Option to use a different instrument for each voice

• Dec 25, 2014 - 21:51
Reported version
P2 - Medium
S5 - Suggestion

Multiple instruments/parts are often written on a single staff to save paper. The "Change Instrument" text feature allows this to be reflected during playback, but not if both instruments play at the same time.

Consider this common format for a duet where two singers alternate lines/verses but sing the final verse together (same words, different notes - see attached file Duet - Change Instrument Example.mscz):

1st Verse: Person 1 --> 2nd Verse: Person 2 --> 3rd: Person 1 --> 4th: Person 2 --> Final verse: Both in harmony

Person 1 and 2 could be assigned separate staves, but since they rarely sing simultaneously it is more elegant to use a single staff and the the "Change Instrument" feature. However, it is not currently possible to get both instruments to play the final verse. The best way to achieve this would be the ability to assign a different instrument to each voice.


This feature would be especially useful for Opera, Operetta and Musical Theatre. It would also be useful for SATB choral music. Usually when a vocal part splits in SATB (e.g. into 1st Bass and 2nd Bass) both parts are shown on a single staff (and therefore given a single control in the Mixer). This makes learning a part difficult (unless you have the skill to separate out the lines in your head) but controlling each voice individually would alleviate this problem.

Attachment Size
Duet - Change Instrument Example.mscz 9.44 KB


Soloing would be helpful, but not as useful as being able to choose completely different instruments. Say, for example, the piece involved many different people/voices (not uncommon in opera/musica theatre). Here it is often advantageous to assign a different instrument to each character, but wasteful to create a new staff for every character when many of them share notes, words or rhythms.

I was looking for something similar for our choir (SATB). Being mostly amateurs I create for each voice a file where the mentioned voice e.g. is played by the piano or sax and the remaining voices just set to 'aahs' or 'string'. So they can listen to their own voice but still hear what the others are doing. I currently have to go through a split and copy process to bring the voices on singles lines. (Maybe their is an easier way that I don't know off). While MuseScore knows the different voices it would be much easier if one could assign in the mixer different instruments to each voice.

I have been using a similar process myself for splitting the 1st and 2nd Basses when rehearsing from SATB+piano MIDI files, but as you said; it isn't easy and it takes a great deal of time. Perhaps the improved plugin framework in 2.0 will enable somebody to create a quick way to split voices to different staves which would go a long way to alleviate the problem, at least as far as learning a piece is concerned. However, I still see a option to set different instruments for each voice as the ideal solution since it would save space by allowing multiple parts to be represented simultaneously on the same stave. In terms of efficient usage of space (both on screen and in a printed score) this goes hand-in-hand with #42301: Instrument Changes: add ability to change back to a previous instrument.

In 2.0 builds, it's actually reasonably easy to generate the sort of audio you are describing. Select the contents of a staff, then press F6 to bring up the Selection Filter, use the checkboxes to remove a voice from the selection, then right click a note in the still-selected voice and choose Select / All similar elements in range selection, then use the Inspector to turn off the the Play property. Obviously, still not *as* easy as what is proposed here. But a workaround worth knowing.

Splitting a staff into voices is also much easier in 2.0. Just copy the staff, then use the selection filter to select just one voice, then delete.

Thank you both. I was starting to use 2.0 but haven't used the selection filter, yet. As I find myself going over the same steps again and again I would also think that it might be possible to build something more automatic maybe with a plug-in but this is definitely exceeding my computer skills.
Sometimes it's just little things: e.g. when you've duplicated a staff and than selected the 1st voice you cannot delete it. So you have to flip the voices and than delete the notes and afterwards the rests. Even if you just want to delete the second voice it will first change all notes into rests so if you want to clean it up you have again to select all rests in that staff and voice and than delete it again.
Don't get me wrong; I very much appreciate MuseScore. I've been using some low cost versions like Capella 4.0, Primus, Sibelius first, but finally ended up with MuseScore. Even with the other programs I could not rely find good way to split voices. Seems like only the amateurs need it ;-)

Thanks for pointing that out Marc. The voice and selection tools have greatly improved in 2.0. Something else I have just discovered is the "Explode" feature which is also highly useful for splitting up choral parts. Often the Tenors and Basses are assigned different voices but when the Basses split into 1st and 2nd the different notes are represented as a chord. Of course, the Mixer can't distinguish between these during playback, but at least Explode makes it easy to split the notes to a new stave and get independent Mixer control that way.

That solves the playback issue as far as learning a piece is concerned, but an ability to assign different instruments for each voice would still be a valuable way to save real estate.