Suggestion: Another Natural Harmonic Notation style

Dear Dorico

Congrats on another wonderful update!

I was wondering if Dorico could support a rather newer style of natural harmonic notation which I think helps with clarity and consistency of harmonic notation in general. It is: for all natural harmonics, one notates them as if they were artificial harmonics but puts the open string note in brackets and sized as a cue (see attached).

This type of notation is already possible in Dorico, but must be done manually. It would be awesome if it was a style that could be chosen from in the harmonics properties panel.

Best wishes


Thanks for the suggestion, Conrad. Can you tell us a bit more about where this notation came from, and which composers/publishers are using it?

Usually, the open string is not notated as far as I know.

However, a small note is not bad for reading and playing at least for beginners, I think. Otherwise, we need “Sul sol” or “Sul IV”, and it is too complicated.

In the following example (Ravel’s Tzigane), especially in Rehearsal number 14, you can find some examples of natural harmonics (without indicating open strings):

Engraving those parts using notation software was one of my favourite homeworks when I taught Finale and Sibelius for “Digital Music Notation” at universities.

Thanks for the quick reply, Daniel!
This notation comes from instances of Vivaldi where he has a scalar passage of harmonics that are produced using both artificial and natural ones, yet the notation is consistent and uses two noteheads (the fundamental and node) to show all harmonics.

This new notation works as follows:
Notate ALL harmonics using two notes: the fundamental and the node.
If the fundamental needs to be depressed (i.e. artificial harmonic), the notehead must be normal-sized. If not, it should be cue-sized and bracketed.
If the node sounds as written, the notehead must be written normally with the degree sign (Omitting the fundamental note here is optional).
If the node does not sound as written, the notehead must be a diamond. (Using actual-sounding suggestive notes is optional).

I have attached a sample of all these aforementioned types. I have seen this notation in composers such as Hendrik Hofmeyr and I use it in my own music.

You are right, the open string isn’t usually notated, but I agree with you find that a small note showing the string is clearer and saves more space than “sul IV”, especially when you have harmonic barolage passages.

The problem with Ravel’s notation with just diamond noteheads leaves some harmonic nodes to be ambiguous - for example, the B diamond notehead at Figure can be played on the G-string (resulting in a B sounding 1 octave above the node) or on the D-string (resulting in an F# two octaves above the D open string). Leonardo Lebas wrote a whole paper on Ravel’s notation of string harmonics (String Harmonics in Ravel's Orchestral Works | PDF | Double Bass | Orchestras).

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Yes, I know the problem. Thus, I prefer to use a small note to indicate the open string. However, this is still not common.
Anyway, I also would like to have this feature!

It may not be common notation, but when quarter notes are used, there are many instances where the length of the note is unclear since the diamond head is white. I have always used bracketed notes in these instance as they help showing that the note in a quarter-note in length. It’s cleaner than using guide-notes on top of a passage containing quarter note natural harmonics with diamonds.

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This is true! And the proposed notation also assists with this, as the small notes can indicate rhythmic values, too. :slight_smile:

Hi Daniel,
this notation is used in some European scores. It’s practical when more than one harmonic position is possible and you don’t want to use the Ic, IIc, IIIc, IVc indications.
A composer using this notation is Azio Corghi whose publisher is Casa Ricordi (and his students).

Thanks for the citation, Lorenzo. Is there a particular piece of his you’d recommend to see this notation in use?

Hm, He uses this notation a lot in his orchestral scores…now I haven’t them with me here in Paris. I can ask some of his students to send me some examples.
But, it is very simple to do: basically, you put into rounded parentheses the note indicating the string on which to play the natural harmonics and you can use a diamond white note for the position to finger. In the end is the same notation of artificial harmonics except that you use the open string between parentheses.
This has the additional advantage to let you use the duration of the parenthesized note (because if you want to use the white diamond note you always risk to have an ambiguity between half-notes and quarter notes… durations).
[In fact, Salvatore Sciarrino, a composer who uses natural harmonics extensively, writing them with diamond notes, is obliged to indicate on top of the staff the precise durations of some notes that can be interpreted ambiguously]

One example

Daniel, I am also happy to privately email you some of my usage of this system if you’d like?

The followings should be discussed when implementing this feature:

  1. the notehead size of the open string

  2. a pair of parentheses of the open string

  3. the kind of the parentheses

  4. a symbol to indicate open strings.
    e.g.: on violin, open string II (MIDI pitch number 69) must be indicated to avoid confusion with non-open string. I think a pair of parentheses is not good for this purpose. alphabet “o” in notehead would be not bad.

I personally think parentheses are not necessary. It is redundant. Without parentheses, the notation is simpler and still clearer.

I think that, even if these parentheses are redundant from a graphical point of view, they are extremely useful for the player because they give him/her at a glance the information that he/she has not to put a finger on the open string.

Bumping this as it would be useful for my notation as well

Re: Bumping. Please respect forum guidelines

I don’t think a +1 on a 3-year-old FR qualifies as a bump… my two cents.

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If it was on the list then, it will still be on the list now.

Sorry I hadn’t read that post – how should I indicate support for feature requests in the future?