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(OT) Conventions for accidental placement in key signatures with lesser-

From: Guo Brian
Subject: (OT) Conventions for accidental placement in key signatures with lesser-known clefs
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 2021 03:50:18 +0000

Hi all,


I have discovered that, among popular music typesetting programs, there seems to be no standard on the placement of accidentals in key signatures when the staff has an obsolete or rare clef. The clefs in question are the French Violin, soprano, mezzosoprano, baritone (both C and F), and sub-bass clefs. I have compared three programs (Sibelius, MuseScore and Lilypond), and all seem to give different results (summarized in the attachments):

The observations are as follows:

1.         One can expect the French Violin clef to use a similar placement as the bass clef, as notes on these staves only differ by octaves. MuseScore and LilyPond copy the placement for the bass clef, while Sibelius uses a different placement: the sharps are placed in a “regular pattern” of two parallel lines, but for the flats, the transition from D to G goes up instead of down as expected, contrasting with the regular pattern in the bass clef.

2.         For the soprano clef, all three programs show accidentals in regular patterns, but with differences. For the sharps, Sibelius and MuseScore display the F-C transition as going up, and then alternating between down and up (comparable to the tenor clef), but in LilyPond the F-C transition is going down, and alternating as usual. For the flats, Sibelius and LilyPond simply reverse their own placements of the sharps, so in Sibelius’ case it is comparable to the common placement of flats, while the LilyPond placement has the B-E transition going down first. MuseScore’s placement for flats is the same as LilyPond’s, so it is not a simple reversal of the sharps.

3.         For the mezzosoprano clef, Sibelius and MuseScore have a regular pattern of alternating between going down and up, but LilyPond has a curious case: the sharps copy the irregular pattern from common clefs, and the flats are an equally irregular simple reversal of the sharps.

4.         For the baritone clef(s), both the C-clef variant and the F-clef variant gave the same result in each case. For the sharps, LilyPond displayed them in a regular pattern starting from F-C going down. However, Sibelius and MuseScore began with a regular pattern starting from F-C going up, then suddenly going down at A-E. For the flats, Sibelius and MuseScore began with a regular pattern starting at the top, going down from B to E. However, LilyPond started at the bottom of the staff, with B-E going up, and suddenly going up from D to G.

5.         For the sub-bass clef, all programs seemed to give a placement identical to that of the treble clef, differing only by octaves.


If anyone has any information regarding the conventions of placement of accidentals in these clefs, I would appreciate to hear from them.

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