Clusters yet once again. I don't know why.

• Mar 13, 2021 - 00:12

For some reason, I've been thinking about the last clusters thread. I don't really care about them so why did I dwell on it?
Then one mostly dead and long forgotten brain cell buried under the rest of the debris waiting to be flushed from the system suddenly woke up. This cell, one of the few still active over all, was the last survivor from some 50 years ago in music school. We studied contemporary music and notation along with all the usual stuff. The one score that I have left looks more like a flow chart. Anyway, this one cell reminded me about one way we notated clusters.
Don't get me wrong, the examples in the former thread look really cool. All those notes and accidentals and diagonal stems. Then to have have dozens of them in 16th note groups? Looks really exciting. Looks complicated and fast and difficult, right? And we all know that fast complicated difficult looking music has got to be good, right? I was told that notes had to be splayed this way to make sight reading easier. I was pointed to a site that said this is the accepted way to write these things.
Then I thought about sight reading even a single 5 or 6 (?) note cluster of consecutive half steps. Is it really consecutive, or is there a note missing in the middle? Or near one end? The only way to know for sure is to stop and check it out. Name each one. Or I can just plow through it and play...something. It's fast, complicated and difficult. Who will notice? Don't kid yourself. Just because somebody wrote it doesn't mean someone will play it just the way it is written.
I am told Dorico will do this notation. Great. How easy is it. None of the other systems seem to be able to do this. Why is this?
My dying brain cell reminded me that even all those years ago clusters were a thing. Let's say that I wanted to notate a five note cluster between F# down to D. On a single stem I would put an F# and a D. Then some kind of bracket or line between the note heads. There would be a text in the score notes saying that all notes between the two would be played. I think this would work for most combinations. Like F# to E (bracketed) then a C on the same stem. This, to me looks much less cluttered. And easy to read.
How would MuseScore play this? Include all the notes and make the ones in the middle invisible.
But that's all I got because soon after the cell passed on to its reward.


I think it would be a good idea to offer a cluster notation. It is not obviously a priority feature, but it would not be difficult to implement. Here are some suggestions:


Gardner Read shows similar notations, and it is clear there is really no "standard", so this is a chance to implement something graceful. I have seen these branching stem horrors, and I think with a quick introductory note of explanation it would just be so much easier to read notation like this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yes, I understand that the split beam notation is harder to implement. I was trying to point out that in cases where there are more than about three adjacent notes, a cluster notation would be easier to read (and easier to implement). I don't understand your suggestion for creating them (cluster notation) though. Is there a symbol for "cluster of n semitones"?? I made my example above using MS, but it involved clunky pasting, and I would not consider that a reasonable way of writing a real score.

In reply to by bobjp

I haven't. Once I switch the "Palettes" thing to "Advanced", I can see a list of 24 palettes, in not-quite-alphabetical order, not one of which is called "Symbols". Is there any chance you could show us one? How many cluster symbols are there, and how do they cover clusters of n semitones, for n from 4 to 11?

In reply to by Imaginatorium

Once you press "Z" to open the Symbols palette (or get there from View / Master Palette / Symbols), you can type "cluster" into the search box to see all the available cluster symbols. These are the ones the internationally-recognized SMuFL standard has settled on based on input from many composers, publishers, and users of many different notation programs. Some are pre-sized, others are designed to be combined to form larger clusters. You can combine them as desired to form larger clusters. Not saying other symbols aren't possible, but this is what is now generally recognized as the standard set of cluster symbols.

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