Quarter tones are not played

• Dec 12, 2009 - 19:20
P2 - Medium
S5 - Suggestion

Quarter tones can be written (very nicely) but they are completely ignored by playback.

I see this must be difficult to do, Finale still doesn´t do it (yet it can play pitch wheel events!?), and it is the only reason for me to use Sibelius 6 (witch needs a plug in to play them, but it comes with the program)


You can change the tuning of each note to have the right playback.
I'm not sure if the mapping between alterations and tuning is one to one, it might be one of the reason why it's not implemented.

Quarter tones (Western contemporary)

1/2 sharp = 50 cents higher than unaltered note.
Symbol is one vertical line, two horizontal lines (called "sharp-slash" in mscore)

1 1/2 sharp = 150 cents higher than unaltered note
Symbol is three vertical lines, two horizontal lines (called "sharp-slash4" in mscore)

1/2 flat = 50 cents lower than unaltered note
Symbol is usually the backwards flat sign (called "mirrored-flat" in mscore). Some prefer to use the flat sign with a slash through it instead (called "flat-slash" in mscore)

1 1/2 flat = 150 cents lower than unaltered note
Symbol is usually the backwards flat sign combined with the normal flat sign (called "mirrored-flat2" in mscore). Some prefer to use two flat signs with a slash through it instead (called "flat-flat-slash" in mscore).

Turkish maqam

Wikipedia mentions that Turkish music uses four types of sharps ("roughly +25 cents, +75 cents, +125 cents and +175 cents") and four flats ("roughly −25 cents, −75 cents, −125 cents and −175 cents"). Halil Kirazlı gave some more information and references on the developers mailing list. See http://n2.nabble.com/Translating-the-0-9-4-new-features-list-tp2301760p…

Is a plug-in able to change the tuning as soon as the accidental is added? (rather than only changing the tuning after you finish the score). If not then I suppose we should use the core.

Microtuning complicates matters for transposition, but for now I recommend ignoring mircotunings for transposition and focus on getting transposition working with MuseScore's core competency: Western music with 12 semitones per octave.

As I said before, Sibelius uses a plug-in. You have to select the area where quarter tones are written and then activate it, It also have a plug-in to play changing dynamics in a held note (Finale does that by default) ...
.... If it is possible it is better that every thing that you can look at in a score could be played with out plug-ins, I mean... if the symbol is on the core why should you need a plug-in to play it?.
Any way, a plug-in is better than nothing.

Having said that, I think plug-ins are most important! especially for free/open Source projects like this one. If the plug-ins are easy (I mean, not impossible) to create it would mean ALL the DIFFERENCE from proprietary software.
I would love to have my MuseScore as loaded in features and personalized as mi Firefox! (with 47 Add-ons, 9 GreaseMonkey Scripts and 7 Jetpacks)

lasconic Said: "You can change the tuning of each note to have the right playback...." Thank you very much!
Before I tried with the tuning plug-in, but it changed the whole score. Now I have tried the "tuning offset" under the "note properties" on the wright click menu on the note (it also could be on the "notes" menu) and it works fine, it doesn´t affect other voices or even other chord notes. So, I´m not a software developer, but i think it wouldn't be very hard to make a plug-in: If [selected notes] have [quarter tone symbol] attached then "tuning offset"= x.cent (... I have no clue really...)
In that case MuseScore would be at the same level as Sibelius on that point!. Later on it could be implemented on the core.

"Having said that, I think plug-ins are most important! especially for free/open Source projects like this one."

I agree on this matter for 100%

"If the plug-ins are easy (I mean, not impossible) to create it would mean ALL the DIFFERENCE from proprietary software."

The plugin framework is still very young but it has lots of potential. Many of the MuseScore internal functions have not been exposed yet to the QTscript framework, but by asking, it can be done.

Also, if you're interested, we are currently investigating how to setup a similar plugin development & deployment environment as we know from Firefox. Feel free to jump in ;-) We need more eyeballs and brains.

Great! I would love to help in any way.... I wish I new something about programing (rather than a little pascal hehe)

@David Bolton:

Well about what you said regarding different micro-tonal intervals, If they share the same symbols or most off them, it would be a good reason for implementing the playback option as a PLUG-IN (even if it is eventually also on the CORE) because if a plug-in is created for western academic music quarter tones, it can be easily changed by another or the same developer and create a different one for Turkish music, or Greek etc... or even create their own! or a Plug-in so you can create your own!!... basically the first micro-tonal plug-in would be like a framework for the rest.
I said that it could be also implemented on the core (with a default option... lets say western quarter tones) because of what you said about "real time" notation and hearing, rather than to have to proses the whole work or a selection by the plug in after you written it. But then the plug-ins for alternative micro-tonal pitches would have to be actualized when this happens so that they change the new pitches of the core. Or the new file wizard could have an option to play quarter tones from the core, or use only the plug-ins. Basically overriding the new pitches...
What do you think?

I just saw that "userAccidental " has been added to the Plugin API function page:

! userAccidental returns 16 to 21 for special (quarter-tone) accidentals, returns 0 for any other accidental

Does that mean that a plug in for this is being created? (:

I am creating such a plugin (as an evolution of my temperament plugin).

However, I'm collecting contradictory data about the meaning of some of the symbols: for instance, the 'slashed flat' is 1/2 flat (= -50 cents) for some sources and 3/4 flat (= -150 cents) for other. Which is correct?

Of course, the plugin will allow to fine tune each symbol, but some default has to be provided. If someone can provide the 'official' (or prevalent) meaning of each symbol, I would be grateful.


GREEAT!!! You are the man!!

Sadly there is no official meaning for any symbol system but I think the one Sibelius use is very conventional for Quarter tones.
Witch is basically THIS
The first three going up and the rest going down
The last two symbols are two variant of 3/4 down. Sibelius uses the 2nd.
Hope it helps!

If you are trying to have a standard value for every symbol that musescore offers. I have no Idea..
That´s where personal settings would be more important. A really cool thing would be if a person could download 3rd party settings for the plugin.

Tato: of course the plugin shall allow to set the value of each accidental individually and store presets for quick usage.

David: thanks for pointing me, but your comment describes 6 symbols, while MuseScore palette contains 19 of them (in addition to the usual 5)!

I'll try to come up with something, to be adjusted with the help of the experts in this rather exoteric field.



Miwarre, on the developers' mailing Halil Kirazlı links to the Wikipedia article, which gives the precise meaning of each of the nine accidentals: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makam#Commas_and_Accidentals

The image is particularly helpful.

Lilypond also has an implementation which might be useful for comparison:

Obviously the symbols have different meaning in Turkish Makam than in Western contemporary music.

With regards to the accidentals with arrows (which appear in 0.9.6 betas) this message defines them as follows:

  • "sharp arrow up" is a three quarter sharp (+150 cents)
  • "sharp arrow down" is a quarter sharp (+50 cents)
  • "natural arrow up" is also a quarter sharp (+50 cents)
  • "natural arrow down" is a quarter flat (-50 cents)
  • "flat arrow up" is also quarter flat (-50 cents)
  • "flat arrow down" is a three quarter flat (-150 cents)

I think that only leaves the three accidentals with arrows going both directions. I don't know what these mean.

Oh thats great! I haven`t pay attention to the accidentals on 0.9.6 b
I really like that set of symbols. They are very intuitive, I used them, writing music with quarter tones on finale and then adding arrows with a pen on the traditional accidentals. hehe
they are mi preferred choice. The only problem with those is that if the score is small is easy to overlook them.
Keep it going! I can`t wait :)

No. not really.
I haven`t seen them anywhere. And it doesn't seem as intuitive as the others.
The only use I could think about is to imply a quarter tone vibrato going both ways.

You could start developing the plugin and leave the pitch for the accidentals you don't know to 0 for now.
Then put the definition of the pitches at the beginning of your plugin source file and mark the unknowns with comments.
We can fill in the missing pitches later, when we know enough about it. I will ask some contemporary composers what they know about these accidentals.

Besides, I think that this feature definitely belongs to the core, and that transposing should handle the special accidentals correctly from the beginning.

This follows from the maxime "Never suggest a feature that isn't there by default." Why? Because it pisses off new users and makes them believe they have been cheated and the program is poorly developed.
Having accidentals available for notation suggests that they are also available for playback. Ok, there is a plugin, but how long does it take to find out that this plugin actually exists, let alone install it?

An example. Consider me telling a composer I'm friend with "You heard about MuseScore? It's able to do quarter tones!" So he downloads it and installs it and tries to write down the first bars of Ligetis string concert. Then he plays it and it sounds like crap. So the other day he tells me "Quarter tones don't work in MuseScore." - "Wait, no, err, what do you mean? Can you see them but they don't play? Well in this case install the quarter tone plugin!" - "Ah, ok, I'll do it the other day." And of course he doesn't.

But that's my personal opinion.

Oh yes, sorry I didn't check dates.

I certainly agree with having "testing" features as plugins before they enter the core.
My single point was that this specific feature should enter the core quickly because it already exists as a visual feature.
But I see that there is no sensible way of including them into the core before the problem of transposing them isn't solved.

Nice work for the user interface!

A problem of this being a plugin occurs when we want to change a special accidental back to a regular one.
But there is a workaround if you "reserve" one of the special accidentals and set it to a pitch of 0 cent (as is the case for most of them in the default setting) and use it to "unpitching" notes.

Reported version 3.0 3.5
Reproducibility Always

I think a good way to implement this (if possible) would be to allow the accidental to control the tuning of the note it's attached to. (The note could still be tuned individually by clicking on it and adjusting the parameter.) This way, composers using different systems of microtonality could generate custom accidentals and add them to the palette. I think this solution might be better than just adding quarter-tone functionality, because then there will be people who complain about the lack of sixth-tone playback, eighth-tone playback, Turkish accidental playback, etc.

By the way, is there a plugin available? The one that I saw a link to is for 1.x. Thanks!

Reported version 3.0  
Workaround No Yes
Reproducibility Always

Workaround is the use of manually tweaking the tuning via Inspector or use one of the plugins doing this