Different instruments in great stave scores?

• Oct 9, 2021 - 11:56

I created a score using the great stave option. When I play it using the player it sounds as like a piano.

I wanted to change it - so that the top part was on one instrument (say a trumpet) and the bottom on another - say a trombone - though it might just as sell have been anything else, such as a bass guitar. I changed the lines - or so I thought - using the Stave/Part properties menu.

Then I wanted to allocate spatial separation to the instruments in the mixer. When I looked I discovered in fact only one instrument, as when I changed the instrument(s) in the score, it looks as though in fact it had changed both staves to the same instrument.

This is a bit of a nuisance. I thought I would have been able to have different instruments assigned to each staff part in the original score, or at least be able to change them independently.

Clearly this can be done by assigning instruments to separate staves in a score right from the start, but surely that goes against the idea of using a great stave, or a piano stave in order to work out a first - draft - version of a piece, and then being able to modify it later.

If this is exactly what happens with this approach, then in future it'd be simpler to go straight for the individual instrument staves, rather than having to copy and manipulate stave notes later on.


A Greate Stave or Grand Staff (GB vs US), by definition is for just one instrument, hence just one sound (or as many sounds as are configured for that instrument, like 3 for violons, 2 for trumptes, etc.).
Just have single staves parts for Trumpet, Trombone, Bass Guitar, etc.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Is it not normal to use these for writing out four part harmony - for example? Maybe the GS is different effectively from piano when used as a means of creating a first draft of a piece, though I suspect that the issue about assigning different sounds/instruments to voices even in such a draft would still remain.

There should be clarity about this. I doubt that I'm the first person to have discovered this.

In reply to by dave2020X

By definition. a grand staff is two staves used for the same instrument, as mentioned. It's something different from having two staves for two different instrument, like a flute / cello duet. "Closed score" choral music (SATB on two staves) is sort of a special case grey area, in one sense it is just "instrument" (voices) but in another it is actually four (S, A, T, B) and yet, there are two staves. So you kind of need to decide for yourself how to set it up based on the specific controls you are after.

You are free to use a grand staff if you prefer the splicity of treating it as one instrument. If you prefer thinking of it as four completely independent instruments, probably best to simply use four separate staves - which is at least as common in published music as using two.

Or you can split the difference and use two instruments but and use staff text tricks to get separate playback controls for the different voices. The latter is what happens if you simply use the provided templates. That is, they have one instrument for women, another for men, and then if you add the S/A and T/B texts from the palette, they are pre-configured to assign voices 1 & 2 to separate sub-channels in the Mixer so you can control them individually.

In reply to by dave2020X

Dave, sure there are many who work out a rough draft at the piano. It seems to me that it is just as easy to create two staves (or more) to do the same thing. You can hear just the upper staff, for example, without having to listen to the lower also.
Then there are those, who don't play piano, that open their favorite template (say, small orchestra) and go for it.
The problem I have with working with piano first is that things don't mesh together the same way when played by different instruments. Of course, we are working with recorded sounds that may not mesh well anyway. I prefer to cut out the middle man. But that's me.

In reply to by bobjp

I have been surprised by this. The simplest solution for the moment seems to be to set up a template with two pianos. Delete the bass clef from piano 1 and delete the treble clef from piano 2. Then treat that as if it were just one piano. It's not absolutely ideal, but will get close to what's desired. The point is that the staves are now treated as different voices and different sounds, so the mixer can handle them differently - if desired. They can be reassigned easily to other instruments/sounds too.

I was just very surprised that this was not the way the piano and other keyboard instruments work in MuseScore. Now that I know I can define my own template, but I rather think that the pre-defined templates could have been set up differently, and to my mind in a more convenient manner.

Perhaps a better solution than the one I'm proposing - and currently about to test - is to hide the unwanted piano staves rather than delete them. Possibly that would be more flexible, and give a score which would at first look like just one piano, but if needed it could be converted for other instruments, or even a piano duet.

Unfortunately the two piano test doesn't work - it doesn't seem to be possible to make the staves invisible independently, so I guess I'll have to go with my first solution.

In reply to by dave2020X

I'm not understanding the surprise,. What I describe is the standard convention used in published music for centuries. Can you be more specific about what you are finding surprising or needing to set up custom templates for?

It might be easier to understand if you post a score you are having trouble with and describe more precisely what about that score you want to be different. Then we can advise you on the best way to achieve it.

You wrote:
I created a score using the great stave option.
I wanted to change it - so that the top part was on one instrument (say a trumpet) and the bottom on another - say a trombone - though it might just as sell have been anything else...
Clearly this can be done by assigning instruments to separate staves in a score right from the start, but surely that goes against the idea of using a great stave, or a piano stave in order to work out a first - draft - version of a piece...

So do the first draft "old school" method on the piano, then consider using the explode tool to break into separate staves (for different instruments):

In reply to by Jm6stringer

That's still using several staves which would have to be created. No particular reason to use explode - could just copy the notes - though sometimes explode would be more convenient.

I now understand why MuseScore behaves as it does, though I still feel it could have been designed differently.
For example, I understand that a piano is "just" one instrument, but a dogmatic clinging to the view that the different staves must also be "the same instrument" does seem unecessary. It's an explanation of why things are as they are, but not a very good justification for why it has to be that way.

Now that I know it's an issue I can work around it - though I don't feel that I should have to.

Is there any technical reason why the two staves of piano can't be just be simply reassigned to two different instruments in the GUI?
I know and I understand that when created as a piano score they are not two different instruments.
But what does prevent MuseScore to offer an option to change that easily? Why do you have to use special workaround for that?

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Did you read the question ?
I know piano is one instrument !
Still there are two staves ready to be split into two instruments ! Not by the normal process to change instrument one by one, as that would change change the two staves together, totally get that, but by another simple action that doesn't exist today.
The question is: is there any technical reason that would make implementing that simple "Split the two staves into two instruments" action difficult?

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

MuseScore must allow that because that's just the way music works. You can perfectly write your piece for two instruments on piano left and right hands, and not being even sure you will use two different instruments or not. Then if you decide that yes two instruments would be fine (perhaps just as a test) you can ask a cello to play what was the left hand, and a violin the other one. On paper that's just changing the name of instruments, no reason why MuseScore should make it more difficult.

In reply to by frfancha

And actually MuseScore does allow that, just not by default. See above mentioned method to achieve what you want here.
99.999% of all uses of a piano instrument and grand staff won't need this at all, so why impose the danger of providing this by default on all these?

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

I think there is some misunderstanding : I'm not asking that the normal change instrument process would be changed in any way. That one should indeed see the piano as a single instrument and behave like today.
What is needed is a kind of "split staves into two instruments" command.
And yes the reverse as well to easily group a cello+violin as a piano.

In reply to by frfancha

It would be great if this could be done. I agree that many people will expect a piano to sound like a piano, but the ability to reassign staves to other instruments easily would be very welcome.

It is possible to do workarounds - usually involving additional staves - to get the desired effects, but I'm suggesting something which would be much easier and quicker than that. I would find it useful, and I think others might too.

Also, if there were a "split staves into two instruments" command I would like it to be reversible. There may be occasions when one would simply like to try RH = oboe with LH = cello etc., but having done so one would still like to be able to revert back to the original, or try other combinations.

In reply to by dave2020X

Technically it might be very easy, but it would be entirely unnatural, and cause more grief than good.
I can see lots of users having fat-fingered the setup and complaining here in the forums about piano bass clef not soundig like a piano at all. From a support standpoint really a nightmare.

In reply to by dave2020X

It's not so much that people are opposed to your idea because the piano is one instrument. It's just not practical. It might work if you only wrote a single melody line in the top staff, and a single line in the lower staff. Then wanting to hear the top staff as played by the flute might be useful. Although don't forget there's the problem of only wanting a selection of measures, and not the whole piece.
However, if I'm sketching out a piece on piano, I'm probably writing multiple lines on each staff. Hearing one staff on flute won't tell me what I want to know.
The explode idea brought up earlier is a good one. Sure you get extra staves, but your going to have those eventually anyway.
The beauty of notation software is that you aren't limited to one way of doing things. You could sketch out things on the piano. Or you could take advantage of the software and all it has to offer right away. When I'm composing, I have a good idea of what instruments I want to use before I start.

In reply to by bobjp

I think that part of the objection (not all of it, but part) is that there is an assumption that two staves = piano, therefore must sound like a piano. That's a slightly different starting point than an initial attempt to specifically write for piano. Two staves could represent a variety of different instruments, or even vocal works.

In reply to by dave2020X

Indeed, so that's why MuseScore supports that directly. Add whatever instrument you want, then add a second staff to it if desired. It's not the default for most instruments because music for them is normally written on one staff, but it's just a single (well, double) click to add an additional staff to it.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Agree about Grand staff - having checked with various sources. The general consensus is indeed that it is used for one performer with one instrument.

However the "real" instrument argument is not necessarily correct these days, unless you rule out many devices which most people would now consider to be "real" instruments. Many people now use electronic pianos - rather than acoustic ones. Many of those are capable of operating with different sounds, and also a split keyboard, so that they can provide many of the sounds which are similar to those which MuseScore may provide. Representing those "real" instruments could indeed allocate different sounds to each stave.

In any case further MuseScore is not a "real" instrument, it can simulate sounds of other "real" instruments, but it itself would not normally be considered an instrument - though with a computer and a few other interfaces it is certainly possible to jam with MS, or with a Midi file generated at least initially by MuseScore using a DAW.

In reply to by dave2020X

That is why some instruments can switch to other sounds. Violins and other sring instuments (arco, pizz, tremolo), trumpet and other brass (open, muted), Electric Guitars (clean, distorted, overdrive...).
IIRC that might work for a Synthesizer keyboard too. Not for a Grand or Upright Piano though

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

So would you consider the music of Nancarrow or John Cage and other composers who have made use of prepared pianos "out of bounds"? The design of MuseScore should not be based on restrictive principles or restrictive dogma, but that's only my opinion of course.

You can't realistically expect MuseScore to have sounds for every available piano type. I don't believe that most people care that much as only a small number of people are going to be trying to create sounds - and those who do may be using much better tools than MuseScore - for example for film scores or demo files.

In reply to by dave2020X

Just as Cage prepared a piano - it wasn't shipped to him that way by default - so can a user prepare a score by adding staves as necessary. Again, it makes sense for defaults to reflect the common usage, then and to make it possible to create non-default arrangements as well. So that's precisely what MuseScore does. The defaults reflect common usage, but other arrangements are possible as well.

In reply to by dave2020X

"However the "real" instrument argument is not necessarily correct these days,"

I don't recall anyone saying the grand staff could only be for real instruments. Only one instrument. If you can find a font for prepared piano, go for it.
Just like the piano can sound several notes on one beat across both staves, you could write a bassoon quartet on the grand staff. The only problem is that no one would publish it.
There is more at stake here than just what is easiest or fastest. There is also the finished product. There are standards. Rules. Best practices. MuseScore tries to hold us accountable to those things for our own sake. And those who come after us.
You see the grand staff as being limited. I see software that lets me do all kinds of things that no one thought possible not all that long ago.

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