Cautionary accidentals: Is there no control over the number of measures?

There are times when it makes sense for cautionary accidentals to look back over several bars. It appears to me that Dorico only allows cautionary accidentals to be recognized from the previous bar. Is that true?

Yes, that’s right.

I too would love to see some more control over this in a future update. Perhaps a user definable # would be nice. I especially would like to see a setting to ignore multi-bar rests, so if a performer has an F# whole note, 3 bars rest (or 23 bars), and then an F natural, then the cautionary would automatically appear on the F natural regardless of the length of the multi-bar rest between the notes.

I also think that behavior following a key change might be a little different than behavior within a given key signature.

I am able to show the accidentals manually at present, so it isn’t a huge problem. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking something. I do think there is room for a little more elegance/intelligence as the product evolves.

Unless something has changed and I’ve missed it, there is a potentially bigger problem if you start “editing” Dorico’s cautionary accidentals. If you hide one of them, and then change something else of the score so that it is no longer cautionary, it stays hidden, but the score plays back correctly if you do audio proofreading.

Here be dragons … :imp:

Starting with no automatic cautionaries and adding them manually might end up with a redundant accidental if you edit the music later, but at least the visible notation always means what it says.

Another deficiency IMO is there is no control over limiting “cross staff” cautionaries on multi-staff instruments. Sometimes it takes a while to even find what has made a cautionary appear, when there is no musical logic for writing it!

Yes, this is my case. Personally I don’t think I would ever hide a cautionary accidental, although I suppose there are cases where that could make sense. Most of my music is for reading with limited (or no) rehearsal time, so I am fanatical about things to help the player avoid mistakes. Also I do a lot of jazz scores that have loads of color tones (needing “out of key” accidentals), so cautionaries are often helpful to get the player back to the basic tones of the key. (I ALWAYS use parentheses for cautionaries.) If I were doing hymnals or something like that, I’m sure I’d have a completely different attitude.

Generally speaking, the current behavior (looking back one measure) does what I would want. I had a part this week where I really thought a cautionary 2 bars out would make sense, as it seemed like a case where a player was likely to make a mistake. I added it manually, with a parenthesis. That’s OK. I think if I had the option, I’d default to 2 bars, especially in “short measures” (i.e. 2/4, 3/4, 3/8).

In a situation like this, the cautionary is just silly. Nobody in their right mind would ever think of playing F# in the right hand.

If somebody insists on showing a cautionary F natural, it should be on the first chord of the bar, not the second. The natural on the second chord makes it look as if the second chord is different from the first one, which is unnecessary confusion.
Pointless cautionary.png

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It is a good example. And your comment was the first thing that came to mind for me. Because the r.h. pitches are not changing at beat 2, then the cautionary makes no sense there, and could lead to a performance error. But of course, the conventions for cautionaries don’t work that way.

I also hope that this will get improved. I mean Rob Tuley‘s example.

Hi, there is already an option in the Notation options for cautionary accidentals in the same bar in another octave. I can’t say, what it’s called exactly in English, becaue I use the German version. At least for Rob’s example there is an easy solution.

I think there are several possible improvements:

  • Disable all “cross staff” cautionaries on multi-staff instruments.
  • Don’t display a cautionary, if the same pitch (and the same octave) occurred earlier in the bar without a cautionary.
  • Don’t display a cautionary, if the same pitch (and octave) occurred on the previous note, without a cautionary.
  • When an accidental occurs in one voice, consider notes which are currently sounding in other voices as candidates for cautionaries. (In other words, generate “pre-emptive cautionaries” - which makes sense, since human players usually read ahead of what they are actually playing)

The first one looks the simplest, both for users to understand and to implement. It would need some time looking at published scores to decide if the others are worth making into a general rule. They would apply to multiple voices on one staff, as well as multi-staff instruments.

All this is motivated by keyboard scores and “common practice” tonal music. The rules for several performers reading from one staff might be different.

  • Also, don’t repeat cautionaries unnecessarily within the same bar. The attachment is an extreme example, but it can happen in more realistic situations.
    repeated cautionaries.png
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One instance of cautionaries that I remove, which is “layout-specific”, is seeing cautionary accidentals on the first note of a system – immediately after the key sig has been displayed.

Not only is it unnecessary – you’ve just been shown the key sig! – but it’s potentially confusing.

Obviously, if the layout changes, you have to check everything again. :unamused:
Screenshot 3.png

This. I currently fix these one by one.

Another thing is that in choral writing, the Soprano staff will often be shown cautionaries after an accidental in the Bass part (at a different octave). Because, you know: singers. :wink:

+1 for all of this!

This happens a lot in my present project, and it’s certainly sub-optimal.