Controlling Staff Visibility of Tacet Bars in Finale

Q: I have been trying to figure out how, or if it’s possible to add a staff (for an instrumental solo, etc.) later within a score, as opposed to having that staff appear at the beginning of a piece. I can’t find a thing regarding this issue in the Finale tutorials or other help options. If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it!

A: Good question. A common convention for score layout is to show all staves for all performers on the first score page. This establishes the instrumentation, and also provides a head’s up to the conductor about custom instrument ordering etc.

After the first page of music, in published music, a convention is to show only staves of the musicians who are actually playing, with tacet staves being hidden. It’s worth noting that for commercial scores such as film or video game recordings, pops concerts, etc, any resting staves continue to be shown. This helps the conductor stay oriented, as rehearsal time is typically very limited.

However, there are situations where there is no need to show every staff on the first page of score, and in fact, it would serve no purpose to show these staves until the performer is playing. For instance, the strings are notated on single staves at the top of the piece, but at some later point, break out into additional staves of divisi. Another example is where one player within the section is given a solo passage which is written into the regular ensemble part.

Finale allows you to control staff visibility globally or on a per system basis, so whether you are showing the first staff and then hiding resting staves or hiding an instrument until its entrance, the following technique will work.

Let’s take a look at how we might show a short solo string passage in an ensemble score.

We must first add a new instrument so we have a staff on which to enter the solo or divisi passage notation. Once the music has been entered, we can globally hide this staff until it enters. Let’s walk through the steps to do this.

If you are creating a new score from scratch, add your solo instrument from within the Document Setup Wizard Select Instruments dialog. You may wish to reorder the solo instrument’s location using the up and down Move arrows on the far right side of the dialog:


If you already have your score created, the solo instrument (or divisi staff) is added from within the Score Manager > Instrument List (Command-K on Mac, presumably Control-K on Windows):

When the Score Manager Instrument List dialog comes up, select the instrument above the location in the list where you want your new instrument to appear. Now, choose your solo instrument from the Add Instrument popup at the bottom of the dialog:


You can rename added staves from within the Score Manager.

For cases where it’s not necessary to show this new staff on the first page of score, e.g. for divisi or an ensemble performer’s solo occurring later in the piece, one housekeeping technique I’ve found helpful is to show the ancillary staff’s function and where it plays as its “Full Name…”


You can use Instrument Changes to control both playback sound and the abbreviated instrument name at different points in the score for situations like “Cello Ens. Div. bars 32-48 & Solo bars 50-60” for a combined ancillary solo instrument and ensemble staff which only appears as needed.

“Atmospheres” by György Ligeti (3rd ed., Universal) has a system of more than 70 staves on one page of the score! The strings are completely divisi in these bars, and the 56 string staves required for Ligeti’s “micro polyphony” technique at this spot in the score are only visible where this extreme divisi occurs. This example is definitely one where you would’t want to show every performer’s staff unless they are playing!

Back out in the score, you now will see your new solo (or divisi) instrument:


For now, don’t worry about the vertical layout. Focus on entering the solo sections of the piece. You’ll hide the tacet bars as a final step.

Once all of the music is entered, you can hide any or all resting measures of the Solo (or divisi) staff. Select the Staff Tool. Note the little square selection boxes on each staff. When you click to the left of the first bar of the solo staff, the staff will become highlighted, and you will note that the selection box is now colored as well:


Right-click that highlighted selection handle, and select “Hide Empty Staves” from the contextual menu:


That’s all there is to it. Any selected empty measures in the score will be hidden, and the vertical space will be reclaimed. You could also select a range of page 2-end or use this hiding technique on a per system basis.

Note that you can also edit full and abbreviated Staff names from the above contextual menu – these menu items correspond to the “Staff Settings for Selected Instrument” options in the Score Manager.

If, at any later point, you need to show  this hidden staff again, it is very straightforward to do so.

Where staves are hidden in Finale, there is a thin dotted line to mark the hidden staff, and a selection box at the left edge of the system, as for visible staves. If you right-click on this selection box, the contextual menu will pop up, where you can “Show Empty Staves” for the current system or the length of the highlighted region:


Pretty straightforward to add staves and hide them in plain sight, once you get the hang of it.  It’s worth noting that these hidden staves are always visible in Scroll View.

A good on-page presentation for the horizontal spacing of the score is to adjust the layout so that the solo or divisi entrance starts at the beginning of a system if possible, rather than showing a rest  for one or more bars in the new system, and if possible, ends on a page or system break in the score as well.

Somewhat related to this topic are Cutout scores, which I’ll cover at some later point, if there is interest.

Thanks for reading!


for Glenn Padgett

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