A “condensed” overview of formatting scores in MuseScore Studio

Tips

When MuseScore Studio version 4.2 was released in late 2023, it came with new enhancements that allowed better control over the display of elements in the score, compared to the parts. This control over part versus score display is essential for any notation software where the score and parts are self-contained within one file. Alongside other existing features, this opens the door for rationalizing detailed score formatting work in MuseScore Studio.

In this article we’ll focus on two popular score formatting techniques — condensing scores and adding oversized time signatures — and how to incorporate them in MuseScore.

Condensing scores

Every notation program has very different ways of approaching the condensing of parts in a score. While there is no tool dedicated specifically to condensing scores in one action in MuseScore Studio, the tools provided offer options to accomplish results.

Make no mistake: it can be a lot of work to combine a score properly in MuseScore. That’s true with Sibelius and Finale as well; even Dorico, with its condensing feature, requires an understanding by the user of its methods. However, combining staves in larger scores is ultimately time well spent and will make your score much more legible.

While other programs can handle tracking parts from a single combined staff starting point, MuseScore Studio is at its most effective when you start with all of the individual parts in the score. This starting point can be quite messy when you have a huge score, so turning off visibility for parts you are not yet ready to work makes it easier to look at.

All parts are ready but they are hanging off the bottom of the page. Don’t worry, this is all going to look great.

In this example, our first parts that need combining are Flute 1 and Flute 2. Turning off visibility for everything else for now will help with focusing on the task at hand. Then we just need to add another instrument that we’ll call “Flute 1,2” for now. Don’t worry about engraving at this stage; our current objective is to combine the parts.

As you might have guessed, we’ll be using the implode tool from here.  If you have not yet created a keyboard shortcut (MuseScore Studio > Preferences…> Shortcuts) for implode, now is the time — ⇧I is available if you are looking for a suggestion.

The implode tool adds the results to the top staff, so include an empty destination staff at the top of your selection. Otherwise, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops to copy, undo, and paste results where you need them to go.

To reorder staves in the score you can simply drag the instrument in the instruments palette or you can also accomplish this in the Add/remove instruments window, which is accessed by hitting I.

Re-ordering instruments in MuseScore Studio

After imploding, the top staff is selected, and parts are shown in separate voices. This is great when the parts are independent, but if you working with a selection where both instruments are using the same rhythms on different pitches, you’ll want to have this displayed all in voice 1. The easiest thing to do is to implode it again — have you added your shortcut yet?

Imploding staves in MuseScore Studio

You’ll notice no text or dynamic information is included in this process. Imploding is strictly a function for notes in MuseScore Studio, so you’ll need to address any dynamics, hairpins, text, lines, etc separately. You are also on your own for including appropriate indications to your combined part such “a2”, “1.” or “2.”, so it is best to work in with small selections at a time so you can manage everything correctly.

MuseScore Studio does not offer the ability to refine the position of instrument numbers, but if you have the patience. you can replicate the style that can be achieved in other software. Simply leave two or three blank spaces at the end of a combined instrument’s name and add in staff text that is centered to create the effect. Do not do this until you are completely done editing the score — this should be the very last thing you do.

After condensing, you can comfortably fit all staves on the page. Of course, you can utilize hiding empty staves for further space optimization when you see fit.

A condensed score using MuseScore Studio

Large time signatures

Since the release of MuseScore 4, the software now includes access to a variety of select plug-ins from the Home tab without needing to go to the typical place to find them. In this area you’ll find a Large time signatures plug-in which assists with creating stylized large time signatures in MuseScore.

Plugins in the Home section of MuseScore Studio

By selecting and then enabling the Large time signatures plug-in in this menu, you will now see it available for use in the Plugins drop-down menu when on a score.

The plug-in will change the width of the time signature to 250% to build in some extra room, and then sets the color of the time signature from black to transparent. This method is used in lieu of toggling off visibility, since turning off visibility will not hold any space for the time signature and will shift everything over to fill that space. The plug-in also creates a time signature using Bravura text as your starting point.

The plug-in transforms your time time signature to one that is “Hollywood” styled, but you can swap out this text style for others to meet your personal preferences.

Running the plug-in gives you a good starting place, but some work is still required to make your score look good.

Results after running the Large time signatures plug-in in MuseScore Studio

If a gap is shown between the numbers, it can be fixed by editing the line spacing until you get the desired spacing.

Although you can make the size of the text smaller from 200 pt, you can not go any bigger and if you decide to go back up after making the text smaller, you’ll find the option to do so is greyed out. If you hit the greyed out button, it changes the size to 99, so resist touching the up button. (These symbols in Bravura Text can be scaled up to 300 pt, but not without editing the file data directly, which is generally not a great idea as it may cause the file to become unstable.)

I have made an edited file with a variety of time signatures at 300 pt that can be copied and pasted into your score with a larger size. You can always make these smaller, but if you try to go larger, the same issues will persist with MuseScore greying out the option. If you try to do it any way, it will still make the size 99.  If you use one of these larger time signatures from the aforementioned link, it still makes sense to run the plug-in first and then copy-and-paste the larger time signature into your desired score.

You may want to change the width of the hidden time from 250% (as it is after running the plug-in) to 300% to make additional room for the larger time signature at 300 pt. From here, you can apply the convention you like best as to where to place your large time signature (centered to brackets, at the top, etc.).

“Hollywood” styled large time signatures at 200 pt vs 300 pt

Parts

After making adjustments to the score, you will need to fix your parts in order to display the normally-sized time signature.

First select the currently invisible time signature on the part and turn off the Style/appearance switch to break the synchronization with the score. Then, scale it back to 100%.

The time signature is still invisible, so while it’s selected in the Properties > Appearance > Color, change it back to black. Inconveniently, you will need to repeat these steps to update the time signatures on each of your parts.

Hopefully these tips will allow you to create optimally-sized music for both the score and the parts, contained within one MuseScore Studio file. Do you have other tips you’d like to share that would further assist this process? Let us know in the comments.

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