Organ formatting is non-standard

• Aug 28, 2010 - 20:08
S5 - Suggestion

Usually, organ literature is formatted in one of two ways:

1. Three staves, the top two (the hands) of which have a bar line going through and are bracketed, the third of which is no bracketed, nor does the bar line go through to it.
2. If the pedal part is simple, then it will sometimes be written into the second staff of the score, and there will be no third staff.

I propose that #1 be default.

Currently, neither of these are default. There is an attempt at #1, but whoever decided that the bracket and the barline should go through all three staves got it wrong.

An easy workaround is to double click the bottom of the bracket, grab the blue handle and bring it to the bottom of the second staff; do likewise with the bar line.

Also see attached good and bad organ formatting.

Attachment Size
bad_organ_formatting.png 8.55 KB
good_organ_formatting.png 8.02 KB


Organ staves are incorrect because your scenario number 1 is not technically possible in current versions of MuseScore (using the new score from scratch wizard). We used to follow scenario number 2 but changed to the current form after multiple requests for a three-staff organ.

Now your assumption regarding 'three-staff' organ is also incorrect. Many pipe organs are 'three manuals' PLUS foot pedals giving a total of at least FOUR staffs required. In any case the foot pedal staff would be separated from the others by not extending the bracket to encompass it. Some organs have as many as 5 or 6 manuals of 61 notes (5 octaves) so that individual or groups of voices can be assigned to the different manuals and the manuals would 'speak' from different parts of the hall.

In any case the ability to change voicing (stops/instruments/channels) and include multiple voices (stops/instruments/channels) must be allowed to fully emulate the abilities of a pipe organ whether 'classical' or 'theatre' style.

A great example of a MIDI Theatre organ emulation is the Miditzer series of two and three manual organs // . I would love to see this composing program be able to accurately show the voice and expression changes shown in the Midi files (many hundreds) available for the Miditzer. I'm sure others would be interested in marriage this also.

The normal staff arrangement for any organ is two staves for the hands and one for the pedal, no matter how many manuals. If the composer intends a manual switch, he can indicate that with text such as "II" (indicating manual II) or "Swell" (indicating the swell manual), etc. Normally the two staves for the manuals are connected by a bracket ( { ) while the third staff, the pedals, remain unbracketed. I have seen it where all three staves are bracketed, though. The brackets and braces are customizable, however, so this is a very easy problem to work around.

As to your feature request for Musescore to work with Miditzer, that deserves a separate post. I recommend that you start your own thread for that because Miditzer is not the topic of this thread. Thus I am reverting the category to bug report and the priority to minor.

- organ templates -
You get the best results, when you create a score with two organs, the first containing the manual staffs, the second the pedal staff. You have to delete the caption text of the second Instrument (pedals) and change the bracket.
(Deleting doesn't work for me at the moment with 1.0, 3996 on windows)

I usually need scores with organ solo, so I don't need the caption text, but a horizontal placeholder frame is nice, so the first staff is indented to the right.

You should also be able to play different sounds for manuals and pedals.

I've attatched two files, you can use as templates.

- notation with four staffs -
I do agree, that three manual staffs (four with pedal) for three manuals is _not_ standard notation. Although there are very few examples in standard organ literature, where four staffs are used (some measures in durufle suite, 1. & 2. movement), the only regular use for this notation practice is the classical french quatuor.
(See,…, last movement. With reduction staffs here)
This is comparable to piano pieces which are notated on three staffs for better readability, compare Franz Liszt, Overtüre zu Tannhäuser, pg. 28-31,

- format style -
I also agree, that the above mentioned format style, where manuals have a bracket, and barline going through, but disjoint pedal staff, extra barlines, is standard notation, but there are at least two other formatting styles that are also commonly used.
1a) Brackets over all three staffs,
sometimes curly
(See Nicolaus Bruhns, Complete Organ Works, Edition Breitkopf
1b) sometimes a square bracket, barlines going through all three staffs as well
b) Similar format, but no bracket at all (see Edition Breitkopf, Complete Organ Works of Lübeck, Böhm, Buxtehude)

Attachment Size
organ_template_landscape.mscz 1.28 KB
organ_template.mscz 1.12 KB
Status (old) active fixed

Rev. 4276 implements extensions to the instrument definition file which allow to define a standard instrument layout for organ. Try out the "pipe organ" instrument.