Specialized Staff/Staves: 2-, 3-, 4-line staff?

Seems like this ought to be straightforward, but I haven’t figured out a way to make a 2-line, 3-line, or 4-line staff. Maybe my use case is too narrow (elementary school teacher), though, Dorico does provide Orff instrument assignments within their setup tab, which is pretty specific to elementary instruction.

I’ve tried making an unpitched percussion kit but the kit presentation type that would seem to apply, the grid type, doesn’t allow space notes, as far as I can tell.

May I suggest the option to “turn off” the visibility of individual lines?

1 Like

It’s not currently possible to create a pitched staff with a variable number of staff lines. It can be done for unpitched percussion instruments by arranging them into a grid, but I don’t know whether that would be acceptable for you? With a percussion grid, you can only write notes on the staff lines, rather than positioning them at arbitrary distances above or below the staff lines like you can on a pitched staff. But if all you’re trying to denote is e.g. high vs. low then possibly this will work acceptably.

We do plan to introduce a means to change the number of staff lines for a staff in a future version, but I can’t say right now when this will be.

1 Like

Please, make it possible to have 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-line staff as soon as possible in Dorico.


Daniel just mentioned today that the ability to define custom instruments won’t be in 4.0 but will likely come in one of the subsequent (free) “dot” updates. This wasn’t promised, but he acknowledged that it is a high priority.

1 Like

I don’t mean to be controversial. I just want to share some feedback about dorico.
As contemporary composition’s student, the hard way to modify staff lines is the main reason why almost all of my conservatory colleagues and teachers refuses to move to dorico and still prefer to use the old softwares. I’m now the only one in the composition course that actually use dorico.

Just to let you know!

Hope this feature will be available soon, but I can understand the amount of work :wink:


There is no doubt this will come in due time. Even if it’s nothing more than a generic “4 line staff” or “1 line staff” that you have to re-name yourself.

It seems as if customizing staves would come around the same time as the instrument-designer option since they seem logically related in some cases.


I am in the same situation as @McJg’s colleagues. Dorico is a wonderful piece of software that improves tremendously with each new release.
Changing the number of lines (and their spacing) of an instrument’s staff over the course of a score is a common practice in contemporary music scores (and not only).
This is one of the main reasons why I do not permanently switch to Dorico.

1 Like

Wanting to check in if there is an update here?

I think, similar to other composers, I want to use a three-line staff simply to indicate “low, medium, high” pitch, but I also want (need) to be able to put notes in between the lines of the stave. I’m willing to work with a smaller, 3-line, stave but as soon as I add any (percussion) instrument to a space, I get either a large grid, or a five-line stave as the only real options. Is there a solution/workaround for this, yet?


1 Like

You can create a three-line pitched staff using the new instrument editor added in Dorico 5.

1 Like

I hope the team will soon implement a way to change the number of staff lines (or kind of staff) for the same player during the same piece.

You can do this by giving the same player multiple instruments, as many instruments as you need different numbers of staff lines, then inputting notes for the corresponding instruments. Dorico handles instrument changes automatically.

1 Like

This means that, in the score, the different instruments handled by the same player will have each a different staff, right?

If you set it up correctly, yes. Give a player a one-line, a two-line, and a three-line instrument, and then dorico will display the correct number of lines depending on which instrument has the notes.


Thanks Romanos, this seems to be the part. Is this behaviour the same for the score? I mean: do the staff appear as in your picture on the score too?

That screenshot was from a full score

1 Like

Cool, I will go into it as soon as possible.

Thanks for the update @dspreadbury. I saw (from afar) quite a bit of flak about this update. Just wanted to say thank you to you and the whole team for continuing to develop Dorico in all the many directions and serving all us composers so well. I love using it :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Hi all,
from what I see, so far it’s not possible to change the spacing between the lines of a three-line instrument. They are always one space apart, right?
I imagine that one can create a percussion kit with more flexibility, isnt’ it?

At present, that’s correct.

1 Like