Changing Instrument sounds via staff text properties mid-score

• Apr 10, 2020 - 17:06

I need to change the sound of my soloist strings between their "Fast" and "Slow" sound fonts within the score. The differences between them are in how the attack is expressed. How can I assign more articulations, (beyond pizz, acro, and tremolo) to channels, and then link them to particular text label properties for use in the score? I find it frustrating that I cannot access a particular sound for an instrument without it functioning like "change instrument" and affecting the entire score.

Please note I do not wish to change instruments mid-score; I only want to change the way they sound. I find that changing to the voice I want from the "Mixer" creates a global change back to the beginning of the piece, rather from the note selected. I'd prefer not having to go into any program files...since I'm to too savvy with programing, but will approach that with guidance.

Thanks for your help.


You can add an instrument change from the Text palette wherever you want a sound change to occur. If you use the Change Instrument command on it, this changes the instrument form that point forward only. Or if it's literally just a sound change you want, don't use the Change Instrument on it, just go right to the Mixer and take advantage of the new channel it just gave you.

FWIW, with strings specifically, I recommend not using the tremolo channel, so you could just redefine it to be the "slow" version.

In reply to by Philzen

Thanks. This is where I would expect to solve my issue. However, the channel (i.e. "sound option") is not listed nor can I reach it from there. Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 8.41.29 AM.png
This is what I need, but when I select it from the Mixer window, it changes the sound for that instrument across the entire piece, not from the point where I need the change to occur.
Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 8.40.17 AM.png

In reply to by ♪𝔔𝔲𝔞𝔳𝔢𝔯 ℭ𝔯𝔞𝔣𝔱𝔢𝔯♪

I recently found out that instrument channels (one could also call them sound variations) can also be defined on a per score-basis, so that's like a custom instrument file for a particular score. There is two ways to do that:
1. as Marc suggests, it's very convenient in the mixer. I did not realize for quite some time that there is a button on each mixer channel, if you press that, you see the instrument channels and can select the instrument sound you find most appropriate for the expression you want to have for particular parts.
2. in the XML file. Open up the XML score file (mscz is just a compressed mscx that you can extract manually or just save it as mscx from musescore) and look for < channel name="mute" > for instance. There you can add additional channels and add/change their names. You may then save and go back into the GUI to conveniently select instruments via the mixer "subchannels" or, if you're native MIDI speaker, directly in the XML ;)

As far is i know, adding & naming channels cannot be done anywhere in MuseScore (is that correct, Marc?). Also the connection between the popup channel selector and the mixer subchannels seems anything but obvious for beginners, i wonder if there's a better way to make it more intuitive.

N.B. For some strange reason i could not post the actual XML tag, as that won't be display, even if i put a code that or an escape character in front of it. So i put in a space character before the closing and ending angle bracket of the channels tag (just so you know when you search the XML for it).

In reply to by Philzen

Every time you add an Instrument change element from the Text palette, you get a new Mixer channel. Definitely room for improvement in how all of this works, some is actually implemented already for 3.5, some has outstanding PR’s, some if just design proposals.

XML code can be incorporated using an xml tag, code doesn’t seem to work.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, thanks so much for everything you do for everyone...I watch your helpful videos all the time.

I'm still not getting it. I don't understand when you say:
"Every time you add an Instrument change element from the Text palette, you get a new Mixer channel. "

When I enter "Change Instrument" on the note in the score, and then open the properties dialog I see this:
Then when I select "Change Instrument" I get this:
Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 9.44.42 AM.png

So...If I select "violin", will it add a new Mixer channel? Even though that is my instrument already?.
Where does that new channel show up, and how do I use that to modify the sound?

From all I've been able to do, any time I go into the Mixer and select a sound for my instrument, SlowV.png

It makes a global sound change for that instrument, no matter what note in the score is selected at the time.

Sorry for my confusion.... I am certainly missing something.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc,
That was part of it. I had actually discovered that arrow function previously. I just hadn't made the connection that when reassigning channel sounds from there, the change would affect the performance via staff text properties and articulation menus.

I also see what you mentioned about when changing instruments, channels are added. But I can't figure out how to use them, since I cannot edit the names, nor do I see those additional channels appear in the text-properties/expression menu.


In reply to by Jacksonian

Again, you don't need to rename them or even think bout adding staff text in order to use the channel. Just select the sound you want right there in the mixer, as I have said. In other words:

1) add instrument change where you want the sound change to happen
2) go to mixer
3) set the sound of the new channel however you like

That's it, done. No need to change the name of anything, no need to add staff text, not need to view any properties dialog of anything.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

1) isn't an instrument change also staff text? ;)
2) when i do that, the number of subchannels in the mixer doubles (which does not make it easier to manage imho)
3) how do i tell the subchannels apart and see at first glance, which is played in which part in the score? now i have two of each, showing the same names

If i'm not mistaken, initial post in this thread said that "instrument change" was basically not wanted and the question was implied how or whether those channels (may it be mixer or instrument channels) can be named.

Doing an instrument change surely is another way to achieve the desired results, and it's good to know about it, but apart from not having to open a properties dialog once, i'm failing to see the advantages (which it may have in certain scenarios).

In reply to by Philzen

1) No. instrument change is its own element type, separate from staff text. There are many text-based element types - dynamics, chord symbols, lyrics, titles, etc. they are all distinct. Only actual staff text element get staff text properties.

2-3) Indeed, if you intend to change channels a lot, instrument changes will get out of hand. the approach I describe is best if there are only a few such changes and you deal with each immediately so you know which is the new channel.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Many thanks for your answer as always, the workaround for the forum tags pitfall will be helpful.

But - regarding channels we just had a case of a homonym causing confusion in discussions on MuseScore ;)

My questions was regarding instrument channels (= subchannels in the mixer) - to rephrase, is it correct that there is no way in MuseScore to add or (re-)name subchannels / instrument channels, other than editing the XML itself?

IMHO it's always better to use real-world analogies, as those are more likely to be understood by newbies w/o studying a software in depth first, therefore it feels more logical to me to switch instrument channels rather than change instruments mid-score - unless i'd also want the players reading the final score actually grabbing a different instrument ;) Most of the times i want to change the way the instrument is articulated (and thus, have a variation of it's sound), but not the instrument itself, which i understand is also what @Jacksonian is trying to achieve.

In reply to by Philzen

Thanks to everyone for helping work through this for me. However.... I must be missing a critical piece of information because nothing suggested solves the issue for me. Please see my notes to others addressing their particular suggestions.

I went into the mscx file for the piece and found the location for the violin channels. There I found:
So...If I rename "tremolo" to "slow" and change to program value from "44" to --(where can I find the value for "slow violin"?). Then for this score, "slow" should show up when I add a staff text and select 'properties'. ChannelList.jpeg Correct?

Then, If this is something I would always like available, I could go into the MuseScore package, open the "Instrument.xml" file in a text editor and find:
Violin xml.jpg

Then likewise, rename "tremolo" to "slow" and change the program value from "44" to --? Then it should be available as a sound channel any time I write for violin?


In reply to by Jacksonian

I recommend cloning it to add a new channel in the XML file. If you do this than you will have to save this xml file somewhere else and set it as default in preferences. For your current score you will have to change instrument in the staff properties, but for future scores it will always be there. It may be best through, to recommend this as a feature request, because many people would use it and those who don't wouldn't be hurt by it.

In reply to by ♪𝔔𝔲𝔞𝔳𝔢𝔯 ℭ𝔯𝔞𝔣𝔱𝔢𝔯♪

Thank you. I would love to do that, although I am not familiar with the cloning process you mention to know how. I did finally figure out what Marc had said about; when "changing instruments more sound channels are added," but that really didn't help too much because I couldn't rename any of the new channels, nor could I select them through staff text-properties. They don't show up in that menu.

The solution I'm using is limited and imperfect, to be sure, as Marc suggested. I assigned the "slow violin" sound to the "tremolo" channel for the violin in the Mixer. So now my score looks as though I've assigned (text) tremolo even though the sound is for "slow Violin". I then use the bar function in notation of tremolos to actually achieve a tremolo sound. I'll just make the text invisible when it comes to printing the score.

I am also using an orchestral font that provides soloist sounds for many instruments, each with their particular set of arco, pizz, trem..etc. It would great to be able to assign those to more channels per instrument, and then have those channels appear in the text-properties menu.

Thanks again,

In reply to by Jacksonian

Hmm, maybe you're still misunderstanding, then. The whole point is that once you do the change instrument, you don't need staff text, nor do you need staff text properties. Y9u make the change right there in the Mixer. The only downside is you end up with a bunch of extra channels if you keep switching back and forth, so if you wish to avoid that, you can use the tremolo trick.

If you continue to have problems with this, please attach your actual score and explain more detail exactly where you are having trouble.

In reply to by Jacksonian

If you open up your score xml there should be a <channel name="tremolo"> - you can change its name to match the purpose you're using it for :) Of course you need to have it closed before and then reopen it in MuseScore.

Then you can make a note in your score i.e. "slow" or whatever is the appropriate, assign channels via right-click and later switch back using the same method to "fast", "normal" or whatever you need. This way you have a nice match between comments / articulation hints for the players and playback.

btw - cloning just another word for making an exact copy.
So @QuaverCrafter suggested you can also do those channel configurations globally by modifying the instruments.xml (then load that in the preferences... Menu`), so it will become part of your default setup going forward.

In reply to by Philzen

I have been experimenting with modifying the mscx file of my score (attached).
I duplicated and modified the channels for each, adding the same three extra beyond the standard (arco, pizz, trem) to include "slow, staccato, accent" to reflect the sfz files I have available through the orchestral soundfont library I'm using: virtual-playing-orchestra2.2

I checked with the Synthesizer to ensure the the sfz sound fonts had loaded for these instruments (I have saved them to the score).

The Mixer reflected my modifications...(only Violin one is showing, but the V2, Viola and Cello also reflect the changes.) Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 10.27.12 AM.png

I made sure I associated each of the channels to the corresponding sound.

I tried applying these channels to the score using both with the standard "text pallet" options, as well as with "staff text;properties". The options did show up in the properties menu:
Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 12.06.48 PM.png


On playback, only the first three (standard channels) actually played back. The playback ignored any of the three extra channels I had created. So I must have missed something somewhere.

In reply to by Jacksonian

i noticed two things looking at that score.
1. The "slow" and "staccato" staff texts didn't have an to another channel - was that on purpose, or did you omit to select the voice (then the channel does not get saved at all, which annoyed me at first a bit)
2. the channels you defined for "staccato", "pizzicato", "tremolo" and "accent" all use the SFZ (Zerberus) synthi - which i cannot hear for sure because i don't have any SFZ installed. I could find this one: but that's not the same version than you have, which seems outdated as of now. But anyhow: i can change the concerned channels to play any instruments from the SF2/3 (Fluid) libraries i currently have installed for the pizzicato sections and i will hear sound.

So i believe there may be something up with your virtual playing orchestra, but i cannot say from here.

In reply to by Philzen

Thanks for checking that out. I just applied SF2/3 sounds the three non-standard channels in the Mixer, and then looked into the staff-text properties. Every time I open the properties menu it looks as though nothing was set previously...every voice was set to "arco". Is this a function of the clear all properties settings whenever that menu opens?

Well... something isn't right. I see now the playback ignores all staff-text property settings and only accepts the standard "arc, pizz, and trem" for playback from off the "text pallet" menu. So I find it interesting that you could get sounds from the "slow, staccato and accent" channels, when I cannot.

I will unload the orchestral fonts to see if that is the issue. Thanks again for your help.

In reply to by Jacksonian

> Every time I open the properties menu it looks as though nothing was set previously...every voice was set to "arco". Is this a function of the clear all properties settings whenever that menu opens?

If you don't click the small voice buttons to the left of the dropdown (just "1" will do for your example file), then it unfortunately does, yes - because that's as if you didn't assign anything at all, that confused me for a while at first, i've been there ;).

In reply to by Jacksonian

Interesting. I use VPO instruments but work the opposite way, using an invisible staff to map the keystrokes corresponding to different articulations in an external player. I then add (non-playback) staff text to note where the changes take place.

Regarding mscx. I read somewhere that you can't modify an already saved file. You need to set up the instruments and then save as mscx. Then go in and modify. There is a long discussion recently on this under "classical guitar soundfont" in the soundfonts forum. You need to be careful with controller and program values.

Hello, I solved my previous problem but still have a question. I changed violins to "slow" at some point but then I need to go back to "fast". Do I have to make another instrument change with the addition of three more subchannels? It will quickly go out of hand

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.