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Francisco Martins

Accidentals In Atonal Music For Choir?

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Yeah make it as easy to read as possible

agree

I would also add, never assume just because you crossed the bar line that they will remember that the previous accidental is canceled out. If you are going from a flat/sharp note to a natural note, put an accidental on it.

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Sibelius takes care of that. What about using flats on one voice and sharps on another, on the same bar? I usually don't do this so the chords are easy to identify, but the other day I read a piano reduction of Tristan and Isolde and there were flats and sharps on the same bar.

Also, Sibelius is playing the wrong notes, what the hell?

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Any choir reading your music are going to be looking at a score rather than an individual part so that they can see what the other sections have to help them pitch their notes so try to be consistent with sharps and flats throughout all of the parts. Try to only use one or the other (all sharps or all flats) if possible. Its much easier to quickly figure out that F# to A# or Gb to Bb is a major third than trying to quickly figure out what interval F# to Bb or Gb to A# is!

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Any choir reading your music are going to be looking at a score rather than an individual part so that they can see what the other sections have to help them pitch their notes so try to be consistent with sharps and flats throughout all of the parts. Try to only use one or the other (all sharps or all flats) if possible. Its much easier to quickly figure out that F# to A# or Gb to Bb is a major third than trying to quickly figure out what interval F# to Bb or Gb to A# is!

Even in tonal music it is fine to use both F# and Bb close together. So I wont be too rigid in above advise. Clearly there are both horizontal (ie the parts themselves) and vertical (harmony, full score) considerations. Balance between both, and be consequent. And as Phil and Sojar said, simplicity is key.

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Even in tonal music it is fine to use both F# and Bb close together. So I wont be too rigid in above advise. Clearly there are both horizontal (ie the parts themselves) and vertical (harmony, full score) considerations. Balance between both, and be consequent. And as Phil and Sojar said, simplicity is key.

I think the point is, make it look as tonal as possible. A mix of sharps and flats are bound to come up in certain minor keys. I just think it's a good general rule of thumb to stick to either sharps or flats as this tends to make vertical intervals more readable. It's incredibly easy for singers to get lost in atonal music because they spend their lives training to recognise tonal relationships to be able to sight sing and atonal music takes that away. You can help by making it look as familiar as possible and making the right choices about accidentals is a big part of that. Whereas most types of ensembles allow you to get away with not having your spellings make vertical sense as long as they make horizontal sense, I think for a choir it's far more important for it to make vertical sense because they need to understand the relationship between their note and the notes of the other sections to help them hit the right pitch.

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Thank you all for your great advice. This community is awesome, and actually helpful for a change. I just finished it, it's a short two minute piece I wrote for a competition, which I will also be using in my college application portfolio. I played it myself on a Kurzweill synthesizer and recorded it with my Iphone. Do check it out, I want some feedback. Especially because I'm a 17 year old kid who just discovered atonal music.

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Avoid augmented intervals and weird jumps

Also may i point out it is hell trying to write atonal choir music - I did it and i showed it to two different composers who both wanted me to notate it differently - So it probably will be wrong and right from different people.

Dont think of the piece as chords (as in the soprano alto and tenor together) think of it as individual lines as the soprano wont read the alto or the bass. I notated it as chords and the only use is for the composer not the performers. So the alto can have flats while the soprano has sharps that doesnt matter (unless its on short piano score (i think)). Im still confused about it but i think that you just need to keep the music on the line readable, and give it to a singer or choir master. They are the ones who will tell you where you have gone wrong notating it. its going to be wrong i can tell you now!

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Sibelius takes care of that.

But doesn't Sibelius also automatically provide parenthesized cautionary accidentals on notes that are tied to the previous page? Eyesores. Don't trust your program defaults.

Great advice in this thread! I'll add that using parentheses on cautionary accidentals is generally old school; the parentheses take up extra space and are unecessary. A score would help if you want specific critiques.

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From my own personal experience, be as consistent with the accidentals as possible. It's so frustrating getting used to an interval only to see it respelled a measure later. Think about if you were singing it -- would you rather see a minor third or an augmented 2nd? And if you choose the latter, what is your really good reason for choosing that? ;)

Keep it as simple and singer friendly as possible -- it'll pay off when you hear a smoother product from their vocal folds. :D

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