Alternate between 2 staves and 1 stave in orchestral instruments

• Jul 19, 2019 - 02:33

I'm writing an orchestral score with 4 French Horns. In general they are organized in 2 staves, 1-3 and 2-4, but sometimes I need 1 and 3 or 2 and 4 on separate staves. To accomplish this I use 2 staves, one for 1-3 to be used most of the time and one for 3 when the both instruments require different staves. So by hiding empty staves the F.Hrn 3 only appears for systems containing separate parts. However, when not empty, the first staff continues being labelled F.Hrn 1-3.
Is there a neat way to make the label alternate between F.Hrn 1-3 when both instruments are on the same staff and F.Hrn 1 when they are separate?


Use 3 staves rather than 2. One for 1&3, one for only 1 and one for only 3. I don't like it, but it's the only one I know of.

In reply to by mike320

Thank you. I thought that too, but the number of staves keeps growing! (the same happens for the flutes, the oboes, etc.)
There are two potential problems in all these solutions. One is that it may happen that in a system the two cases are present, so the 2 or3 staves will be present, which is not correct since there are not 1-3 and 1 and 3 but 1-3 or 1 and 3. I will have to look for a solution.
The other is part extraction. Probably I'll have to convert the 3 staves version to a single staff one with 2 voices to extract parts automatically, and keep another version for the director where they are separated (it will be more clear because it is not a conventional writing, but the horns are sometimes a minor second appart or even cross with each other).

Probably a new type of object should be created for these cases (if it doesn't already exist): a staff that can be split voicewise and systemwise. So one would select a measure or range and split it into two or more staves leaving different selectable voices in each staff. The splitting would affect only the systems containing the range. Each staff would bear an instrument name independent of the original instrument. Structurally there would be only voices, which could be grouped in a single staff or split into more staves.
Currently, splitting operate pitchwise and scorewise: all notes up to a certain pitch go to the lower staff and the rest to the upper staff (which doesn't make much sense); and it affects the whole score, not a range.

In reply to by fmiyara

The only real alternative is to use staff text and make it a user defined type that will allow for easily placing the instrument names in a convenient place on the staff. I've seen all instrument names above the clef for example rather than before the staff. This would give you complete control over the labels on the staves, especially in complex scores where instruments are constantly changing the number of staves they're written on. You must of course wait until the systems are established on the page before you use this method so it's not easy to update.

In reply to by fmiyara

Your suggestion would be useful for a lot of organ music too, where, for brevity, a cantus firmus melody is often displayed on the same manual staff as the rest of the score, with a note (Instrument Change in MuseScore) to change the organ registration. Bach organ works are often published this way, and it's critical during playing that the cantus firmus is played with a different registration (often reed pipe ranks to draw the melody out). Currently I'm copying the cantus firmus, created in Voice 2 (by necessity to keep the score similar to the published version), to a new staff with the required registration, then making this staff invisible in the final score. Not ideal, but I'm not aware of an easier way to do this (even in MuseScore 3, although I could stand corrected here).

In reply to by Lofo

One thing is certain, there is no reason to place the cantus firma in voice 2 if it's the only thing in the staff as in your picture. It's easiest to always put notes into voice 1 on each staff then use the other voices only if needed for multiple rhythms.

I will mostly defer to BSG when it comes to notating organ music. You top staff is very strange in my opinion, but it might be expected in organ music. There are some general things you can do to make things easier and if BSG doesn't mention something I'll provide my input but he will no doubt see this and comment on it.

In reply to by mike320

I agree the use of Voice 2 is a bit awkward, but as I mentioned, it's done to keep the score consistent with the published version while I enter the score, where for saving paper/simplifying the number of staves it's not overly uncommon to find the cantus firmus (and so effectively 2 voices) in the same manual staff as the rest of that manual's notation (eg. Great or Swell) - just another form of a close score. Using Voice 2 also helps when creating the score in MuseScore as you can easily select and copy just Voice 2 to your 'new' cantus firmus staff, then hide Voice 2 from the top staves. So while it's a bit unusual, it's not 'strange' and serves a pretty useful purpose at the moment. In completing the MuseScore score, I'd probably keep that specific cantus firmus staff and remove its notes from the Great or Swell staves which means I could avoid the use of Voice 2 all together. Even better: use a C-clef which can sometimes help reduce a treble and bass clef staves into one staff - if the notes fit. This is one reason the C-clef is not unusual in (particularly older) organ music, and in fact an old, probably closer to the original manuscript has done exactly this for the piece I'm using. I would like to avoid the whole Voice 2 issue all together, so if BSG has some tips I'd love to learn about them.

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