Instrument gate times? What is the theory?

• May 8, 2019 - 14:13

Piano (including different kinds of pianos) and flute are configured to sound notes at 95% (length) of what is written; other than some drums where I can't imagine it makes much difference, no other instruments (in 3.0) have this property configured. While this makes legato and tenuto work credibly, for these two and no other instruments, I don't understand why these two instruments are unique among the universe of instruments defined in instruments.xml. I'd hate to see it changed, because it would break the sound of every carefully-tweaked score in existence. But I don't understand the theory; perhaps this is just a historical artifact?

I discovered this working with a score retrieved from .com, where all the notes had 95% phrasing, but the instrument didn't seem to be piano -- in fact, the person who created it started with piano, and changed the sound via the mixer. The original piano's 95% remained! This is a very non-obvious situation for the person who really cares about phrasing.

It sure would be wonderful if end/gate time was available in the inspector, and thus settable over a range of selected notes, as with all inspector-visible properties. The new PianoRoll Ed. is really great, but still not enough.


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Its effects are grand and far-reaching, and permanently affect the sound of scores in a way that only the most perceptive users can notice (including ones who use Piano Roll editing). Contrary to what I said earlier, "fixing it" in either direction, i.e., either making flute and piano 100% or choosing some arbitrary cutback for every instrument extant, would only affect new scores, because these parameters are cached in scores at instrument-add time (and I have abused them to make 110% celli, which work just fine, thank you). This parameter (as well as those for articulations) should be user-customizable with explicit UI controls (perhaps a right-click in the mixer?).


In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Oh, I am well aware of the uses of carefully-controlled gate time/articulation/phrasing, and how to achieve them on musescore, 2 or 3, ways nice and ugly -- example . That wasn't my question. My question was why piano and flute were treated differently from all other instruments (and Jojo's answer, i.e., it was an experiment along time ago, is an answer, but unsatisfying).

I looked at your page/table. I do not think that a set of fixed values is appropriate -- different compositions, esp at different tempi and meters, require a far more graded repertoire of cutbacks/gate-times, even for the same mark (I can give examples), so I repeat my call for user visibility of the most critical of all performance parameters.

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

Values ​​are average.
I started slur, with 100% value
Then: I gradually decreased the values for tenuto, tenuto with stacc., normal-note, staccato and staccatissimo .

As for the other issue:
No, of course not just for piano and flute. Applies to each instrument. Even for vocals.
But since hearing and preferences change from person to person, I don't know what they're adjusting for.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Yes, fine, but that does not address any of my points about how these parameters are not appropriate to every single composition. There are times when I interpret staccato as 50%, and others and 75. What's more, composers from differ in their expectations. Here is a Bach score where I had to configure "staccato", as written by Bach, to 75% : . The hidden "portato" cutbacks are at 88%, exactly how much I want them, not more or less.

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

I can expand a little on Jojo's answer, but it's likely to still be unsatisfying.

From day one, there were complaints that adding slurs to passages for winds or strings didn't affect playback. This much seems like a non-controversial request; it's really about changing the note attack and needs to be implemented fairly deep in the synthesizer so it still hasn't happened, but we all want the same thing here. There were also requests, however, that slurs and/or tenuto markings should lengthen notes on piano. There was more contention debate about this, however. After all, many will tell you the default on piano should be as legato as possible and you shouldn't need to write slurs or tenuto markings to get that effect. And yet, as a way of also simulating something of the effect of slurs for winds, by making non-slurred notes noticeably shorter). The idea was discussed that that maybe this could be done there too, but others objected.

So, see #24246: Playback of piano notes is non-legato and #120821: Non-articulated notes should play at 90% length, and you'll get some idea of why the modified gate time was implemented for piano and flute specifically, but everything else I just wrote for why it wasn't one more generally :-)

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

This is absolute madness. The default gate time, the "legato"/slur gate time, and every other gate time for a particular instrument cannot possibly be cast in stone by "Muse Score God" a priori. The degree of legato or detaché used by different pianists even for the same work may well differ, and from section to section and measure to measure. These parameters must be controllable by the person creating the score, the same way velocity and tempo are controllable on a per-note, per-selection, per-voice etc basis. No preset dicta will ever be a solution. The total lack of phrasing is the single most aurally obvious distinction between (almost all) ms scores and real performances, and this is because (well, phrasing requires knowledge and skill, but also,...) phrasing is so hard to control even with the noncrashing Piano Roll Editor (e.g., can't set default gate times without editing MSCZ XML).

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

Sure, if the main goal is control over playback. If on the other hand the main goal is to create the best possible notation, and have playback work "well enough" out of the box, you take your best stab at optimizing the playback defaults then move on to the more important aspects of notation until everything in that front is good enough that it becomes worthwhile to revisit the finer details of playback. And now we're finally reaching that point.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

As you suggest, time to retire "we don't do playback." If so, the piano roll editor should have been removed instead of fixed. For every person who says, "I'm just using this for excellent notation, i don't care what it sounds like", there are probably 100 who say "I only care what it sounds like", including half of whom don't care about the difference between F# and Gb. It's "playback or not playback:", not "main goal is playback." I use musescore as a portfolio of my work. I care what it looks like, and I care what it sounds like. Both. Equally.

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

Sure. And they all started by just selling dry goods only, then gradually started adding whatever small amount of food items they thought gave them the biggest bang for the buck and serve a few basic needs without the need to reinvent themselves as a full fledged grocery store. This is indeed an excellent analogy for MuseScore. The basic default playback and limited control we give over that is like the milk and canned soup you can get at the drug store. What you are asking for is like the fresh organic green beans you need to go to an actual grocery store for...

As with "should the appoggiatura on a dotted note be 1/3 or 2/3?" (I have heard professional recordings of the same aria, Erbarme dich from the St.MP, with either), after a certain number of arguments why one hard-wired value is superior to the other, it becomes clear that a it is not a constant at all but a variable which must be entrusted to the user's knowing hands, regardless of the height of the stack of "MS is not a performance engine!" disclaimers/alibis.

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

"MS is not a performance engine!"

I would say that the single note dynamics being released in 3.1 is a step away from that often heard mantra. Does that mean a realized figured bass or chord playback that will never make everyone happy is on the horizon? We'll have to wait and find out.

In reply to by mike320

Well, I thank you for your vote against the "not performance engine" canard/mantra (nothing against waterfowl), but, again, I would protest "figured bass realizer" as something that belongs in a thesis, not hard-wired C++ code in a score editor. "Chord playback", yes, figured bass, no, for a hundred reasons that I, and others who are competent at figured bass (including miw...whatever who invented the MS feature) have stated multiple times. I'll list them again if you like.

In reply to by mike320

It can't "happen" because it can't be done anything like sufficiently to qualify for the claim of having done it. The proposed implementation equivalent to guitar chords is comparable to the web site's "piano tutorials", a royal road to musical illiteracy, and saying "I can play guitar" after you have learned 10 first-position chords, and saying "I can teach you guitar; it's not hard". I have an Indian-published pamphlet, "Learn Sanskrit in 30 days" .... I have many books on continuo/figured bass, and the idea that they can be reduced to a "four-page summary" (as has now entered the lexicon) is a march in the wrong direction.

I've asked for controllable gateOn/Off times since the release of 2.0, when they were cruelly removed. No one listened, just the usual "MuseScore's meant for notation, not playback" response (about which I've also quibbled for many years). Just go to my YouTube channel, which is devoted ENTIRELY to playback of MuseScore scores, and listen to any piano score, or the Symphony in D-minor, or the Organ Sonata. That playback didn't come from nowhere. Where it did come from was MuseScore--after what are now thousands and thousands of hours spent applying kludges and hacks to every one of my scores just to get musically competent playback. And what, dear readers, do you suppose is the element upon which I have spent the most time? The ludicrous inability of MuseScore to permit controlling gate off times from the score, both at phrase ends AND for articulations.

Concerning the former: How the hell is one supposed to articulate phrases when there's no way to introduce a break between them? You HAVE to be able to shorten the last notes of phrases slightly (and NOT by using carefully tweaked hidden articulation marks, which screws up the meaning of the visible ones). For playback, the ability to introduce breaks between phrasing is so basic it doesn't even bear mentioning.

Concerning the latter: it's fine to have a default offTime for, say, staccato, but it has to be changeable from the score. Staccato is not 50% of the notated value regardless of note length or tempo or instrument (MuseScore's default). That's absurd. Sure, you can change 50 to any other value in instruments.xml or the .mscx file you're working on, but you're still stuck with a fixed percentage of notated length, which is not what staccato means--EVER. It varies according to a whole host of contextual parameters, which MUST be controllable from the score or the results are musically meaningless.

I've been waiting for MuseScore3 for a long time, hoping that score-controllable gate times would be restored, or, at the very least, that articulations like staccato would permit changing the offTime from the Inspector. Imagine my disbelief, dismay, and disappointment in discovering that clicking on a staccato mark calls up Time Stretch--the exact opposite of the desired operation! What's more, Time Stretch has no effect on articulations, so bye-bye tenuto marks to indicate agogic accents.

I'm not filing a Feature Request on this because it's clear the development team isn't listening. All we're getting are excuses and justifications for not dealing with something that should have been dealt with years ago. I've devoted the past 6 years to promoting MuseScore on my YouTube channel, showing that MuseScore is not just a notation program, but one that can be used to generate beautiful, nuanced playback. I even wrote a book on using MuseScore 2 for midi orchestration. With some humiliation, I'm beginning to acknowledge it was a monumental waste of time.

In reply to by Peter Schaffter

One certainly can change the gate times of individual notes in the Piano Roll Editor. No, it's not more fun than a barrel of monkeys (but the latter aren't so much fun anyway). I have achieved significant artistic effects by phrasing via the PRE (which has only started to work in MS3). No, it's not joy, but it's possible to get good at it. What's more, it's possible to set the gate-time of staccato (or any other articulation -- I have abused portato in this way) to one value for the entire score, and while, as you point out, that's not good enough, I have produced very reasonable phrasings with 85%/90% hand-chosen gate times for these score-apparent articulations (however, these changes are not doable in the UI, you must edit the MSCX/Z). Thirdly, I am working on something that will change the landscape here radically, a new feature that will allow you to select a range of notes (including whole staff/score) and set all their gate-times to whatever you want. That allows different passages and notes to have different gate times without the piano roll editor (which always remains available). This will be a plugin. It started to work today (but requires upcoming features in the core product). The situation is no longer anywhere as bad as it was a year ago.

In reply to by Peter Schaffter

I would also say, if you check out the logs of what has changed over the past year or so, you'll see there has been quite a bit of attention to playback, from the Piano Roll Editor to improvements in Zerberus to support more SFZ features to single note dynamics. And it's far from outside the realm of possibility that a more direct way to edit gate time or other playback parameters will be added in the near future. Saying MuseScore is a notation program first doesn't mean no attention to plaback, it's just a matter of priorities. But also, since MuseScore is open source, it really doesn't matter if some feature is a priority for any current developers. All it takes is getting one motivated person - could be a total newcomer - to take it on, and chances are good it happens.

So I say, don't give up, you're work is definitely appreciated and has made a difference already in how playback is perceived, and I see no reason not to expect continued slow steady progress.

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