Author Topic: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues  (Read 984 times)

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Ron

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October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« on: October 01, 2017, 06:09:27 AM »
I was just reading an argument on a forum about the use of ledger lines. String players and tuba players don't mind them; in fact, they seem to revel in them: the more the better. Pianists would rather see 8va and 15va, it seems.

It does occur to me that players of different types of instruments all have their pet peeves and preferences. Woodwind players use slurs to tell them when to breath; string players use slurs to tell them when to change bow direction.


What have you observed along these lines?
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Michel.R.E

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2017, 06:27:03 AM »
as far as pianists and 8va symbols, the general approach is relatively simple:

3-4 ledger lines down is easy to read, particularly in bass clef.

any sort of extended melodic lines set in a lower register (that would require 5+ ledger lines on a continuous basis) are best written one octave up with an 8va sign.

chords or octaves, where the highest note is less than 3 ledger lines below the staff should be left as written (ie: without the octava). pianists are used to extrapolating the lowest note based on the highest.

if spacing in a score is too tight, then by all means, use 8va signs for notes that cause conflicts.

in piano writing, the general consensus is to write for each hand in its own staff.
But there are so often contexts where this doesn't work, it's also something that we seem to be seeing less and less in more modern engraving.

I'm looking at a Prokoviev piano concerto right now, and MOST of it is written each hand in its own staff, with copious use of clef changes... and yet there are a few passages where hands cross over into each other's staves. Clear notation of stems and stem direction are crucial to understanding the little "choreography" that is required for all the hand-crossing.
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tbmartin

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2017, 07:48:15 AM »
Sax players never want to see 8va. The highest standard note is F (or often F#) above the staff, so that's only 3 lines. Once you get above that into the altissimo, I still doubt that ledger lines would be used. However, I don't know from experience: I'm not that good! ;)

Handbells: It's a mix. The most common occurrence is to see notes doubled up the octave. When that happens, the player in the 6 octave will "shelly" the 6 and 7 octave bells and play them together. Sometimes that's notated in full, and other times only the 6 octave is notated and there's a bracket or other symbol to indicate that the next octave up is to also be played. That system is ONLY used if the added octave is going to be for several measures. It's never used for section of shorter than about 4 measures. Either is acceptable, however, from personal experience, it can be confusing if you're the player in a range where sometimes the note should be doubled and sometimes not.

Example: If I'm the D6, E6 player (treble 4th line and 4th space: Handbells notate C5 as "Grand Staff Middle C"), I will typically also cover the 7s. If a section is marked to add the next octave up, if I see a D6, I'll play D6 and D7. However, in that same section, a D5 would also require a D6 to play, but my eyes are following along at the top of the treble staff. I'm NOT going to see that D5 below the treble staff, therefore the D6 will be missed. A good engraver will fully notate that type of section to avoid the error-prone situation.
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Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2017, 11:10:41 AM »
A pianist friend of mine would rather see ledger lines - in either staff - if the notes are reached by a thematic line of 2nds and 3rds, or reached by a sequence of reasonably overlapping chords.   In other words, the relationship of adjacent notes is more important than the number of ledger lines.  I assume she has a limit, though.

Her feeling about clef changes is similar.  She would rather see the thematic or chordal flow if at all possible.

I haven't asked what she wants when hands cross.

A gloss and a question on slurs:
Slurs can be either an indication of legato or a phrase mark for singers.  I assume the same is true for wind and brass players.  Even though I had no trouble interpreting a phrase mark I never heard anybody give specific instructions.  There is sort of an idea of "The musical idea ends there.  Do whatever it takes to make that happen."  It seems to me that that is just as an important concept for string players but I have no idea how to convey it since the slur is a bowing indication to them.   


tbmartin

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2017, 02:03:59 PM »
... Woodwind players use slurs to tell them when to breath...

Not quite: Slurs indicated there's no articulation/tonguing for any note beyond the first. "Ta-a-a-a-a"  No slur means each note is separately articulated/tongued: "Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta"

A player might breathe at the end of a slur, but doesn't have to. The player will never breathe in the middle of a slur unless it is a very long slur with multiple players, in which case players will "sneak" a breath when needed and re-enter unobtrusively, and try not to do it at the same time as someone else.

A "comma breath mark" will be used in the music for a place where the composer wants a clear break in the sound, but otherwise, the timing of breaths is up to the player and not marked.

Edit: Same goes for brass players, btw.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2017, 02:05:58 PM by tbmartin »
Terence Martin

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Play: Saxophones (all, but tenor primary), Bass Clarinet, Piano (poorly)

MikeL

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2017, 11:36:14 AM »
My pet peeve as a viola player is unnecessary use of treble clef.

Happy for two or three ledger lines up to F5, even four to A, pretty much the limit for orchestral playing.

Played Resphigi/Rossini boutique fantastique where we had one note in a bar, G5, written in treble when it could have just been ledger lines.
These aren't the chords you're looking for.

Michel.R.E

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2017, 11:55:44 AM »
one issue with multiple ledger lines is that it can wreck havoc with the spacing of a part.
often an engraver must choose between controlling the spacing, and whether or not the part should change clefs.
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Jerry Engelbach

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2017, 06:55:28 AM »
As a pianist, I don't like too many ledger lines. It slows down the reading.


Composers seem to agree. Classical piano works rarely go beyond four. 8va and 8vb are much easier.
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Ron

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2017, 08:00:35 AM »
Hi Jerry,


Regarding 8vb, this sometimes come up in various forums and gets beaten to death. Michel summarized it all nicely for us in an old post here a couple of years ago in this discussion: http://www.composeforums.com/index.php?topic=21.0 . It's on page 5 of the discussion "When to use 8va" under "Notation." If you scroll down the page you will come across Michel's comments on 8vb.

Note that the Finale makers got rid of 8vb a few versions back, replacing it with 8va, but leaving it as a option for those who insisted on it after very many users complained that 8vb was illiterate and did not make sense.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2017, 01:29:48 PM by Ron »
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Jerry Engelbach

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2017, 09:48:04 AM »
Thanks, Ron. Michel posted his comments about 8vb on the Make Music Forum as well.

Yes, Finale now correctly uses 8va above and below.

8vb strikes me as a form of neologism, even though it's unnecessary. I've probably used it without thinking, just because it was there.

Jazz chord notation is notoriously inconsistent, although we (usually) understand it. I can recall discussions over the use of susb9 vs b9sus, and whether a + sign should signify adding a note or augmenting the fifth.


As a former copy editor, I try to avoid whatever obscures clarity. But the scope of that may be another discussion.

Cheers,
Jer
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flint

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Re: October, 2017: Ledger Lines and other Issues
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2017, 03:51:06 PM »
Poking through old threads today... the following are from the perspective of a professional woodwind player.

Ottava signs (8va)
Woodwind players equate notes' position on the staff with (a) specific fingering(s), i.e., "G equals 12". When you use 8va, you are in effect saying the following: G equals 12, but on Tuesday G equals 43. Today is Wednesday, therefore G equals 3+5a less 26 per half hour past 2:17 p.m. except during leap years.

Comedy aside, there are a handful of appropriate situations for 8va in woodwinds.
  • in the score, for vertical space reasons
  • Flutes: E7 or F7, when not in a scalar passage (and may you be struck with lightning if you consider writing those notes anyway if you're not an avant garde flutist personally. Just don't.)
  • Saxophones: Altissimo notes above written C7

Clef changes
The bassoon and contrabassoon may use theoretically use two clefs (bass and tenor). Realistically, it's best to use bass clef only for contrabassoon, even if you would use tenor clef for a regular bassoon. The written range of the instrument doesn't justify using tenor clef, ever. It's acceptable to use tenor clef for bassoon if there are long stretches of the part above middle C. Do not write notes lower than A3 or G3  in tenor clef - switch to bass clef. Also, do not switch between bass and tenor clef willy nilly, or for a handful of notes. Long passages only.

"German" bass clarinet parts are written in bass and treble clef, sounding a major second lower than written. DO NOT DO THIS. Bass clarinet parts should be written exactly the same manner as other clarinet parts - see "Ottava signs" above.

Breath marks
Breath marks (') should only be used when the entire ensemble is pausing out of time (similar to a Grand Pause, but on a much shorter scale). Let us worry about breathing, it's not your concern, and we'll get irritated if you pedantically mark breathing for us. If you really want us to breathe somewhere for whatever reason, give us a long phrase and shorten the end note with a rest... we'll breathe in that rest naturally.

Page turns
There is no stand partner for woodwind players. For goodness sake give us ample time to turn pages, even if you have to fill a page only half full or leave blank pages (This page left blank intentionally) in the part.

Instrument changes
Tell us:
  • When to move to the other instrument and what instrument it is
  • Remind us of the new instrument at our first note on that instrument, and if it's in a different key, put the new key signature in that first bar
  • Allow us ample time to switch, particularly if the first notes on the new instrument are a solo passage
  • Don't have us switching back and forth willy nilly, especially if it's not an Important part each time
  • Remind us (if we're doubling) at the top of every page which instrument we're playing to save time at rehearsal
« Last Edit: November 01, 2017, 03:58:23 PM by flint »
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