Which way should the stems point??
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592


  • A as a solo line.

    B when there is another part on the same staff.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    If I chose to do "B," does that make me a bad person?

  • Only if you do it with evil intent. I may have misread, but one page describes musical notation is a visual language witch.

    Maybe I need new glasses.
  • If I had to pick one thing to call out in your 2 examples, it would be that the slurs are on the wrong side. The stem direction is minor. Since, in this example, their purpose is to aid the singer—whose eye would be on the text primarily—having them on the stem side puts them rather far away.

    As an engraver, the most often time I ignore standard practice on stem direction is when I have, for example, a C5 slurred to a A4 in a melodic situation. I hate the appearance of reversed stems slurred together. See attached example.

    I would highly recommend, if you don't have them, two books on engraving:

    1) The Art of Music Engraving & Processing, by Ted Ross
    2) The G. Schirmer/AMP Manual of Style and Usage

    Both agree with Noel's assessment above.
  • For Noel's "A" option, as a solo line, I've always believed that stems start to point down at the middle line of a 5-line staff. So, in treble clef, stems start to point down at middle B.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,771
    I agree with Marc's exception, and he makes a good point about slurs in general. Doing 'stemless' noteheads in Sibelius one must always take care to flip the invisible stems the opposite way on slurs. It is standard practice to have the middle line stems down for instruments and up for voices to leave more space above the text. This is best ignored if you have ficta above the staff!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    If I chose to do "B," does that make me a bad person?

    They'd create an appearance out of keeping with your usual craftsmanship.
  • B is not really acceptable...though you could cite any number of examples from cpdl to claim that it is "a" common practice even if it's not common practice. You're better than that. Like all rules, the stems-down for middle line and above rule can be broken...IF you have a situation where to do so increases legibility. This is not such a case, and I'd be hard-put to find such a case for that particular rule. It's a pretty arbitrary rule -- but so are most issues of spelling. The point of doing it the standard way is to avoid having anything needlessly unexpected on the page. Making music is hard enough without throwing graphic curve balls at the reader.

    Richard...I've never heard that there's an exception for middle-line down for vocal music, and it's not a practice I've often seen. Do you have a citation for that?

    Re slurs: I've occasionally put them stem-side in alto parts, where the range is low and putting the text sufficiently low to allow them would lead to awkward-looking part spacing. My defense is that slurs in vocal music are cautionary, since the syllable placement already gives you that information. I wouldn't do it in instrumental music.
  • JeffO...you are obviously a bad person. Rarely has such a simple thing created such turmoil on the list.

    You have forgotten to add the "I'm not a bad person disclaimer", "Well, that's the way Sibelius does it."

    And why, Richard, does Sib have this problem when creating stemless notes with slurs? Does it leave them out hanging in the air over invisible stems?
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,696
    Let us remember that Mr. Ostrowski gets less than 2 hours of sleep per night... When you're sleeping so little, stems look like they're going up when they're going down and down when they're going up sometimes...
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    :) A is right. B is wrong. A could be right, but not in this situation.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697
    Stems always down from the middle line. I never make exceptions (don't hold me to this as I may have screwed up my own manuscript somewhere on line!) However, now JO has me putting text above the staff for chant notation at times and although uncoventional for the 21st century, I kinda like it! Thanks JO.

    Another suggestion is shorter stems. I do not like the clunky long stems many times found in modern notation programs. Modern music notation is barbaric since it is so new.

    O... and JO... you are NOT the bad person. You are one of our saints. The truly bad people are the damn guitar (song) composers! Even if they composed their music in flawless GN, they would STILL be bad persons.

    BTW... for those of them that get to go to heaven, God has set up a special worship room that is acoustically different (totally dead) and EVERY person in the room, including the congregation gets their own microphone. Of course this room will be far down the hall from where we will be singing chant and polyphony in the grand space. :-} Gosh, now that I think about it, that worship room sounds more to me like musical hell!
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Incorrect use of stem direction does not make one a bad person, just a bad music engraver.

    Seriously, the rule is that for a single voice (not two voices in which the stem direction distinguishes the upper and lower voice), all notes above the middle line point down, and all notes below the middle line point up.

    Technically, stems of notes on the middle line can point either way, but modern American copyists consistently point it downward. (Older English engravers often made took avail of the option to point the stems of notes on the middle line upward.)

    Music engraving is an art as much as a science. I'd like to think I'm fairly good at it - at least as those working for some choral publishing houses these days - but I know there are those out there who are far better at it than I am.
  • Jeff gets ANY sleep at night? Stop the presses!
    Noel's right on these two counts- should this be a soprano part that will subsequently include a designated alto line, then "b" works fine, tho' it wouldn't break the bank if the two parts shared a downward stem as well. To belabor the point, which seems pointless, if the singers were assigned to SSA/SAA, and the notes in question had an A and E respectively below, the author would be required to designate the part assignments by enjoining the middle note to either the upper or lower stem- (up SS, down AA).
    Seconding Noel, this is one of the giddier silly threads of all time. Lucky I'm giddy and silly upon awakening.
    Am I awake is a great existential question appropriate at all times and in all dimensions, it must be said.
  • Jeffrey,

    I'd suggest that stems on the middle line be almost horizontal, but with a slight lift from the staff line to indicate if the next note after it be higher or a fall, if lower. Repeated notes on the same pitch would require no stem. [This would create a problem as far as length indications, but I have delt with that in a later sentence.] Then each stem above or below be incrementally raised at its end a bit more, with full verticality present on the full octave. This would eliminate the need for staff lines and make a beautiful page. Of course, flags would be difficult to read, so instead of flags, let's let the white space between each note determine the length of each note. This would be especially effective with scores of contrapuntal works. The notes, instead of round, should be square, for clarity, giving us a punch-card appearance that would be universal and might bring back the card readers of the 1970's that have been stored awaiting being put back into service in warehouses around the world. Cardboard manufacturers would appreciate the business, creating cardboard for the cards.

    Then a bright light held to the card would project the notes on a screen, permitting the director to teach the music using a red/green Ward stick indicating the notes on the screen.

    Of course, it may be prudent to just use the current system.

    And I have it direct from the Bride's mouth that she reminds him to shut down the chant machine and get some sleep on regular intervals.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,771
    Jeffrey & SkirpR seem to be right about upward middle line stems, which are the exception in my library. I must have been thinking of the newer OUP editions, which are set with (ahem) the same software I use. The Sibelius manual is no good as a near at hand reference, though, only mentioning single-line percussion in the discussion of middle line stemming options.

    :"And why, Richard, does Sib..." Noel, you'll just have to take that up with the Finns. ;-)
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592

    Thank you very much for your thoughts and ideas.

    I was always taught:

    1. In Britain, stems on the middle line "default" up, but visually, this can be altered. For instance, if every other stem were pointing down except one on the middle line, it can go up, even in Britain.

    2. In America, stems on the middle like can go up or down.

    3. I also realize the slur position is a bit unconventional. However, a world class typesetter has assured me it's "OK" to do it my way.

    4. I believe that I have a "liberal" approach in these regards. I know I have "my own" ways. For instance, I always write tenor lines on bass clef, because the only reason for the transposing tenor clef was because in the 19th century, they could not (as in COULD NOT) easily write ledger lines on vocal scores.

    5. Again, I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with Marc on ugly slurs.

    6. I am trying to find a reasonably conventional method that I can stick to and BE CONSISTENT without constantly offending my (warped?) sensibilities.

    7. I believe that chant is much better for vocal lines than modern notation, because in chant notation, you see melodic GESTURES (slopes) in a way you do not in modern.

    Only if you do it with evil intent.

    Noel, that goes without saying... I thought you knew my intentions were always evil !!! :-D
  • Re #4...what happened in the 19th c that made it so that tenors could no longer read tenor clef?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    Perhaps the publishers found it more convenient/economical to merge tenor parts onto the bass staff.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    . . . each of the parts were written on a staff that made it so that no ledger lines were required.

    I assume this was because ledger lines complicated the printing (?)
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Jeff O.,

    I must respect your contrary views with regard to notation, because, as a choral conducting Catholic, I happen to hold some of my own contrary views (it seems) with regard to rather well-accepted chant performances practices among people here.

    Nevertheless, as the saying goes, "when in Rome...." If I were to find myself leading a schola who was used to those well-accepted practices, I would adapt my conducting to what they were used to. Similarly, my advice to you is - if this engraving is for yourself or your own choir, do as you are convicted. If it is to be published for the wider world, like or not, agree or not, there is a certain degree of judgment that will be passed on your work from using not using accepted notation practices. In a published work (even self-published) not following the "rules" makes music look unprofessional - even if people can't put their finger on what's "wrong" with it.

    With regard to writing the tenor part in bass clef, I do not disagree, unless there would be a lot of ledger lines. Regardless of the original development of the transposing tenor treble clef, too many ledger lines (even if they are now easy to typeset), make the music look sloppy and may make it harder to read. (The same principle is behind why clefs sometimes move in chant for ornate gradual verses that have a higher tessitura.) In high school as a young musician, I was for a time left very confused by the treble clef on the tenor line, and so I consistently engrave tenor parts with the eight underneath. That seems to do the trick for my conscience.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592

    I have to admit, I find reading open score almost impossible with transposing tenor clefs.

    But, I know it's not impossible, because I saw people in college do it with extreme ease.

    I simply don't know how they do it. I'm amazed by their talent.
  • 4-5 lines is a lot of information to take in, but at least it's all in standard clefs. At University of Michigan, I had to take 2 semesters of keyboard harmony where we used the R.O. Morris Preparatory Exercises in Score-reading, which begins with 2 lines, 1 of which is in alto clef, through 3 out of 4 lines in C clefs, to (last exercise) 5 parts, 2nd in A, 3rd in F, 4th in alto clef (outers were treble and bass). I never got good at it, but that was because my keyboard sight-reading in general is pretty bad. But if you cracked your head against that diligently, open score would be a walk in the park.
  • I simply don't know how they do it.

    I think it's a matter of reading horizontally rather than vertically—reading the intervals between notes, and not trying to worry which notes go on each line. That's what works for me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Jeffrey Quick is right. You get better reading open score the more you do it. In fact, when I first started working with men's choirs (two transposing treble clefs and two bass parts) it was awkward at first (even though this might seem easier). In addition to the R.O. Morris book, I have found a similar one by C.S. Lang which uses only treble (at pitch and transposing) and bass clefs. Practice makes perfect, and I often need to practice playing from an open score before I'm comfortable doing it in front of a choir for rehearsal. Such individual practice can also lead to some unintentional score study and vice versa!

    I disagree with Marc that reading open score at the keyboard is about horizontal vs. vertical. For me, when reading a very homophonic piece in four staves from open score I am thinking about what chord is being spelled - and certain subtleties of voicing will actually not (heavily) matter to your choir's singing the correct pitches. However, when reading, say, Palestrina or Victoria, it's all a matter of trying to grab all the important "horizontal" lines.

    With regard to my original comment about tenor parts in bass clef, the music should be engraved for ease of reading for the singers, not the rehearsal accompanist. With notation software, you can always make yourself a rehearsal reduction and give the choir the open score in the "correct" clefs. Also, there's nothing wrong with putting music in hymn format with only two staves, as long as it is homophonic enough to be clear as to who's singing what part.