In a piece I'm working on I've got a 4-meas. rallentando to a new, slower tempo. The piano RH, in those same 4 measures, also has an 8va section. Either of them I'd want to engrave spanning the 4 measures (i.e. "rall. _ _ _ _ _" or "8va _ _ _ _ _"), but both...?

I can't recall reading anything that's got two spanning markings like this simultaneous, and a quick skim through the library doesn't surface anything.

What's best practice for notating both of these instructions? Stacking them--which on top? Something else?

  • Is this solo piano music, with just two staves in the system; or are there more staves (like, for example, in a piano quartet, or a concerto)? In solo piano music, tempo-related markings such as "rallentando" are sometimes placed between the staves, rather than above the upper staff. Dec 16, 2023 at 6:33
  • Large ensemble, so the extracted piano part will be where this matters. (Well, medium ensemble, I guess. ~10 parts.)
    – nitsua60
    Dec 16, 2023 at 16:54
  • But if it's a large ensemble, won't the piano part be the bottom two staves in each system? So the speed marking will be at the very top of the system; whereas the 8va in the piano part will be above the second-to-bottom staff? I'm not seeing the problem. Dec 16, 2023 at 21:49
  • @DawoodibnKareem in the piano player's (extracted) part they'll both need to be indicated.
    – nitsua60
    Dec 17, 2023 at 2:41
  • 1
    So there ARE only two staves in the system. Sorry, I thought you were talking about the score for the entire ensemble. Then my earlier comment applies - the "rallentando" would likely be placed between the staves, whereas the 8va has to be above. Dec 18, 2023 at 7:50

3 Answers 3


I recommend avoiding the spanning line for the rallentando. Instead, just mark rall. at the beginning of the passage and then a tempo, or a new tempo indication, after the fourth measure. That will be perfectly clear without the visual confusion of two spanning lines.

The rall. indication may be placed between the staves for additional clarity of reading.

  • If you do have a new tempo, you can also write "rallentando sin'al andante" for extra clarity. Dec 16, 2023 at 15:30

The 8va has to go above the notes so it doesn't get confused with 8vb, and it should be closer to the notes. Given that, you have to fit the rallentando in as best you can, maybe put it below the system, and maybe you can avoid the extension line.


Tempo indications are written above the staff or staves but tempo changes are often placed below. Place the 8va above the RH staff and place the rall below the LH staff.

  • Schirmer disagrees, as do the overwhelming majority of scores I've seen: All tempo-related text goes above the staff, where the conductor will see it. Maybe this is a case for an exception, but it's not the style. Dec 16, 2023 at 6:10
  • @the-baby-is-you - I've seen all "rit."/"rall."/"a tempo"/etc. indications go between the two piano staves. Maybe you're confusing the OP's "rall." marking with full-blown tempo indication changes such as "Presto".
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 16, 2023 at 7:32
  • @Dekkadeci So have I, but so far no one has recommended that. It's what I'd do: write the 8va with a line above, and then put the rall between the staves, with no line.
    – trlkly
    Dec 17, 2023 at 10:20

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