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Re: auto-accidentals in different octaves

From: David Boersma
Subject: Re: auto-accidentals in different octaves
Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002 13:14:43 +0100 (MET)


> Hi .. I've just started using Lilypond in conjunction with NoteEdit and
> I'm very impressed so far, however one little thing is annoying me.  If I
> put an accidental in a bar, lets say high Db, then LP automatically puts a
> flat in front of the D's in other octaves, which as any musician will tell
> you is not what is automatically implied.  True, some people will
> explicitly put a natural in front of other octave D's to emphasise that
> they are in fact natural, but LP is making the wrong assumption here.  Is
> there any way to turn off this behaviour?

I just would like to tell that until a few years ago I made the same
mistake, although it was not entirely my fault. As a kid I played the
clarinet and one exercise book that I used quite a lot kept to the rule
that accidentals would not be repeated for other octaves.

When I encountered printed music where it *was* repeated I ignored it;  I
thought it was 'redundant' but well, there was no confusion about what was
to be played/sung, so I don't complain. Only a few years ago I noticed
that in a work for choir the bases had to sing a Bb in the lower octave
and then later in the same bar a B one octave higher without a flat sign.
I tried to convince them that they had to sing a B flat, but in particular
the musicologist among them 'flatly' denied (the piece in question was
composed late 20th century, not very tonal, so it wasn't easy to decide
just by the melody/harmony).

I hunted through all my Bach and other scores and had to admit that
accidentals were always repeated in other octaves (one would think that in
particular for tonal classical music the repeating of accidental would be
'redundant'). Then I looked it up in the most used Dutch musicological
handbook and there it was explicitly stated that if the composer wants the
accidental in more octaves, (s)he has to specify it in all of them. It
also acknowledged that many people get confused here, because this rule
does NOT hold for the sharps & flats in the beginning of the staff that
indicate the key; they do hold for all octaves.

I just talked about this with somebody else and he came with the argument
that in piano music it would be quite unhandy to leave out e.g. an
accidental in the bass staff because it had already occurred in the treble

A probably better argument has to do with harmony: an accidental changes
*temporarily* the harmonic function of the note; it's not evident at all
that the notes in different octaves should have their functions changed
accordingly. Maybe there is a real musicologist on the list who can phrase
this argument a bit better, with links to authoritive sources.


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