The last bar

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
Post Reply
benwiggy
Posts: 198
Joined: 11 Apr 2016, 19:42

The last bar

Post by benwiggy » 16 Apr 2017, 08:24

Someone suggested to me that when the last bar of a work or section is just one note (e.g. a semibreve chord), then it should be given less space than its duration would otherwise suggest.
I dare say engravers have done this in the past, to get more measures on the system, but I'm not convinced it's ideal. Anyone have any thoughts?

User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1310
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: The last bar

Post by John Ruggero » 16 Apr 2017, 11:24

All measures (not just the last) that contain one note only in every part should be narrowed and the note offset from the left bar line by at least a note head width. Fine engravers of the past did this because it is aesthetically pleasing to avoid a lot of empty space after the one note in such a measure. It is only because Finale does not take this rule into account that we have accepted what has now become standard.

There is a Lua plug called SingleNoteSpacing by HaraldS to be found on the old MM Forum http://forum.makemusic.com/default.aspx?f=6&m=484156 that does the correct spacing automatically, and I use it all the time. Thanks again, Harald. See also viewtopic.php?t=202.
Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors, Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2,
Finale 2014d with GPO 4, JW Plug-ins, SmartScore X Pro, Adobe InDesign CS4,
Inkscape .48.5 and .91, FontForge 20150526
http://www.cantilenapress.com

MJCube
Posts: 130
Joined: 15 Dec 2015, 13:32
Location: NYC

Re: The last bar

Post by MJCube » 29 Apr 2017, 16:55

The default space allocations in all of our music software are not in fact in linear proportion to the durations. They are easy to change, per document. I often prefer even less space for :5 and :6 than the defaults, but of course this applies only where there aren’t shorter durations occurring simultaneously.

In engravings, the farther back you go the less extra space you find. Many pages from the mid-19th century seem to have no air whatsoever between symbols, regardless of duration, for the entire page, to make good page turns and conserve engraving plates. In hand-drawn published editions from the 18th century I have seen successive notes literally on top of each other to squeeze them in.

Since the 20th century, with increasing conception of music notation as a literal time line, long durations now often get so much horizontal space that it makes the music harder for me to read. In my opinion this is wasteful and not useful. Over the years, frustrated by bad spacing in choral octavos, I have recopied the whole piece or just my part for my own use, fitting the music in 1/3 or 1/5 or as little as 1/10 the number of pages.

benwiggy
Posts: 198
Joined: 11 Apr 2016, 19:42

Re: The last bar

Post by benwiggy » 29 Apr 2017, 20:37

Yes, but a bar with just a whole note is already not as wide as a bar with two minims, or four crotchets. So it's not like vast swathes of space are being saved.

User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1310
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: The last bar

Post by John Ruggero » 30 Apr 2017, 17:36

I agree completely and wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by MJCube, particularly about the spreading affecting comprehension adversely.

Along with the reasons given by MJCube, I have found in my own work that a high priority given to employing the best page turns can have an opposite effect from that of the past and actually cause spreading to avoid blank pages or large amounts of white space on the page.

And there is also what might be called the "Alfred" Effect (after Alfred Music Co. which IMO has lead the way in spreading piano music) where the music is presented as if to children who need large letters to read.The Alfred edition of the Bach French Suites (ed. Judith Schneider), an otherwise superb edition, is 110 pages of actual music (no intro or supplement.) The BGA is 40 pages. Pieces that are on one page in the BGA are two in Alfred and sometimes more, which creates impossible page turns. Granted that there are copious footnotes, which are also spread out enormously. As a result one reads Bach's music as through a microscope, increasing the ever-present danger of missing the forest for the trees.
Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors, Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2,
Finale 2014d with GPO 4, JW Plug-ins, SmartScore X Pro, Adobe InDesign CS4,
Inkscape .48.5 and .91, FontForge 20150526
http://www.cantilenapress.com

Post Reply