Staff labels

Staff labels are used to identify staves in music containing multiple players, and are positioned to the left of systems, before the initial barline of each system. Staff labels indicate the instrument or instruments currently playing the music on the staff or staves to which they apply.

It is usual to show instrument names in full in the staff labels for the first systems in each flow, and abbreviated instrument names in the staff labels of subsequent systems. Using abbreviated instrument names saves horizontal space, allowing you to include more music in each system.

Figure 1. Examples of staff labels on the first system in a flow

In Dorico Elements, staff labels use the instrument names set for each instrument in the Edit Instrument Names dialog. In the dialog, you can specify singular and plural names for each instrument, and singular and plural abbreviations for each instrument.


You do not need to number instruments in staff labels manually, as Dorico Elements automatically numbers instruments when there are multiple players of the same type playing instruments of the same type.

Part layouts by default do not show staff labels, as most parts only contain a single staff whose identity is clear from the context and the layout name. The layout name is shown at the top left of the first page in part layouts by default.


Layout names are different to the instrument names used for staff labels.

For players holding multiple instruments, the staff label shows the instrument they are currently playing. If the player changes instrument partway through a system, the name of the new instrument is shown above the staff at its first note and the staff label is updated at the start of the next system.


Staff labels do not show all instruments held by players, for example, in the staff label for the first system. You should include a comprehensive instrumentation list that shows any doubling at the front of your score.

Dorico Elements includes the instrument transposition, or instrument pitch, in staff labels for transposing instruments by default. Transposing instruments are instruments whose sounding pitch is different to the notated pitch.

You can change when instrument transpositions, or instrument pitches, are shown in staff labels. You can also change whether the instrument transposition is shown before or after the instrument name in staff labels.

Staff labels imported from MusicXML files

When exporting MusicXML files from Cubase and importing them into Dorico Elements, you can improve the accuracy of the automatic instrument selection by changing the instrument names in the Cubase Score Editor to the same English instrument names that Dorico Elements uses before exporting the file.