temporary staff label overrides

One problem I’ve consistently run into within my Dorico projects is the inability to override score staff labels on a system-by-system basis. I have spent many hours in Illustrator making manual alterations to the exported PDF pages to achieve this effect; work which is sadly lost any time the score needs to be revised in Dorico and re-exported.

Regardless of how sophisticated the Condensing feature gets (and it’s quite impressive already), there will always be situations too complex to be handled automatically, and giving the user the freedom to make manual alterations to a score’s staff labels for custom condensing seems like it could be extremely useful.

This idea has been discussed in the forum before, but the reason I bring it up again is because the recent addition of the “Manual Staff Visibility” flagpost (as of 3.5) seems like it could provide the perfect place to implement it. Could a label configuration option go alongside the current “Reset/Show/Hide” buttons for each instrument? An additional slider that, if enabled, allows an adjacent text field to override the staff’s label for that system only?

If there’s currently a practical workaround for this that anyone’s willing to share (which doesn’t involve divisis, which won’t work for solo player staves), I’d be very interested to hear it.

+1 to the request for this function. It might be the single biggest quality-of-life improvement I can think of for my workflow.

(Edit re: divisi - I have yet to try complicated divisi solutions in 3.5, but it occurs to me that since condensing now works with divisi players, is it fully necessary to use solo players in any project where this might be needed? Of course it would be preferable to be able to use both types of player as intended.)

Alternately, rather than doing staff labels in another program, you could use text frames in Engrave Mode. Presuming your layout/pagination does not change as a result of edits, that should more or less stick, or at least it would stick more frequently.

I’d be interested to see what kinds of configurations you’re trying to achieve that Dorico can’t currently reproduce, if you wouldn’t mind taking the time to share some specific examples. (Tell me the problem, rather than your idea for a solution: it may be that we already have in mind something that will make this possible through other, better means.)

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your reply. I’ve made up a hypothetical example… suppose we’ve been going along with 8 individual staves for horns, then suddenly there’s a need to condense to one line (see attached image) on a new page.

Something like this isn’t going to ever be automatically generated by the Condensing feature (nor should it – it’s too arbitrary in terms of instrument distribution, so is best handled manually). The only thing that needs to happen at this point to perfect the example is to change the staff’s label from “Hn. 1” to “Hn. 1–8” for this system, then back to “Hn. 1” again when splitting back into individual staves.

This particular example is admittedly a very extreme and impractical case designed solely to address your question, but because music engraving conventions are so diverse, giving people the option of implementing their own condensing (when none of the built-in tools work for a particular case) doesn’t appear to have a downside, though I understand the general philosophy of not wanting to clutter a UI with too many customizations.

Curious if anyone else wanting this feature can give other examples?

We’ve already had requests to show consecutive player numbers in staff labels as ranges as an option, which I think is reasonable and which we’ll try to accommodate in due course, so I’d be interested to know if there are any other specific cases you can think of.

Hi Daniel,

The “instrument numbers as a range” concept would certainly be a welcome feature – happy to hear it!

That said, in the example I posted above, am I missing anything obvious about how it might be implemented given that the condensing is so customized beyond what Dorico would ever be able to do on its own? The fact that the horns are switching voices and there are multiple instruments assigned to single pitches… I don’t see any way around the fact that this has to be a custom implementation, and will therefore always have an incorrect label of “Hn. 1” unless we are given the ability to modify it ourselves.

Searching through past forum threads, here are a few other uses people would have for manual label changes. Many replies suggest the creative use of divisis to fake a certain effect, which seems far less convenient than allowing the user to cleanly override a label as needed.

Thanks again for your thoughts on this!

Hi Daniel,

In my case, I make a good number of urtext editions of period music, or performance editions for specialists. Frequently instrumentation indications change throughout a manuscript, and I would like to accurately reflect this in the most logical place, staff labels. Off the top of my head, here are some instances where I would use this:

  1. Bracketed editorial staff labels
  2. Labeling recitatives, which are condensed onto one staff but for which the condensing feature is not yet ready, with each singer involved
  3. Reflecting actual variations in the manuscript (“Violoncello” vs “V.lo” vs “Violonc.”)
  4. Specifying continuo instrumentation
  5. Faking a condensed unison Oboe solo/Violin section line by hiding one and labeling the other

I can (and do) use text objects to indicate this. Alternately I can make many different players and allocate them to individual flows and a shared part. But the ability to do this straightforwardly with staff labels would save a LOT of time.

Thanks for adding these examples, Borosini, as well as for your initial suggestion of using text frames above… that might actually be the best way to go in the meanwhile. Way more work upfront, but potentially less over the course of many revisions.

Thanks for collating those threads, all of which I of course remember. I don’t think that a “staff label change” is necessarily the most natural way to address all of those requirements, but nevertheless I agree that there are certainly some valid requirements in this area, which we’ll think about how best to address in a future version.

My own use cases for changing labels are:

  1. In a project with 2 Soprano parts, the first Soprano will be “Soprano 1” even in a Flow where it is the only Soprano. I would like the staff in that Flow to be labelled “Soprano”. I could use Divisi for every other Flow, but where this instance is the minority, the more efficient method would just to change the name.

  2. I’m currently editing an opera score, where the vocal parts are all labelled with the character names. However, there are two Choruses (out of c.100 Flows) when all the characters (and extras) are singing as an SATB chorus, and I’d just like one stave for all the Sopranos, one for all the Altos, etc. The alternative would be to create a set of additional Players just for those 2 Flows, which seems extravagant.

  3. Custom condensing labels, such as 'Violini e Oboè", “Tutti Strings”, etc. (Or similar to Borosini’s No. 5.)

There are more structured methods to achieve most of these results, but a ‘change label’ signpost would often be much quicker, with no loss of semantic understanding.

I often work from manuscript parts, where it’s not clear what the total scoring requirements are until halfway through the piece, and then you discover that you should have used Section Players and divisi for all the Flows, just because you need one label to be different.

It could be argued that all my use cases are actually Custom Condensing Labels, I suppose…

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If I can add one more example (which I just discovered a need for yesterday): being able to convey a synthesizer’s current instrument/patch within its staff label, given that it may change many times within a flow.

Just adding my voice to this request. Here’s an example of the sort of thing I find myself doing often:


I know there are ways to achieve this, but the easiest by far would be a custom staff label change.