Dorico making 'wrong' choices re enharmonic spelling in transposing parts

Hi there,

I’m inputting music for a saxophone quartet. I’ve set the key to ‘Atonal’, and am just starting to look at the parts.
Dorico has made some weird enharmonic decisions in the baritone sax part (bass clef in score, treble part). I’m seeing an F double sharp (which, unless I’m mistaken, should generally not be used in keyless music?) Also, Dorico has spelt (by default) a lot of C naturals as B sharps.

I have made sure ‘prefer simpler accidentals’, is checked, but that seems to have had little effect. I know I can re-spell these manually, but I’m sure there’s got to be a better way?

Thank you!

Are you inputting via MIDI or QWERTY input? I assume you were inputting in concert pitch?

Bit of both, Daniel. Does that make a difference? And yes, generally inputting at concert pitch, although not exclusively.

I’d expect you to get reasonable results when inputting using either method, but when inputting via MIDI, Dorico is doing different things than it is when you’re inputting via QWERTY because, of course, it has to infer the accidental, and it does so in a contextual way based on the notes you have already input. In general you will find that the spelling in the transposed pitch maintains the intervals in concert pitch: I’m not sure that the options to simplify accidentals apply when you’re in an open key, however.

Thanks Daniel, yes that makes sense. So, given that, by now, I’ve virtually no memory of how the notes were inputted at any given point, is there any way beyond going through each part manually and tweaking each note individually to knock things into shape? I relied heavily on a plugin called ‘re-spell uncommon accidentals’ in Sibelius for many years. I wonder whether there’s a preference somewhere in Dorico which might achieve the same thing? Thank you for your help!

You could probably somehow use the Filter Notes of Pitches dialog to select all double sharps and then respell them? It won’t be as quick as a single run of a plug-in in Sibelius.

That’ll do for now, thanks Daniel!

The filter notes by pitch feature is very useful for correcting the awkward enharmonic spellings that Dorico produces in parts. Like the OP, I have an atonal piece with a baritone sax part, and the resulting part needs a lot of these corrections. I hope the Dorico team will revisit enharmonic spelling after transposition (both for parts, for alt/arrow keys, or transposition popup) to make this less labor intensive. I imagine that enharmonic spelling for tonal music is an especially tough problem to automate in a way that scales, but atonal music should be a lot easier. It would be great if Dorico would merely avoid double flats/sharps, Cb/Fb/E#/B#, and optimize the rest to minimize diminished and augmented intervals. This isn’t quite what Elaine Gould would prefer, but the result would require far fewer corrections than that provided by the current transposition/spelling algorithm.

Is there some command that can set all notes back to their default spelling? I have made a real mess of enharmonic spellings a few times and wised there were a way to get back to a reasonable starting point.

No, there’s no way to do that at the moment, but we plan to add a feature to respell a passage of music using an algorithm based on the PS13 algorithm so this would become a good way to respell large passages of existing music.

A respelling function will definitely be appreciated. However, after perusing https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e688/861cec430ff0265f3d6f174f882a2040aa47.pdf
I am concerned that this will not produce good results for atonal music. All of the test music is tonal, and the algorithms all seem to revolve around testing notes for membership in a key.

That’s correct, PS13 was developed as a means of determining optimal pitch spelling in tonal music. I didn’t mean to imply that it would be the best solution for your specific use case, so I apologise for not making that sufficiently clear.

Just wondering, is there a way when inputting with a midi keyboard, just before you play say a Bb/A#, you hit the sharp key and it will ‘choose’ to input the note as the A#? If not might I suggest this as a feature to avoid having to go back and respell later.

P. S. Unfortunately I can’t test this at the moment. Apologies if this is exactly how it already works!

ok, I’ve been able to test this now and I think this could be a good idea, as hitting flat/sharp/natural when in note input mode doesn’t have a function. The logic could be something like this:

If midi note 70 (A#4/Bb4) is played while in input mode AND the sharp symbol is activated, then spell the note as A#4. This is like a user override and would take priority over other spelling algorithms for that note.

Does this sound like a good idea?

I’m not sure it’s any better than typing Alt+= after you have input the note, which will respell the selected note.

Both the approach that Dorico already implements and your idea only make any sense for inputting single notes; if you’re inputting a chord it’s quite possible for there to be multiple accidentals in the chord that you would not want all spelled the same way.

Hrmm. Fair point with chords. I’m just wondering about speed entry and being skilled enough to enter multiple bars without taking your eyes off the manuscruipt you’re copying from…

Learn to touch type, and forget the MIDI keyboard?

Instead of pressing the sharp key and then go back to the MIDI keyboard to press a note, why not just press “sharp” A instead?

MIDI keyboard input is great when the music is straightforward enough for it to work. Otherwise, just typing the notation you want can be quicker than playing “guess the enharmonic” with the PC.

Thanks Rob, I do like your responses! Very practical and useful (i’m not being sarcastic, I do mean it!)

So maybe I have this ideal workflow in my head that’s unrealistic. I would like to enter pages and pages of music in the shortest time possible. I know some do this in multiple passes, first getting the notes in, then going back for articulation, enharmonics etc. I guess I’m wondering if it was possible to enter everything in as you are right there, at that bar, if this would speed things up in the end? And I guess this is where my query comes in, being able to hit a keystroke you already know to instruct Dorico on the next note, make it the chosen accidental spelling.

As a pianist, I’m much faster on the midi keyboard than on the keyboard. Instantly play the correct octave etc. I like pianoleo’s workflow of one hand on the keyboard(gamepad) and one hand on the midi keyboard. That makes a lot of sense to me, and it’s how I’m working.

Daniel, what about if it worked only if not in chord mode? After I have played the note, I am ready to move on to the next note and want to do this as fast as possible. In this respect, I suggest an override before the note is played/entered is useful.

It also would give users flexibility in how they work. I want to keep my eyes on the manuscript as long as possible without looking at the screen. And I have no way of knowing how Dorico has spelled the note until I look at the screen. For me anyway, I can see this as being helpful.

Bear in mind that, unless you’ve told it not to, Dorico may respell notes dependent on what’s come before and what comes after. For this reason, I save my respelling for a second pass rather than doing it as I go along.

It strikes me that in some circumstances you don’t know how Dorico’s going to spell something until after you’ve played it (and the next note or three). With your suggestion I wonder if you’d end up pressing the sharp shortcut a lot, entirely unnecessarily, and you’d find it difficult to assess whether it had been unnecessary or not.

hrmm. interesting. What about if it acts as an override just for that bar?

How often are you needing to enharmonically shift after note entry? Would you say you are happy with the way Dorico makes these decisions?