So lets say I have a grand staff with another treble clef staff for a solo instrument [3 staves in all]. Now where do I place chord symbols for piano? Between the grand staff and the solo instrument staff or on top of all the 3 staves? Thanks

1 Answer 1


On vocal/piano scores, I've usually seen the chords on the topmost stave. This may be because the chord symbols would clash with the lyrics.

As a piano player, I'd probably prefer them on the topmost stave regardless of the music type. I would warn you that the presence of chord symbols would make me much less likely to play the piano part note for note, and more likely to interpret things and add extra bits.

The chords may also be useful to the soloist, depending on the nature of the piece.

Here are some examples from random scores I have to hand:

All of Me (excerpt) Source: http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0123125

Who Would Have Dreamed (excerpt) http://2zetlv2doq1l2orfk2icl1no.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/who_would_have_dreamed-f-score.pdf

And a counterexample:

It's Christmas (excerpt) Source: https://www.praisecharts.com/songs/details/27395/its-christmas-sheet-music/piano-vocal-lead-sheet?part=full

Note the two vocal lines. Here, it's better to put the chords closer to the actual keyboard part, to make it easier for the player to read.

  • 1
    thank u endorph...I have some picture links here with me that places chord symbols otherwise than what u stated...wud like to ask ur opinion: i1.wp.com/www.writing-music.com/images/… main source :writing-music.com/shop/pizzicato-guitar-tab-software Nov 3, 2016 at 9:45
  • please send me some links or scores where you've seen the chords placed above the topmost staff for piano/vocal scores Nov 3, 2016 at 9:54
  • @KennyKamei I added some examples that I had lying around. Seems like both options can work.
    – endorph
    Nov 3, 2016 at 10:14
  • Expanding on the mention of being less likely to play the piano part as notated, when I play from chords, I generally ignore the piano part entirely. Instead, I concentrate on the melody line (i.e., vocal part). This may be another reason for its placement. Additionally, three-staff arrangements are often for piano-guitar-voice, with the assumption that the piano will play as written and/or the guitar will comp from the chords.
    – Aaron
    Dec 25, 2020 at 2:57

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