If I see in piano sheet music, say, "mp" mark between bass and treble staves, which staff should be played in "mp" dynamics?

Reverse question: if I want to apply a dynamic mark to a specified staff, how to notate this?

3 Answers 3


On piano music, with treble and bass clefs, if the dynamics mark is between them, it refers to both parts (hands). If it's for the treble, it's found above the treble, and if for bass alone, it's found under the bass.

  • -1: I'm pretty sure I've never seen dynamic marks for piano music written above the treble staff. I believe dynamics between the staves apply only to the treble clef, and dynamics below the bass clef only apply to the bass clef.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 17:51
  • 3
    @Kevin - Tim is absolutely correct about between-staff dynamics applying to both hands. This is by far the most common use of dynamics for the piano, it was almost exclusively the case in the vast majority of classical piano music. Situations where the two hands have different dynamics are relatively rare even in more recent piano music, but that would be the only normal situation in which you would see a dynamic below the bass clef. Tim, I am, however, fairly certain the the standard placement for treble only dynamics isn't above, they are placed below the treble staff and context clarifies. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 18:06
  • @Kevin - How would you see the dynamics portrayed for each of the three situations?
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 18:28
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    @PatMuchmore: I would expect a dynamic marking above the upper clef in cases where the upper clef itself contained two parts that were intended to be treated differently even if played with one hand. If, for example, the right ringfinger and pinky might have alternating sixteenth notes played pianissimo while other right-hand fingers joined the left hand in playing a main melody mezzo-forte, putting the dynamic for the "frilly" part above the staff would seem clearer than writing it below but somehow excluding certain notes from its effects.
    – supercat
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 19:25
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    @Kevin: Check out Myra Hess' arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring for different dynamics on each voice.
    – jogloran
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 6:35

Just to add some working example to the thread, here goes Prokofiev op. 97, no. 10. An adagio from the Cinderella suite for piano. The complete score for this adagio is available here, page 29.

In the first two bars, there are specifications for both staves (forte), and for the upper (piano) and lower (mezzoforte) staves only.

Prokofiev, op. 97 no. 10, Adagio, from the Cinderella piano suite.


In scores for greater ensembles as well as for instrument groups (say 2 bassoons and contrabassoon notated in the same score) the dynamic is typically written below the voice it belongs to.

  • 2
    Except for vocal parts, where it’s notated above.
    – Édouard
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 17:26

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