Enharmonic spelling : Dilemma

I’m engraving a contemporary music piece I wrote for an orchestra and I’m facing a dilemma regarding enharmonic spelling. Before jumping into the problematic section, the context is a 10-minute long work which is mostly polytonal and sometimes atonal. It is for highly professional musicians who are not necessarily familiar with contemporary music.

In this passage for flute, starting one bar after O, I’m using the B Lydian Dominant scale (or acoustic scale). The thing is, it has theoretically an E# as the the fourth degree. However, I know players don’t like facing E# and B# when it comes to a new piece with atonal passages (elsewhere). Changing all E# to F natural seems the normal solution but I find it is still not optimal : there are a lot of diminished thirds between F and D# which are odd too. What do you think should I do?
There are similar passages for other woodwinds, brass and strings.
Thanks for your help!


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I vote for using the E#. Consistent, makes sense theoretically, and easier to remember later in the bar.


I’d go for the first option over the second. Using the E# makes the pitch contour more visible and reduces the overall number of accidentals.

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I vote for E# throughout. I’d also put a cautionary natural on the A when it follows the E#.


I agree with Janus.

Eh, I think a natural on the A would just be confusing. as it’s not actually cancelling a previous A#. Modally the passage is the same as F# ascending melodic minor which any professional flute player is going to practice every day as a warmup. Harmonically, the top example seems pretty familiar as is.

My recommendation is to find a flute player and ask them what they would prefer.

I’ve never met an orchestral musician who’s gonna ask himself if he’s playing Lydian while sight-reading! Less contradictory accidentals is better. I wouldn’t hesitate to switch between passages with d#-e#-f# and eb-f-gb depending on what is easier to read. Unless you’re writing for musicologists…

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Personally, I would change all the sharps enharmonically to flats.

If I am going to change passages enharmonically for players, I usually try to do it by phrase rather than in the midst of a phrase; and if I can avoid doing it at all, I do.

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Just popped back in on this thread. I guess I count as a “flute player” as I’m on over a dozen CDs on flute, but as a doubler, I will certainly defer to a “real” flute player if one wants to weigh in. If a non-chromatic passage fits into an existing mode derived from a scale degree of Ionian or ascending melodic minor, then this scale will be exceedingly familiar to the performer and should be notated thus. The OP’s example from O2 to P1 certainly fits this criteria as there is no chromaticism here at all. That this should be all notated as scale degrees from F# ascending melodic minor (B lydian dominant) seems fairly obvious to me and depending on the tempo, will be easily played.

The tempo actually could determine the rhythmic indications here as well IMO. If this is at a reasonable tempo, there are many instances where a 16th followed by a 16th rest could easily be notated by an 8th note with a staccato.

Stick with the E#. If they are professional they can handle it. Besides, E# is a different note to F and string players at least are aware of this, since they do not play in equal temperament (one hopes!).

I musicisti professionisti non hanno alcun problema di lettura, non preoccuparti.

Hi all! Thanks for your answers. I think I’ll go with the E# then

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