Two hands on one staff in long piece

• Jan 25, 2021 - 13:36

I am working on a harpsichord suite by Christophe Moyreau. Mostly it uses the grand staff, as is normal in keyboard music. However, one section uses only one staff, indicating notes for the right hand with upward-pointing stems and those for the left with downward-pointing ones; see the attachment for a sample. (Note the absence of a bracket at the left of the sample; this is not a grand staff, but two separate systems.)

I set up the piece by specifying harpsichord as the instrument, with treble and bass clefs. Is it possible (perhaps by inserting a section break) to change the instrument to use only one staff for just this portion of the piece and reproduce the original layout?

Perhaps I should ask if this layout is even permitted under modern engraving conventions. The section is long (~100 measures). Using a grand staff would result in all measures being empty in one hand or the other, which I think would look strange.

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moyreau1.png 56.24 KB


You can make use of the "hide empty staves" option, which will hide an empty stave from a system. Best to only turn that option on after having entered your notes, or you'll have no place left to enter them ;-)

In reply to by Shoichi

See the screen shot. I entered all the notes in the upper staff and then moved those for left hand down using the cross-staff feature. a) Are you suggesting that this would look more familiar/acceptable to modern players than the original? b) The third beat looks better than the first two because I manually moved some stems to the left and fixed the stem heights. That will be a lot of work if I do the whole piece this way.

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moyreau2.png 12.14 KB

See the third screen shot. This reproduces the original and was easy to do with the hide empty staves option. I spaced the notes a little further apart than in the original, and I think it's as legible (if not more so) as my attempt using cross-staff notation. It might be unfamiliar at first to people nowadays but with just a little practice I think they will have no trouble.

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moyreau3.png 10.61 KB

In reply to by redux02

Two items: I discovered Format / Style / Score / Hide empty staves within system as well as the option to right-click on an empty area of a staff and choose Staff/Part properties. If I understand correctly, the first option applies to the entire score while the second lets you control specific staves. In my case, I have only one instrument in the piece (harpsichord), so either would probably work. Is that right?

Problem: is it not possible to turn this option off once you've set it, using 3.6? I entered part of the piece that needs only one staff, then skipped ahead to the point where I need to go back to using both staves because I wanted to see how that would work. I made sure that both options mentioned above were set to display empty staves, but I still don't see them even after restarting MuseScore. In the attached file, the third page, m. 17, is where I need notes in both hands to begin again (so the grand staff should appear starting on this page, even though the first two measures will have nothing in the bottom staff). Does the fact that I put in section breaks perhaps cause problems?

Also, jeetee commented in response to my original post: "Best to only turn that option on after having entered your notes, or you'll have no place left to enter them ;-)." I thought he was referring to starting a new score, since all measures are empty to begin with, but maybe he meant that you need to enter the whole piece first?

In reply to by redux02

'Hide empty staves" in Format / Style / Score affects all (empty) staves, or at least all that are at the default "Auto" setting for "Hide when empty" in Staff/Part Properties. Settings "Hide when empty" to Always or Never does what it says for that particular staff regardless of the style setting. So yes, for a single instrument, no real difference.

But sure you can turn it off. In your example, you have the top staff set to auto, but the bottom set to always. You'll need to set that back to auto also.

And yes, the point is, you need to enter all notes before turning this option, or staves start disappearing before you have a chance to enter notes onto them. It's not impossible to enter notes onto hidden staves - keyboard shortcuts will still navigate to them - but not worth the effort compared to simply being patient with the hiding.

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