Octave transposing clef design?

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Fred G. Unn
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Octave transposing clef design?

Post by Fred G. Unn » 27 Nov 2019, 18:04

I'm working with a composer who is making extensive use of octave transposing treble and bass clefs in a solo piano piece. We both hate the Bravura octave transposing clefs that are the default in Dorico as the "8" is very small and is not very obvious to the performer. I've figured out how to basically assemble my own octave transposing clefs in Engrave/Music Symbols, but honestly as I don't encounter these clefs too often, I don't feel like I have a good grasp of what makes a well designed example. A brief search turns up quite a bit of variance in design. Does anyone have a particular example that they like that is fairly clear to the performer? Thanks for any advice!

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tisimst
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by tisimst » 27 Nov 2019, 18:46

Here’s my opinion on music typeface design generally: Since music scores are largely *functional* (as in, it communicates instructions), the design should be as legible as possible while not being overly stylistic, causing unnecessary attention to itself.

On the specific topic here, I agree. A larger ottavation number should be used to make it easily understandable by the performer.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by John Ruggero » 28 Nov 2019, 03:44

Octave transposing clefs remind me of those mythical creatures created by grafting together ill-matched body parts from several species. No matter how they are designed, they look weird and unnatural. And they are needless and self-defeating in piano music because most pianists would prefer normal octave signs.
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by MalteM » 28 Nov 2019, 06:28

Fred G. Unn wrote:
27 Nov 2019, 18:04
I'm working with a composer who is making extensive use of octave transposing treble and bass clefs in a solo piano piece.
Elaine Gould wrote:Verwenden Sie diese Schlüssel nicht für tatsächlich vom Spieler geforderte Oktavierungen (wie etwa Britten es in seinen späten Stücken tat, vor allem bei Klavier und Harfe)! Diese Schlüssel werden leicht übersehen, da die Spieler sie nicht gewohnt sind.
Although unnecessary, you might use transposing clefs for transposing instruments but “Don’t use these clefs for octavations demanded from the player (as Britten did it in his late pieces for piano and harp). These clefs are easily overlooked because players aren’t used to them.” As a piano player I agree; once I played such a work and forgot about the transposition every now and then.

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David Ward
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by David Ward » 28 Nov 2019, 08:18

I agree with the sentiments expressed.

An octave transposition clef is conventional (but not strictly necessary) for the tenor voice, and may perhaps be appropriate for octave transposition instruments in a score notated in concert pitch (since some published concert pitch scores have umpteen ledger lines instead of octave transposition for piccolo, double basses &c). Apart from these uses they are are at risk of confusing or of being ignored/forgotten.
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by Fred G. Unn » 28 Nov 2019, 14:37

John Ruggero wrote:
28 Nov 2019, 03:44
Octave transposing clefs remind me of those mythical creatures created by grafting together ill-matched body parts from several species. No matter how they are designed, they look weird and unnatural. And they are needless and self-defeating in piano music because most pianists would prefer normal octave signs.
LOL! They look strange to me too, but it's not my call. He has several extended passages in extreme ranges and just wants to use them. I've made a few variants were the 8 is much more legible to make the change apparent to the performer, but positioning seems to vary a lot too. Gould's octave transposing bass clef has the 8 at the tip of the clef which seems unbalanced, but maybe that's the point as it draws attention. As there doesn't really seem to be a consistent positioning style across different publishers, I was just wondering if anyone had a favorite, or a reason to use one style over another.

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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by John Ruggero » 28 Nov 2019, 15:49

The composer, not always young and inexperienced, would insist on using some ill-conceived notation. Arnstein would patiently explain why it wasn't a good idea. Usually reason would prevail. If not, we would do what the composer wanted, like with the guy who used neither octave signs or transposing clefs, but wrote everything with umpteen ledger lines. Sometimes the composer would learn his lesson from the result. Sometimes not.
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by Fred G. Unn » 29 Nov 2019, 01:15

John Ruggero wrote:
28 Nov 2019, 15:49
The composer, not always young and inexperienced, would insist on using some ill-conceived notation. Arnstein would patiently explain why it wasn't a good idea. Usually reason would prevail. If not, we would do what the composer wanted, like with the guy who used neither octave signs or transposing clefs, but wrote everything with umpteen ledger lines. Sometimes the composer would learn his lesson from the result. Sometimes not.
LOL again! This composer is neither young (he's 75) nor inexperienced. I pick my battles with him (all the beaming for phrasing for example) but I'm not gonna win this one so I'm just trying to make it as legible as possible. He actually has a bit of a "hit" in the classical world right now, so he is getting some interest and apparently he's lined up a pretty famous pianist to play this piece. He won't tell me who yet because he doesn't want to jinx it, but I obviously would like to do as good a job as possible. The piece is solo piano, 5 movements, and 62 pages as I currently have it formatted in Dorico (which might change as we haven't really discussed layout yet). He's on sabbatical from his university job this semester but his university has granted him a fairly large copying budget so I'm just trying to get this piece and a couple of string quartets done before the end of the year.

I've been researching a bit, but I just don't encounter these clefs much personally. I have achieved some reasonably successful results with customizing it in Dorico, but I admit I don't really understand how these clefs have traditionally been handled in the past, and don't want to come up with something so far out of the norm that it will seem even more unusual than need be.

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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by John Ruggero » 29 Nov 2019, 13:09

You might show him the comment in Gould sited by MalteM. Maybe that would convince him. Unfortunately, I can't find it now in the English version, but I remember reading it a while ago.

Octave transposing clefs are a relatively recent aberration. Previously, bass, piccolo, guitar players and tenors knew they weren't playing and singing at the notated pitch.

Arnstein hated to do the crazy stuff because he felt that his as well as the composer's reputation was on the line.
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liuscorne
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Re: Octave transposing clef design?

Post by liuscorne » 29 Nov 2019, 14:32

John Ruggero wrote:
29 Nov 2019, 13:09
... Unfortunately, I can't find it now in the English version, but I remember reading it a while ago. ...
The quote is on page 32 in the English edition:

“Do not use these clefs to replace genuine octave transpositions (Britten used them in his late scores, especially for piano and harp). The clefs tend to go unnoticed, as the player is unaccustomed to reading them.”

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