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Re: Figured Bass support

From: Richard Shann
Subject: Re: Figured Bass support
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2002 12:34:04 +0000
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.0.1) Gecko/20020830

Han-Wen Nienhuys wrote:

address@hidden writes:
(a first attempt to post seemed to go into a black hole ... try again ...)

The figured bass support in lilypond (wonderful!) is a little tricky to use
for three reasons:
1) The figures have to be entered in the reverse order (that is a six-four chord is entered <4 6>). Of course, this assumes that you do call it that and
not a four-six chord, but I *think* is universally so.

In dutch, <<c' f' a' >> (absolute pitches) is called a 4-6 chord, not
6-4; that's what you mean, right?


I'm not sure about the proper names
in English.

Can you do some more research to find out what is the Right Way?

yes - with classic anglo-saxon myopia I referred to the English nomenclature as "universal" ... the research for the Right Way turned out to be very easy - typing "six four chord" into Google yielded 137 hits and "four six chord" yielded 7 hits. For example:

"Six-four chord (siks for kord) A chord consisting of three notes, the bass note, the interval of a fourth above the bass note, and a sixth above the bass note. ..."
from this site

and likewise for "four six chord", though less common.

However, it occurs to me that I've started us thinking along the wrong lines here - what matters is what people who may want to write figured basses into lilypond will find most natural. I jumped to the conclusion that the reason I write 6 followed by 4 when writing out figured basses was because I call it a six four chord. In fact, since the figures are always aligned at the top there is a much stronger reason why, when writing out the figures you start at the top and work downwards, and hence why you write them out as six followed by four (to continue the example). If you didn't write downwards, you would have to guess where to start writing the figures, judging by how many figures you had to fill in. This all presupposes that figured basses are indeed aligned horizontally at the top: I am sure this is always so, based on sampling Italian, French, English and German 17th & 18th c. sonatas from my bookshelf and thirty odd years of knocking round in early music circles. In fact, I think anything else would appear outlandish, because the commonest figures (a # or b or a six on their own) would have to be placed at some distance from the bass note, depending on the maximum number of figures to be found on any one note in the piece. A # would then frequently appear to be associated with some note on the next line, which usually either means that the editor thinks *that* note should be sharpened (or if ornamented, the ornament should be sharpened). (I feel perhaps I'm labouring the point now ...).

I've added #'direction for the BassFigure grob, so you can the
stacking direction. (1.7 cvs)

The default should be the normal direction else we risk creating another standard in figured bass notation!

Best regards,

Richard Shann

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