Piano with three staffs

How do I add a third staff (with cross-staff barlines) to a piano grand staff?
And similarly, how do I transform a single staff into a piano grand staff?

The first example is often needed in certain elaborate types of piano writing, whereas the other comes in handy when creating a full piano version based on a lead sheet or simple vocal line.


I have the same question, and I would also like to know how to hide or remove the third staff at certain places in the score. I imported a piano score with MusicXML which has three staves by mistake, and I haven’t figured out how to remove the extra one.

I’m afraid the short answer is that, for now, you can’t: the plan is that we will have an event that will change the number of staves in an instrument from a given rhythmic position, so you would be able to specify a move from two staves to three, or indeed one staff to two. I’m not sure when this will be implemented: possibly not in the very first update, but we will add it as soon as we can.

Thanks for clarifying this.



I would like to relaunch this question.
Do you know when Dorico will be able to support modifications of the number of staff, by instrument ? Maybe, the next update ?

Thanks for all and sorry for my english …

Hi Daniel,

As I am setting my first real-world Dorico score project these days, a contemporary piece for the piano, the question of staff flexibility appears to be crucial. Depending on the passage, my piece may show 1 to 4 staves.
Could you please give us an update of this feature?

Another question: is is possible to change the notehead size in a specific passage, to 75% for instance? (Think of Chopin’s study op.25 in Ab major for instance, where small and normal noteheads are mixed).

These are rather straighforward in product B.

Otherwise, Dorico appears to be very flexible in voicing, rhythm, beaming etc. :slight_smile: The fact the time signature is not essentially required is very useful for the piano repertoire where, very often, we deal with open rhythms (think of Charles Ives or Erik Satie, for instance…)

Many thanks,

This is a frequent question, but it isn’t yet possible officially. You may look at this thread, but I’m neither encouraging nor recommending it. Merely stating that it is possible.

Dorico uses oversized noteheads by default, so you may change noteheads to Default, which reduces the size. I’m not sure of the percentage in reduction though.

Last week I imported a piano piece with three staves as an xml file - and voila! Three staves in Dorico!

So maybe you can try making a short piece with three staves in another program, and then importing as xml.

Thank you all.
I’d rather not use workarounds for this staff problem, and this is why I was asking Daniel in the first place.
The feature of a system-based variable number of staves (2-4, sometimes 1-4) is very common in piano music, and this is why I think it should be built-in. I believe it can be seen in organ music, too, and potentially in other situations (pitched percussion?)


This would also be great for use with pitched keyboard percussion. Especially vibraphone since orchestral/band parts usually only use one line, but percussion ensemble/chamber music and especially solo vibraphone music use two staves. I thought it was odd this wasn’t an option since the option for a 4 octave vibraphone was given.



It will of course be built-in in the future, but unfortunately we cannot work on everything at the same time. The team is very busy working on chord symbols, editing note spacing, pedal lines, and a few other things besides for the next update. I hope that we will be able to look into changing the number of staves in an instrument in the following update, but I can’t promise it.

Thanks again, Daniel, and of course I understand that patience is the rule!

Here is a blank Dorico template for 3-staff piano, made from an imported xml file if this is useful.
3-staff-piano.dorico.zip (200 KB)

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Thanks for bringing this up, Stephen. Dorico seems to be very obidient with MuseScore exports :slight_smile: Finale always gave me 3 flutes with a bracket when I attempted to import some piano scores…

One more thing:
When piano music expends to 3 or 4 staves, sub-brackets are sometimes needed (but not often, depending on the engraving style), as these Ligeti and Liszt examples illustrate.


I wont belabor this point since Daniel has been so patient and already clarified things and I’m happy to be patient. I’m just going to put in a plug for Organ as well. It is not entirely uncommon for complicated (typically renaissance or romantic) organ scores to require 3 staves for hands and a 4th for pedals. (Think early strict fugal writing or complicated polyrhythmic / multi-manual music.) So, Daniel, please remember us organists whenever the team implements it for piano too! And, as always, thank you all for this wonderful program!

When we introduce proper control for this stuff, you’ll be able to have a 12-staff organ if you really want to!


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Thanks Stephen Taylor for the 3 staves. I presume you use flows (somehow) to control whether the 2 or 3 staves appear? Any ideas how do you set this up as I have not done too much using flows?
I presume it would remain like this opening the file in the future, when there is a way to do this embedded in, but using flows it should just remain as it is, because it should not need to know it is the same piece (not that it matters at this point).

Thank you Stephen for the piano score with three staves. Most useful.

Best wishes and keep up the great work.