has all the accidentals in it (chrs 64-68, corresponding to the letters small d through small h). Simply place these as text objects directly before the text objects you are using for noteheads. You may have to tweak their positions. A quick test suggests following the accidental with a couple of spaces and then right-justifying it; this may vary in different situations.

Of course, these will be visual only. For the proper sound, you will have to do what many of us do: create two separate staves, one that gets the sound right and another that gets the visuals right. Then mute the visuals staff and hide the sounding staff (it will still sound after it's hidden).

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #25
Of course, these will be visual only.
Use hidden muted grace notes to get the correct pitch.
Registered user since 1996

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #26
OK - that should work.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #27
Alright thanks guys! This particular piece will only be for viewing, so pitch is of no concern at the moment. But all these suggestions are good to know!

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #28
Randy wrote
Quote
I still state that a true "cue note" is by default not to be played - it exists primarily to help the performer be sure when his coming entrance is, and secondarily to be played if its instrument needs supplementing.

Add "or substituting" to supplementing. 

In large ensembles like a concert band, the more important bits of the colour instrument parts will be written as cue notes on other instruments so they will be covered if the band doesn't have that instrument.  

Quote
However, what is also needed (and supported separately in MusicXML) is a "cue size" - this allows regular notes to be displayed at the smaller size, while still maintaining all other attributes of regular notes (including playback).
Agreed.  I want my cue notes to be beamable, accidentalizable, etc.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #29
I chose the word "supplement" very carefully, to attempt to include (with brevity) all cases where cue notes might be played!  :-)
Quote
Supplement - Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #30
I was looking at Rick G's first .nwc example, and was wondering about a few things. Why did he set the stems to zero length, rather than matching the length and direction of the corresponding note in the other staff? The editor seems to display zero length stems as gray (or olive (?) on the active staff). When overlapping objects (on layered staves) have different colors, it looks like when neither stasff is active, the color displayed is from the physically lower staff. So, when layered in the editor (and the bottom staff active), the stems and beams are gray. I tried setting the stem lengths to match in both of the layered staves, and it looks much better in the editor. (One slur end moved slightly.) But I can't figure why the stem of the second note (lower layered staff) is still gray. Can someone explain it?

Never mind. I see that that note (only) is hidden. I'm not sure why, since it was headless, with zero length.
  • Last Edit: 2011-01-24 01:11 am by fathafluff

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #31
Rick's example definitely hid stems at times (via a stem length of 0) when it technically didn't have to.  But he was mostly demonstrating cue-sized notes, and not layering techniques so much.  I enter a lot of music with overlapping stems, and prefer to never hide any of them.  This ensures that the stem of the layered notes will always have the correct length, and not be too short.  This works great for half notes and quarter notes, but eighth notes and shorter frequently require some of their stems be lengthened, so as to align flags or beams.  Some folks will prefer to just turn off the shorter stem in this case, rather than getting the length just right.  But another benefit of getting all stems right is that you can successfully print off each part in isolation, if you ever want to be able to do that.  I did notice one neat use of turning off stems in Rick's example - you may have to do this if you want overlaid slurs in differing directions.

Re: "Optional" Notes -- Ossia Segments
Reply #32
Why did he set the stems to zero length, rather than matching the length and direction of the corresponding note in the other staff? [...] I tried setting the stem lengths to match in both of the layered staves, and it looks much better in the editor. (One slur end moved slightly.)
Prior to NWC2.1, editor clutter was an issue and I would have done much as you have done. Now that I can toggle to viewer mode, it makes more sense to hide things rather than trying to overlay them exactly.

But I can't figure why the stem of the second note (lower layered staff) is still gray. Can someone explain it? Never mind. I see that that note (only) is hidden. I'm not sure why, since it was headless, with zero length.
It is hidden to hide the tenuto articulation.
Registered user since 1996