Openscore Transcription of Kindertotenlieder: No Key signature for Horn in F

• Oct 18, 2017 - 18:07

I am transcribing the above and, in the original, the horn in F is always without a key signature, irrespective of the key signature for the piece. Is there a way in Musescore to emulate this?


The horns are traditionally written with no key signature in classical music. To put this on the page, press ctrl while you drag the key signature with an X through it from the advanced key signature palette. The same thing usually happens with the trumpets and timpani also. You will occasionally see this in other instruments such as the clarinet.

The logic behind this seems to be because these instruments came in many keys in the good old days, and to some extent still do, so the musician will apply the proper key signature to each note as he transposes the music while playing it on an instrument of a different pitch.

In reply to by mike320

This is an area where I am quite confused. For a work in C major (no accidentals in key signature): if I add a part for a Horn in F, MuseScore provides a key signature of one sharp. But in all the manuscripts I am copying (typically 1900-1945), the Horn part never shows a key signature: it uses explicit accidentals wherever required in a bar.

In "Behind Bars" Elaine Gould says on p. 251:
Transposition and key signatures
" . . . Horns and trumpets do not usually take a key signature at all (see Key signatures, p. 263)."

and on p. 263:
Key signatures
"Trombones and and tubas take key signatures; trumpets and horns usually do not. Horn players, in particular, are so unused to reading key signatures that it is better not to use them."

So for a Horn in F, presumably I should suppress the key signature with the special "X" key signature so that all accidentals are explicitly shown as they occur? Is it normal to enter the Horn part with the default MuseScore key signature and then suppress the key signature after entering all the notes?

In reply to by DanielR

If you are entering your own score, you will probably want to use the key signature so you don't accidentally forget that there is a F# in the key signature. If you are transcribing from an existing score you should do what ever the original score did so the accidentals are correct in the score. Remember, if there is no key signature and no accidental on the note it is a natural. If you try to transcribe with a key signature you may forget this and not put a natural on a note when it's needed. This will result in wrong notes.

Having said all of this, French Horn players in Junior High and High School Concert bands (Symphonic Orchestras may be different) are used to having a key signature. If you are composing for such a group you will want the key signature in the final product or ask a horn player in the group what they expect.

In reply to by mike320

Thanks for all the comments. I am transcribing from an original score so am using the no-key-signature approach as in the original. As a keyboard and string player in my youth, transposing was never an issue but Musescore makes it simple with the X key signature.

In reply to by mozbadel

I want to note that there is no mistake:
I studied French Horn and I played in symphonic orchestra and ballet orchestra.
There are two varieties of horn parts:
1. in F ( sometimes the accidentals are inline.)
2. in C, in Db, in D, in Eb, ... in B (or Bb), in H (or B) //all keys

in 2nd option (generally) : We transpose all of the notes it in our minds. (on the fly)
example: "in E" means half tone below, "in G" means whole tone above. (according to F)

You can find many examples of this:
Beethoven Symphony Nr.3 and Nr.9; Horn in Eb (or Es)
Beethoven Symphony Nr.7; Horn in A
Brahms Symphony 1; Horn in E
Haydn Symphony Nr. 31; Horn in D
Brahms Piano Concerto Nr. 2; Horn in Bb (or B)
Brahms Symphony Nr. 4; Horn in E

So you should write the Horns in "C major Key" and mention the real key (in D, in Eb, in A, ...).

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In reply to by DanielR

I generally recommend getting the key signature you want first then adding notes,. That way you know everything is WYSIWYG. If you enter notes then change the key signature, MuseScore will need to re-evaluate accidentals, and there is no guarantee the results will always be exactly as you intend.

As for the idea of working from an original score, keep in mind the purpose of OpenScore is not to create music to be read by musicians 100 or more years ago, but by musicians today :-). It is normal and to be expected that there should be some modernization of the notation where appropriate. Not saying this is definitely such a case, but I can verify from my experience that while professional orchestral horn players might be more accustomed to not seeing key signatures even in tonal music, this is not true of students, nor is it true of trumpet players (professional / orchestral or otherwise).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc. Yes, I’ve done the key signature first and adding notes after. Interesting what you say about the purpose of Openscore - I was instructed to make the transcription look as close to the original as possible, while creating separate staves for each instrument (where 2 oboes for example have been written on a single stave). I agree that these Openscore editions should be as “useful” as possible whilst retaining their authenticity.

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