Piano Note Clusters for Octaves

• Aug 1, 2022 - 20:13

Hello! Lately I've been trying to write a large work that is lightly inspired by Lou Harrison's Reel (for piano) which is inspired by Henry Cowell's works (probably mostly "The Lilt of the Reel"). Harrison's work involves a lot of "palm" and "arm" clusters (as my piano teacher called them) and were notated as the notes of the octave(s) connected by two long thick lines. The only features I can find in Musescore that might allow me to create this are tedious because you have to build them (I was using the chord cluster "middles" to create these lines but they only span maybe like a third) and most of my piece is made of these clusters. Does anyone have any ways to get around this? If not, Musescore team, could you please take a look at Cowell's notation for his piano works and create a feature like that for Musescore? It would be much appreciated.

Thank you!


See the Symbols palette (press "Z" to display). You'll find these there if you then search for "cluster". The square cluser symbol is sized so that it fills the space the two notes and octave apart. So, just add it to the lower of the two notes and offset it as desired. You can then copy & paste as desired and the offset is preserved.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hello! Thanks for the suggestion. I actually saw this suggestion on a different thread and tried it. This has worked for all my quarter and eighth note passages (which there are a lot) but I ran into a problem when it came to half and whole notes as it doesn't really work the same way. That's why I would suggest a change.

I appreciate the advice. Do you have any thoughts on this particular issue?

In reply to by blazecat31415

It's not clear what problem you ran into. Best to attach your score and describe the problem in more detail. I guess maybe you are concerned the how the overlapping notes and cluster shapes get drawn? We rely on the SMuFL standard for music fonts, so in general, changes to how notation is drawn need to start there. But usually it's the case the existing symbols can be made to work - certainly they were designed to be pretty complete.

For instance, if you are trying to build a composition using the cap and middles, you can do that once by adding the symbols to each other instead of individually to the note, then add the composite symbol to your own palette for easy reuse.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I know it's been a while since I've check on this post. (I was mainly trying to find the time to work on composing again.) So I did find a solution, although it's not quite as effortless as I had imagined. I used one of the bar middles and added multiple of those to the same middle to create the octave cluster, then added that collection to a custom palette. I actually didn't know you could add symbols to symbols, so your mentioning that was very helpful! The part that is a little tedious is that I have to drag the cluster over to the exact placement I want it on the note (for quarters/halves/eighths it needs to be next to the note stem; for whole notes it needs to be aligned with the middle of the notehead). I don't really expect a solution for this, though. It does make the process a lot faster than before.

Thank you again for your suggestions! I've been using Musescore on-and-off for about 4 years now and it feels like every time I use it I learn something new about the software. If anyone would benefit, I can post an excerpt of my score (the full score for this piece is rather long) so others can see how I notated the technique.

In reply to by blazecat31415

Don't drag to add elements from palette - just click. This automatically adds the symbols to the selected elements, with - offset. So it's actually positioned perfectly right out of the box, or at most requires a precise adjustment via Left/Right in edit mode or via the Inspector. So in general, don't drag to make manual adjustments either - that's going to be slow and imprecise in comparison.

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