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Writing notes where they’re played, or where they sound???????

Home Forums Teaching the Harp Writing notes where they’re played, or where they sound???????

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  • #86321
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    The post on the Glinka variations on a theme of Mozart reminded me of one of my pet peeves, and that is notation that is not clear. In my opinion, the printed music should tell you where to put your fingers. It is, in effect, like the tablature that was used for fretted instruments centuries ago. When I look at any piece of music, ideally I should not have to rethink what’s written on the page. So harmonics should always be written where they are played. The little circle above the note tells you that it is going to sound an octave higher, but the printed note itself should tell you where to put your hand.

    In the same vein, I don’t want to see a note printed as an F# if in fact I’m going to have to play Gb. When I begin the learning process on a new piece of music, I spend a great deal of time making the page look the way I want it to look, so that it is clear at first glance which hand is playing what, and which strings the fingers go on. To this end, I often have to white out notes and rewrite them enharmonically, white out stems and change their direction(up instead of down for example to indicate right hand instead of left), and white out notes and stems and put them in the other staff, again to indicate clearly which hand plays those notes.

    Strange as it may seem, I frequently have to do this to Tournier’s music. As a well trained composer, he was more concerned that the music be notated correctly, theoretically speaking. And so he frequently uses double sharps and double flats, as well as spellings that don’t indicate the correct string(E instead of Fb for example). This drives me nuts. Faure’s Une Chatelaine en sa Tour… was a mine field of this sort of thing, and that’s why I published my edition of that. I’m working on Contemplation of Renie right now, and there are some things in there that I need to rewrite. My brain completely freezes up when I see a note with a circle around it(indicating that it’s to be played enharmonically). Just wondering what others think about all of this?

    #86322
    diane-michaels
    Spectator

    I whole-heartedly concur, Carl.

    #86323
    unknown-user
    Participant

    Yes, life would be alot easier if the music were edited to indicate what you play exactly – and if it were

    #86324
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Carl,

    I am with you 100%. I hate when harmonics are written where they sound. And I hate having to go and fix sheet music with the actual playable enharmonic equivalents to the notes actually written on the page.

    With harmonics I really don’t see any advantage at all to writing them where they sound. All it does it make it harder for your hand to figure out where to go when sight reading. I have never understood that practice.

    The only exception is with guitar music. Guitar music is written an octave lower than it sounds, but it isn’t a problem since everything is written an octave down and otherwise you would be reading most of the music off ledger lines. A lot of guitarists don’t even consciously realize that what they are playing isn’t exactly what they see on the page.

    But the harp is a different animal in that regard. Write it so I can take one look and know how to play it without having to figure out how it really should be.

    #86325
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    My understanding is that it was Salzedo who initiated the practice of writing harmonics where they sound. I don’t think anyone else did it before him. Honestly, it’s a stupid idea.

    #86326
    tony-morosco
    Member

    That is my understanding too. He definitely wrote them that way himself. I remember rewriting them

    #86327
    catherine-rogers
    Participant

    Do you think Salzedo wrote the harmonics where they sound because he played piano, so that would make it easier for a pianist to play the harp part with the right note sounding? Maybe that’s a crazy suggestion.

    #86328
    tony-morosco
    Member

    I don’t think so. I think that when he wrote or arranged for the harp that was is focus and he wasn’t particularly concerned with how it would translate to piano.

    I think part of the reason it may have been that he was actually a phenomenal sight reader and perhaps just didn’t realize that for us mere mortals sight reading it written like that would be problematic.

    #86329
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    My own theory is that Salzedo spent 50 years in this country attaching his name to every aspect of the harp. This was one of those ideas( and he had many) that had to do more with his personality than musical clarity.

    #86330
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Tony- I never realized that Guitar music was written an octave lower than it is played. I suppose that’s to keep the notes within the staff, without having to use say C cleff, or G cleff on a different line.

    #86331
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Carl,

    Yeah, Salzedo certainly did have a, shall we say, strong personality that comes through clear in most things he did. I don’t necessarily have an issue with that. I think that can do a lot for increasing the awareness of an instrument to have a very outgoing and strong personality championing it, and I think Salzedo did an overall good job on that front.

    I just wish he had left the harmonics where they are played.

    Yes, most people don’t realize that guitar music is not written where it is played, even most guitarists which tells you something about guitar players I think ;^)

    In fact outside of the world of classical guitar it is amazing how many guitar players can’t even read music.

    But for those who do I think the goal was to use the G Clef because it is so much more familiar, but not have to have large portions of the notation on ledger lines which defeats the purpose of using an easier to identify clef.

    For guitar it works well. Guitar is relatively easy to transpose on and so guitarists who do understand written music and peculiarities of notated guitar music tend to have an easier time translating what is on the page to either a different octave or key on the guitar.

    #86332

    I think this thread has started getting ridiculous. Other instruments, to the best of my knowledge, such as violins, have their harmonics notated as sounding. Notes represent the sounds we are meant to hear, not finger patterns like the beginner piano music written out on a keyboard. They are an attempt to communicate the idea of the music, not the end result in themselves.

    I don’t have to rethink harmonics written where sounding because I am focussed on how they sound, not sticking my finger on the string, but then, I don’t play much music that writes them as played. I think it encourages better sound to draw your attention to the result. I think Salzedo was a highly literate artist and made choices out of intelligence, consistency and taste. Commenting on his ego is pointless as none of us have even met him in person, and it is irrelevant. Grandjany invented his own notations, as did Berio and Boulez and a lot of other people. I think Salzedo’s notations tend to be the clearest and most rhythmically accurate. If everyone adopted them, which I can see will never happen, there wouldn’t be a problem.

    It also helps when you are editing written music that when you want to switch a note to a harmonic all you have to do is write a circle above it, not a circle and an 8 or 8va.

    As for the use of

    #86333
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I stand corrected!

    #86334

    I understand what you’re saying, Saul, but when you only have five days to learn an orchestra part, there is no time to spare for being theoretically aware. You just have to read what’s on the page, so I put it on Sibelius or copy it and white things out so that I don’t go cross-eyed trying to decipher what I’m playing. I also get dyslexic when I see those harmonics written where they sound. I prefer knowing where my hand is going, because I am often learning music on a tight deadline.

    #86335
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Saul,

    Any comments I make about Salzedo are based on what I have read about him and what I have heard from people who knew him. Personally I don’t find anything wrong with his ego and as stated, I think having someone like him as the advocate of the harp was a good thing overall and I have the highest respect for him.

    As for the various reasons he may have chosen to notate harmonics the way he did, you make some very valid points, but I still don’t care for it because while it may be nice for understanding the theory and structure of the music it does not lend itself to the actual playing of it. When harmonics are written where played I have no difficulty at all understanding the context in which they relate to the rest of the music, but when they are written where sounded I have to think twice to play them when sight reading.

    It is a practical thing for me, and I am all for practicality. If the chord progressions are not clear then it is easy enough to include the cord symbols as well. In fact I typically prefer to have cord symbols indicated and often write them in myself when they are not. They are much easier to refer in my opinion when you need to see and grasp the structure of the harmony.

    As for other instruments, I am not familiar with violin harmonics but guitar harmonics are written where played, and next to piano music guitar music is probably the second most prolific written music in the Western world. If consistency in notation were ever to come about I would think it would model itself after what are currently the most prolific forms of written music.

    I think what it comes down to is that different people like things presented differently. Ultimately each of us is going to come across music that is not presented in the way we prefer and we will have to make changes to suite our preferences. But the reality doesn’t mean we can’t each dream that things would standardize to our individual preferred way, and that is really what we are doing here, just saying “If I were king of the musical world…” I wouldn’t take it too seriously.

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