Staff / Part properties

Updated 5 days ago

    The Staff / Part Properties dialog allows you to make changes to the display of a staff, adjust its tuning and transposition, change instrument etc. To open:

    • Right-click onto either an empty area in a staff, or the instrument name, and select Staff/Part Properties....

    Staff type properties
    Staff / Part Properties dialog, as of version 3.5.

    Staff Types

    For practical purposes, there are four different types of staff:

    1a. Standard staff I. A pitched staff used for most instruments except fretted, plucked-string ones.
    1b. Standard staff II. A pitched staff containing a fretted, plucked-string instrument, with options to set the number of instrument strings and tuning.
    2. Tablature staff. A staff containing a fretted, plucked-string instrument, which displays music as a series of fret-marks on strings. Also contains options to set the number of instrument strings and tuning.
    3. Percussion staff. A pitched staff for percussion instruments.

    It is possible to change one type of staff into another using the Instruments dialog, as long as the original staff is loaded with the right instrument. For example, in order to change a standard staff to tablature, it must contain a plucked-string instrument. Similarly, to change a standard staff to a percussion staff you need to ensure that it has an appropriate percussion instrument loaded and so on.

    Most options in the Staff / Part properties dialog are common to all staves, but each type also has one or two specific options of its own.

    Staff / Part Properties: all staves

    The following Staff Properties options are common to all staves:

    The number of lines making up the staff.

    Line Distance
    The distance between two staff lines, measured in spaces (abbr.: sp.). Note: It is not recommended to change this value from the default shown. If you need to make the staff larger or smaller, use the Page Settings dialog instead.

    Extra distance above staff
    Increases or decreases the distance between the selected staff and the one above in all systems. Note: This setting does not apply to the top staff of a system, which is controlled by the minimum/maximum system distance (see Layout and formatting: Format → Style … → Page).

    Notes: To alter the spacing above just one staff line in a particular system, see Breaks and Spacers.

    Changes the size of the selected staff and all associated elements. Using a value greater than 100% may results in unwanted layout, it is preferable to adjust the overall score size using Page settings: Scaling in such case.

    Hide when empty
    Together with the "Hide empty staves" setting in Format → Style ... → Score, this determines if the staff will be hidden when it is empty.

    Possible values:

    • Auto (default): The staff will be hidden if it is empty and "Hide empty staves" is set.
    • Always: The staff will be hidden when empty, even if "Hide empty staves" is not set.
    • Never: The staff will never be hidden when empty.
    • Instrument: For instruments containing multiple staves, the staff is hidden only if all staves for that instrument are empty.

    Show clef
    Whether the staff's clef will be shown.

    Show time signature
    Whether the staff's time signature(s) will be shown or not.

    Show barlines
    Whether the staff's barlines will be shown.

    Hide system barline
    Show/hide barline at left-hand edge of the staff.

    Merge matching rests (as of version 3.5)
    Collapse rests of the same duration, at the same position but different voices, into just one.

    Do not hide if system is empty
    Never hide this staff, even if the entire system is empty. This overrules any "Hide empty staves" setting in Format → Style ... → Score.

    Small staff
    Create a reduced-size staff. You can set the default from the menu in Format → Style ... → Sizes.

    Invisible staff lines
    Make staff lines invisible.

    Staff line color
    Use a color picker to change the color of the staff lines.

    Used to create a cutaway staff in which only measures containing notes are visible (e.g. ossias (Wikipedia); or cutaway scores). This can be used independently of "Hide when empty" or "Hide empty staves".

    The instrument loaded in the Instruments (I) or Select Instrument dialog. The sound associated with this instrument can be changed, if desired, in the Mixer.

    Note: The properties below (i.e. Part Name, Long Instrument Name etc.) are set to the default values defined in the MuseScore instruments.xml file.

    Part name
    The name of the part. This is also displayed in the Mixer and the Instruments dialog (I). Any edits you make to the Part name affect only that particular instrument and no other.

    Note: The Part name is defined by the value of the trackName element in the instruments.xml file. If trackName has not been defined, the value of longName (i.e. "Long instrument name"—see below) is used instead.

    Long instrument name
    Name displayed to the left of the staff in the first system of the score. The long instrument name may also be edited directly as a text object (see Text editing).

    Short instrument name
    Name displayed to the left of the staff in subsequent systems of the score. The short instrument name may also be edited directly as a text object (see Text editing). Editing affects all occurrences in the score.

    Usable pitch range

    • Amateur: Notes outside this range will be colored olive green/dark yellow in the score.
    • Professional: Notes outside this range will be colored red in the score.

    To disable out-of-range coloration of notes: From the menu, select EditPreferences... (Mac: MuseScorePreferences...), click on the "Note Input" tab, and uncheck "Color notes outside of usable pitch range."

    See also, Coloring of notes outside an instrument's range.

    Transpose written pitches to sound
    This option ensures that the staves of transposing instruments display music at the correct written pitch. Set the transpose in term of a musical interval (plus octave if required) up or down.

    For transposing instruments an additional option is shown: "Prefer sharps or flats for transposed key signatures". There are three options:

    • Default: Let Musescore decide
    • Flats: Prefer flats
    • Sharps: Prefer sharps

    Use single note dynamics (as of version 3.1)

    Untick to use MIDI Velocity for playback, see Dynamics: Loudness of a note.

    Tick to switch to the alternative playback mechanism that utilize the MIDI Continuous Controller / Control Change (MIDI CC) Messages (wikipedia), see Synthesizer: Dynamics.

    For either option, you must use a compatible sound, sound is defined by SoundFont creator and cannot be edited within MuseScore, see Soundfont, MIDI velocity and instruments.xml.

    Override staff settings by using the per score master control at Synthesizer: Dynamics.

    As of MuseScore 3.6.2, the Staff option of Dynamic range properties of Dynamics symbols and Hairpins is incompatible with the alternative playback mechanism, see forum discussion.

    Navigation arrows
    Use the and buttons, at the bottom left of the Staff Properties window, to navigate to the previous or next staff.

    Staff / Part Properties: plucked strings only

    Staves of fretted, plucked-string instruments have a few extra options in addition to those listed above,

    Number of strings
    Displays the number of instrument strings.

    Edit String Data…
    This button opens a dialog box which allows you to set the number and tuning of strings. See Change string tuning.

    Advanced Style Properties

    Clicking the Advanced Style Properties... button opens a window giving access to advanced display options for the staff. These will vary depending on the staff type chosen: see the relevant sections below for details.


    At the bottom of the Advanced Style Properties dialog there are a number of buttons which allow you to easily change the following:

    • The number of lines displayed by a percussion staff.
    • The staff type of a plucked-string instrument. For example, you can change from standard staff to tablature and vice versa, or select from a number of tablature options.
    1. Make a selection from the drop-down list labelled "Template";
    2. Press < Reset to Template;
    3. Press OK to accept the changes and exit the dialog (or Cancel to cancel the operation).

    Standard and Percussion staff options

    Show clef / time signature / barlines / key signature / ledger lines
    Option to turn the display of these elements ON or OFF.

    If checked, staff notes will have no stem, hook or beam.

    Notehead scheme
    See Notehead scheme.

    Tablature staff options

    Upside down
    If not checked, the top tablature line will refer to the highest string, and the bottom tablature line to the lowest string (this is the most common option). If checked, the top tablature line refers to the lowest string, and the bottom tablature line to the highest line (e.g. Italian-style lute tablatures). For example:

    Example: 'upside-down' tablature
    'Upside down' tablature.

    Tablature staff options: Fret Marks

    Fret marks are the numbers or letters used to indicate the location of notes on the fingerboard. The following group of properties define the appearance of fret marks:

    The font used to draw fret marks. 8 fonts are provided supporting all the necessary symbols in 8 different styles (modern Serif, modern Sans, Renaissance, Phalèse, Bonneuil-de Visée, Bonneuil-Gaultier, Dowland, Lute Didactic).

    Font size of fret marks in typographic points. Built-in fonts usually look good at a size of 9-10pt.

    Vertical offset
    MuseScore tries to place symbols in a sensible way and you do not usually need to alter this value (set to 0) for built-in fonts. If the font has symbols not aligned on the base line (or in some other way MuseScore does not expect), this property allows you to move fret-marks up (negative offsets) or down (positive offsets) for better vertical positioning. Values are in sp.

    Marks are
    Choice of Numbers (‘1’, ‘2’...) or Letters (‘a’, ‘b’...) as fret marks. When letters are used, ‘j’ is skipped and ‘k’ is used for the 9th fret.

    Marks are drawn
    Choice of placing fretmarks On lines or Above lines. For example:

    Example: letters
    Fretmark letters placed above line.

    Lines are
    Choice of Continuous (lines pass through fret marks) or Broken (a small space appears in the line where the fretmark is displayed). For example:

    Example: numbers
    Tablature with lines broken.

    Show back-tied fret marks
    If unticked, only the first note in a series of tied notes is displayed. If ticked, all notes in the tied series are displayed.

    Show fingering in tablature
    Tick to allow the display of fingering symbols applied from a palette.

    Tablature staff options: Note Values

    This group of properties defines the appearance of the symbols indicating note values.

    The font used to draw the value symbols. Currently 5 fonts are provided supporting all the necessary symbols in 5 different styles (modern, Italian tablature, French tablature, French baroque (headless), French baroque). Used only with the Note symbols option.

    Font size, in typographic points. Built-in fonts usually look good at a size of 15pt. Used only with the Note symbols option.

    Vertical offset
    Applies only when Note symbols is selected (see below). Use negative offset values to raise the note value symbols, positive values to lower them.

    Shown as:

    • None: No note value will be drawn (as in the examples above)
    • Note symbols: Symbols in the shape of notes will be drawn above the staff. When this option is selected, symbols are drawn only when the note value changes, without being repeated (by default) for a sequence of notes all of the same value. E.g.
      Example: note symbols
    • Stems and beams: Note stems and beams (or hooks) will be drawn. Values are indicated for each note, using the same typographic mechanics as for a regular staff; all commands of the standard Beam Palette can be applied to these beams too. E.g.
      Example: stems


    If several notes in sequence have the same duration, you can specify if and where to repeat the same note symbol. i.e.

    • Never
    • At new system
    • At new measure
    • Always

    Note: This option is only available if "Shown as: Note symbols" is selected (see above).

    Stem style:

    • Beside staff: Stems are drawn as fixed height lines above/below the staff.
    • Through staff: Stems run through the staff to reach the fret marks.

    Note: This option is only available when "Shown as: Stems and Beams" is selected (see above).

    Stem position:

    • Above: Stems and beams are drawn above the staff.
    • Below: Stems and beams are drawn below the staff.

    Note: This option is only available when "Shown as: Stems and Beams" and "Stem style: Beside staff" is selected (see above).

    Half notes:

    • None
    • As short stems
    • As slashed stems

    Note: This option is only available when "Shown as: Stems and Beams and "Stem style: Beside staff" is selected (see above).

    Show rests
    Whether note symbols should be used to indicate also the rests; when used for rests, note symbols are drawn at a slightly lower position. Used only with the Note symbols option.


    Displays a short score in tablature format with all the current parameters applied.

    Change instrument

    You can change any instrument in a score to a different instrument at any time. The following method updates instrument sound, staff name, and staff transposition all at once.

    1. Right-click on an empty part of any measure OR on the instrument name and choose Staff Properties...;
    2. Click on Change Instrument... (under "Part Properties");
    3. Choose your new instrument and click OK to return to the Staff Properties dialog;
    4. Click OK again to return to the score.

    Not to be confused with Mid-staff instrument change.

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