Is there a way to have a staff with 4 lines?

• Jan 3, 2019 - 20:57

I am wondering if MuseScore can create a staff with 4 lines only, and then generate systems of 2, 3, 4, or more systems of 4 lined staves. I am interested in writing music that uses a different musical scale, where each octave of the scale can be adequately captured on a staff of 4 lines. Clefs are not needed, but time signatures, sharps and flats, and standard note designations, etc, remain unchanged. Thanks for your consideration! If something like this is already possible, please let me know how to do it. Thanks!

Bruce Kanzelmeyer


In reply to by Shoichi

That would be a really useful feature (esp. for early music) but, alas, in it's current state it's pretty useless since there seems to be no way to declare what pitches those lines designate. I.E. I can change the lower system of a keyboard staff to 7 lines (needed for italian keyboard music), but those lines are added above the regular bass system (not below, as would be needed). Similar problems for staffs with fewer lines (chant/early polyphony).

In reply to by rmattes

In the advanced palettes, there are a number of clefs. There may be one that will result in the lines being properly named. If this is a predecessor of modern music, one of the clefs should be satisfactory. If you don't like the way the clef looks you can then hide the clef in staff properties. If you want to see a different one, use the Symbols palette (pres z to see it) or even special characters from staff text and insert and place the clef on each staff.

In reply to by mike320

In the example I mentioned above the top line needs to be an a (like for a modern bass system with f-clef on the second line) but in general there was no standard - clefs move to accommodate the music . As an typical example, have a look at… (where, in the first piece the lower system needs 7 lines with lowest line on Gammut , so highest line would be e and the upper system needs 7 lines, lowest line a. Extra points for two clefs (c and g) on one system.

In reply to by rmattes


I don't see how to make it so the top line on the bottom staff is E, but there is a not too difficult method to make it look and play correctly.

On the top staff I used the standard treble clef and the notes are in the correct spot. Perhaps this is a bug in version 3, but I'll take it. Perhaps it's not a bug to make doing this easier. I expected to need to use one of the C clefs (tenor, alto...) to make it work. On the bottom staff I used the subbass clef. I entered the notes and they all appeared a step too low. After I entered all of the notes I selected the staff, clicked "Notes" in the inspector and changed the Y offset for all chords to -0.50sp at the same time. It now looks and plays right, it just doesn't seem right when you enter it.

I left everything visible to make it so you can see what I did.

It took a few minutes of play with this to understand the set up, but I now realize the common note between the two staves is the space at the bottom of the "treble" and top of the "bass" which is a G. Having the space in common rather than a ledger line for middle C as in modern grand staves is confusing at first.

MuseScore (almost) always provides a way, it's just a matter of if you like the solution.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Transpose a minor second?

This has a couple of problems.

  1. You would need 2 instruments, which really isn't a big deal. It's easy to make it look like a single instrument.

  2. transposing changes key signatures, creates accidentals if you remove them and just makes it far more difficult than just moving the notes a 1/2 step (assuming the key of C). There is no real key change, but rather a clef change, but the clef needed doesn't exist.

I've advocated in the past to allow users to define their own clefs and this is an example of where it would truly be needed.

I've formalized the request for custom clefs in #281205: Allow user defined clefs.

In reply to by rmattes

Wow! I love old, original music manuscripts, and this one is the most unusual i've seen. Was a 7-line staff orthodox at one time in his region, or was it an invention of his? How do you know which line represents which tone?
Would it be easier to transfer to standard notation, or was there a reason why you wanted to maintain the original look?

Perhaps I should clarify further. The temporal aspects of the note need to remain: quarter notes, half notes, eighths, etc. but I am not interested in the letter names of the notes. I am interested in writing/making music based on harmonics, so the pitch designations are numbers. The bottom line of the staff is 2, based on a fundamental frequency. For example, open middle C on a French horn would be 349 hz (F concert). So on a staff defined as 0, with the fundamental defined as 349.2 hz, the bottom line would be middle C as sounding on the open F horn (the 4th partial of the open F horn). The staff defined as 1, the bottom line would be 3rd space C, or the 8th partial on the open F horn. Harmonics 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc (octaves above the fundamental) are all defined as 2, the bottom line of the staff, octave reflections of the fundamental frequency. The staff itself is defined by a number, 1, 2, 3 or -1, -2, -3 etc, indicating it's relationship above or below the fundamental frequency defined. The perfect fifth, the 3rd harmonic, is defined as 3, and on the staff is the 3rd line. So on a staff defined as 0, with the fundamental defined as 349.2, the 3rd line is open G on the open F horn, above middle C (which is actually the 6th harmonic on the horn, 3 x 2). The perfect major 3rd is the 5th partial, second line of the staff, and the perfect 7th, is the top line of the staff a note that does not exist in the 12 ET scale of modern western music. So the basic lines and spaces of the 4 lined staff are defined as: lines, 2, 5, 3, 7, and the spaces from bottom to above the staff are 9, 11, 13, 15. Essentially the staff defines the 4th octave of the harmonic series and represents the basic 8 tone harmonic scale. The 5th octave of the series (partials 16-32) can be defined by adding sharps and flats. Actually, none of these perfect pitches reside in the modern scale, although allusion to them is made. Sorry, this is a very rudimentary intro to these ideas. What I am attempting to do is to create a music out of the natural harmonic expression of sound itself. I feel there is no need to lock our aural pallet to some arbitrarily defined 440 hz and 12 basic colors. Why not base a music on the actual frequency of a color, the movement of the sun across the sky, or tuned to the frequency of a mental state we wish to attain?

In reply to by Bruce Kanzelmeyer

Perhaps the idea I proposed at… could be adapted to allow for what you are trying to do. My suspicion is that it could be. If this is implemented, then it would be easiest if you wrote a plugin that would automate the tuning of notes to your liking. You can also define A4 as any pitch you like in the synthesizer.

As for the arbitrary frequency of 440hz, some common starting point had to be chosen to make it not all be dissonant.

In reply to by mike320

I am presently looking for a good way to make parts and scores. Playback is not necessary (and would be really difficult I believe). I am able to create music currently with a great little midi input device, the LinnStrument, which is really flexible for working with this scale. I work in Bitwig Studio and have several plugins that allow me to really accurately define the harmonic scale and fundamental frequency to realize this music. I am working with a string trio (non-fretted string instruments can easily play this music--also brass to some degree, especially trombones), but the musician needs to be trained to hear the pure partials. So I am currently looking for a notation system with which I can create parts.

Regarding 440 hz. I am trying to do something a little different. Rather than settle for 12 tones that equally divide the octave, allowing modulation into any "key" without serious consequence, which Bach applauded because of his genius approach to musical composition, I on the other hand have never really been pleased that no harmonic intervals are true...every note is a little out of tune (except the octave), so to speak.

So when you define a fundamental frequency, and every note of the scale is a harmonic overtone of that frequency, then every note is perfectly in tune with each other and the fundamental. A plethora of new harmonic sounds become possible. It becomes apparent that the arbitrary 440, or 435, or 443, or 432, or 415 is not as important. The fundamental can be defined based on what the musician wants to explore. For example, blue light resonates in the frequency range of 606-668 THz. If we divide by octaves (2) down into the audio range we land in the 275-303 hz, range...putting blue somewhere between C# and a sharp D. If we define a fundamental of say 287 hz, somewhere in the middle, and generate the harmonic scale from this frequency, then each of the pitches in the scale will be harmonically resonating with blue, in real space and time. Now that might be a really interesting point to begin a musical composition!

yeah, have the inspector window open and click any vertical measure line (that connects the two measures in a staff0 of the staff that you want to be the top staff for the 4 connected staves you want. You'll see "Spanned Staves:" in the inspector window and a box with a "1" in it....change the one to a "4 " to connect 4 staves together

In Western musical notation, the staff (US) or stave (UK) (plural for either: staves) is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces that each represent a different musical pitch or, in the case of a percussion staff, different percussion instruments.

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