I came across this score with diagonal dotted lines:

score with dotted diagonal lines

Source: https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0016239

Compare with this more typical voice-plus-instrument score of the same song:

score without dotted diagonal lines

Source: https://www.virtualsheetmusic.com/score/HL-17829.html

The meaning of the notation seems to be "sound this note in both vocals and instrument, but cut the vocal note duration short as needed". It is usable, but why notate it this way? Are dotted diagonal lines legitimate notation, or is this a one-off invention by this score writer?

  • 1
    This is specifically recommended in Behind Bars, which is widely respected, so that legitimizes it at least a bit. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 4:36
  • 7
    I expect the author wanted to do it their way
    – Strawberry
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


These lines do often occur in keyboard notation, and I've seen both dotted and non-dotted varieties.

Your guess of their meaning is pretty close, but I'd add one further element to it: the lines help the reader track a single melodic line. In other words, the line from the opening G to the next E tells the reader that both of those notes belong to the same melody.

I mentioned that this notation is especially common in piano notation, and that's because occasionally a melody is switched between the two hands. As such, these lines are used to clarify when the melody passes between them.

  • 3
    In other words (a non-musician's words), the first score shows "right hand + left hand", while the second score shows "melody + bass"?
    – md2perpe
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 11:16
  • 2
    @md2perpe That's one way to think of it, absolutely. The first score conflates the melody and accompaniment that are both performed by the left hand, whereas the second score makes very clear what is the melody and what is the accompaniment.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 11:31
  • I wrote two of these lines into my choral score for my most recent concert specifically to aid in correctly pitching entrances after modulations occurring in other voices. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 18:19

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