Horn Parts

I must preface this by saying that most of my career has been in the studio or working with pit orchestras. Preparing parts for the full orchestra without the help of a copyist is a little new.

1-I have been scoring horns on two staves, two horn parts on each staff, with the higher notes on the top staff and the lower notes on the second staff.
2-For reasons that don’t seem particularly critical to me–interlocking, etc.–traditionally horns 1 and 3 usually take the higher notes and horns 2 and 4 take the lower.
3-I can easily label my top staff as “Horns 1-3” and my lower staff as “Horns 2-4” to follow this convention, but then when I print, the copies will be on the wrong desks since horns 1 and 2 share a stand.

It seems like a silly problem, but I don’t want to hand parts to a conductor and then find out I have broken convention.

What do you do?

(If I am missing something obvious, please don’t laugh where I can hear you.)

No one is going to laugh at you, especially with those horn problems… We’ve already been there and it’s not that easy.
Following, without laughing (I promise).
Note that there’s a useful command (I think I have used it for that): Swap content. (Or swap staff content?)
And make sure you insert the right players that share a desk in your layouts. You can make two versions to troubleshoot any configuration (1-2 and 3-4 / 1-3 and 2-4)


Thank you for your understanding, my friend. That is great information. I will check out the options you describe.

I am in an odd position: many, many years of professional experience and classical training, but approaching symphony conductors as though I were a newbie since I was working in a different world. :slight_smile:

Dorico approaches shared staves in a slightly different way to some other programs.

The idea of Condensing is that you have four entirely separate Horn players, each showing a stave, you write whatever you want into the four individual staves, and then before printing the score you go Edit > Condensing and Dorico automagically combines the contents of those four staves onto fewer staves in the score. As you’d already started with four separate staves for four separate players, the parts are easy - they’re generated like any other part, with Horn 1 on one part, Horn 2 on another part and so on.

(As to why Dorico handles condensing this way, with separate staves that are combined rather than a single stave that is automagically “split out”, it’s to ensure that the parts consistently reflect exactly what you’d intended. As a newcomer to Condensing it may seem like a slower approach to start with individual staves rather than writing straight into combined staves, but Dorico makes it easy to input notes into multiple staves simultaneously and if that doesn’t suit you can rapidly explode music to multiple staves.)

In order to tell Dorico you consistently want Condensing to put Horns 1 and 3 on one staff and Horns 2 and 4 on another, go to Layout Options > Players > Condensing - for the score layout - and set a Custom Condensing Group that contains Horns 1 and 3 and another Custom Condensing Group that contains Horns 2 and 4. Then when you turn on Condensing (on the Edit menu, or at the top of Layout Options > Players > Condensing) Dorico will respect those Custom Condensing Groups.

If you disagree with the way that Dorico displays your condensed material in the score, go to Notation Options > Condensing and have a good look through the settings there. They can also be overridden on a local basis by way of Engrave > Condensing Change (only available in Engrave mode), but this typically isn’t necessary.

Then for the parts, I must admit I’m a little hazy about what you want. In the session world here in the U.K. each horn player has their own music stand, but sometimes we give two or four (or heck, 12!) players the same page of music.
For instance, if you want Horns 1 and 2 on a single part, select the Horn 1 part in the right panel of Setup mode and tick the Horn 2 in the left panel of Setup mode. Then select the Horn 3 part in the right panel and tick Horn 4 in the left panel. Then delete the redundant Horn 2 and Horn 4 parts from the right panel. If you actually want to display Horns 1 and 2 on a single stave in a single part, you can do that too, by turning on Condensing for the Part layout. And if you want all four staves on a single part, you can do that via the same method, with or without Condensing turned on (and probably with empty staves hidden from the Staff Visibility section within Layout Options > Vertical Spacing.


Thank you for that very thorough explanation. It is much appreciated.

It seems Dorico has options for whatever is desired.

(I started with two horns on each staff, but it appears Explode will take care of that.)

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Thank God we have Pianoleo on this forum :pray:
I had totally overlooked the fact that you could not have used individual players/staves (because Im so used of the Dorico way and its condensing powers…)
Thanks @pianoleo for chiming in and @konradh, you should be on tracks now!!!


@pianoleo is a smart guy. People in the UK usually know what’s up in the music world. :slight_smile:

Apart from the good advice you’ve already been given, here’s a great video on condensing by John Barron. It helped me to better understand how the function works


Excellent video! Thank you.

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