Apologies for the very newbie question (I’ve never had any real lessons): On a piano grand staff, how do you (as the composer) properly annotate that one hand should play differently than the other?

For instance, in one piece, both hands are playing at mp loudness, yet at a certain bar I want the left hand to start playing leggiero (but not the right hand). So far I have this marked as “l.h. leggiero” on the lower staff, but I’m guessing that’s not how it’s actually done (and it doesn’t seem to alter playback in Sibelius 8).

Seems like this would be simple to find an answer to online, yet I’ve spent an hour Googling and rifling through piano scores without finding a clear answer. Any help would be very appreciated.

  • I've seen piano scores with "il basso marcato" marked under the lower staff, so I would say your original practice isn't so incorrect.
    – Divide1918
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 5:06

2 Answers 2


Position the dynamics so that it's clear what stave (or even what voice within a stave) they apply to. There's no strict 'over or under' rule.

If Sibelius playback is an issue, there are various options. For instance, dynamics may be assigned to a single one of the four available voices, or may be set as 'all voices'.


Put instructions that only apply only to one staff above the top staff, or below the bottom staff.

Put instructions that apply to both staves centered vertically between the staves.

The fact that "Sibelius doesn't play this properly" is irrelevant, so far as notating it for humans is concerned. The fix is simple - don't use Sibelius if you want to get serious about computer playback, use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) app instead!

  • Getting a DAW isn’t really an option unless I find a few hundred bucks lying around. But thanks for the tip about positioning the instructions with regard to the staves.
    – Walter
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 8:46
  • @Walter I use Finale, so I don't know the specifics of how to do it in Sibelius, but all you need to do is put the two staves on different MIDI channels using the same piano patch and they'll be able to have different dynamics and such (I'm not sure how much either program will actually interpret "leggiero" however). The difficulty is that you will then want to put the staves back on the same channel whenever one dynamic should apply to both again. Personally, I think it's too much work to be worth it unless the differences between the hands are severe and almost constant. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 9:57

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