I'm attempting to transcribe (for playback) Dukas' L'Apprenti Sorcier into Musescore.

I don't understand what the following notation means, how it should be played, or possibly be approximated, should Musescore not be able to directly play the parts as written.

I thought it might be some sort of tremolo, as the note values for the diamond notes don't fit into 9/8ths, and then there's that extra stemless A-flat above. First bars of string orchestration

I was working on the score uploaded in 2007, but see that a recent, much more legible score was uploaded recently to IMSLP, so I've used that image for clarity; it appears to be faithful to the original.

Any insight will be appreciated; I don't play these instruments myself.

2 Answers 2


These are harmonics. In this case, they're called artificial harmonics because they're not on open strings.

The player fingers the low (regular) note, and also places a finger at the point that would finger the diamond note but without pressing down. This results in a harmonic two octaves above the fingered note, which is indicated by the small black note head.

This is a little over-notated. The regular note head and the diamond note head are enough to specify what's going on. Alternatively, you can indicate the resulting pitch that you want and let the players figure out what harmonic to play to get it.

  • Might you have a suggestion as to what note(s) I'd have to play to approximate the intended passage? Jan 26, 2020 at 17:37
  • Yeah. The two notes produced are as shown by the tiny black notes: the cello sounds the Ab in the second space of the treble stave, and the viola the Ab above (on one ledger line above the stave). To play the viola and cello parts just play the notes I described and sustain them through the 3 bars shown and beyond. The violins play the same two notes pizzicato (plucked) and with mutes (sourdines) fitted. At bar 3 they stop 'pizz'ing and switch to bows. The seconds divide in half: half of them playing the top line and half the lower. Or were you asking how to play the whole page? Jan 26, 2020 at 19:05
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    It's a wonderfully orchestrated piece, eh? Btw, he actually wrote it in 3/8 time. It was suggested he'd done it that way because he was being paid by the bar! Jan 26, 2020 at 19:08
  • Well, given that Musescore doesn’t play that particular technique natively, what note(s) shall I use for those instruments? Just the Ab? Just to be clear. Jan 26, 2020 at 23:13
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    @NevinWilliams The sounding note would actually just be the high one two octaves up. The bottom two are what's fingered and the top is what comes out. Jan 27, 2020 at 4:05

A side note: the notation here (diamond a Fourth up) produces the 2-octave harmonic. You will also see other harmonic positions. This table is copied from Dolmetsch online dictionary

position of little finger ------ pitch of 'flageolet tone' produced
5th above stop ----------one octaves + a 5th above the written note
4th above stop ---------two octaves above the written note
maj 3rd above stop ------two octaves + a maj 3rd above the written note
min 3rd above stop -------two octaves + a 5th above the written note

  • I did end up using an octave above the A that was notated. Feb 14, 2020 at 16:20

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