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Nonstandard Key Signature dialog box

How to get there

Click the Key Signature tool  image\Key_Signature_Tool.gif, and double-click the measure at which you want the key to change. The Key Signature dialog box appears. From the drop-down list, choose Nonstandard.

What it does

Most music is written with one of the "standard" key signatures. This traditional system is based on a scale of twelve half steps and a harmonic scheme in which keys are arranged around the circle of fifths, and the addition of each new accidental marks an increment in that circle.

In certain modern music schemes, however, these traditional key signature practices don’t apply. A piece may be based on the quarter-tone scale, for example, in which there are three chromatic steps between C and D instead of one; in these contexts, a "chromatic step" doesn’t necessarily mean a half step.

In this dialog box, you can create your own key signatures in any format, based on scales with any number of chromatic steps between one note and the next. Using the five dialog boxes accessed by this one, you can create up to 128 linear key formats (systems of related key signatures) or nonlinear key signatures (key signatures with any configuration of sharps or flats, and which are unrelated to any other key signature) per document. These key formats or key signatures are then available at any time within the document (or, if you save them as a Key Signatures library, in other documents as well).

Note. This scroll bar is inactive if you’ve specified a nonlinear key signature. By definition, a non-linear key signature is not part of a key system. Instead, it’s a key signature unto itself, so there’s no purpose served by the scroll bar.

If the key signature for G major is displayed, then, the Tone Center is 4, because G is the fourth diatonic step away from C. (The Altered amount—the amount of chromatic alteration—is zero.) If the key signature is E flat, however, the Tone Center is 2, but the Altered amount is –1. (E flat is two diatonic steps away from C, but it’s been lowered by one chromatic step.)

These indicators, as well as the Number of Accidentals (see below) and the key signature display, change as you scroll up or down through the key signatures.

A linear key format, however, need not proceed around the circle of fifths. You could create a system that proceeds around a circle of sixths, for example. As long as (1) the total number of diatonic steps is an odd number, (2) the scale in each "key" is formed by the same sequence of whole and half steps, and (3) both halves of the scale are formed by the same sequence of whole and half steps (like the tetrachords in a standard scale), it’s considered a linear key format, and sharps and flats may therefore be progressively added to the key signatures as they are in the standard key system.

You specify how many notes are to comprise an octave by clicking the KeyMap icon; the order in which accidentals appear in each sequential key signature by clicking the AOrdAmt icon; the relationship of the new "key" (tone center) to the appearance of new accidentals by clicking the ToneCnt icon; the octave in which each of the accidentals appears (on the staff) by clicking the ClefOrd icon; and the font and character to be used in place of the normal sharps and flats (if you want) by clicking the Attributes icon.

You can define 64 such linear key formats, and scroll through them using the Prev and Next buttons. The scroll bar, on the other hand, lets you move through the different keys within a single key format system.

Because a nonlinear key signature has no related progressions to other keys, you’ll discover that the scroll bar is inactive if you’ve selected the Nonlinear Key Signature button.

Tip. Treble Clef=0; Bass Clef=3.

See Also:

Key Signature

Key Signature Tool



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