How to use different instruments for different sections

• Jan 31, 2018 - 02:09

I'm transcribing a work (Mozart's flute and harp concerto) which has different instuments in different movements. I use section breaks but when I add an instrument (a second viola staff), it affects the whole score, not just the section (movement) in which I am. "Hide empty staves" doesn't work for me, since I don't want to hide anything except the instrument that has no part in the first movement. Is there any solution appart from creating different documents? I'm on MuseScore 2.1. The logical approach would be that each section supported a different instrument set.


Or do use "hide empty staves", but work with hidden/unplayed notes to force some other staves to show up when required.

FWIW, in 3.0 there will be a "Hide when empty" option in staff properties, to allow some staves to be hidden while empty even while the rest of score stays full. I'm also hoping to see us add a special "not empty" element to the palette you can add to any measure that would have no effect on anything except to mark the measure as not empty.

For now, though, invisible/silent notes are the only way to achieve this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I think that relying excessively on the "hide when empy" feature and then including an artificial "not empty" flag to override it is not the most intuitive way to deal with this. It seems better to include a hide when empty / hide / show feature as one of measure properties, regardless of its emptiness. This would add much more flexibility.
But it would also be nice to just define the instrumentation on a per-section basis, since it is very common that different movements have a different instrument set.

In reply to by fmiyara

Yes, and similarly for album (a thing that is apparently going away in 3.0, hopefully to be replaced by something better?) - ultimately it would be nice for a single file to really be several separate score objects. In principle, that might not be that big a design change internally.

Meanwhile, using measure properties to hide & show staves is a bit problematic in that right now, measure properties are actually mostly across all staves. Only the "visible" flag is per staff. We could consider adding another checkbox there, but I kind of prefer a simple element you can see. One advantage is if you open a score that uses this feature and you see a staff that is apparently empty but is not disappearing, you can instantly see why, rather than having to painstakingly go through the properties measure by measure to see which has the flag set. I also see this element as somehow having kinship with the more flexible line break I proposed a while back, where certain properties like "don't hide empty staves on this system" or "don't fill this system out to the right margin" etc could be set per system using properties on the line break that ends the system.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The flag could have a non-printable echo above the measure when forced to be visible, such as an eye icon (or anything else equivalent), and the element in the palette could be called "always visible" or "never hide" instead of "not empty". It is this what is counterintuitive: to call something "not empty" just because it has a "not empty" mark. One expects that a "not empty" measure contains at least one note, so it is confusing and hinders discoverability.
Internally it doesn't matter how it is implemented, I guess the element that fakes non-emptiness is the easiest way.

In reply to by Shoichi

I appreciate the response. However, this is not really doing what I would like to do. I don't need a mid-staff instrument change, just a change with a new section. Is there a way to have different instruments after I insert a section break? When I change the instrument(s) of one section it still affects the whole score.

In reply to by Shoichi

May be I'm missing something, but I'm afraid this is not the solution to my original post, since my requirement wasn't really a clever way to change instruments in the middle of a staff, but a way to add a completely new instrument --and its staff-- (or remove an existing one) on a per-section basis. In the example I provided (Mozart's K299), not only the winds are absent from the orchestral score but a second viola is added during the second movement (a rare example in the classical orchestration). The only way I find to deal with this is to generate a different score for each movement or section, export as PDF and finally join them together with an external program.

In reply to by Paul Breaux

At the time of the original question version 2 was the latest version. There was an album feature but it didn't allow different instruments, that's why I said the album feature wasn't an option. Now version 3.5.2 is the latest version and the poor album feature has not been added to any version 3 release. This past summer there was code written to restore the album feature better than it was in version 2. This is expected to be included in version 4 next spring.

You currently need all instruments in the entire score, then use hide empty staves to not show them in a movement they don't appear. While entering each movement, you can make only the instruments used in that movement visible using the instruments dialog (press i) by removing the checks in the visible column for the instruments you don't need. When the score is done, make all instruments visible and use Hide empty staves.

In reply to by mike320

This way all the instruments will show on the first page, even those that are meant to be tacet during the whole movement. Having all instruments visible at the beginning is desirable in the normal case where all instruments play at least once in the first movement, even if on the first page they are silent. But they should not show at all if they have no parts in the first movement. I think the simple and elegant solution is either the possibility of a different instrumentation for each section (this would render the album concept unnecessary) or the possibility to hide staves on a per-section base.

In reply to by fmiyara

Those instruments aren't shown on the first page if you also (un?)check the corresponding checkbox of the hide empty staves style setting.. This was true for 2.x and still is today.

What you might need however is a way to force a staff to show during a section, even though it is empty. You can do so by using a tranparent staff text (or a white one) for which you turn off automatic placement. I've added this staff text to my text palette for easier reuse.
Tip: after adding it to your palette, right-click the palette element to open up the properties. I've changed the name from the default "staff text" into "showme" and also checked the box to draw the staff lines. That way I'm not looking at an empty cell in the text palette and the tooltip when hovering over it gives a clear description.

See the attached example, using only S/A for the first section, T/B for the second and the full SATB for the last. Select the first Alto measure to find the transparent staff text used to force the Alto to show on the first system.

Attachment Size
268981-hide-in-sections.mscz 12.78 KB

In reply to by jeetee

For instruments you add after the first movement you can set the Hide when empty to Always in staff/part properties and don't use Hide empty staves on first system and then you don't have to use the invisible staff text to force movement 1 instruments to be shown on the first page.

In reply to by jeetee

The problem is that you often need to show all instruments corresponding to a section (movement) on their respective first page, regardless of being empty on that page. I get that there are possible workarounds, and transparent text is a reasonable way to render an empty staff non-empty. But as long as the definitive solution is provided allowing native instrumentation differences on a per-section basis, I prefer creating different scores. It has another advantage, especially for large scores: it doesn't overload the system, rendering it so sluggish. There may be exceptions, such as when you need to listen to the effect of an atacca.

In reply to by fmiyara

Sounds good. After reading the responses, I interpret two options (please correct me if I'm wrong here):
1) Make separate scores
2) One score with all instruments from the get-go

I think I'll try separate scores, although never done this. But it'll be a good challenge. I'll keep this post apprised. Thanks for everyone's help.

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