Best practice for handling staff text that overlaps in parts

• Oct 10, 2016 - 17:48

I have an orchestral score with suggestions for how various sections might be played: "Expressively", "Dryly", "Revently", etc. These performance instructions look great in the score, but there are a lot of text collisions when I generate the individual parts.

What are the general rules (if any) for handling this: should I leave the performance suggestions in the main score only? Should I hide the performance suggestions in the parts for those sections which the instrument does not play? Should I try to increase the stretch on the measures with text so as to eliminate the overlaps?


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Are you saying that this is the standard practice or just a (part of the) solution?

The reason I'm asking is because the three alternatives I listed all solve the problem. My real question is not "how can I solve the problem?" but "what solution is used by professional engravers?"

The same problem could occur with tempo expressed in text. Something like "Allegro ma non troppo" could easily collide with some other text elements, but perhaps only in the parts. The solution there would seem to be to stretch the measures as needed.

The solution you picked seems like a good balance between keeping the parts tight (to minimize page turns) and keeping the performer aware of relevant instructions.

There is no single answer - you have to use your own judgement in deciding how to place elements for best effect. If you attach the score in question and tell us what specifically you are concerned with, we can certainly give you advice on how to handle that particular case. But generally, some amount of increasing stretch to give you more breathing room combined with manually adjusting the text elements themselves is the way to go most of the time.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks, Marc. I can certainly fix the problems on my own using the solutions I listed in the OP. I was just wondering what the pro's did. If the professional publishing houses also follow the rule of "do whatever makes the most sense", I can do that.

Occasionally, I've seen posts by people who seem knowledgeable about music publishing (from the inside), including at least one posting from someone in a publishing company that uses MuseScore as their engraving tool.

In reply to by freixas

Actually I have done this professionally. Problem is each publisher had their own standards for how they like things done. And even I've publisher might have different standards for different series of works. You can learn a lot just by looking at published music to see for yourself the variation in how things are done. But again, to give more specific advice we'd need to see you're score. Not only do different editors do things differently, but the specific texts themselves can be relevant in deciding how to resolve conflicts.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'm actually not concerned about making editors happy, but I do want to keep conductors happy. Maybe we can approach this from another angle. In all cases below, the conductor's score has complete markings.

  • I hand the orchestra a set of parts with all musical directions missing (tempo markings remain).
  • I hand the orchestra a set of parts which include only the musical directions for passages in which they actually have notes.
  • I hand the orchestra a set of parts which include all musical directions and adjust the measures to avoid collisions. The parts may now require more pages (but maybe not).
  • I hand the orchestra parts which sometimes include musical directions not relevant to their part and sometimes does. I am having trouble picturing this as a reasonable option.

Are there any cases listed where the conductor or the orchestra would clearly be upset?

Sorry, I won't post the score, but I can post a sample straight from generating one of the parts. This sample mixes tempo directions and musical directions. I'm not sure the two should be treated the same. My instinct would be to carry over all tempo markings.

I'm not sure this example is of any help. In any case, I'd rather learn the general approach than get an answer for a specific case.


On the first line, the text is "rall.", "a tempo". "On the verge of a discovery", and "Simple and straight-forward". On the third line, we have "Lyrically", "slightly slower", "a tempo", and "Reverently". This instrument appears to have no music affected by the musical directions (or even the tempo markings).

In reply to by freixas

Different conductors will also have different preferences. Personally (and I conduct professionally as well), I don't like the idea of eliminating markings just because they don't appear to be relevant. Even if a player is resting, he might use those markings to help him keep his place. Or I might say, "let's take it from the 'a tempo' marking" instead of using a measure number for whatever reason. On the other hand, players don't like when there are more pages than needed, especially if it makes page turning harder. I'd strive for minimize this. In your example, this could be achieved simply by changing the vertical position of "On the verge of a discovery" on the first system and "slightly slower" on the third. But I'd also consider putting a system break at measure 196, which might change the spacing on that first system enough to do the job without adding more pages. Again, impossible to say without the score, but these are the general things that are done.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks, Marc. Exactly what I was looking for. The idea that a conductor might use a musical direction as a substitute for a rehearsal mark was something I hadn't thought about.

I'm sure I can figure out how to keep the text without creating more pages. The parts where it's the biggest problem are probably the parts with fewest pages. And there aren't that many markings. Plus I can shrink the text size.

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