A plea - note entry in "no key sig" parts.

Please please please give us an option to not have dorico enter “intelligent” accidentals when writing music into “no key sig” staves. This would make it much much more brainless to copy music from existing scores as one can simply enter the accidentals AS WRITTEN.

This is INCREDIBLY annoying when entering parts for, e.g., natural horn where accidentals are practically non-existent as they aren’t in the harmonic series.

I don’t understand the second part about natural horns (and I’ve entered pages of them, starting with Dorico 1). If you set the correct options for viewing a transposing/non-transposing score, entering notes at written or sounding pitch, and make sure the horn instrument is the correct key, this should “just work.”

Tyler, are you asking for Dorico not to retrospecitvely adjust note spellings in MIDI input? If so, there’s an option for this in Note Input Options. If not, please provide a bit more information so I can understand the nature of the problem you’re encountering a little more easily. Thank you!

This is admittedly a big guess, but I wonder if they are referring to note entry without a MIDI keyboard. Currently, if a piece is in B♭ Major and one is entering notes via computer keyboard in an instrument without a key signature, such as Horn in F (no key), if one presses B on the computer keyboard, one gets B♭, because that is the prevailing global key signature. The key signature is hidden, not overridden.

Really what would be best would be if the (no key) version of instruments was more of an atonal key signature for the one staff, rather than merely hiding the global key signature from that instrument. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if there’s no good way to do that on the backend, but on the front end it means that, in order to get note entry to work as desired or expected with computer keyboard, one would have to manually add a one-staff atonal key signature, in which case using the (no key) version of an instrument becomes obsolete.

This issue is completely sidestepped by using a MIDI keyboard though, since Dorico doesn’t have to presume your accidentals based on the key signature.

If that guess is correct, a work round is to create an F key signature on just the Horn in F part (press Alt-Enter instead of Enter using the popover). Then, CDEFGABC on the computer keyboard will always mean “naturals” in a transposing score.

But Tyler was talking about natural horns, and the limited number of transposed-pitch notes shouldn’t need a key signature anyway.

Yes, that’s exactly it.

Well, yes, that’s precisely the issue. You can add a one-staff key signature to fix this issue, but if you’re dealing with music written with natural horns then you’ve likely got a Horn 1 part which is in E, F, A♭, G, D, etc…now multiply that for three more horns. It’s a LOT of work arounds.

This is presumably a problem only when copying out a transposed part, is it? Because in my experience (not as extensive as either of yours, Tyler and Joshua, I have no doubt) these instruments are playing music that is congruent with the global key signature, so it’s normally helpful for the key signature to be respected, right?

No, not helpful. Because when copying from an existing part any accidentals are marked. So “respecting” the key signature is purely more work. Much easier to monkey see-monkey do without thinking about it and be able to (re)enter the part as-is.

For anything written for natural horn, the only accidentals even possible are the two Bbs an octave/two octaves above middle C. Anything else requires advanced techniques and so was rarely used.

For instance, I just scanned through the horn parts for Beethoven 9. Across a total of maybe 10,000 bars, there are fewer than 50 accidentals, and ~40 of those are Ebs in the 1st and 2nd horn, in the first section of the piece.

The 3rd and 4th horns have 4 accidentals total in the entire work… 2 Ebs each in the finale.

Would an input setting like “Favor Flats” or “Favor Sharps” help in this case, if those were selectable options for open key or no key sig staves? You’d still have to flip some when using both sharps and flats, but if all D#/Ebs would default to flats, at least it would be predictable.

Honestly, I write in open key a lot and would I probably like a setting like that too. I’m not sure it would more accurate than Dorico’s default spelling, but at least it would be predicable and I would know what was input from my MIDI keyboard without having to look up at the screen. If I had Favor Flats selected, hit an F#/Gb on my MIDI keyboard and wanted an F# I could flip it with a keystroke without haven’t to stop and look at the screen to see what accidental Dorico picked. I would already know it was a flat that needed to be flipped. It might not save keystrokes but would likely save time as I wouldn’t need to stop input to look.

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I would also like to see a setting for favouring sharps or flats during note input. There are plenty of instances in which Dorico can’t possibly figure out which accidental might be the best or necessary choice, and being able to select one or the other beforehand would keep us from having to check each time if Dorico’s choice was correct for that situation.

This is actually a really good question. I have to admit sheer ignorance here — I had not considered this because I literally never type up music that wasn’t already printed/written (additionally, I’m long past using the computer keyboard as my main note entry, but it comes up occasionally). I don’t know if people freely composing into transposed non-key instruments have a similar concern when using the computer keyboard. They may indeed find the lingering global key signature helpful and logical or maybe they feel the same way. I really can’t say.

Thanks for the feedback, all. We’ll certainly think about how we might best to able to address this requirement in future.

I bumped into this just today for the first time, and it was quite a shock. I’m entering/editing an existing orchestral score, with no-key-signature horn parts. It begins in E major, but within a few measures has modulated into an F minor sort of area. So when Horn 1 enters in bar 10, its notes need no accidentals. And as I enter them, Dorico “helpfully” puts sharps on most of the notes. I was sure it was something I had accidentally set wrong, but it turns out to be expected behavior. Possibly it’s useful to someone somewhere, but not to me; I feel able to take care of my own accidentals. I too would hope for this to be changed, or at least an option created so it can be set whichever way one wishes.

This is a thorny question for UI. I always use key signatures for note entry, and remove them later if necessary. You can change the instrument types to no-key afterward with no damage.

Long yarn for those who are interested

There is disagreement even among brass players (not to mention composers) about whether key sigs in their parts are good or bad. For me they are informative: As a woodwind player I like seeing what key everyone is in, and I am used to glancing over to the left to remind myself if needed. For a conductor key sigs help to see instrument transpositions at a glance; with no key sig, accidentals appear in different places than for everybody else, which tends to make notes look like isolated pitches rather than fitting with the harmony.

But for a brass player who is used to reading changing transpositions and having every note marked only if not natural, I can see how changing one’s reading habits would be difficult and unrewarding.

I always use key sigs when copying because I’m hearing the music in my head and they simplify note entry. I will even put in a temporary key sig when a passage moves into an obvious different key area – to save on entering accidentals manually and reduce the danger of enharmonic errors – and delete it once all the notes are in. When copying from no-key brass parts, I like to observe where the accidentals appear in different places as part of proofing.

My first project to help me learn Dorico (7 weeks ago) was remarkably similar to Rinaldo’s: I chose Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Overture. (Starts in F♯m, soon Fm, then Em, etc.) I read an engraved score off an iPad and copied the whole piece with no sound because I hadn’t bothered to install the enormous sound library. (I later installed and fixed up the sounds, and found all my note errors in the A-Clarinets by ear.)

Since the scanned score was slow to display on the iPad, at first I thought I’d try working from someone’s computer recopy of the work (at the bottom of the list on IMSLP). But in the first 3 pages there were enough note errors that I had to check against the engraved score anyway, I gave up on that edition. Some of the wrong notes were in the Horns, the result of copying by eye with a key sig from a score with no key sig and not noticing an accidental was needed because they didn’t hear the music in their head.

Overall the Tchaikovsky was fun to recopy, with all its repetitions of material a semitone apart, at different levels of structure.

Practices and preferences differ on this, definitely. As long ago as 1910, Forsyth was pleading in his orchestration book for giving horns key signatures, just like everyone else. But this has by no means happen – particularly in the UK, where even recent orchestration text books warn about the dire things that can happen if one misguidedly sets a key signature in front of a horn player. But this didn’t stop some British composers (like Britten) using them all the same. In the US, key signatures became more common for horns (though no doubt with some exceptions), and certainly they seem to be the rule in popular music – theater, film, and recording.

n the US, key signatures became more common for horns (though no doubt with some exceptions), and certainly they seem to be the rule in popular music – theater, film, and recording.

For commerical works (film scores, etc), almost eveyrthing I’ve ever seen doesn’t use key sigs for anything. Just accidentals.

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It’s very common in jazz too. For any highly chromatic music or music without a key center I’d much rather read open key than a key sig. And unless your name is Bela, I’d recommend never using modal or unconventional key sigs. Musicians hate them. Key sigs denote specific tonal centers and are not just to minimize accidentals. Key of two flats is Bb major or G minor, not F mixolydian. I hate jazz arrangements that put an F Blues in two flats, just use one and accidentals.

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I agree about modal key sigs. I sang a piece by John Amner (1579–1641) just yesterday morning with that exact key sig! We all had to write in the E♭s by hand even though it was in the key sig.

And of course none of this discussion of key sigs applies to non-tonal music. But in recent decades I have increasingly encountered the opposite: music that is quite tonal but the composer refuses to admit it by using key signatures. [curtailing OT rant]

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Yes, I spoke within too narrow a frame of reference, and might better have held my tongue. Especially in music that changes tonality often, neutral/atonal key is generally preferred. I have special reason to be aware of this, as I am editing a full score of a musical for publication. It dates from 1943 and in general uses key signatures – but the big ballets don’t.