Microtonal Support

Just a note- Scala files can be used in Steinberg Halion, the sampler, but it is not available in Halion Sonic SE, the player that ships with Dorico.

Jude, a fixed scale of just intonation can be approximated arbitrarily close by an EDO. Your 21 note scale, which I assume to be C C# Db D D# Eb etc. where sharp and flat alter by 25/24 and the white notes are 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3 etc. could be defined in 72edo so that the white note scale is defined in steps as (0,)12,11,7,12,11,12,7 and sharp and flat defined as 4 steps. If you want better accuracy in the playback, you can use a larger EDO, such as 205EDO.
Any accidentals and any EDOs can already be used and defined in Finale, with correct playback (polyphonic, without pitchbend). For example, I use 31EDO notation and playback in Finale for ¼-comma meantone; they’re virtually identical. However, a re-tunable instrument has to be used, with tuning scripts such as scala, and one is limited to 128-note tunings on a single midi channel. Obviously this is not enough for larger EDOs so Dorico’s proposed VST3 note expression method is extremely welcome.
However, music with fixed scales in Just Intonation is a special case, whereas in principle JI has an infinite number of pitches and the notation (Johnston, Sabat-v.Schweinitz, etc.) likewise an infinite number of accidental combinations. A Johston symbol font is unlikely to include all the combined accidentals needed for notating a string quartet by Johnston himself. There may be a symbol for the seventh harmonic of the seventh harmonic (77) but what if the composer decides need that flattened by 25/24 and 77b is missing in the font? For notating JI, it would be ideal to be able to combine accidentals freely and have the combinations play back correctly. No notation software is able to do this - “cumulative” accidentals -, although Finale and Mus2 do handle non-equal tunings with microtonal accidentals.
Finale is already capable of notating JI the way Jude describes above (”…those adjustments can be connected to the use of custom accidentals (or any accidental)”. This is rather awkward, though, because in this case the accidentals are manually inserted text symbols, and pitchbends are used for playback in addition to script-tuning (for the unequal white note scale). But the accidentals do send out the pitchbend messages themselves. Dorico promises less if I understood correctly.

As a microtonal composer who often works in JI, I’m disappointed by Dorico’s decision to leave out full support for this important area of 20th and 21th Century music, apparently the only reason being that it’s trickier to program than EDO’s - only few of which are as popular and wide-spread among microtonalists as JI.

It’s not missing. I designed the Johnston accidental glyphs in Bravura myself, and they combine very nicely.

For notating JI, it would be ideal to be able to combine accidentals freely and have the combinations play back correctly.

My discussions with Daniel 3 years ago led me to believe this is exactly what Dorico will offer. Set your score to play in J.I. in the key of C, and each accidental symbol adjusts by a number of cents (hopefully to 4 decimal places to handle multiplying hugely built-up accidentals without a rounding error). Choose a provided Johnston library of some more common accidentals and add more as your piece requires them.

Correct playback will require more work in the VST area, but it is definitely planned.

Well, this is excellent news! Having to build up an ever-expanding library of compound accidentals is not as economic or elegant than having just the small number of primary accidentals and being able to add them up directly in the score, but in all fairness, the more complex the accidental combination, the more remote and thus the rarer the ratio is, so in practice one gets by with a reasonable-sized library without having to add new compound symbols in it too often.
I’m very glad to hear I was mistaken - I thought that Dorico is going to concentrate on equal divisions, and non-equal systems, while not ruled out, are not in the works in any foreseeable future. The system you describe where the accidentals do not send out midi note transpositions as in EDOs (at least the way Finale deals with EDOs) but tuning adjustments in the VSTi - with some other method than pitch bend - is precisely what is needed for JI and other unequal temperaments.

It would be good to have the option for extended accidentals to be above the notes too.
File attached.
Elegy for Fallen Wellies.jpg

I was wondering when the play back will be supported. It would be great if someone could answer these questions:

  1. How does VST3 implements the microtonal? Does it round to nearest cent?
  2. Dorico need to use a better data structure to accommodate customer’s needs. Scala is one!
  3. What is the smallest pitch change ( as a fraction of cent) that human can detect?

Here is wikipedia’s article on “cent” and just noticeable difference (JND) - did you look at this already?
“Note that the JND for pitch difference is 5–6 cents. Played separately, the notes may not show an audible difference, but when they are played together, beating may be heard (for example if middle C and a note 10 cents higher are played). At any particular instant, the two waveforms reinforce or cancel each other more or less, depending on their instantaneous phase relationship. A piano tuner may verify tuning accuracy by timing the beats when two strings are sounded at once.”

Steve Parker that looks like a pretty terrific trombone quintet!

Thank you, Stephen! If you have a quintet of trombones you are welcome to the score?

Following that we have the largest JND ( solo, combined, complex sine wave, simple sine wave,etc) is attained at 20 Hz and that is 21/20 = 1.05 or as you mentioned is 5 cents. That means that developers can focus on cents ( I suppose they are doing ), when they are developing the data structure.

Thank you Stephen.

Would be nice if someone could answer they other two questions. :slight_smile:

The JND depends wildly on context. Two sine waves - anyone can hear the difference between 700 and 702 cents.
In some contexts, it is possible to hear less than a cent. I’ve spent years trying to pin down what is ‘good enough’ in terms of equivalent ratios, but without real satisfaction.

Something is wrong there. A frequency ratio of 1.05 is 84 cents (nearly a semitone) not 5 cents. Measuring musical intervals, “cent” means 1/1200 of an octave or 1/100 of a semitone.

Yep. The formula (for anyone that cares) is log (x/y) x 1200/log 2 where x/y is the ratio.

Hello everyone,

Microtonal music is a focus for me both as a composer and programmer. I’m the inventor of Tonal Plexus keyboards and everything found at http://hpi.zentral.zone

I’m very glad to see microtonal support in Dorico, and would like to offer my help to the development team on this topic in whatever way I can. I use an expanded notation system for my microtonal music http://musictheory.zentral.zone/huntsystem1.html and would be very interested to know if Dorico could be used to produce this expanded staff output.

As far as microtonal output, until Dorico’s native microtuned output is working (which it sounds like could take a long while, for reasons related to VST3), a feature which would be very helpful in the mean time would be to provide external MIDI output. I heard from a Dorico team member that this is planned for a future release.

As soon as Dorico supports sending MIDI to virtual ports, Dorico users can simply connect playback to other apps in order to get microtonal playback. The free software Scala provides playback functionality in a limited way, though it’s hard to get it working on a Mac. I’ve written several commercial apps for this purpose, the best known of which is called microsynth. It is a multi-timbral microtonal soundfont synth with a lot of advanced functions not found in any free tool. Features list and download at http://hpi.zentral.zone/microsynth

Also, if anyone has questions for me about microtonal stuff in general, rather than posting on the Dorico forum (where the focus needs to be Dorico!), please reach me through email at http://hpi.zentral.zone/email Thanks.

Best Regards,
Aaron Andrew Hunt

A lot of notation systems (including Ben Johnston’s) would be catered for by being able to define the pitches of notes in a key (for example C major: the ‘white’ notes), as well as self defined accidentals. This isn’t too far from current functionality and would allow a lot of non-equal systems to be easily used.

Indeed. That’s precisely how the above-mentioned Mus2 works but Mus2 has its own internal playback synth. For midi instruments and softsynths it’s a bit complicated; that’s how I write Johnston’s notation in Finale, by first defining the tuning of the white notes using a re-tunable sound module (with .scl files, .tun files etc), and then defining pitch bend values for the accidental symbols.

Aaron’s ideas above are very promising. Aaron, hope you’re in contact with the Dorico team. It’s good to hear virtual midi ports are planned in an update in the near future; for microtonal playback the accidental symbols would need to send pitchbend messages or some midi data, so that would also have to be implemented.
Before that there’s no microtonal playback in Dorico and we just have to wait for the VST3 implementation which is still a big question mark.

The only complication in Finale is that you can’t combine accidentals, so you need a lot of separate ones. I have my own charts for this stuff which anyone is welcome to.

It’s not possible to combine accidentals in Dorico, either, so for an open JI system one has to build an ever-expanding library of accidentals.

I only now noticed that you discussed this with Daniel as long as three years ago. I was in contact with him, on the subject of microtonal notation, about one year ago. What he wrote indicates that using a JI notation system in Dorico with correct playback will be difficult, and probably impossible in Dorico’s own (still nonexistent) microtonal playback implementation:

“Our plan with support for microtonal accidentals is to allow you to define your own system of accidentals; the only practical restriction is that the system must be expressable as an equal number of divisions of the octave.”
“I’m sorry that we’re unable to accommodate just intonation tuning systems completely correctly in our application. We did talk about it at some length, but [–] the complexity of supporting arbitrary unequal divisions was judged to be too great at this stage.”

At the risk of repeating myself, I just don’t understand the complication. Define the pitch of un-accented notes, provide definable, combinable accidentals.