If you’ve used music notation software — specifically Finale or Sibelius — for longer than about a decade, you’ll recall there was a time when the file and the score were essentially one and the same. If you wanted to make a set of parts from your score, you had to extract the parts into separate files.
For a score of considerable length and forces, this was sometimes an all-night process, quite literally. You’d start the part extraction process, go to sleep, and wake up the next morning with 30 or so files, each corresponding to an instrument in your score.
But what was the alternative? Compared to hand-copying out the parts, letting the computer work while you caught a few winks wasn’t so bad. Some clever users, especially in the recording world, used a different technique of setting up an empty template, and then copying and pasting each line into its own file.
In time, improvements in the software and computing power made extracting parts a much quicker process, but the result was still the same: separate files for each instrument. If you wanted to change anything in your music, and you wanted the parts to have fealty to the score — whether it was something complicated like adding a bunch of new bars or a simple change like increasing the tempo by a tick — it required opening each file, making the correction, and saving it anew.
When Sibelius 4 introduced Dynamic Parts feature in 2005, and Finale 2007 followed in due course with Linked Parts a year later, it revolutionized the workflow of creating a set of performance materials for a piece of music. Since then, I’ve hardly ever needed to extract parts from a Finale or Sibelius file — and you shouldn’t have to, either.
MuseScore added the feature to version 2, and of course, in Dorico, there is not even a way to extract a part — if there were, Steinberg’s Daniel Spreadbury said, paraphrasing Steve Jobs, “If we make Dorico so that you have to extract parts, we messed up.”
To be sure, keeping the score and parts in the same file is not without its quirks and workarounds. This is not intended as a comprehensive how-to list, but here are a few things I regularly encounter, and how I get around them:
Hide elements in your score
I’ve found that keeping the score and parts together in one file works best on music with one instrument to a staff, and in which players are playing fairly constantly, without the need for many cues. A string quartet or wind quintet are good examples, though music for larger forces works just fine as long as those elements are present.
If you have elements in your score such as text or symbols you want to display in the score but not the parts, or vice versa, both Finale and Sibelius have ways to do that for most items.
If there is music that you need to display in one but not the other, Finale and Sibelius handle that a bit differently:
- In Finale, you select the bars you wish to hide and apply to them one of the Blank Notation with Rests staff styles, and set it to apply only in the score or part — meaning, you apply the style to the part or score where you want to hide the music.
- In Sibelius, you select the music and choose Home > Edit > Show in Score if you want the music to show in the score and be hidden in the parts, or Show in Parts if you want the music to show in the parts and be hidden in the score. Sibelius’s Paste as Cue feature, found in Home > Clipboard, will do the latter automatically if Hide cues in full score is checked in File > Preferences.
Hiding entire staves in the score but displaying them in the part is possible, too. One use for this is making a piano/vocal part to be used only for rehearsal purposes. The vocal lines show in both the score and part, but the piano reduction shows only in the part.
- In Finale, go to the Staff Attributes for the staves in the piano grand staff and select Behaviors > Force Hide Staff > in Score Only (Collapse). You’ll still see the staff in Scroll View but the stave will be hidden in Page View and thus will not appear in the printed score. The part is not affected.
- In Sibelius, it’s not quite as easy, but it’s possible. Triple-click to select the entire staff and choose Home > Edit > Show in Parts to hide the music in the full score, as described above. Then choose Layout > Hiding Staves > Hide Empty Staves. You’ll still see the staves with Panorama switched on but the music will be hidden. Keep in mind, though, if you add anything to those staves later, they’ll reappear in the full score, and you’ll need to apply these steps again. My colleague John Hinchey has a blog post that describes the use of this technique along with a plug-in.
Make a “parts” score
My most common workflow for larger scores is to create two files: a “score” score and a “parts” score. Wait – earlier I bemoaned having multiple files for the same piece. But I’m only talking about having two files, not 30 or more, for a typical orchestra piece. That’s a lot less unwieldy.
This allows you to get around a number of constraints when using a single parts/score file:
- You can split out any “voiced” parts that may share a staff in the score, such as Trumpet 1 and 2. Yes, Finale has a voiced parts feature, and I use it sometimes, but it imposes other constraints (grace notes, ahem).
- You can place cues with impunity and not worry about hiding them in the full score.
- You can have better control over the font size and styles. Sibelius has better options for having separate score and parts settings, but you have more freedom by working in separate files.
- You can have any number of staves in your “parts” score which may serve a purpose (such as a scratch staff or temporary staff for reducing music) that you don’t have to worry about hiding in a real score. If they aren’t assigned to a part, they cause no problem.
- You can easily place text that would look strange appearing in a full score, such as a percussion list or “V.S.” markings, without being concerned with hiding them in your score.
When extracting parts is useful
This is not to say that extracting parts is totally useless. Take the piano/vocal part mentioned above. Perhaps that part needs to be siphoned off from the full score because it will be edited further and published separately. You can extract the part into its own file, with all the settings and formatting intact, and continue working with it without being concerned about keeping the full score intact.
Another instance in which it may be easier to extract parts would be in very complex scores with unusual notation or unique layout elements.
And sometimes multiple copyists need to work on the same file at the same time, such as in an film orchestra music preparation session, where time is of the essence. In that case, certain copyists will still employ the aforementioned empty template method of having one file corresponding to each part. But even in those situations, it should be possible to retain some benefit of the “parts” score method and minimize the number of separate files needed: one copyist has a “wind parts” score, another the “brass parts” score, etc.
In any case, for most projects, extracting parts into separate files is a relic of the earlier days of notation software that has thankfully been improved upon.
What are some of your techniques when working with scores and parts? Do you still extract parts? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.