piano with three staffs?

• Mar 1, 2012 - 16:02

Hi there all, this is my first time asking for support, i love musescore and its community and normally i find solutions by my own or thanks to you guys but this time its difficult (or maybe its just me):

I working on a score in which the piano is having sometime three staffs - thats because of many notes and vast range, i would like to get a way to create a three staffs piano and more important, to be able to return to a normal two-staffs piano in the middle of the score. Does it make sense to you?

Many thanks in advance,


No, this doesn't make sense. Does your accompanist have an extra arm for the extra staff? Piano music has one staff per hand, so two staves. The wide range beyond the normal staff is dealt with using ledger lines or 8va, 8vb, 15ma symbols. Organ would normally have 3 staves because of the feet.

In reply to by schepers

It's a common misconception disseminated by some piano teachers that the piano uses two staves because we have two hands - the top stave for the right hand, and the bottom stave for the left hand.

It doesn't take a great deal of study of Bach's 48 Preludes & Fugues to realise that this is utter hogwash.

The piano uses two staves because of the breadth of its range, and notating something really complex is often aided by the addition of another staff.

As for organ music - I have seen five staves being used - 2 for each hand and one for the Pedal - and that was in Mendelssohn

In reply to by schepers

Un Sospiro by Franz Liszt is probably the most famous example. A third stave is needed to emphasize the melody. As already mentioned above, the two staves used for piano don't correspond to the two hands. It's totally fine to notate something for the left hand in the top stave and vice versa due to lack of space. It even looks more elegant.

In reply to by [DELETED] 5

Hi, Thank you for your super fasr reply. I kind of try to use the "hide empty staff" with not much success.

Let me try to redefine the problem: I managed to make a three staves piano score using the conventional way (you can see a print screen in the attached file) the problem is to swith it back to noraml two-staves piano in the middle of the score and back again to three etc.

a three staves piano (and sometimes four) is very much common in compositions of new music in the last 100 years - you can see it everywhere.

Many thanks for your reply,

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In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Add 2 pianos and remove one of the staff. 3 staff piano score :)

Actually I prefer this method as it is easily read by others. I do pretty much complex works and i do not want to complicate interpreters lives and make their lives miserable....We got Beethoven for the miserables already. *grins*

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

A pianist told me once : it can be also because the composer wanted a voice from one hand to be musically more visible.......
You could maybe use, three stave organ and hide empty stave when you finished... Just that there are 2 F Key (I'm french and i don't remember the english name) and I'm not sure it is what you want... you could also maybe gat some colored note that should be impossible in Organ (and organ pedal)

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

Hello everybody,

was there anything new regarding the above exposed issue since then ? It’s very common for a piano score to have a third staff pop in the middle of the work for only three or four measures. You get a perfectly fitting three staves piano score by creating a voice/organ one and switching these ones to piano, but what if you make use of them three for only two measures ?

Last time it happened to me I had to create a new score and split the movement of the sonata, then you may always manage tojoin the PDF files once created, but you’d have to get a software to join the two audio files and it’s getting more complicated, plus you find yourself with a score having an almost empty staff all the way.

Among the few things that otherwise great notation software doesn’t let you do or that YOU can’t prevent it from doing against your will, I don’t get why it doesn’t allow you full control instead of having automatic features forcing you to undo unwanted stuff step by step, one example and perhaps the most annoying being when the score moves to the next page on its own because you’re assumed by the software to have got the latest measure ‘filled’. From then on you got to scroll back to the previous page as many times as how many notes you got to add to the said measure, seeing your score move back and forth on your screen until you feel like to TEACH YOUR LAPTOP HOW TO FLY THROUGH A WINDOW….

The software is supposed to be used by musicians, so no need to think of making things easier to them as the main and crucial part of their work isn’t notation but composition. Musicians just need a software that let them note whatever they need to appear on the score. It’s very frustrating and time-wasting to have to work against the tool that’s supposed to help you. It’s exhausting enough to have to typewrite a score note by note without having to edit in the process what the software does on its own. Better have no automatic feature at all and let us do everything as we know how.

Anyone knowing how to solve the three staves issue would be welcome, as I’m facing it right now wondering what kind of score to pick for my new work. Thanks in advance. : )

In reply to by yanne

Re: "It’s very common for a piano score to have a third staff pop in the middle of the work for only three or four measures....."

This is called an "ossia" if I understand. A third staff is added at the top, it is generally made a small staff and then "hide empty staves" is used to hide that staff in all the bar s it is not needed.

In reply to by xavierjazz

No, it is absolutely not an ossia. It is when a composer, for all the possible reasons stated in the previous comments - for reasons of clarity, because the voicing is very intricate, and because there is a third voice that he wants to be HEARD, and therefore SEEN, very clearly - adds a third bar, which can be written in treble or bass clef, depending on the range of the voice, and it can even switch clefs. Ossia is when you have a choice between two versions. There is no choice here: all three staves must be played.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

No, not enough : you also need to extend the bracket to the three staves, which you do by clicking on the bracket of the first two staves, a little square appears at the bottom of it and then you pull it down to the third stave (supposing you've added the third stave UNDER the first two).

In reply to by Film pianist

No program reads minds, it makes a decision. MuseScore decided that if you want a bracket extended, you must do it yourself. There is one exception, if you add the new staff between the existing staves the bracket will continue to span the previous staves, which will include the new staff. I recommend inserting the new staff between the existing staves anyway. If you manually extend the bracket to a staff at the top or bottom which becomes invisible, the bracket will probably not span the way you want it to. Use the middle staff as the extra staff that will only appear when needed. This will assure the bracket will span two or three staves at all times.

In reply to by Film pianist

Thank you so much for your comment! This solved my issue of wanting to have piano three staves. I had made a score with two pianos and simply deleted one of the staves of one of the pianos; however, it didn't look like an official three-stave-whilst-single-piano score. After reading your comment, deleted one of the brackets, then extended the top one as well as extended the barline, and Musescore so nicely adapted the rest of my score to fit automatically.
I don't have the problem of needing to make one stave invisible part of the time though, so not sure how it'd work for others who look at this thread....

In reply to by yanne

Ossia is when a third staff isn't actually meant to provide additional notes to play, but instead to explain an alternate way of playing the notes already there (eg, a written out ornament, or simplified version of a passage).

What I think you want is a full third staff - not an ossia - but the process is basically the same, as Jojo describes. Add the third staff, turn on "Hide empty staves". This didn't work for 1.3 (the release that was current when this topic was started) because hide empty staves was all-or-nothing, so you needed the workaround described previously. But it definitely works now, and has for several years now - since the release of 2.0.

And if you happen to prefer keeping your focus in the previous measure after completing entry rather than moving on, use Continuous view, as noted above. That's another "new" 2.0 feature. The cursor still mvoes forward since this is what is wanted the majority of the time, but at least the previous measure normally remains in view. And FWIW, it's but a single keystroke to move the cursor back. No scrolling should ever be necessary, just hit the left cursor.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Continuous view doesn’t work for me as it keeps hiding the last ‘completed’ measure, plus I wonder how you can work with such a setting, I need to have at least half a page in view.

Yes I use 2.0.3, I even bought the software once but I lost the file in a computer generated disaster… I’ll try all what you suggested to me anyway, as I always wondered what the ‘hide empty staff’ feature might be used for. And I’ll let you know.

In reply to by yanne

Well, as I said, it's a single keystroke to move the cursor back, and then both measures should be in view, if you are in continuous view. In page view, cursor back also works to return you to the previous measure, but of course it is often physically impossible to have both measures in view, which is why many people prefer continuous view during note input, especially for piano or other instruments where you might be entering more than one voice per staff. Also, Ctrl+left brings you back to the *beginning* of the previous measure, all ready to enter another voice.

Anyhow, the key is to use the cursor keys, don't rely on scrolling, which is guaranteed to be a much less efficient way of getting back to the previous measure. Continuous view is just something you can use on top of that to help keep more context visible than otherwise would be physically possible.

Not sure what you mean about having "bought" the software, BTW - MuseScore has always been, and always will be, completely free.

@yanne... Welcome aboard.

Since MuseScore 2.0 was released March 23, 2015 feel free to initiate a new forum topic whenever you encounter questions and replies that are aged - since those old posts often offer solutions that may no longer work in the current 2.x version(s).

As already mentioned, the "hide empty staves" feature should handle your third (temporary) staff issue:


In reply to by Jm6stringer

Ctrl+left brings you back to the *beginning* of the previous measure, all ready to enter another voice.

yes but what if you have to type five more notes and you must go back five times to the previous measure for it ? ° ) ... I searched how to disable that automatic reframing of the score but couldn't find anything. The software assumes that your measure got 'filled' once you've added the last value missing to fulfill the time signature, and doesn't care whether that value is a single note or had to be a chord. What I'm meaning always happens at the end of a page and you should be able to tell the software "wait, I'm not finished!"... why not letting the user freely walk the score and change the view as and when needed ? Like regarding alterations I find these automatic features unnecessary and annoying.

The ‘hide empty staves’ feature does work, reducing the size of the score by as many hidden staves… In composition you then better have to go straight for a three staves piano score as you never know whether you’ll need a third one or not.

My mistake, I think to remember that I once bought the basic version of Forte thinking that by paying I’d access more features, but even Sibelius 6 can’t achieve the utopia instant/live transcription is. May be used to score an arietta by Mozart but nothing more elaborated. It took me one year of downloading and testing before to admit that I could make a piano score note by note and not otherwise, and I don’t know any other software that let you save your score in PDF or so many audio file formats.

Thanks to you all for having solved my third staff issue.

In reply to by yanne

Not understanding what you mean. If you press Ctrl+left, you are now at the beginning of the previous measure, and you can enter your five new notes (presumably all in the same oice) and the cursor stays in that measure. So all should be well. And of course, 99% of the time, you want the cursor to automatically advance; if that were disabled I think you'd find things exceedingly frustrating everywhere *except* at the end of a page.

Sounds like maybe you have some very unusual special case in mind, probably best to start a new thread and attach the specific score you are having trouble with and precise steps to reproduce the problem, so we can see *exactly* what you mean.

I wish nothing be done by the software without a command from myself, just as if I wrote the score with a pencil on the paper. That’s what I mean.

Sometimes you may copy and paste a section very similar to the following one you got to type down, which allows you to just move the notes and saves a lot of time remaking the whole section. Now what does the software do ? : )… The software reframes the score as you’re being editing the new measure and then it’s a festival… Whether you’re at the end of a page or right in the middle of it, it either expands one measure here or moves it to the following page there, and then you see your score move on the screen each time you move a note to its required line, which means that if you got to move it up or downward by five lines, your measure will five times disappear from your field of vision and you’ll have to go find it where it moved to at each time. I’m just being moving notes within one measure, so why doesn’t the software wait until I’m finished to reframe the score ?

I'd be surprised to learn that it happens but to me, or maybe there is a setting to avoid that, I don’t know. Also I don’t use ctrl buttons, I just leave the navigator open and use it to walk the score. I aim to make music, not computing, so the simplest the better. As an automatic feature since we’re at it, rather have tuplets self-generate once a series was started for instance, but these ones you must create one by one whether there are three or sixty at the following. So it’s better to have no automatic feature at all than to have to bear some that make you lose your time and temper while what could be useful is missing.

In reply to by yanne

In order to help better, it would be best if you attached the score you are having trouble with and then described specifically relative to that score what you mean. Suffice it to say, MuseScore doesn't normally do anything you don't tell it to. So I'm not quite sure what you mean. if you copy and paste a section of music from one place to another - something you cannot of course do with pencil and paper, so it's hard to know how you intend that analogy to work - it does exactly that and nothing else. Not sure what "reframes the score as you’re being editing the new measure" means here. So again, attach a specific score, describe what you are trying to do as precisrly as possible, and we can help you understand how to do it, or why what you are trying doesn't do what you seem to be expecting.

Navigator works to move about a score, sure, but for simple things like moving from the cursor measure to measure, the cursor keys are far more efficient. Just like in a word processor - you *could* use the mouse every time you want to back up one or two letters, but why would you?

I'm using MuseScore with the default settings, just making a score and it leads to what I described : the software's processing of the file creation interferes in my own work. A tool ceases to be one once you're used by it and that's the problem with computing. Also better is the enemy of good (and bad is the enemy of worse : ))...

My third staff problem got solved thanks to you and it's all I's asking for.

In reply to by yanne

What I don't understand is why Ctrl+left doesn't compeltely solve the problem for you. it does for me - in a single click it moves the cursor back where you want it and allows you to do exactly what you want. MuseScore can't read your mind - after entering the last beat of a measure, it has no idea if you intend to continue entering notes in the next measure or whether you intend to back up and enter more notes in the previous measure. 99% of the time it's the former, so advancing the cursor is absolutely the better default. In those few cases where you actually do need to go back and enter more notes into the measure you just "finished", a single keystroke gets your cursor back there.

So again, there really shouldn't be a problem if you follow this workflow. If you are still experiencing some sort of problem, then either it is something unique to your particular score - a corruption, perhaps - or I am not understanding what you are describing, or else you aren't understanding what I am describing. In *any* of these scenarios, we would need you to attach a score you are having toruble with and to give precise steps to reproduce the problem in order to understand it.

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