To divisi, or not to divisi?

Hello everyone, I am transcribing a score where on some pages it condenses parts (say, violin I and II) and on others it separates them into two separate lines. There is indicators in the score that say “div.” and “uni.”. So I guess my question is: what do you do in a situation like this? Do you combine the parts until absolutely necessary to split? Or do you say the heck with it and use divisi on everything? I really value your thoughts!

I wouldn’t condense Violin 1 and 2. A conductor will always look at them as separate sections. Flute 1 & 2, Clarinet 2 & 3? Condense away. Maximun condensed staves should be 2, unless you’re writing Mahler-sized symphonies.

Hi! Sorry if I was unclear. I’m talking about divisi WITHIN violin I and divisi WITHIN violin II. FWIW, it is a Vaughan Williams score, so 20th century, but not the size of Mahler.

Maybe don’t use divisi on double and triple stops? It just seems odd to me, because Vaughan Williams is specific about which desks play what parts in divisi.

An example would be helpful. Which symphony and which page of the score? I think all of the RVW symphony scores are available to view on IMSLP.

Hi @Stephen_Stringer ,
It won’t be easy for someone of us to answer your question without checking the original score you are transcribing. So, would be nice if share some pages and ask more specifically.
I will try to give you some ideas, too.

  1. If there is a sign for div. / unis. then I suggest you to use Divisi function in Dorico. In case the divisi is written on single staff, then you could use the Condensing Divisi option.
  2. In case of a Chords (double, triple, quadruple stops). Well, I wouldn’t use the Divisi function, rather I would put non-div. remark in order to force the players to play them as chords. Otherwise the most common practice is the players to divide multiple stops if there is no remarks on the sheet, or they are warned by the conductor.
  • Keep in mind that the only chords where the notes could be played comfortably, simultaneously, with the full length of the bow are the double stops. The triple and quadruple stops will sound slightly arpeggiated.
  1. Since it’s your transcription, then you have some freedom to decide, but be careful not to lose the balance of the sound! :slight_smile:
  • If the chord is divided, then the section will sound quieter and softer, than if it’s performed as a multiple stop.

Best wishes,
Thurisaz :slight_smile:


Thanks for the feedback. I have attached some pages. See how sometimes the staffs are separate and other times condensed? I wish I had an English edition of this. Kalmus was notorious for putting out this without much care.


I disagree. What you have shown makes perfect sense.

  1. You can put 2 parts on one stave in different voices (but don’t cross them much) - players will interpret as divisi, but to be clear add div. and unis. text. If the rhythm is the same, you can use chordal notation and mark it div.
  2. If they cross a lot, or are very different rhythmically, use divisi on separate staves.
  3. For special divisions (solo + the rest, back desk + the rest etc.) use a custom division on separate staves.

There was an interesting thread on string divisi

I agree with @Janus. The score makes sense as written and I’d copy it that way.

Ok, I was starting to come to that conclusion. Now my question is how do I set it up to have certain measures that are condensed and some that aren’t? If I try to add say, another 2 flutes to serve as the uncondensed part, it doesn’t allow me to exclude the that in the list because it groups all of them together.

You can use Condensing Change from the Engrave Menu to change or reset condensing options starting at any system in a score layout.

Here is sort of a related question: Where can I change the font size the Div. and Unis. indicators? I don’t see them listed in the paragraph options.

For your Strings, you only need to make divisi changes (for violas and cellos) twice, once around letter E and another after H.

For condensing Wind/Brass parts, watch the tutorial video on Condensing.

You’ll find all sorts of information about condensing almost entirely starting from this page, then look at its sub-pages in the table of contents on the left.

Information about player labels on condensed staves is on this page, with a tip that tells you their paragraph style.

For divisi change labels (i.e. div./unis. when on uncondensed staves), see here.

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