Setting up Staves

In this chapter we shall look at how to create and customise the staves on your score.

Adding new staves

To add a new stave to an existing score, place the cursor on one of the staves; then open the 'Stave' menu. You can choose to add the new stave either above or below the stave with the cursor on it and a number of different options are provided for adding single or multiple staves as illustrated below:

You can also add new staves by duplicating an existing stave. Place the cursor on the stave you wish to duplicate; then go to 'Stave > Duplicate > Everything'. This will create a duplicate stave below the cursor. As you can see from the picture below, options are also provided for duplicating part of the stave eg just the text. This can be very useful when entering choral parts which have the same text but different notes.

Editing stave data

Every stave has associated with it a number of parameters which can be set using the 'Edit Stave Data' dialogue window accessed from the 'Stave > Edit stave data' menu option. The window has two panels shown below:

The 'General' tab has fields for entering the following parameters

Below these fields are four check boxes which determine how each stave bracketed and linked to the one above. Instruments in an orchestral section such as the strings or woodwind are usually bracketed together. If the section happens to have only one instrument, a single bracket is used.

A keyboard instrument may use two or three staves and these are usually braced together and the barlines are joined across all the staves.

The last two fields determine the vertical size of each stave (and hence their mutual spacing). The usual size is 4 legers above and below the stave but if there is a lot of text to put between two staves, for example, this can be increased as required. The size of the stave is indicated by the yellow box in the cursor. Note that it is always possible to enter notes and text outside the yellow box but it will be necessary to use the UP and DOWN keys on the keyboard to position the red arrows there.

The 'Legato' effect

Lastly there is a checkbox which determines how VBR plays slurred notes. If this is unchecked, slurred notes are played exactly like unslurred notes. I believe that there are some MIDI instruments which can play legato notes but the instruments which I use (the Yamaha XG family) do not support this feature. This is a pity because much choral and orchestral music sounds terrible when every note starts again from the beginning. In order to overcome this, VBR uses the MIDI pitch bend controller to alter the pitch of a slurred note while it is being played, thus producing an excellent legato effect. There are, however, several snags with this method.
  1. Firstly, the pitch bend range must be set to +/- 16 semitones (the default value is usually +/- 2 semitones) so if you are using slurred notes, you can't also use the normal pitch bend effect. This is hardly a problem.
  2. Secondly, setting the pitch bend range, however, requires the use of a system exclusive message so if you are using a non-Yamaha instrument, the effect probably won't work. This applies to your PC's internal synthesizer as well.
  3. Thirdly, the pitch bend effect applies to a particular MIDI channel, not just to a particular note or even a particular stave. If you have assigned two or more staves to the same channel (as indeed you well might if they are all playing the same intsrument), when one instrument slurs up a note, all the other instruments on the same channel will slur up as well! What this means in practice is that if you want to use this effect, all instruments should be allocated a unique channel.
  4. Another consequence is that you can't really slur chords.
  5. If you slur over more than three or four semitones, the timbre of the note may sound strange and if you slur more than about an octave, bizarre effects can occur
  6. If you slur across a barline, accidentals are carried across too and must be cancelled explicitly.

Please note that there is a similar checkbox in the 'Play options' dialog box to be found under the 'Score' menu. Both boxes must be ticked for the effect to happen.

MIDI stave settings

The 'MIDI' tab contains fields which allow you to specify which MIDI port and MIDI channel is associated with the stave. The ports are numbered 1 - 4 and the channels 1-16.

Before any notes are played, your MIDI instrument must be told what voice to use on each channel. Now many MIDI instruments have hundreds of voices each with their own 'Program Change' requirements which are set out in a file called the 'Tonesfile' for each instrument. To see how you can obtain or create the tonesfile for your instrument see the section onCustomising your MIDI setup. Assuming that the correct tonesfile is installed, you will be able to select any of the available instrument voices from the drop-down comboboxes.

When you are trying to find a suitable voice (isn't it extraordinary that however many voices your instrument has, none of them are any GOOD!) it is convenient to test them out by clicking on the 'Test voice' button. This will play a short chord.

Next there is a button labelled 'Edit pitch map'. Most MIDI instruments have at least one 'drum kit' which has a different drum sound associated with each key on the keyboard, and many of the keys used are at the extreme ends of the pitch range. Obviously you do not want to have to put extremely low notes or extremely high notes onto a percussion stave - typically you want to put the note on the centre line. The solution to this problem is to map different arbitrary pitches onto each line of the stave using the 'Edit pitch map' dialogue box accessed via this button.

The image above shows the default pitch map for the General MIDI Drum Kit. If you enter a valid note name into one of the fields (eg C#3 etc.) the name of the sound associated with that note (if any) will be displayed. Alternatively, if you have a MIDI keyboard attached to your computer you can click on the little keyboard symbol to the right of the note name and find which pitch you need by playing different keys on your keyboard.

Finally you can set the stereo position of the stave to one of seven values from extreme left to extreme right

Re-tailing a stave

This option allows you to set the stalk direction of all the notes (except where there are already two notes on the stave) to either their default direction or all up or all down. This is useful when preparing to combine two separate parts (eg a soprano and alto part) onto a single stave. (Note: this option is also available on a marked block.)

Re-beaming a stave

This option enables you to remove or restore all beams from the notes on a stave. It is usual for notes which are sung to separate words not to be beamed together and it may be more convenient to remove all the beams first and then restore those that are needed later using the 'Force beam' button.(Note: this option is also available on a marked block.)

Transposing a stave

Clicking on this option opens the Transpose dialogue.

You can either enter a custom setting or choose one of the common available options. The whole stave will be transposed up or down the specified number of semi-tones and all the accidentals and key signatures will be changed appropriately. In addition, the 'Transpose interval' will be adjusted so that the stave sounds at the same pitch as it did before.

Duplicating a stave

Selecting this option allows you to create a new stave populated with some or all of the objects in the original. The new stave is created below the original one.

Splitting a stave into two

Sometimes it is desirable to convert a stave in which there are two independent parts into two separate staves. This option will accomplish the task instantly. All upstalk notes will be placed on one stave and downstalk notes on the other. Before you carry out this operation, it is a good idea to go through the stave to see if any chords need to be split into upstalk and downstalk notes. Don't forget that the shortcut Shift-Ctrl-S will do this for you nicely.

Merging two staves into one

Likewise, it is sometimes desirable to merge two independent parts together on one stave. This option is the ticket. Note that, although it is not necessary for the two staves to have all upstalk or all downstalk notes, neither stave should have slots which contain stalks of both types.

Moving staves up and down

These options are pretty self evident.

Clearing a stave

This option allows you to delete certain elements from a stave. These elements are 'Everything', 'Up tails', 'Down tails', Notes and rests' and 'Text'. (Note: this option is also available on a marked block.)

Deleting a stave

Finally, this option deletes the whole stave. The 'Undo' option will restore it if you make a mistake.