Creating a song album with varying instruments

• Dec 26, 2016 - 12:47

I have in mind creating a song album with 24 Christmas songs. They have differing sets of instruments, so I can't join the single scores into an album. But I still can collect them into an album and do a pdf print.

My questions:

  1. Since I can't join the scores due to differing instrument sets, must each song start on a new page?
  2. Must I go to each individual score to allow page numbering on 1st page? My test revealed that joining two one page songs and one two page song, I only got a page number 4 on the last page. All other pages were the first pages of the individual songs.
  3. I might want to create a cover page as #1, a blank page as #2, a table of contents as #3 and probably the first song on #4. Pages 1-3 are therefore stuff not created with MuseScore, unless I find out a way of creating staff free pages in MuseScore, just for the sake of creating the whole document from cover to cover with MuseScore's album function. Would it be better just to create an album with the actual sheet music pages, minding the page numbers, print it as a pdf and then join it with the cover and other non staff pages using other pdf joining software?
  4. Musescore can only print albums, right?. It can't export them directly to pdf files like individual scores, right? One has to use virtual printers that write pdf files, right?


In reply to by Shoichi

I won't go into adding a triangle and a choir and whatnot to 24 scores just because they are needed in one or two scores, not even if I could hide them where not needed. I guess the only benefit from the album function will be the page numbers and not having to export 24 individual mscz files to individual pdf files to be merged with pdfsam.

In reply to by Shoichi

Further results from testing:

  1. I need to edit each score to enable page numbering beginning on first page. That is $P instead of $p in the page footer. It's not enough that I have the page number settings only in the first score. Only the numbering is inherited, creating subsequent numbers. Not the formatting. Using $p instead of $P in subsequent scores in the album will leave the page number off from the first page of each song. Perhaps this might be wanted in some cases. Not in mine.
  2. Editing an individual score won't affect the output when printing the album. You have to edit the score, then delete it from the album, then add it back to the album (and of course place it in its own position) to make the change appear in the output. It's like the album holds a hidden copy of each score, created at the moment when the score was added to the album. Again, this might be the desired behaviour. But on the other hand, it could be convenient to only edit each individual score file and rely on that printing the album would include all changes made.

Despite all that, I think the album feature is great!

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Yes, but I'm not going to count all instruments I use in all 24 scores, then add all missing instruments to all scores. I would even have to add some instruments two times, say one glockenspiel above the vocalist for one particular song and another glockenspiel below the vocalist in another song.
I'm perfectly ok with hiding empty staves in one song, if some instrument doesn't play for several lines. But I'm not ok with first adding a lot of instruments for a song, then hiding the instruments through the whole song. This 24 times.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Exactly. But I really wish you understand my point of view. I have one song with the vocal staff and a piano staff. I have another song with the vocal staff and a classic guitar staff. And a third with this and that. And so on, up to 24 songs. Adding dummy staves to all 24 songs just because of being able to merge everything into one Musescore file is just not worth it. I probably couldn't switch places of two staves in one song without having them switched in all other songs, too. So dummy hidden staves and a fixed order of staves make everything just too uneditable.
My guess is that the whole merging thing is only developed with say classical piano albums in mind. And what I'd want would probably require too big a wedge between each score in the album. The developers (and perhaps the users, too, who am I to tell) simply put more emphasis in properties remaining the same from tune to tune in one album.
But I already succeeded in creating one single pdf with 24 songs, using the album function without joining, just printing. And then, using other pdf software, I merged it with a cover page and a TOC. As a fond user of LibreOffice, I'm definitely going to try LOSA, which musikai recommended. If it can produce a clickable TOC, it is really what I need.
The only thing that I won't have is next song starting on white space left on the last page of previous song. But I guess I'll put illustrations there instead. So I won't raise this to a feature request.

In reply to by Shoichi

Sorry for being unclear. What I meant was that the only thing I can't achieve with my method is having next song start on same page as the last line of the previous song.

If you are comfortable with LibreOffice then I suggest to have a look at:
LibreOfficeSongbookArchitect (LOSA)

For working in LOSA with PDFs you only have to install PDFtk.

1. Export all your scores to single PDFs with the correct names (that will become TOC-entries later, you can edit that of course)
2. put them into a folder called "source". Put this folder into the same folder as the LOSongbookArchitect.odt
3. in LOSA press button "In". Then button "Out".
There you have a complete PDF with Titlepage, pagenumbers, TOC, PDF-Bookmarks and all your PDFs merged in.
Then finetune your odt as you like. (Eg. to change the order of the PDFs use the navigator and shift the Headings up and down)
When you update a PDF you only have to press "Out" again.

The documentation of LOSA seems scaring, but the usage is quite simple and customizable. The main requirements are to enable Macros in LO and to turnoff automatic opening of PDFs in viewer after export. (RULE2 and RULE3 in "First Start" in LOSA-Documentation)

In reply to by jotti

I have been using a word processor for title page and table of content, foreword etc., then saving directly to Pdf. Much easier than fitting long texts or tables(!) into the frames.

In your situation I'd probably convert every song to Pdf separately (with the correct page number(s) in place), then combine all files from whichever source with one of the simple Pdf handling programs (I use Combine Pdfs; Apple's Preview also works but is less easy to use) for printing.

You could avoid incompletely covered pages by combining just two or three songs at a time into one file as needed--using the hide empty staff routine described above; that would be considerably less daunting than doing it for the entire album.

In reply to by jotti

Glad it works for you :-)

You don't have to add pagenumbers in LO. The TOC will also work without showing them on the pages, but then you have to make sure, that the pagenumbers in your imported PDF fit to the internal LO pagenumbers. Otherwise the TOC-Numbers will differ.

The best way of course is to use single PDFs without pagenumbers for every Song, so you can rearrange the order in LO.

If the PDFs already have pagenumbers that are always exactly at the same place then you also could hide them in LO by covering with sth white:
Either you set the Footer or Header TextStyle area to white color or you add a white rectangle from the Drawing Toolbar and anchor it in the Footer or Header.

Sounds like workarounds, and yes they are, but at least they are possible in LO and once set you are done!

(Had to update LOSA meanwhile to get the PDFdummies working again, redownload if you need this)

Jotti wrote:

What I meant was that the only thing I can't achieve with my method is having next song start on same page as the last line of the previous song.

Just found out that the new tool "PDFshiftscale" can overlay 2 halfway filled PDFpages that way that the 2nd one starts at the bottom half of the 1st page. This is of course a rather special case.

In reply to by musikai

I guess the macro takes the pdf as it is. The macro is not capable of getting into the pdf code, is it? I don't even know whether there is any code there, like a markup language, like xml. If it did, it would be great to be able to omit the page number tag, since it obviously is of no use, when one wants to use this great LOSA tool. LOSA is for creating a new album with completely new page numbering, right?

In reply to by jotti

You are right, the PDFs are taken as they are. Chances are minimal to find any software that is able to delete the pagenumbers in the PDF as they are not marked as pagenumbers. They are Objects like any other objects.
So initially LOSA was created to use new page numbering but can be used to cover existing page numbering as well (as posted above). Covering unneeded things in PDFs is not unusual practice.

In reply to by musikai

I'm trying to you use your tool by using portable applications in order to merge PDF files.
I was able to install LibreOffice and PDFtk but LOSA is saying that the latter is not installed.
I'm not sure in which subfolder and whether it is possible to place PDFTKBuilderPortable.exe.
Thanks for your help.

In reply to by EnricoM

Hi EnricoM,
PDFTKBuilderPortable.exe is the wrong application. (It is a GUI frontend for the commandline Tool pdftk)
If you just want to merge PDFs then this might already be sufficient for your needs.
If you really want to use LOSA then the easiest way would be to download the original pdftk from PDFLabs and install it regularly (and let it make the entries to the Windows Environment Variables during installation)
You CAN however use pdftk as a portable version with LOSA. Then you have to create a Folder called "Apps" into the same Folder where LoSongbookArchitect.odt is located. Into this "Apps"-Folder you have to copy the Entire Folder "PDFtk" (that was created after the installation of pdftk).
The Folder-Hierarchy should look like this:

(If you already have installed your portable PDFtkBuilder then you can also try to use the version of PDFtk that comes with it. You can build the above directories and copy the pdftk.exe that you have into the bin folder. But I never tested this. The version of pdftk.exe that comes with PDFtkBuilder 3.9.4 is version 1.4.1 from 2007. The pdftk.exe from PDFlabs is 2.0.2 from 2013)

In reply to by musikai

Thank you.
At the end I've installed it and this solved the issue.
By the way, I'm struggling to increase the header size in the ODT template since some contents are overlapping the page numbers.
If I change the height and regenerate the document, nothing happens...


Any suggestions?
Thank you

In reply to by EnricoM

Yes, of course , I meant the page margins. The top margin is already quite small but you can make it smaller so that the Page numbers would appear even closer to the top.
When you write "it didn't change the output" do you mean that (a) nothing changes in the document when changing the settings? Or (b) only in the generated PDF (button "out") there are no changes?
You can contact me directly if you want: struckkai @ gmx . net
Perhaps you can show a picture about the layout problem with the pagenumbers and how you would want it to look like. etc.

In reply to by EnricoM

Email is fine. That (b) happens is quite strange. If you are viewing pdfs with the browser then you might have to reload. But it should just open the new generated pdf autonatically in a new tab. If you are using a pdf reader like pdfxchange you have to close it before pressing "out" because it locks the pdf. But LOSA should give you a message about that.

In reply to by musikai

Thank you for the emails. As we sorted out LOSA was acting correctly and you can alter the height of the pagenumbers by adjusting the margins of the Pagestyle.
The other solution: To globally shift the contents of all inputPDFs you must install Ghostscript (and add to the Windows Environment Variables). Then you can set the PDFshift in the "Prefs" of LOSA.

In reply to by musikai

Thanks again for all your inputs. I have also to say that the tool is quite fast even with a +600 page document.
One question that is not related to my initial issues: if I add files A,B,C,D I have a TOC with ABCD. In case I want to shift the docs i.e. DCBA, which is the best way to shift files up/down or even to add a new one in the middle?

In reply to by EnricoM

The best way to shift the pieces is to use the navigator. There you can reorder them by reordering the headings using the arrows at the top. If you want to insert a new pdf before an existing one you only have to place the cursor in the document on the heading of the existing pdf and then press "in".

Regardless of all the work around details I do think this is a fairly common case. It would be nice to change the album function in such a way as to enable different instrumentation in different sections. Or is this too complicated? Maybe because if someone removes the section breaks problems would get out of hand?

In reply to by azumbrunn

Consider, a joined albim is basically a single score. So if we allow this for albums, it is by definition allowed for any single score. That is, arbitrary changes to instrumentation mid score. Seems not very likely given the existence of Hide Empty Staves which is the normal and effective way of dealing with this. At most I could imagine adding smarts to the Join function to automatically add the necessary empty staves.

In reply to by Isaac Weiss

My understanding is that one of the improvements being worked on is a true mid staff instrument change. If this code is written then why not use that technology with the smarts to decide if there are multiple staffs for the instrument that need to be accounted for in one of the files, deal with that, then do the mid staff instrument change.

So for example, you have song 1 with flute, sax and drum while song 2 has trumpet and piano. Flute becomes Trumpet, sax becomes a grand staff with the unused one hidden and mid staff changed to piano and the drum just becomes invisible. I suspect that joining single staff with a grand staff would be a very big hurdle; if I'm wrong it's even easier. You may need to add an internal variable to always hide a single staff in a multi staff instrument, but that's nothing for you geniuses.

In reply to by mike320

Yes, that could be done as well. Right now only "some" staff properties can change mid-staff even in the nightly 3.0 builds, but I understand that's currently undergoing improvement. So maybe this could be viable. Switching from single to grand staff could be handled internally using hide empty staves, so I don't see that as a deal breaker.

Still, I wonder just how common this use case actually is. Most albums are for a single type of score, or for ones that differ in such small details (eg, one extra staff in some pieces) that Hide empty staves works fine. Getting this to work as expected in the cases where the scores really are unrelated could pretty low on the cost / benefit scale.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

My suspicion is that the most common use of this would be in choral music (such as SATB) where the occasional song has a solo part. In this case it would be a nicety because hiding those few staffs would require minimal effort, unless it's a 100 song album with about 5 random songs having solos in 2 of the different voices.

The other use is in symphonies. A large number of romantic and later symphonies have different instruments in each movement. Also some of the movements get very long and are impossible to enter into a single file. When my movements get to about 150 measures with 30 instruments it gets to the point where entering a measure drags very badly. (Click, wait for musescore to acknowledge the click, enter the line, click the notes that need the forte. wait for the long pause that is inevitable, reclick the notes because I clicked after musescore started it's autosave but before the circle of death appeared and unselected all the notes then double click the fortissimo. Repeat for each dynamic, hairpin, cresc...) I break the longer movements (I'm working on movement 4 of Mahler's 6th with 802 measures) into smaller units. As I go along he keeps adding more instruments, especially in the percussion, so I have to go to my master and add instruments to it so when I copy a section to it, it will line up. I realize I could do this in an album, but then I have the issue at hand to deal with.

This really would overcome a great limitation. The feature as it is now is almost identical to Sibelius' "append score" and suffers the same limitations of having to create same Instrument sets for all Scores. I would be interested to know if Musescore's engine would be able to mix different scores at all without a major rewrite. The only software that I know that was built with these concepts are Lilypond, Dorico and the quite unknown but very good "Primus Publisher".

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