Multiple instruments on 1 staff

• Th10 2, 2014 - 20:03

With the percussion section of a lot of late orchestral pieces(such as Tchaikovsky's ballets) I see a lot of instruments written in different measures on 1 staff.

For example:…

How am I supposed to deal with this so that I have separate percussion instruments on separate staves?

Also why aren't these unpitched percussion instruments written in the percussion clef in these orchestral pieces?


I don't understand what you are asking. At first, it sounded like you *want* multiple instruments instruments on one staff, then it sounded like you *don't*.

If you do want instruments combined, just add the instrument as a "drum set", and then you can if you wish customzie the drum set properties as to which sound goes on which line or space (right click staff, Edit Drum Set).

If you don't want instruments combined, just add them inividually. Most will show with only a single line staff.

As for why the editor of that particular edition didn't use percussion clef, you'd have to ask them :-). It doesn't really seem necessary to have a special clef for percussion; I think it's just a convention so people don't get mislead into thinking the lines & spaces really do reprsent pitches. but if you already know it's for percussion, you aren't going to be fooled, so it really shouldn't matter what clef if used, or if any clef is used at all.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

But when I see multiple percussion instruments on 1 staff(which I often do in orchestral pieces) I am like "Is this percussion instrument still being played when another one is being played or is it a rest for x measures?"

This is why I get really confused when I see more than 1 percussion instrument on 1 staff. It often is in the form of:

Instrument A: x measures, Instrument B: y measures, Instrument C: z measures etc. 1 right after the other

In the Mars Movement of The Planets by Gustav Holst for example I see this sequence:

Gong, Side drum and Bass drum, Side drum and cymbals, Side drum and Bass drum, Side drum, Gong.

And not only that but I see pitches for what is supposed to be unpitched. like A in the great octave played with a tremolo for the gong, C in the 2nd octave for the side drum, C in the small octave for the bass drum, and that same note played with a tremolo for the cymbals.

In reply to by Caters

The normal convention in percussion is to use different staff lines for different drums - it has nothing to do with pitch. There's no such thing as "A" or "C" - it's just "second to top space", "one ledger line above staff", etc. Orchestral composers usually give some thought to what combinations of instruments are possible so that one staff is played all the instruments on one staff can be played by one musician. Meaning, normally they just have to do one thing at a time, and switch from one instrument to another as required. Occasionally you might see someone being asked to to do two things at once if they can be combined. Sometimes, scores might be published with *all* percussion parts combined on one staff, and it's up to the percussionists in the orchestra to figure out who does what.

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