In the image below is an example of a full orchestral score being "condensed". As far I know this only occurs in hand engraved music, and I was wondering if it could be replicated with software? To my knowledge I don't think it can be done in MuseScore, but is this possible in say Lilypond (which I am exploring now) or Sibelius or Finale?

Stravinsky's Firebird

  • 1
    I don't think that image looks like a condensed score...
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 6:25
  • @Dekkadeci It is. All the instrument staves lain out take up the entire page. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 6:45
  • I can’t speak for other software types, but it’s possible in Finale. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 11:21
  • 2
    This site and this site both indicate that condensed scores involve multiple instrument parts on the same staff/"part", which your picture does not involve. This contains a condensed score that fits this definition. I've seen other Musescore and Sibelius pages that say that condensed scores only involve hidden parts, though, but that does not match any of the condensed scores of concert band/orchestral pieces I've read.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 16:01
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci I see what you mean. I did not know that there was a standard meaning for 'condensed score'. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 22:18

5 Answers 5


This is certainly possible in LilyPond.

As I see it, there are two aspects that go into creating a condensed score. The most obvious is the general formatting: staff size, paper size, etc. Such modifications are laid out in the LilyPond Notation Manual.

The second aspect would be to rid of all of the unnecessary empty staves. In LilyPond, this is very easy:

Empty staves can be hidden (for a so-called ‘Frenched Score’) by applying the \RemoveEmptyStaves command on a context, which can be done globally (in a \layout block) as well as for specific staves only (in a \with block). This command removes all empty staves in a score except for those in the first system. If you want those in the first system to be hidden also, use \RemoveAllEmptyStaves. Supported contexts are Staff, RhythmicStaff and VaticanaStaff. (source)


You actually can have a reduced score with system dividers in MuseScore (at least in Version 3):

  1. Click on Format in the menu, and go down to the Style... submenu item
  2. Open the Score dialog, then
    Check the Hide empty staves within systems
  3. Open the System dialog, then
    Turn on system dividers by clicking the Left checkbox

This makes a reduced score (AKA a "Frenched" score) like your picture; removing staves that are just rests in the system.
A condensed score is more sever, referring to a score where each section (i.e. woodwind, brass, percussion, strings) is condensed onto a single staff or grand-staff each.
(According to Samuel Adler The Study of Orchestration (3rd ed.) p. 762-765)


Yes you can do this in Sibelius. Select a passage then Layout | Hide Empty Staves

Sibelius also adds the // break mark between condensed passages


There are two separate issues related to the 'condensed score' layout. First one, which most software tools can easily do, is hiding empty staves. For some, hide empty staves works globally, some let you select a specific passage where you want to hide staves, and some have a few options (hide empty staves in all systems except the first one, etc).

Hiding empty staves doesn't properly condense the score, though. Overwhelming majority of users use software to produce parts for their orchestral works. This is why the default layout for a score will have each instrument on its own staff (1st Flute, 2nd Flute, 1st Oboe, 2nd Oboe, etc). In a proper conductor score, these pairs must be condensed to a single staff (Flutes together, Oboes together, etc).

At this point, the only software that allows you to automatically and dynamically generate a condensed conductor's score (using standard rules) is Steinberg's Dorico. When you select 'Condensing', it will ask a few questions (which instruments should pair), and will offer standard pairings (same instruments together, like flutes, oboes, clarinets, etc), plus some other common pairings (3rd trombone & tuba). Once your condensing settings are chosen, it will dynamically build a conductor's score based on the parts. It will also insert the necessary disambiguation markings (Solo, or 1., 2., a2, as needed, when there's a single line of notes). If the voices cross for too long (which makes it extremely illegible when on the same staff), Dorico will split the two parts into independent staves, for the duration of the passage where voices criss-cross. If the voices criss-cross for just one or two notes, you can keep them together on the same staff (there's a setting specifying how many notes is max.). The condensed score is automatically updated when you make changes to the individual parts/instruments.

Sibelius suggests a work-around for condensing the scores. It doesn't create a dynamic condensed score, though. In your document, you need to add additional staves for each pair of combined instruments. So, you'll have Flute 1, Flute 2, Flutes 1&2; Oboe 1, Oboe 2, Oboes 1&2, etc. You select the entire music for the pair of instruments that you want to combine (Flute 1, Flute 2), hith 'Copy' (Cmd+C), then select the first bar in the target staff (Flutes 1&2), then select 'Reduce' from the 'Note Input' tab. This will cleverly copy the music from the two other staves into a single staff. If the rhythm is common, it will write it in a single voice (two-note harmony on a single stem). It will also add a2, 1., or 2., as needed. It may add some superfluous dynamic markings (when parts don't come in at the same time), but it works rather well. Then, to display the score properly, you can either create a new part, where you pick the staves you want to show, and set the layout the way you want it, or in the Score Layout, you use Focus on Staves to pick the staves you want to show in the condensed score. This work-around doesn't create a dynamic score, though. Any change in the individual stave(s) must be manually done in the combined staff.

This method could be used in other tools (Finale, MuseScore, Lilypond), and it works, with the main constraint that it doesn't automatically update the combined staves when you make change in the individual instruments.

At this point, Dorico is the only music engraving tool that does this automatically, and does it well.

Just to be clear, I'm a Sibelius power user, and have only briefly tried Dorico demo.


I try to summarize the background of this notation convention:

Orchestral scores typically list all instruments just on the first page, later on only the ones having to play something are listed. (Or phrased differently, the ones not playing are omitted.) If this reduces the required space for a total system so much, that several systems fit on the page, this is done and so called system dividers are inserted for clearly indicating this.

See also these questions:

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