I’m studying many scores and have come across a ‘dotted bar line’. The first time I have encountered this.

dotted barn line

After some initial research I do see their purpose. To make the music clearer to understand, used especially if rhythms are complex or unusual. I’m not surprised to find this in a Stravinsky score (Symphony in C), his music is complicated.

Notice though how some are shaped full height of the staff and some just in the middle covering two spaces. Some even just at the top (bar 2 Violin 1) or bottom.

Going off this, there doesn’t seem to be a standard notation. Resources online show one of full height. Why are some shaped, dotted differently?


  • The logic for these dotted lines is exactly as you suggest. As for the dotted line that only covers half of the staff, is it possible it's just a printing or engraving error?
    – Richard
    Jun 5, 2020 at 19:38
  • Beats me why he needed 5/16 and 7/16 bars. They could easily have been written out in 12/16, or better still 6/8, or even better, two lots of 3/8, with appropriate accents. Much easier to read, surely? Could there be a question coming?
    – Tim
    Jun 6, 2020 at 6:52
  • @Tim I can’t believe how often Stravinsky changes his time signatures. He was well known for it. The Rite of Spring was something else! :-)
    – cmp
    Jun 6, 2020 at 11:34
  • I've pondered over this for 50 odd yrs! Time for a question!
    – Tim
    Jun 6, 2020 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't make too much of it. The inconsistency doesn't appear to have any meaning. In the 5/16 measure, the lines show that the five beats are grouped 3+2, and in the 7/16 measure they show that the beats are grouped 3+2+2. I would guess that the inconsistency is the result of careless engraving. This might have arisen because the engraver did not have well established techniques to make these dotted lines; note how the G4 staff line is interrupted at the point of the first dotted line in the 7/16 measure.

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