Not able to change to enharmonic equivalent of key signature in transposed instruments at multiple points within a single score

• Feb 24, 2023 - 23:12

(Previously posted erroneously here:

If I have a score for alto saxophone (which is an Eb-transposing instrument) that needs to show the key of Db and the key of B, I don't see how this is possible with the way Musescore is forcing a particular correspondence with the concert key signature. At least I can't find it in the documentation or in searching the website.

If I choose concert key of E major, this will get me a C# major key for alto by default. But, I want to see less flats over more sharps, so I choose the global option to bias for the transposed instrument key to flats over sharps. This gives me E major concert = Db major alto. But, for the concert key D major, I want to see the key of B major for alto since 5 sharps is easier to read over 7 flats. However, the flats-over-sharps bias displays this D major concert = Cb major alto relation. This is not desired behavior. Alto players want to read Db major and B major, not C# major and Cb major.

Think about all the pedagogical material for transposing instruments that have exercises/etudes in all keys. The current conceptual implementation in Musescore makes writing these types of documents impossible (as far as I can tell). One can completely get around this issue by just pretending that the document is written for a nontransposing instrument (which is what I have done), but this is just avoiding the problem.

Marc Sabatella's previous comment:
"BTW, it's false to state that Alto players want to read Db major and B major, not C# major and Cb major" - most alto players I know have never seen as many as 3 or 4 in their entire lives and would balk at 5, but see 3, 4, 5, or 6 flats every day of the week and 7 is just one more..."

Re that comment:
Putting aside any idiosyncratic preferences/experiences of individual players in real life, it is standard to have the keys Db major and B major as the default over the less common key of C# major and the very uncommon key of Cb major, respectively. This can be seen by consulting any of the standard étude repertoire of the saxophone of the last 100 years or so, such as the very well-known Ferling and Voxman étude collections that all United States high schoolers have to play in order to compete in state competitions.


Indeed, for exercises, it's important to be able to specify a particular spelling. My previous comment was meant for the general case of ordinary music and what would be preferable for the reader. Anyhow, to get this behavior on a more temporary basdis, you can add an instrument change as I mentioned elsewhere. Ultimately, it would be better still to be able to set the preference per key signature, or perhaps specify a max number of flats or sharps.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


About your 'specify a max number of flats or sharps' suggestion:

Although I may not be completely understanding how you would implement this idea, I wonder if it would be flexible enough. For instance, in the Ferling oboe/saxophone book, he write etudes for Db and B (as already mentioned) but he also includes a set of etudes for both Gb and F# (concert A) and their relative minors. It's obviously redundant finger-wise, but presumably Ferling wanted the player to gain flexibility in being able to read in both Gb and F# in case they happened to across either key. Thankfully, he didn't write etudes in Cb and C#. Nonetheless, there are some books which also include exercises in Cb (concert D) and C# (concert E/Fb) keys in addition to Db (concert D) and B (concert E/Fb) along with Gb and F#. Only the Klosé method for clarinet comes to mind, but there must be some saxophone books that have all 15 possible keys as well – I'd have to search through some stuff to them them though.... So, your max flat/sharp idea would need to have the expressive power to able to write such things assuming that you want Musescore to be useful for writing these types of etude-ish things.

Although perhaps it's off-topic, while you're at it, you could also add the rare keys of Fb and G# major. These are super rare, but they have occurred in Bach and Strauss. It's unlikely folks would write new music in these keys, but if you want Musescore to have the full coverage of what exists notation-wise, then you need them.

In reply to by km0010km0010

You're right, there are rare cases where you'd still need to resort to things like instrument changes to specify new transposition options. That works today and would continue to work. But for the vast majority of cases, it would not be necessary.

But that combined with a per-key-signature override would be even better.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.