Size formatting for large scores

• Mar 6, 2016 - 19:16

I'm unsure if anyone has asked this already. If you are working with scores where you have many independent parts on a page and you are hiding empty staves, is it possible to make it so you only have the parts being played on a certain page fill up the whole page rather than having a large void of empty space where the instruments that are not being played would be? I've been unable to figure out how to do this so far.


If there is enough room to fit a second system on the page, MsueScore will do that automatically. If there isn't enough room to fit a second system, it would not be standard practice to add extra space between staves within the one system that is already there - published music rarely does this. but if you wish to have this for some reason, you can add spacers from the Breaks & Spacers palette.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hello Marc. Sorry it took me this long to respond. I've forgotten about this query for a little while. Here's a picture from my unfinished, in progress project. It contains standard string orchestra parts (Contrabass is missing in this picture because it does not play on this page. There will also be a solo piano throughout the entire piece), but sometime later in this piece I need each part, violin 1,2, viola, cello, but not contrabass to split temporarily as the chord I'm planning on using contains many notes. You can see in the picture that a large open space is left when there probably should be enough room for a second system. I did try spacers initially but of course it only increases the space between staves, rather than increasing the scale of the system to fit the page, which was what I was trying to do in the first place.

From within the MuseScore program I also tried from Style>General>Page and played around with staff distance. It worked in terms of getting the scale of the system for each page to increase, but upon the time where the staves temporarily split, they are affected as well and there's not enough space. So the bottom parts just go off the page.

Picture of unfinished project:

And here's a picture of a basic sketch of the chord I plan on using later in the piece so you get a somewhat better idea of my reasonings. It won't end up being a blocked chord, but rather a descending line that smears downward and eventually ends up with this chord. So I'll need to split the staves there so I have fewer voices per staff:

I really hope this response finds you and I hope my questions make more sense now. Thanks for your time.

In reply to by xXTacocubesXx

There's not much we can tell from just a picuter; we'd need you to attach the actual score. Most likely there simply isn't quite enough space given your current settings for margins, staves, and system distances - a slight tweak to one of those settings should allow another system to fit.

But if you're going to be adding more staves to the system, then probably a second system won't fit. I don't understand the distinction you are making between increasing the space betwene the staves and "increasing the scale of the system". Do you mean you wan the staves themselves bigger? That is controlled in Layout / Page Settings / Staff space. It would not be standard practice to change staff size from page to page.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, thanks very much for your quick response! I wasn't sure I wanted to reveal too much of my work so far but I think I will now. And to clarify the distinction between increasing space between staves and increasing the scale of the system, the former I meant was to increase the space of the staves while keeping them the same size, and the latter was what you said. I do understand it's not standard practice to do so, but I was trying to get everything to perfectly fill the page. As for my score, I've attached the file below. I did some work on it recently. I did what you suggested initially, but I didn't really want things to be that small for the whole score for the sake of one section of splitting staves.

This is my main project that I'll upload to musescore when it's finished, as opposed to the other score I use to sketch musical ideas that I will paste to this main score. You'll notice if you play the score, I found out on my own just today, a neat little trick to have the instruments play different sound styles (Solo string to slow strings) to get the effect I want without using channels like you would use to switch from arco to pizzicato.

I don't have the chord on there that I was mentioning where the staves will split, though. But if you uncheck "hide empty staves" you'll see the trick, and probably why I was having trouble getting the spacing that I wanted.

Hopefully this helps you help me :) Thanks again for your time.

In reply to by xXTacocubesXx

I've loaded your file into MuseScore, but now I am not understanding what specifically you want to see different. As I said, published music never normally changes staff size from page to page, so MuseScore doens't provide any automatic way to do that. I guess if you really wanted that for some unusual reaosn, you could create two scores and export them to PDF then assemble the pages using a PDF editor. But I can't see why you'd want to go to that much trouble to create non-standard notation when standard notation is so easy. Just pick a staff size you are comofrtable with, and let it ride for the whole score. If I were you, I'd pick one big enough so that a *single* system fits on the page comfortably, rather than one so small that you can fit two. But as it is, with the staff size as small as you've chosen, simply increasing the "Max. system distance" in Style / General / Page Settings would produce standard results (spacing out the systems on underfull pages).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yeah, it's all good when I fit a single system to the whole page. But if towards the end of the piece, I decided to split the staves temporarily, it kinda goes off the page. Here, the score I attached to this comment was resized to fit the whole page. Everything is perfect, but if you unhide the hidden staves, you'll see there isn't enough room. So far I've been unable to find a way to bring those cut off staves back up .

The "Max. system distance" was quite useful on page 6 as you'll see, so thanks for telling me about that!

What I've been torn over this whole time was getting a good size that can fit normal, unsplit staves on a page without wasted space, as well as being able to fit staves that split temporarily on one page later on, without them being cut off from the page. To get staves that split, I have to add extra instruments and hide them until the real instrument parts split to emulate splitting staves. So if you unhide the staves in the score I attached here, think of it as an imaginary scenario as if the page you are looking at has staves that are temporarily splitting there. Which I'm thinking of doing later in the piece. Unfortunately, the staves on the bottom are cut off. So I'm not sure how to fix that without sacrificing the good size I have on the attached file here.

Again, I appreciate your time. Sorry if my requests are rather strange. I've never been very good at explaining things!

In reply to by xXTacocubesXx

If I turn off "Hide empty staves", then of course you can't fit an entire system on a page - there are too many staves for the staff size, distance between staves, and page size you have selected. There is no getitng around simple logistics: you need fewer staves, smaller staves, less space between staves, or a bigger paper size, or some combination of these. It's up to you to decide which.

The norm in published scores is to not hide empty staves, so I'd personally suggest you leave that option off, and set a small enough staff size to fit. Eg, 1.3mm for staff soace works. Published orchestra music is rarely on paper as small as your page is set; you might consider using larger paper. But of course, your piece isn't for full orchestra, so if you can live with staves that size, go for it.

Anyhow, instead of tryign to reinvent the wheel and then trying to find a way to get MuseScore to do whatever notation you've invented, I'd suggest looking at actual published scores to see how they do things. You;ll see most don't use hide empty staves, and the ones that do don't try to get fancy with staff sizes on the pages that end up being less than full.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ah, okay. I've never really looked at a real orchestral paper before! So I really don't have any experience at all for notating bigger scores. (Or any kind of music in general)I'm just writing this music for fun as a side thing! I might try using a bigger paper size. I simply stuck with the default paper size muse score started with. What I might do also is simply have all the staves split the entire time throughout the piece, so I won't have to worry about hiding any staves in the first place. Two violin I's two Vln. II's etc. then just fit everything from there. Each part is split quite often anyways. Initially I wanted to avoid having too many staves at once to make it a little easier for people to read. I was also under the impression that it wasn't unusual to have a staff split temporarily if they involve three or four different parts with their own rhythms so the staff doesn't look like a mess. Like a cello part that has to split in four or whatever. I've seen some composers (Especially Eric Whitacre) who do this because there's too many different things going on in each part to fit on one staff, so they have to split it temporarily. But again I've never actually looked at an actual *orchestral* type score with every part in it. But trying to do this only makes things harder on myself. Also I'm truly sorry, I see I've created a monster of a thread. I've always been infamous for my large wall of texts but I can't help it!

In reply to by xXTacocubesXx

I have just looked at your score, and there is nothing there that even approaches the problems of fitting a full orchestral score onto a single page. Turn off 'Hide Empty Staves' and reduce the 'Scaling' until one system fits on a page (appx. 1.56), then reduce the 'staff distance' to something reasonable (appx. 10.0) and it will all fit (see attached revision of your score). Conductors are used to reading from smaller notation than players would find acceptable.

If that's not acceptable to you, simply write your string parts divisi, with multiple voices on each staff. That will get rid of the second staves for each of your 1st and 2nd violins, your violas, your cellos, and your contrabasses. To be honest, I have rarely if ever seen a score with those parts set on separate staves. First and second desks are generally written on the same staff.

As Marc implied, scores involving larger numbers of staves are not often printed on standard 'letter'-sized paper. Orchestral scores are usually printed on folio, ledger, or even tabloid sheets; this is why conductors' desks are much larger than standard music stands.

If your own printer can't handle sheets larger than 8.5x14, save a PDF version of your score to ledger-size paper on a thumb drive, and then take it to a local copy-shop to be printed. Most copy-shops today can handle 11x17 sheets; some can even handle 12x18.

In reply to by Recorder485

Thanks for the revised score, although I'm sure that wasn't hard to do. This was what I would've done had I chosen to have the staves split the whole time. The goal I've had this whole time was to not split the staves where it isn't necessary. I must admit this conversation has gone in circles. I actually came across a score preview in school today. A string piece by Eric Whitacre. All the parts for the most part remain in their own staff, but later on in the piece, Whitacre or whoever notated the score decided they needed to split the staves to as many as four parts. If you'd like, you can actually look at the entire score here:

This is a pretty cool example of generally what I was going for in terms of the size formatting thing and the splitting staves, although the score from the link clearly uses bigger paper like you mentioned, as well as about 3 or 4 systems per page. Plus like you said, the print is a bit small, but a conductor would be able to see it. I'm assuming this is what the conductor would be looking at when conducting an ensemble (In non-digital form)

I'll also admit the way this composer writes is somewhat over the top and this isn't necessarily a typical score.

While I don't necessarily have any plans right now to print my score and conduct or have someone else conduct it, this has all been very helpful. I just wanted something that would be easy to read should I ever upload my piece to musescore.

In reply to by xXTacocubesXx

Normally having the violin 1 part do a divisi would still be notated using a single staff and multiple voices, but it's not totally unheard of to occasionally add a staff and use hide empty staves for that. Still, you would normally set a staff and paper size that works for the full score then just go with that throughout. It's actually considerably easier to read a full score with all instruments in the same place from page to page than a condensed score where each system has different staves. Those are published for study sometimes, but conductors almost always work from full scores.

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