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A question about double accidentals

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Otso, Nov 29, 2006.

  1. Otso


    Mar 6, 2006
    I've thought about playing some simple violin pieces on the bass and there'll be transposing involved. I would just like to know if it is appropriate to use the enharmonic equivalent instead of a double accidental. For example, the piece being originally in C major and I would transpose it to E major, and there was an A# in the piece, so should I write as a C# (the other accidental being in the key signature) or would D natural be acceptable (or would it completely butcher the harmonic idea, or something like that)?

    My theory knowledge has a load of holes in it... The last time I went to a music theory class was when I was about 8, so sorry about my ignorance. :bag:
  2. tappingtrance

    tappingtrance Cooke Harvey Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    if there is an A# in the key of C [i.e. a #major 6th] you need to retain that functional relationship so in the key of E major the normal sixth is already C# so it becomes a C x [C double sharp]. Ultimately for your practice you can do whatever you want but it is helpful in transposing and understanding the functional relationships with the harmony to just transpose everything correctly. Sounds like an interesting project.
  3. Otso


    Mar 6, 2006
    Thanks for the answer. I was thinking that would be the correct way and I might as well do it right the first time.
  4. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    it's largely up to your own discretion... if you're writing a piece that needs to be sight-read by someone and the priority is getting the right note played at the right time, then the simplest enharmonic equivalent is often the best choice, and whether or not you're going to confuse someone studying the piece ("does that note function as a sharpened 6th or a flattened 7th?") can often be treated as a secondary consideration
  5. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    There is no call for double sharps or flats, NEVER!!!!!!:rollno: :D :p
  6. barthanatos

    barthanatos Insert witty comment here

    Feb 8, 2006
    South Carolina
    You are joking, right?
  7. what about in A# harmonic minor?
  8. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    Yes and no, I believe that a written out music part should be as easy to read as possible. I understand the harmonic reasoning behind double accidentals but I think it is an outdated notion to call a C natural a B double sharp. I am not analyzing the piece for harmonic content, I am playing it.
  9. ...C = B#, not B##(or x)
  10. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    Whatever, you get my point.:help:

    I play a lot of jobs where there is little or no rehearsal time. The easier to read the chart the better. IMHO.
  11. The problem is, though, that for some folks who are into their harmony, seeing something written the wrong way can make it harder to read, not easier. For instance, if I had to play a C# major scale, seeing it written out as C#, D#, F, F#, Ab, Bb, C, C# would not make things easier for me at all. Of course, I could figure it out, but it would be easier if it were done the right way. And if "easier" is the point, that's relevant.
  12. uhdum


    Oct 15, 2002
    Richard is right... it may not be THAT BIG A DEAL to use the proper notation, but it is correct. Music, is a language, just like any other language. In my opinion, it should be spoken correctly. Therefore, for example, the C# major scale would correctly be C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, B#, C#.
  13. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    that's one way of looking at it.. here's another:

    Music is ear food... notated music is only the recipe... you often want to make it as easy as possible for your chef to read the thing and make the meal

    you don't eat the piece of paper that has the recipe on it
  14. Again, the "wrong" way is not always easier--often it's harder, precisely because it's "wrong."
  15. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    it'd be interesting to hear the views of any Talkbass members who sight-read music for a living...
  16. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I compose, arrange and play on a semi-pro basis. When I write a full score I side with Richard and keep things very theory minded, it helps me understand chords (and they look like chords) when double sharps, double flats or unusual sharps and flats (B#, Fb etc etc) are needed to maintain the chord structure.

    On the parts that I hand to musicians, though I will change the enharmonic spelling IF it helps the melodic flow of the notes. In other words regardless of the chord in question it makes more sense to the players (IMHO) to see a G# going to A than it does to see a Ab going to A (most of the time). Of course all that is very subjective due to rhythmic concerns, key centers and modulations and other subtle things that may be going on in the music.

    Bottom line is the score is theory and the part is practice. Rehearsal time is precious and expensive and not a place for theory lessons.
  17. I understand your point, as I do those things on a semipro basis as well. I'll even back off my original point slightly to say that if I'm handing a part to a player who's not a great reader, I'll sometimes use the enharmonic equivalents even though I know they're "wrong," just to save time. But I tend to do this for whole areas, so there's some local consistency at least. SO I'll write D#7/Fx --> G#m, or else Eb7/G --> Abm, but I won't write Eb7/G --> G#m.

    For someone who reads at a pro or near-pro level, though, I'll always write the score as correctly as I can. Such players often seem to expect that IME, and may even appreciate the fact that you've taken the time to do it right.

    A random thought about reading music in general. If you think of how a fluent reader of English, for example, reads that language, you realize that you don't really read letter by letter, or probably even word by word. You often read things in groups, sometimes whole phrases or even sentences, and you use your sense of the larger structure to help you navigate the smaller pieces that make up that structure. That's one reason we can often guess at a word we don't know or can't make out.

    Reading music is similar. If you do it enough, you get past the point where you have to read every note individually. You recognize larger groups, shapes, and structures, and don't have to always figure everything out small piece by small piece. This allows you to read more quickly, easily, and efficiently. In some cases IME and IMO, "wrong" notation can mess with this sense by presenting a familiar group/shape/structure in an unfamiliar form, so that you take longer to recognize it and thus play it. For example, most of us know what a root-fifth shape looks like, and I bet that when you see it, you mostly don't need to break it down into its components and work them out--you see it, you grasp it, you play it. But if this is presented in an eccentric way--say, C# to Ab--it can take you longer to see it, because it doesn't look like what it really is. And this can hinder reading.

    I don't want to overstate the problem, if such it is, and I'm not saying using enharmonics is always a disaster. Sometimes it doesn't matter at all, or causes only a minor glitch. But I think that if you have an interest in or need for much reading and writing, it's helpful to make a practice of doing things "correctly." It allows you better capacity for communicating with other musicians. If you know how to write it "right," then you can easily write it "wrong" in situations where you think it would help. If you only know how to write it "wrong," you may find it hard to write it "right" when that would be helpful.

    Just my $0.02.
  18. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    My two cents...

    Depends on who its for. If for classical or theory discussion use the double sharps and flats. Talk to copyists for TV/film studio work (what few are left) then use what is easist to read for the musicians. So that could mean enharmonic or double accidentals what makes it easy to read. Classical musicians their whole life if reading music. If give a chart and things go bad its the musicians fault in general. In the studio where time is money if things go wrong it's the copyists fault. Things have to be easy to read.

    Personally I like enharmonic for single lines, but chords rather see the accidentals.
  19. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    When I'm sightreading and a chart is notated incorrectly I find it a little distracting - just for a milisecond. But I see enharmonic equivalents used so often it doesn't bother me any more.

    I understand the ease of reading mode of thought, but in my case it does just the opposite.

    It's a little lazy and incorrect, but it's no big deal. It used to irk me as a theory student, but the fact it made me stop and think about it maybe was a good thing in the long run

  20. fcleff


    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    The harp is tuned to the key of Cb Major in order to avoid using too many x's and bb's. Still, it happens sometimes.

    Often, on a stringed instrument (without frets) the sound of a B# will be slightly different than the sound of a C. An Fx will sound slightly different than a G. This is because they tend (not always) to be leading tones. For this reason, whenever I have to write a score or part, I retain the integrity of x's and bb's.


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