Need help with complex voltas

• Feb 8, 2016 - 06:58

Here's a complex use of voltas:


Each has their "Repeat List" matching the labels as seen (I've also attached the source). When I play this, it goes: measures 1, 2, 3, 2, 4, 2, 3 (so far so good). But then, instead of going to measure 2 (i.e. on its way to go to volta "4."), it goes to measure 4!

If I try to change the Repeat Count of measure 3 (say from 2 to 3 repeats), things to even more bizarre: it plays: measures 1, 2, 3, 2 and then it starts playing measure 4 at the same time as measure 2!

Any help is appreciated.

Attachment Size
Voltas.png 18.53 KB
Voltas_gone_wrong.mscz 5.77 KB


It's too complex for MuseScore (and me) to understand. Your 2nd volta tells MuseScore to only play that bar second time around BUT you then have another repeat and MuseScore again interprets that 2nd volta as second time around but it's the second time around for the second time around if you see what I mean and so MuseScore plays it again. You could force MuseScore to do it by setting all but the first repeat to 1 and by using hidden DS al Coda's but I'd suggest just biting the bullet and writing it out as a longer score.

In reply to by underquark

No, I don't understand your reasoning. When it gets to the repeat symbol of bracket "2" (i.e. when it finishes bar 4), the music is instructed to go back to bar 2. When it is done, it should say "ah, this is the third time I get to this spot, I'll take volta bracket 3 (which is bar 3)". Then it is told to go back to bar 2, and, again, at the end, it should say "ah, this is the fourth time I get to this spot, I'll take volta bracket 4" etc.

I mean, if, instead, the brackets were "1", "2,3", "4,5" and "6", it would work -- on every repetition it would correctly keep the count and jump to where it's appropriate. Why should it, then, "reset" the count just because the first bracket was taken again on the 3rd time (on my original example)?

And, if the only thing that is supposed to work are strictly contiguous number ranges, why is it that the volta should support an arbitrary Repeat List: -- under which situation would something like the screenshot from the manual do anything reasonable?

In reply to by zorzella

My first thought is that this should work if you set the list for the second ("2") and third ("4") volta both to 1 instead of to 2 and 4 respectively. That's because both of these are meant to be hit the first time *that particular measure* is hit, and in general, thats how you need to do things in MuseScore. Howeve,r that doesn't seem to work, so it's possible I am overlooking something, or there is a bug in this case.

If you labelled the bars A, B, C, D, E, F and G and asked a group of musicians to write down a string of letters (A, B, C, B, D, B, C, E for instance) indicating how they each thought this should be played then I think that you would get several different answers. My point is that I think this use of multiple repeats and voltas is too confusing to mean the same thing to every musician and if we think of MuseScore as a (digital) musician then it is not surprising that its interpretation differs from what you were expecting.

With normal (non-overlapping) repeats MusceScore reads the volta list numbers adn acts accordingly. Those same number can get re-used later in the score when MusedScore encounter another set of repeats. I think the subsequent repeats here are treating the previously-played volta bars as volta bars (with the same number recycled as it were) in a new section.

In reply to by underquark

Re: "If you labelled the bars A, B, C, D, E, F and G and asked a group of musicians to write down a string of letters (A, B, C, B, D, B, C, E for instance) indicating how they each thought this should be played then I think that you would get several different answers." : I suggest this would only be confusing if they were too hasty to actually comprehend it. I seems quite clear to me.

In reply to by underquark

"Voltas gone good" doesn't work for me either, not even after fiddling and trying to apply different logic to the different settings.
I think this is bugged behavior and should get an issue. At the very least, it needs someone to look into what the current settings actually mean, as even that seems to be under-documented at the moment.
If it turns out this is not a bug, but all of us collectively misunderstanding how this can be achieved, it should become a feature request to simplify the usage of voltas and repeat count combinations IMHO.

I am sorry, but I'd like to know if there are any practical uses for the solution to this problem. Let me postulate that hardly anybody sight-reading will get through this any better than Musescore. And even having it figured out (and agreed on just one solution...) the concentration it requires to play this correctly would better be used to play it well.
In the old days people might have had an excuse for this sort of device when they did not want to handwrite the same section four times, but nowadays, after the invention of copy and paste it is fairly easy to just write it all out or to reduce the complexity to just one repeat at one time. So what is the purpose? Other than challenging the the geeks?

In reply to by azumbrunn

It's true that repeats are, often, in opposition to sight-readability, and the more complex the repeat (or simply longer the jump) the more this is true.

But think of compactness and expressiveness.

On compactness: think of an orchestra conductor sheet, for example, with (say) 20 parts -- or, put another way, a single system per page. Being able to express repeats (including non-trivial ones) will easily save multiple pages of the printout.

The same can be thought for "expressiveness". On the same example, if the bars are actually repeated with repeat signs, I know they are identical. Otherwise, I'd have to examine every line on every repeat to see if there are differences called for in the music. It also helps memorizing the song ("oh, it's in the form A, B, Av, B, A, B").

If you see things like the Latin Real Book, for example, there's all sorts of crazy instructions for repeats etc, which accomplish the job of fitting the lead sheets into one or two pages. "True" sight-reading is very hard (but, then again, it's hard through and through), but what I always do is I start by scanning the page to understand the repeats. Once I get through with that, sight-reading the music proper is actually easier than if the whole thing did not use the crazy repeats, and memorizing the music is likewise easier.

In reply to by zorzella

I can sight-read the conductor score for piano-vocal easily, can manage most brass band scores and I can have a stab at playing back a full orchestral score in my head (easier if it's a well-know piece) but I find it much more preferable to turn a page than to work out how to interpret complex repeats. Bar numbering becomes very difficult, too; "let's take it from bar 12 after the second repeat but before we repeat the first bit again". My argument is that there comes a point where something just gets too confusing and it doesn't matter if you can get MuseScore to play it back correctly or not (which is, let's remember, secondary to appearance) as it has reached a point where a significant number of musicians will struggle to interpret your meaning. I anticipate fewer repeats in published music as digital media takes over from paper and even the paper scores are often now printed by the end-user so the publisher has more to gain from clarity than from saving space.

In reply to by zorzella

Since I was the one posing the question here two "confessions".
1. I am not a visual type, meaning especially I have little visual memory; memorizing a piece for me means memorizing how it sounds and unfolds and--very importantly--how it is played technically. So I concede your point about memorizing because for me this would make no difference either way, also the one about knowing if a section is exactly identical with another or different in some way after all.
2. I play classical music (where this sort of pattern is extremely rare). I don't understand the value of a one or two page lead sheet as opposed to more pages.

Further I have no objection to simple repeats, my question only applies if you have repeats inside repeats or multiple points to go back to etc.
Still in my experience everything that can be done to make the music readily readable will help the quality of the performance and will save rehearsal time (there are enough debates one can get into at a rehearsal without the ones about how to understand things like your example).
I propose that if Musescore such as it is right now can't understand a pattern correctly chances are musicians will have the same problem and the best solution would be to write out some of the repeats. Remember that while a conductor's main job is to read the music the instrumentalists or singers have to deal with sometimes considerable technical difficulties and ought to be spared too much mental effort going into sheer reading / memorizing sequences.

For the benefit of anyone searching as I was for a variation of this problem:

I had a score which played through with a volta repeat on the 1st and 3rd time the same and the second time slightly differently. In essence a shorter variation of what your score shows. Mine also has multiple repeats, a segno and a coda.

So the music plays through volta 1, repeats from the beginning up to volta 1 then jumps to volta 2, jumps back to a segno located near the beginning and runs through volta 3 (which is also volta 1). At the end of volta 3 it jumps to the coda for the ending.

The key is to draw volta 1 to cover all the necessary staves then right-click the volta line (I am using a PC) and choose 'Volta Properties'. It brings up a text box with 'Text:' and 'Repeat list:' options. In the 'Text:' box I wrote '1.,3.' (no quotes) and in the 'Repeat List:' box I wrote '1, 3' (again no quotes). I think it is the repeat list which is key.

I am sorry that this does not fix your more complex issue but it may be useful for those with a similar problem.

I just noticed I never posted the solution to this issue.
Starting with MuseScore 2.2 and up, this is now quite easily achieved:
* set all repeat lists of volta exactly as the text shown in the OP
* set the play count of the 3rd measure (covered by volta 1,3,5) to the value of 4

Attachment Size
97461_complex_alternate_endings.mscz 5.11 KB

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

But then also 6 on the end repeat of volta2 and volta4 ?

Mind you, it works by setting them all to 6 because the extra counts are ignored due to the voltas. Don't know if/how it affects possible jumps that try to determine the "last playthrough" of a section...

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