BW-balance

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OCTO
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BW-balance

Post by OCTO » 09 Oct 2015, 06:37

For a longer time I have tried to define why some score looks good and another doesn’t. I come up with a term “BW-balance” (black/white-balance).

What I mean about it is the following:
1. If we look at page of a score, catching the whole page at once, harmonious look of that page occurs in a correct BW-balance; it means: no part of that page pops-out neither drops-down. (The density is not here the issue.) All parts of the page properly fits to each other.
2. If we look closer at the system level, the proper spacing is actually the proper BW-balance of the system. There are numerous spacing algorithms so I believe that choosing the right one in that particular situation is important to keep the good BW-balance.
3. If we look at the font level, we discussed it in another topic, symbols should NOT move. I mean that “moving symbols” are result of an improper BW-balance. Some symbols drops down, some move forward or backward, some pops-out to much, another disappear.

The BW-balance is actually proper vertical and horizontal spacing of all items (including: font shapes, symbol placements, lines and curves, systems, margins).

I appreciate any comment.
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Peter West
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Re: BW-balance

Post by Peter West » 09 Oct 2015, 08:21

The term usually used is "greyness". With text it is easy to achieve, but with music it is more difficult, and especially with many modern scores the concept has to be ignored.
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John Ruggero
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Re: BW-balance

Post by John Ruggero » 12 Oct 2015, 20:33

OCTO, your concept is a new one to me, but I think that I understand it intuitively. Do you think that the level of density that you are talking about is actually more important for legibility than the size of the characters? I am thinking of situations in which one is forced to place more symbols on the page than usual, for example, because of page turns. Would reducing the page % to a point that restores the BW balance produce a more legible result even if the characters were considerably reduced?
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OCTO
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Re: BW-balance

Post by OCTO » 13 Oct 2015, 06:12

I don't know if anyone else uses this term, but I do for myself and it is the most accurate description I can make about printed music.
When I say BW-balance I want to stress the optical experience of musicians: they should never be disturbed in any way.
The density is not what I mean directly. It can be very dense or very light notated sheet.
Every time when I enjoyed playing from a printed music I have NOT noticed the music text. It is like eating a very tasty food: it goes in to stomach without any distraction!

Here is an example on symbol level:
6548759.png
This is a perfect example of my dis-favorite. It excels in a very heavy BW-balance disproportion: some parts are to black, another are to white. Sharp edges confront with soft edges. The symbol is almost moving, falling apart.

Here are examples of well done BW-balance:
7643769.jpg
51480882-I-500x500.jpg
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encephalon
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Re: BW-balance

Post by encephalon » 14 Oct 2015, 04:16

Related: something I learned early on when I was cutting my teeth writing for orchestra. After writing an orchestration I'll print out the score and just glance at it from a "10,000 foot" level—not paying attention to detail. The grayness factor gives me a really great sense of my overall balance. More often than not I've initially overwritten.

It's similar to a mixing engineer's trick of listening in the other room.

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OCTO
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Re: BW-balance

Post by OCTO » 14 Oct 2015, 06:36

encephalon wrote:Related: something I learned early on when I was cutting my teeth writing for orchestra. After writing an orchestration I'll print out the score and just glance at it from a "10,000 foot" level—not paying attention to detail. The grayness factor gives me a really great sense of my overall balance. More often than not I've initially overwritten.

It's similar to a mixing engineer's trick of listening in the other room.
ABSOLUTELY GREAT!
Many many years ago I learned from my composition teacher: put all of your pages on the floor, and look at them.
Not directly concerning notation, but this helps one to understand his/her own music...
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Knut
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Re: BW-balance

Post by Knut » 14 Oct 2015, 07:46

encephalon wrote:Related: something I learned early on when I was cutting my teeth writing for orchestra. After writing an orchestration I'll print out the score and just glance at it from a "10,000 foot" level—not paying attention to detail. The grayness factor gives me a really great sense of my overall balance. More often than not I've initially overwritten.
I've read about this concept somewhere (can't remember where), and have always had the same practical approach to it. I've never really thought of it on the symbol level, like Octo describes, but of course, that makes sense. I do however, feel that these two levels aren't necessarily related.

The contrast between thick and thin strokes in musical symbols and text is, traditionally, relatively high. The 'caligrafic element' of clefs, accidentals, ornaments and let's not forget, the old school italic type, aids in making each symbol relatively distinct and easy to read at small sizes (which is probably one of the reasons why a sans serif-like music font has never seen the light of day). In other words, you can (and should) obtain a good 'greynness' or 'B-W balance' on a page level with the use of high contrasting musical symbols. This has more to do with note spacing and placement of objects than anything else.

On a more detailed level, Octo's key point about balance of symbols is nevertheless very true; no symbol should stand out to much, and all contrasting strokes should be relatively equal across the board. I think an unbalanced symbol doesn't necessarily affect the balance on a page scale, depending mostly on it's overall weight, but when actually sight reading, balanced characters are of the utmost importance.

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John Ruggero
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Re: BW-balance

Post by John Ruggero » 16 Oct 2015, 18:08

The clef is quite ugly, but I think that it would be very helpful to see a page example of bad BW balance.
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OCTO
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Re: BW-balance

Post by OCTO » 16 Oct 2015, 18:48

I will try to find one, without infringement of other composers', friends' and students' integrity!
I will search among older music.
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MJCube
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Re: BW-balance

Post by MJCube » 15 Dec 2015, 13:59

High contrast of thick & thin strokes actually does not aid readability. After over 25 years of music setting I have finally realized that very fine staff lines, stems, barlines, etc., are harder to see at normal reading sizes in exactly the same way as a Bodoni or Didot is less legible than Century Schoolbook or Georgia (or indeed a well-spaced sans-serif with no stroke contrast at all). One reason for my former preference was the limited resolution of screens and printers in the 1980s, and the obvious difference between freshly printed vs. poorly reproduced pages. But it turns out, now with Retina screens and 1200dpi printers everywhere (and presbyopia challenging my eyesight in a new way), it is better to see every stroke fairly strong (especially at small size), and the contrast between them can be much subtler and still quite functional.

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