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First page of the score of the overture to the opera Prince Igor . Instrument groups are grouped together by accolade brackets; Also pausing instruments like piccolo or trombones are noted.

A score ( Italian partitura 'division'; French partition (d'orchestre) ) is a recording of polyphonic music in musical notation , in which the individual voices are arranged one above the other and connected with vertical bar lines. All instrumental and vocal parts of a composition or arrangement are thus recorded in the score. This allows the course of the individual voices, their coordination and the interrelationships to be read - in particular, the conductor can see what is happening in the music at a glance. The score also includes performance notes such as tempo, dynamics, and playing instructions. It is created when writing the composition or an arrangement and is used for performance and study. Today the score is of central importance for the composition, transmission and performance of polyphonic music, but in the period before 1600 other recording methods were predominant; until around 1800 the score was not generally used for performances.


In the score arrangement of a choir, the soprano is at the top, followed by alto, tenor and bass, possibly followed by another such arrangement below for a second choir.

Many variants had emerged for the arrangement of the parts of an orchestra in the orchestral score . Since Carl Maria von Weber around 1810 - the principle of combining instruments of the same genre in groups, namely in the order (from top to bottom): woodwind instruments, brass and percussion instruments, string orchestra has prevailed.

In church music scores , the choir (if available) is often positioned between the strings (violins, violas) and the continuo (organ, cellos, bassoons, double bass).

Note: Since Italian is considered an international musical language, the instrumental names and abbreviations are often given in Italian. In jazz, however, and also in brass music ( concert band ), English has now firmly established itself.

Even with Italian instrument names, the note names are mostly German, such as Corno in Eb or Trombe in Bb , but English note names such as Edward Elgar were also used ( clarinetto in Bb ). Find the original Italian name at Italian composer and alternatively in many scientific overall spending something like this: Corni in Fa / F .

In the 19th century, Italian was increasingly replaced by German, French and English terms. Brahms and Wagner, for example, used almost only German terms and instrument names. Bruckner, however, was the only German composer to always stay true to traditional Italian terms. (Before a mistake but he was - like many of his contemporaries - not immune: The plural of Tromba ( trumpet ) is Trombe and not Trombi . In Kéler Béla , Antonín Dvořák . And many others you can find it as well) The Austrian military music used always Italian names, with the exception of special instruments such as flugelhorn, bass flugelhorn (tenor horn) and euphonium.

Composers from the Scandinavian countries, Russia and the Slavic parts of the Danube Monarchy preferred to use the established Italian terms that were understood everywhere. In the orchestral parts of Wagner's operas, the original publisher Schott / Mainz added Italian translations in brackets from the start.

The Italian opera special route

In Italy, until the early Giacomo Puccini, an independent arrangement was the rule. This was divided more into registers than into families. It was very practical for opera scores that work with many col abbreviations. Even Francis of Suppè this arrangement maintained throughout life. The Italian arrangement is as follows: violins and violas on top, then flutes, oboes, clarinets. Horns trumpets, bassoons, trombones, timpani, percussion, violoncellos and double basses. This arrangement was also popular in the Viennese Classic, Franz Schubert and Ludwig von Beethoven used it, and early scores by Anton Bruckner (see Kitzler's sketchbook ) are notated in this way. Most contemporary prints have already changed this arrangement according to today's practice; others kept it. (Reprints of the Franz von Suppè overtures are sometimes still notated, which can confuse today's conductors.)

The so-called idlers and the col abbreviations

As a rule, composers have and have had little time to create their works. It has become common practice to indicate parts that are doubled in other, related instruments only by the designation col (translated: with). Something like this: cellos col basso ; or Flauti col Violino . With transposing instruments, it depended on the skill and experience of the copyist whether they could be used ( Clarinetti col Viole ). Usually there was a serpentine line or there were double slashes with the appropriate note above the respective measure. Arrows are also common, especially in big band music. Play all instruments there, e.g. B. the trumpets, a part, then only the first part is noted, up to the system of the fourth voices arrows are attached. (See for example Henry Mancini's Sound and Scores ).

The so-called idlers save a lot of time when the rhythmic figures are always the same, especially in the percussion. There are one-measure (· / ·), two-measure (· // ·) and also four-measure abbreviations. For a better overview, they are mostly retained in printed scores.

The col abbreviations are almost always executed; older scores, especially in older scores from Italy and France, can occasionally be found, for example in the first edition of the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet .

Cast details

A score is usually preceded by the exact scoring of the work. As is done in catalogs or catalogs of works, this can also be abbreviated with a key, which requires knowledge of the score scheme. So 3333/4321 / Pk / - / Str means :

  • 3 woodwinds each
  • 4 horns
  • 3 trumpets
  • 2 trumpets
  • a tuba
  • Timpani
  • no harp
  • Strings

The voices are written on their own systems . The three large groups of the orchestra (woodwinds, brass instruments, strings) are notated below each other and summarized by square brackets at the beginning of the line. Different types or layers of an instrument (e.g., oboe and English horn , bassoon and Kontrafagott ) are connected by a curved Akkoladenklammer connected. Solo instruments, vocal solo parts or choir are notated above the strings, in older scores also between violas and cellos. This notation comes from the practice of the secco recitative , in which the harpsichordist of the continuo often took over the direction of the ensemble.

Within the three large groups (woodwinds, brass instruments, strings) the instruments are arranged according to the pitch from high to low. The only exception are the horns, which actually sound between trumpets and trombones. Due to its sonic proximity to the woodwind section on the one hand and the frequent rhythmic coupling of “hard” brass (trumpets and trombones) with timpani and drums on the other hand, this placement is appropriate.

Instruments that do not belong to the tribe of the classical symphony orchestra are assigned to their respective group and sorted according to pitch. For example, saxophones for the woodwinds are notated below the clarinets, as they are blown by a simple reed like these .

Some composers vary the arrangement of the instruments in places, depending on the instrumentation of the corresponding passage, for example in Wagner's Tristan score , where the horns are often between clarinets and bassoons. He often writes the bass clarinet with the bassoons and otherwise he handles the arrangement of the score very freely. Depending on their function, the trumpets also change their place and are even below the high woodwinds. Likewise, Max Reger noted the trumpets consistently over the horns, which is also always at Sergei Prokofiev place. Some of the scores by Dmitri Shostakovich are also notated in this way. Pyotr Tchaikovsky always noted the cor anglais above the bassoons, the Wagner tubas have no permanent place in the scores. Sometimes they stand by the horns, sometimes above the bass tuba.

After 1900 people began to think about simplifying the scores. One avoids the increasingly uncommon notations of horns and trumpets (e.g. horn and trumpet in E ) and usually notates horns in F and the trumpets in C or B. The alto clef is also used for high trombones - except for Russian composers. used less and less; the tenor clef is preferred; or even avoids this and almost only notes in the high bass clef. Even the tenor clef of the violoncellos is avoided with Reger - also partially with Rimski-Korsakow and only notated in the bass and treble clef ( loco ). The octaved treble clef of the Viennese Classic, which Antonín Dvořák and Anton Bruckner liked to use, is no longer used.

Although it is still the rule in the symphony orchestra to notate the horns and trumpets without key signatures, key signatures can sometimes be seen in Edward Elgar and then later in Benjamin Britten . Anton Bruckner almost always used this spelling, which was borrowed from military and popular music.

The more and more complicated harmonies make it increasingly useful to only sound scores, i.e. H. to be noted in C. Pioneers of the C-Score are u. a. Sergei Prokofjew, Felix Weingartner , Arnold Schönberg , Arthur Honegger and Alban Berg . At Hans Werner Henze it is already the rule. The only difficulty is the notation of the horns, which cannot be reproduced well either in the bass clef or in the treble clef. It should also be noted that the instruments transposing in octaves (e.g. double bass, piccolo flute, contrabassoon, celesta, glockenspiel) are the only ones that are not notated in C-scores, as octaving transpositions can easily be read out. The octaved treble clef that Weingartner used for the horns has hardly caught on and you have to live with a lot of key changes. Some composers (including Stravinsky , Kubelík ) therefore kept the F tuning of the horns in C scores.

However, this has the consequence that the voices have to be transposed, which in the past meant a not inconsiderable additional work for the copyist, but today it can be done with just a few clicks in music notation software. Nevertheless, in some genres of today's commercial music (e.g. film music), C-scores are used almost exclusively due to their better legibility. C scores (Engl. C-score ) are often in English and Concert score or non-transposing score and in the German non-transposing called score. In these scores, all instruments, except for those that are octave-transposing (e.g. piccolo, double bass or double bassoon - these instruments are relatively easy to read anyway) are notated.

In addition to the musical text, the score also records all instructions such as tempo , articulation , playing technique and expression.

Orchestral parts

For a long time it was customary to always print the parts as they were written in the score. Only changes of the keys, which were inevitable in the score for reasons of space, were often avoided. For orchestra musicians it was almost a kind of code of honor to transpose the trumpet and horn parts and, if necessary, the clarinet parts (mostly the C clarinet) prima vista . Then more and more transposed voices prevailed in the Anglo-Saxon area; d. H. the horns were rewritten to F, the trumpets to B or C, the clarinets to B and the trombones uniformly notated in the appendix in the bass clef. These additional voices are offered in the appendix. (Breitkopf & Härtel designed the reprints in the USA like this.)

Strangely enough, musicians who always transpose their voice often have problems with these simplified notations because they do the transposing almost automatically. Others are happy because the work is made easier, because there are transpositions that are so rare that they lack practice in them. ( Brahms , Symphony No. 2 Horn in B flat )

Print image

Two slashes mark the change of accolades.

There are two basic options for printing scores over the course of the music. In works with a smaller cast, all instruments are often shown in a separate notation system over the entire course of the piece of music, even if the instruments are paused for a longer period of time. This results in a very uniform, easy-to-see print image.

In the case of works with a larger orchestral line-up, on the other hand, only the instruments actually playing are usually notated due to lack of space. The number of staves per system is then variable, so that on some pages of the score there is only room for one system, on others there is room for two or more systems. The change to a new system is marked by two slashes. Often, but not always, all the instruments are noted on the first page of the score of a piece of music or movement . If there are parts on the first page of the score for which only rests are noted, this page is very likely to reflect the entire line-up. However, if an instrumentalist should change his instrument during the piece, e.g. For example, if a flutist is to play the piccolo at times, this is not evident from the beginning of the score, but is only noted when the change occurs.

In order to save space in scores, two (or more) similar instrument parts (e.g. two flutes, two trumpets) are usually combined in one notation system. The course of the individual voices can be made clear by assigning the notes to an instrument by means of note stems pointing upwards or downwards. If both instruments are to play the same thing, this is prescribed by instruction a 2 or the notes are given both an upward and a downward-pointing neck.

Score types

Conductor's desk with conductor's score and baton

Be differentiated

  • the conductor's score in large format (sometimes bound as a ring binder for quick leafing through), which the conductor can use to perform the work,
  • the study score (analogous to the paperback also called pocket score ) in book format for reading and studying a composition,
  • the short score , which summarizes the content of the score in a few staves, often created by composers as a preliminary stage of the fully developed score,
  • the listening score (or reading score ), a simplified, often graphically specially equipped form that makes it easier for the inexperienced to grasp,
  • the choral score, which in the case of choral works with orchestra contains the parts of the choir ( SATB ) in a score arrangement , but no further instrumental or solo parts (on the other hand, sheet music for pure choral works a cappella is usually simply called a score )
  • the piano reduction , which reduces the voices of an orchestral work to two-handed piano writing, as well as the complete vocal parts (soloists and choir) in the case of stage or choral symphonic works and is primarily used for rehearsals.


Web links

Wiktionary: Score  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Scores in the public domain


  1. Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , pp. 182–188, cited here: p. 182.
  2. after Helmut Haack, article score . In: Riemann Musiklexikon . 12th edition. Material part: A – Z. Schott, Mainz 1967, p. 707.
  3. Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , p. 182 f.