J.S. Bach BWV 106 “Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit” - A figured bass exercise

Hello all,

I posted a bit of figured bass as a short example once, but I thought I’d share something more comprehensive to see if would help people. Dorico does not have a figured bass tool at the moment, and it may take quite a while before that is done.

I’ll be conducting J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 106 “Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit” in about three weeks, and since the set we got from another institution seems to be missing its “organ” part (those tend to be a pain in the neck anyway), I thought I would make my own for the positiv organ and the theorbo, as the original only contains a handful of figures. Also, since I wanted to create a continuo insert for Gamba I in number 3.a (In deine Hände), I thought I might as well put Dorico to the test.

As most people know, it is best to use the lyrics tool for this. I made a separate player for the part and put the figures in as lyrics, except for no. 3.a (which I also set in bass clef only while I left the gamba part in bass and alto clef) because it is special and very sparse. It is best in that mvt to let our organist work it out for herself with the help of the vocal line, which is what I did.

Since there are already lyrics in the score, I used the Lyrics Translation text font and set it to bold instead of Italics, and used Opus Figured Bass which is the font that comes with Sibelius. I also set space between lyrics line to “0” in Engraving Options. I left the Windows character map application in the background for the whole thing, since hovering the mouse over the glyphs gives you the correct characters to type. Every now and then, I had to copy and paste from the app. Figures are stacked by switching lyric lines with the down arrow. After entering a few figures, one can simply alt-click to copy into other notes and sometimes switching lines afterwards through the properties panel. Typing “alt±“ in the lyrics box can also produce makeshift continuation lines which I used on occasion. It is certainly not an ideal mechanism, but the results are actually not bad. It took a few hours, but continuo figures take time anyway, even when using a dedicated tool. On the whole, I would certainly do it again.

For simplicity’s sake, I have “extracted” the basso continuo layout by itself to post it here. I have also included a pdf of it. The files are in Dropbox at:

(for which you will need the Opus Figured Bass font)


Feel free to comment, ask questions or tell me what I could have done faster and/or better.

Cheers all!

Claude, the part looks fantastic!

I used the Lyrics Translation text font and set it to bold instead of Italics, and used Opus Figured Bass

It does not seem to make a difference putting Bold or Regular here (probably Opus Figured Bass has no Bold variant).

One other question, are you really going to use a portativ organ for this cantata?
Instrument: https://youtu.be/Uk4iVold0eU

Hi, Claude !

Nice work, as usual ! I have done a vocal score with figured bass too, but I preferred using text objects with the glyphs from SMuFL site… Here’s the pdf.
Haendel – Giulio Cesare – Se pieta piano exemple Dorico.pdf.zip (151 KB)

I meant a positiv, as in a chest box. Not one of these organetto- type things. Sorry for the confusion!

… and actually, about the bold, what’s funny is that on my windows system, the figures did get “bolded” on screen. However, I have to admit that it made no difference to the printing. So you are right that it is an unnecessary step.

Marc: that looks great! The text approach favours the figures moving close to the notes and the lyrics favours keeping them on one line. I’ve never been able to make up my mine as to which I prefer! Bärenreiter put figures on top following the notes closely. I’ve never been a fan of that approach even though that’s how Bach wrote figures …

Dear Claude,
We’ll see what our beloved dev team will bake for us — maybe with all the options available :slight_smile:

So, here’s a question. If one is going the figured bass as text route, I’m wondering what the best way to do extension/suspension lines is. I know people have used crescendos as lines for other things, and I figured I’d give that a shot. Wondering if anyone has some up with something better or if that works well (I’m not at a computer to check y’all’s files that you attached to see if you’ve already answered my question). I’ve got a contemporary piece that uses continuo with about 280 pages of figured bass, so the more efficient, the better :smiley:

And I suppose this piece cannot wait for a proper implementation… Aaaargh

I don’t think crescendo lines would be particularly efficient over 280 pages, although you would get continuous lines. If you don’t mind broken lines, then alt± is faster (and will always line up) but then you need to use the lyrics tool.

I also do a lot of figured bass scores and much prefer using the text objects with SmuFL glyphs.

It looks great!

Looks really good. I’ll try it next time, see what I prefer.

Claude don’t wait too long,
in the mean time we might have a professional solution :wink:

LOL! It’s Rosa Barocca’s last concert, so I’m good until the fall! Still, there is this performing edition of l’Orfeo I want to do …

It looks very good Claude. If I might make just one picayune remark concerning the alignment of the figures…
The numbers should be centred (or perhaps left-aligned) and not right-aligned. Often this doesn’t make any different (as with 7, 4 and 2) but the 6/5 looks skewed. Also the alterations after the numbers shouldn’t affect the vertical alignment of the numbers themselves; e.g. with the 4+/2, the 2 should be vertically aligned with the 4 and not right-aligned with the +. It also looks as though the numbers are aligned with the right side of the noteheads, whereas centring them underneath the middle of the notehead might look better. I was also wondering why you used #6 in some places and 6+ in others.
I’m curious how your experiments with using SmuFL-based text objects will go!
I’ve played continuo in the Actus Tragicus fairly often and have even recorded it. I wish you a wonderful performance!

Thanks Vaughan, much appreciated.

I had of course noticed the alignment issue and figured there probably was nothing that could be done about it, but your comment prompted me to look further, and it turns out that you can left align lyrics through the properties panel! Filtering lyrics and flipping that switch for all four flows was the easiest thing, and I have included a page to show the improved results which are much more aligned with convention (no pun intended). As for the 6+ vs 6#, I knew that too. It is an example of the well known medical condition “figured-bass writing fatigue” where I was getting tired of hunting for what I wanted and entered what was “at hand” at those given moments. I was more “refreshed” a few days ago and corrected most of those after posting.

I’ll have to seek your recording! Your colleague and Nederlands compatriot Siebe Henstra, who also visits this board, is to be seen playing it on a very lovely YouTube video with the Nederlandse Bachvereniging. How’s that for a coincidence!

Thanks again for the feedback.

That’s much better, Claude! BTW, I’m familiar with several medical conditions surrounding figured bass fatigue, like the ones caused by having to play in poorly-lit conditions from parts in which you can hardly read the figures…

Just as a follow up, we performed it last Sunday and the part was very well received by both the organist and the theorbist. They found the figures very easy to read (I am indebted to Vaughan for inspiring me to look further for an digit-alignment solution), and of course, Dorico’s splendid engraving contributed to that even though the font for the figures came from another program. So this technique does indeed work well.

You who prefer to use text objects instead of lyrics, what is the advantage of it? And how do you get the text objects to stay aligned and under the staff?