Creating single parts from multiple staves

A typical multi-instrument percussion setup (Courtesy vxla on Flickr)

I get asked surprisingly often how to create an instrumental part containing multiple staves. It’s not surprising that I get asked this — after all, it’s a common enough requirement, particularly so for percussionists — but rather that people haven’t figured it out for themselves, or been able to find the information in Sibelius’s documentation. (For the record, you can find all the information I’m about to give you under the subheading Adding or removing staves from parts in 7.1 Working with parts in Help > Documentation > Sibelius 6 Reference — page 555 in the latest edition at the time of writing.)

Let’s assume you have three percussion staves in your score: a cymbal, a snare drum, and a bass drum. You could have chosen to write for all three instruments on a single staff (if, say, you had decided from the very beginning that all three instruments would be played by a single player), but you prefer to see each percussion instrument on its own staff, and that’s fine. Sibelius makes it easy.

Now, with the first rehearsal approaching, you’ve discussed how the percussion instruments will be divided among the orchestra’s percussionists, and it turns out that all three of your chosen instruments will be played by a single (very busy) percussionist. Naturally you want to produce a single part that shows the music for all three instruments.

By default, Sibelius has created an individual part for each of the percussion staves in your score. To tell Sibelius to make a single part containing all three staves, first show the Parts window, by choosing it from the Window menu, or typing the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+R (Windows) or OptCommandR (Mac).

Next, click the New Part button on the toolbar at the bottom of the Parts window:

(It’s the highlighted button that looks like a blank sheet of paper.) The New Part dialog appears:

Select the three staves you want to add to the same part in the left-hand list, and click Add to Part, then click OK. Now you will see a new part listed in the Parts window:

and you can now edit and work with this part in the same way as all of the other parts in your score.

Easy when you know how! Do you have any favourite tricks when working with dynamic parts in Sibelius? If so, let me know.


  1. Patrick Schönbach

    In my opinion, this is only half of the story. What if you want to merge these 3 staves, whose instrumennts never play simultaneously, down to a single staff in order to save space?

  2. J. Simon van der Walt

    Interesting. But, what would you do if you wanted these three percussion parts displayed on a single stave in the part, but on three staves in the score?

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      Simon and Patrick both ask variations on the same question. Of course, Sibelius can’t automatically handle that situation for you. The way I would personally approach this would be to add an extra staff to the full score that would be hidden (either via Focus on Staves or by selecting the whole staff, using Edit > Hide or Show > Show in Parts and then using Layout > Hide Empty Staves), copying the music across from the three individual staves and pasting it onto the combined staff.

  3. Ben Timms

    Does the aggregated part automatically update from the full score?

    I must admit that I’d assumed the same as Patrick and Simon, having read your post, that the parts merge down to a single stave. That would be an interesting technical challenge!

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      Yes, the aggregated part updates automatically based if you change the full score, just like when you have a part containing an individual staff.

  4. Paul Shimmons

    I was very excited when reading this because I had never used this “create new part”. I thought I had the answer to a problem I have and it ALMOST worked!

    I frequently have a concert band score with parts in it that I do not really need to see when I print out the score. I have in the past simply used the “focus on staves” and then printed from there. The problem is that there are some weird spacing issues that show up. It doesn’t fit on the page as nicely as normal. So this morning I created a new part – added the parts I wanted to see in the score and there it was! A new score with all the necessary parts to conduct from and the spacing was beautiful! But then I realized that each staff did not have the names next to them!

    So what’s the best answer to having a score with say 15 instruments in it but I only need to actually see 10 when I print the score – AND – being able to have great spacing in that score like is normal in Sibelius?

  5. Matthew H. Fields

    This is good advice, and I’ve used it especially to create percussion parts. But if you know that a percussionist is going to play only one instrument at a time, then creating just one staff for them and treating them as an alternating instrument makes sense.

    I’m still extracting parts from a document separate from the conductor’s score, though, as giving each wind part a separate staff at all times would require illegibly small font sizes on unusably large score pages. So in the conductor’s score I have a staff for every disposition (e.g. all flutes separate, all on one staff, 1+2 on a staff while 3 plays piccolo, etc.) of each part, and I use hiding and showing to make the conductor’s score look right, then I make a copy of the score and tease all the parts onto separate staves for part extraction, rendering the Full Score view useless. While this increases the risk of the parts and scores disagreeing with each other, it also gives me greater flexibility with cues.

    Here’s a wish-list idea: paste-as-cue into a specific voice. When a player needs cues to enter in the correct place in a fugal texture without straightforward barline divisions between entries, Sibelius currently puts cues in all different voices according to its own algorithm, and I find myself pursuing long manual workarounds to avoid leaving a clutter of rests and other messes.

  6. Chris Fraley

    Paul, you have the right solution. The only missing step is to change the Engraving Rules for the part-which-is-a-score so that it shows instrument names: House Style menu > Engraving Rules > Instruments. Here you can change when the instrument names show up next to staves.

    I highly recommend Daniel’s solution not just for percussion parts, but for any time you need to produce multiple scores from the same music.

    For example, I have a choral piece that can be performed with either Organ or String Quartet. My Sibelius file has S/A/T/B/Organ/V1/V2/Vla/Cello, and I create two “special parts”: one containing S/A/T/B/Organ which is what the choir sings from, and is what a conductor of the organ version would use; one containing S/A/T/B/V1/V2/Vla/Cello, and is what a conductor of the string quartet version would use. Only I see what Sibeilus thinks of as the “score” that has all of the parts.

    For Simon and Patrick, I’d also offer another trick that usually works. If you produce a percussion score with three staves, you usually can insert system breaks so that in any one system, only one percussion part has anything written on it. You can then use Layout > Hide Empty Staves to make the part have only ever one staff visible. If you then add “to xylophone”, etc. text, you have a finished percussionist part that appears to be a regular part, even though it contains multiple staves.

  7. Oluwaseun showkian

    Well done sir. I’m a beginner on sibelius, I want to score a choral piece that start with an organ introduction, follow by a solo with organ accompaniment and later the full choir (satb) with the organ accompaniment… How do I do it without the staves affecting one another. Thanks

  8. Shay

    It is not the question I was looking to be answered. I want 5 separate piano staffs but do not want them to play at the same. I want the whole piece from start to finish to be one instrument?

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