I am a bass-baritone singer and am trying to figure out how best to write and and arrange my music so that I can have the best representation of what I will be performing and recording in my studio. Here is what I have written so far and I wanted to ask if anyone can can tell me if there is a better way.

Score excerpt with voice part and bass line sharing a staff

I have 5 voices in total (occasionally dropping to 4), 1 for the bassline and one for the melody in the bass clef and 3 for the accompaniment in the treble clef. This is bit odd considering that most of the time the soprano will have the melody line and the accompaniment will fall below it but since my voice is lower, it makes more sense to me this way.... at least I think it does. Many times I have proved myself wrong in the long run :) Does this make sense the way I have done it or is there a better way?

3 Answers 3


The standard way to do this is to notate the voice part on a separate staff. This clearly delineates the vocal part and accompaniment part(s).

Re-notation of OP on three staves

However, if it's necessary to notate on two staves, then the vocal part should be explicitly labeled.

Two staff version

  • Thanks Aaron, I am sure you have musch more experience in reading music than I. Would it be easier for you to see the counterpoint between the bass line and melody on the same staff or is it much the same to you. For me, at the level I am at, it is much easier to see this when they are together.
    – user35708
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 11:10
  • 2
    @armani I find the three-staff version much easier to read, even when focused on the counterpoint; however, this might be a matter of experience. The two-staff version is fine, but I would find it harder to sing from.
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 11:14
  • @armani Given that your goal is to see the counterpoint and to be able to play the melody and accompaniment together on the piano (you really should update your question to say that, that way answers will address it, rather than you having to ask separately in the comments of each post individually), I think the primary issue is not how it's written, but the spacing of the notes and the size of the staff. I find both of my examples easier to read that the version you posted, because there's plenty of space and my eyes don't get overwhelmed.
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 11:19

Look at any published song copy. The vocal line will almost certainly be on its own stave, above the two piano staves. Here's a random sample.

Do you want the pianist to include the melody in what they play? In this case, I suspect probably not. Published copies generally do include the melody in the piano part, but they aren't intended as precise instructions for a recording session!

If you DO incorporate the melody - or parts of it - in the piano accompaniment, there's no need to place it at the same pitch it will be sung at. An octave higher is fine.

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  • Thanks. A lot of the time another arrangement is also included where the right hand plays the melody with the accompaniment (in your example the melody is in both). So usually there is one trable clef with the melody and another grand staff with both melody and harmony interweaved. This second one was what I was going for. This way when I am composing I can play my melody and accompaniment together on the piano to hear the interaction between harmony and melody.
    – user35708
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 11:04
  • Also, In my notation, I find it easier to see the counterpoint between the melody and bassline which is of utmost importance to me when composing. I should have said all this in the OP but taking this into mind, would having it together the way I have done be the best option?
    – user35708
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 11:06
  • 1
    About the octave higher: The anything that is written for arbitrary voice is notated in treble clef. If something is notated explicitly for Bass or Bass Baritone it is usually notated in Bass clef.
    – Lazy
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 15:55

The already given answers about multiple staves are definitely helpful; having different parts on the same stave is never going to give optimal readability.

There's another side though, and that's clefs. I've seen that sort of lower voice written in bass clef, tenor clef or treble clef marked to be played an octave lower (https://ultimatemusictheory.com/octave_sign/). Straight treble clef is unlikely to give the best readability for a bass-baritone part and I'm not a great fan of vocal scores going across multiple staves as used in piano music, so I'd recommend whichever of the above options you're most comfortable reading.

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