• Aug 3, 2022 - 22:31

I have been asked to sing a solo for Christmas and the piece is in E Flat, which is slightly uncomfortable for me - I would prefer to sing it in D, but that is not available commercially, so I decided to input it all into Musescore and transpose it myself, which I have done. However, having spent ages trying to get the original to look like the printed original, i.e. same number of bars per stave and same number of staves per page, and eventually succeeding, I have done the transposition and found it is no longer looking like the original - bars etc. have moved! Why, and how do I make the transposed version identical to the original?
Why does Musescore not have the simple options of specifying these 2 very important options - bars per staff and staffs per page? If a printer can do it why not a computer? In 1980 I was using a program called SongWrite which ran under DOS and even that had these 2 basic fundamentals!


"Why?". MuseScore is set up to try and lay out a score in the most balanced way. Small changes in a system can cause it to need less or more space and more or less measures. You can override layout (up to a point) with System Breaks and by adjusting the Stretch of measures. But...

"bars per staff " - well, that wouldn't work here, would it? You have differing numbers of bars per staff in the original and want the transposed score to reflect that. You can set bars per system with Format >Add/Remove System Breaks >Break systems every n bars, but this sets the maximum bars per system and the number will be reduced if the number of notes exceeds the space available.

Attachment Size
temp_Adam - Cantique de Noël in D.mscz 28.46 KB

As mentioned, music in different keys is going to take different amounts of space, that's totally normal. The key signatures themselves are different widths, different accidentals with different widths will be needed, and different ledger lines will be needed, different stem directions have different effects on spacing, etc.

MuseScore has tons of controls that influence the number of bars per staff and staves per page. But, unlike programs from the 1980's, it's not so unsophisticated as to always force a particular number of measures per staff or staves per page. Instead it uses the same sort of intelligent algorithms a professional engraver would to determine the "optimum* number of each by default - meaning, in many cases, different numbers of bars on systems versus the next etc, and potentially different number of systems per page. But again, if you wish to override this and force a particular number, you most certainly can. Well, up to the point of brekaing laws of physics - you won't succeed in fitting 17 bars of sixteenth notes on one system of A4 paper with an 8mm staff size. That wouldn't have been possible in 1980 either, regardless of what setting you tried to make!

Also, as noted by underquark, your score is a great example of why trying to force all systems to have the same number of bars is a bad idea. Some of your systems have three bars, others four - and I'm assuming that's how it was in the original as well. So while you could use the Add/Remove System Breaks command to force breaks every three or every four bars, neither would match the original. No substitute for manually adding breaks if you want to match someone else's layout - or, indeed, if you want the best possible results based on your own analysis.

Anyhow, I'm assuming your goal is to make the D version look more like the Eb version. The main thing I see getting in the way is that bars 8-11 don't quite fit on one system in D. So so so close, but these measures are ever so slightly wider in D. That's because some of the naturals turned into sharps, which are wider, and also the D's in the piano part turned into C#'s, which now require ledger lines. Luckily, that's trivially simple to fix - Ctrl+A to select all, then "{" to decrease stretch. Or go to Format / Style / Measure and reduce the Spacing, which has the same effect but more "permanently" (eg, also affects new measures). The systems that are already full and have breaks on them won't be affected; only the places where MuseScore is needing to decide for itself how many bars per line.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Many thanks for this. I am new to Musescore - truthfully, I only installed it for this specific task - so don't understand many of its features.

The layout does not bother me too much, as I shall be doing it from memory, but for my accompanist, who knows this work well and is used to the printed copy, e.g. he knows where the page turns come etc. and he was very upset when my first attempt at the E Flat version was totally different from the printed version. After a lot of playing around with margins etc. I eventually managed to get it right, so it was heartbreaking to do the transposition and find that it had all changed and I was back to square one. All I want to do is produce a mirror image of the printed version, irrespective of the key.

Perhaps I did not make myself clear when I said bars per stave and staves per page - I meant individually, not overall. The printed copy has 3 bars on some staves and 4 on others, likewise 3 staves on page 1, and either 3 or 4 on others, and I want the musescore version to be the same. My old software allowed me to specify this and adjusted compression accordingly. The point about 7 bars of hemidemisemiquavers is well made, but the printer would not have been able to do this either. I know that I can DECREASE the number by using breaks, but if musescore automatically produces too few I could not work out how to INCREASE e.g. if musescore but 4 bars on a stave and the printer has only put 3 I can put in a break to force bar 4 onto the next stave, my problem has been when musescore put only 3 and the printer had managed 4 I could not find a way to force bar 4 back onto the previous stave. I possibly went about it the wrong way as I did not know the software, but I did what I used to do with me old software, which was to do the music first, make sure that I got the layout matching the printed copy, then add the lyrics, which I did, only to find to my horror that instead of compressing the lyrics to match the music, the music expanded to match the lyrics, leaving me with an absolute disaster! I realise now, from the comments made, that I should have entered the whole lot, done the transposition, and THEN worried about the layout, but it is much easier (I find) to check what I have entered against the original, and make any corrections, if the layouts are identical, BEFORE trying anything clever, like transposition.

Oh well, apparently you can't have everything!

In reply to by rhfinlinson@gm…

Actually, it works either way, as we've seen - at worst, layout changes due to different measure widths after transposition will require a small change to size or spacing in order to get as much to fit as before. So that's why it was but a single command to adjust. But, had you made your original layout match using the method I normally recommend in the first place, even that wouldn't have been needed.

The method I recommend is for things like this is, set your your spacing to the minimum - or at least, small enough to ensure you can get at least as many measures as you need everywhere, given your choice for staff size. Then all you need to do during layout is add breaks, since as you observe, they work great for getting fewer measures to fit than physics and the rules of music notation would otherwise allow.

To be clear: Just as with a word processor, if you want more content on a given page than can actually fit given your current settings for page size, font size, and spacing, the solution is to change one or more of those settings. Again, no getting around physics or the rules of music notation on that point. Different programs might provide different methods of setting and overriding those three things (page size, font size, and spacing), but both physics and the rules of music notation worked the same way in 1980 as they do today. One way or another, if you want more stuff to fit than does current, those are the variables you can play with.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Many thanks - I completely understand - my fault was in making assumptions, thinking that I knew the basics, inputting the music first and worrying about the layout afterwards - a mistake which will not be repeated should I ever need to do a similar task again. Pity this information is not included with the basics of inputting, which I thought was all I needed.

In reply to by rhfinlinson@gm…

Inputting music first is the way to go. Input first, then if you wish to reproduce a particular layout, start by reducing spacing, then adding breaks. Methods of copying specific layouts from other sources are kind of an advanced topic not of concern to most people, so that’s why these techniques don’t get discussed until later on in the Handbook. But you’re free to skip around, and read note input sections first, then jump directly to the layout sections.

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