How to change the instrument already set on a stave?

• Aug 10, 2022 - 15:07

I have learned to select musical instruments for orchestra when starting a new sheet. But often the case was that I imported a pdf sheet into Musescore and all the staves were played as piano.

In this case, my solution was to start a new sheet, specify various instruments, then copy each stave line by line into the blank sheet. This is quite time-consuming.

Is there a more efficient way to do it? Thanks!


As shown in the link above, you can change instrument from staff/part properties.

But also, even for copy & paste, no need to do it line by line - just Ctrl+A to select all. Assuming the order of the instruments is the same, of course. That doesn't necessarily end up being slower - could actually be a little quicker actually given you can just select the instruments you want directly in the new score wizard rather than needing to go into staff/part properties for each instrument. Downside is, copy/paste doesn't get system-wide markings repeats, tempo markings, etc.

So, perhaps the most efficient method: start with your imported score, then use Edit / Instruments to add instruments to it. Now copy and paste - not with Ctrl+A, but by clicking the first measure of the top original staff, Shift+clicking the first measure of the last original staff, then Ctrl+Shift+End to select to end of score. Since it's the same score & same measures, the existing system markings apply. Then you can delete the original instruments.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you, Marc, for your time! I have saved your instructions for further practice.

I have a further question which is related.

When I imported the pdf into Musescore, I found a serious mistake: extra staffs were added to the whole stave. They were not new instruments but were just copied from some staff such as violin. How to delete them? I could not find this option in Musescore.

In reply to by underquark

Thank you for your attention. Attached is the original pdf (Tchaikovski Violin Concerto). I purchased the software Playscore 2 which could covert it to a MusicXML file. I opened it in Musescore and found there was two extra staff with the instrument names Vell and K.B. which I could not recognize. This problem was caused by the software Playscore and I have spent time with customer support without success.

Now my solution is to delete these two staff (just above the solo violin), but don't know how. There is music on these two staff.

I wanted to attach the entire pdf but was refused by the website due to the large size (9.9 MB). I was forced to attach page 1 only. Also, I attached the mscz file for Musescore (sorry for the Chinese version).

Thank you for your time.


In reply to by charles_hans

Unfortunately, trying to turn a picture of music into actual music is pretty complicated AI, I wouldn't be expecting perfection, or anything close to it really. Every once in a while it will yield results that take less time to correct than it would have to simply enter the music normally, but in many cases, it's harder to fix the errors.
Especially if you're not already an expert user, as the kinds of errors these programs produce are often extremely convoluted. For beginners it's almost always easier to enter the music normally.

Luckily, removing staves is easy - go to Edit Instruments, select, delete.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I encountered a real headache in dealing with a transposed instrument: clarinet in A. I was manually typing the notes into Musescore. The piece was from Mendelssohn's violin concerto. But Musecore only carries clarinet in Bb. Does this mean that I can't do it?

What I did was right-click inside the first bar and select stave/staff property. Then I selected the plus-third interval in the transposition and reverse (preference "b"), which made the key of staff Bb for Clarinet (please see the mscz file attached). When playing the paragraph I typed, it sounded weird and I realized that something went wrong.

Should I give up on it? Thanks!

Attachments: (1) Page 1 of the concerto (2) P.9 which contains the paragraph I typed (3) the mscz file.

Attachment Size
Page 1.pdf 2.39 MB
p9.pdf 3.98 MB
The_second_theme_of_the_first_movement.mscz 19.94 KB

In reply to by charles_hans

You can find the A clarinet in the orchestral section of the instruments There is a dropdown that shows "Common" instruments by default but if you expand that you will see the other categories. You can also type "clarinet" into the search box in the instruments dialogue to see all instruments containing "clarinet" in their name. The dialogue and its operation are described here…

In reply to by SteveBlower

Thank you, Steve, for your instructions. I did find what I needed.

In order to show the Bb key to the staff for the clarinet, in the stave/staff property window I selected the "pure fifth interval" in the transposition section. If I did nothing, the key for "clarinet in A" would have been F. I don't if I made the right selection.

Now my problem is, that the newly added "clarinet in A" was not playing in the right sound when I used the key (Bb) as in the original pdf (attached). (The concerto uses the key of G.) It simply sounded not right.

To demonstrate the sound, I added three staff in the attached mscz file: (1) the first layer of the clarinet which is the melody (I deleted the second layer of the clarinet in order to hear it clearly). (2) the violin solo which will formally start after the introduction played by the clarinet. (3) the first violin which I made to play the same melody as the clarinet. I want to show you that the sound of the clarinet is incorrect.

I don't know what I had done wrong. Thanks!


Attachment Size
The_second_theme_of_the_first_movement1.mscz 21.16 KB
p9.pdf 3.98 MB

In reply to by charles_hans

I really don't understand what you did or why you did it. In particular why have you transposed a perfect fifth? To transpose from clarinet in Bb to clarinet in A (i.e. change the written notes but keep the same pitch when played) the notes have to be raised by a semitone. Or if you entered the notes as written but with the concert pitch button selected you would need to tranpose up two semitones for a Bb clarinet part or three semitones for an A part. None of those have anything to do with a perfect fifth.

I suggest you should remove the clarinet stave you already have and then add a new clarinet in A stave. Then make sure the concert pitch button is not selected and enter the notes as shown on the .pdf.

In reply to by charles_hans

You probably did some manual transpositions. You don't need to do that. If you look at the staff/part properties: your A clarinet is transposed 7 fifth up, an original A clarinet has the transposition 3 minor third down. As the difference is no octave it will sound strange.
Start the new score with the key signature of the C-instruments (e.g. flute, oboe) - here G major.
Then add the instrument A clarinet. The key automatically adapts for the A clarinet to Bb major as it does for e.g. the F horn to D major.
In your actual score you can add with 'I' an additional A clarinet. Then copy your notes to this new stave. You will see, they are very high. Set the clarinet one octave down. Then you see, that the notes are too low. Use the arrow up key twice and you will have the correct result.
In the attachment I added a second A clarinet. If you mute your A clarinet it should sound probably correct.

In reply to by HildeK

Thank you, Hildek, for your time. Your mscz file is very helpful to me. I have corrected my errors.

But now I have a new problem: I could not find the "horn in E, trumpet in E, and timpani in E H" instruments when searching. In the original pdf (Page 1 attached), the key signature for these three is for C-instruments. But now I have the keys for D and A because I selected horn in F and trumpet in Bb. Please see the attached mscz file and the image of the original pdf (over 4 MB) for page 4. I have left the three instruments blank.

If Musescore does not carry horn in E and trumpet in E, do you think that I have to give up on creating the mscz? Mendelssohn's piece is a famous one. I really doubt my conclusion. Thank you again for your time.

Attachment Size
Page 1.pdf 2.39 MB
The_first_movement_of_violin_concerto.mscz 21.71 KB
Page 4.docx 693.39 KB

In reply to by charles_hans

But there are horn in E and trumpet in E available. Not included is timpani in E H and sadly I don't know what is meant with 'E H' for the timpani. Probably this must be transposed manually but here ends my musical experience :-).
I'm not sure about following things because they do not fit to your original PDF:
- The key signature shows no E instruments but G instruments. If you choose horn in G then the signature will fit.
- The same goes for timpani and trumpet, but there are no trumpet or timpani in G in Musescore.
May be there are some characteristics in these old scores which I do not know.

Nevertheless if you like to find horn in E or trumpet in E do the following:
- Press 'i'.
- Select instead of 'Common' the section 'All instruments' and there the subsection 'Brass'. There you can find several horn and trumpet variants, also those with E transposition.
To reduce the choises type horn or trumpet in the search field.

In reply to by HildeK

Thank you, Hildek. I did find horn and trumpet in E, and I added their scores in the mscz file attached. I did not find other variants for the timpani, therefore I added its scores as is. When playing back, I did not hear abnormal sounds. So I think that the Eb key signature for these two instruments might be appropriate. The key signature for the timpani has a sharp on F, which has no impact since it only has notes on E and B.

Do you find any problem with my mscz file? Thanks!

In reply to by charles_hans

Probably it is correct in that way. I've no experience in early music.
As stated by Jojo -Schmitz the timpani is a pitched drum only with the two notes E and B (German H). That's what the name 'Timpani in E.H.' says. So a F# isn't included anyway. You can Ctrl-Drag the C major signatur to the timpani stave.
And as stated by Marc Sabatella, older scores often do not use a key signatur but only accidentals for every affected note. As in your piece trumpet an horn only use C and G notes, there is no hint how it is used in Mendelsohns' work.
If you like to have the staves in the same look: from the key signature menue drag the E major (4*#) key signature to the first measure of the horn or trumpet while pressing the Ctrl button on you keyboard. Any Ab, Eb and Bb will get their individual accidentals if the are already written before.
There is a chapter in the handbook:…

In reply to by charles_hans

The easy way to find all horns - not just the common ones - is the type “horn” into the search box. Same for trumpet.

Even if the transposition you want is not provided, just add any other version, then use Staff/Part Properties to change the transposition and name to whatever you like. You can have a viola in F# if you want!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I know that this is possible, but my musical knowledge is not good enough to say 'use F horn and transpose it xxx steps up or down'. I can try and figure it out, yes.

But here the strange thing for me is the difference of the original 'Page 1.pdf' with 'Trombe in E' shown without any key signature (C major) in a score of G major. If I choose a trumpet in E it has three 'b' in the stave. In my humble opinion it should be a trumpet in G to get this shown key signature.

In reply to by HildeK

You don't need to consider the original key. If you want a horn in Ab, it doesn't matter if you start with a horn in F or a horn in C or whatever. All you need to know is that a horn in Ab sounds a major third lower than written, so that's the interval to pick. And if you didn't already know Ab instruments sound a major third lower than written, the rule is simple: the name of the transposition is based on what written "C" sounds like. So, on an Ab instrument, written C sounds like Ab. Either a major third lower or a minor sixth higher - that's something you'd have to do a little research to learn. But, most transposing instruments sound lower than written, except for a very few soprano instruments pitched a step or two above concert pitch.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you for both explanations.
Normally I do not have this problem: most times I have a sheet for horn in Es and like to get it for a horn in F. Or I need to play with the F horn a trombone voice.
And that is pretty easy in Musescore: create two staves, on for Es horn and one for F horn, transcribe the Es original and copy these notes in the F section or choose simply instead of Es horn a new instrument, the F horn. Now I'm done! Doing this with a trombone voice a octave shift will be necessary.
This method does not work if Musescore doesn't provide the instrument like in this thread.

In reply to by HildeK

As for showing no key signature, that's pretty common for older brass instruments they are traditionally notated with no key signature for historical reasons relating to their design and the system of "crooks" that were once used to allow them to change transposition mid-score.

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