Particularly in 20th century "atonal" orchestral music, one from time to time comes across a score in which staves that have no music are not notated with a whole rest, but rather are not even printed in the score. To clarify what I mean, here's an image: omitted staves
The staves for the flutes are left out for the first four measures of this page. Those for the harp and viola are left out for the first measure only.

Is there a notational term for this practice? Many thanks.

(And bonus points if you know what piece this is from, of course.)

  • 1
    Ouch! That's hart to read and line up the bars for one thing..
    – dalearn
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 12:57
  • 2
    Stravinsky Requiem Canticles?
    – JimM
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 13:24
  • Similar theme: music.stackexchange.com/questions/66150 Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 13:48
  • 1
    That is painful to read.
    – Klangen
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 14:51
  • @dalearn Curious: Which bars look like they don't line up?
    – wallace
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 17:29

4 Answers 4


Based on what you’re referring to, there are two possible terms you could apply to a score with missing / hidden measures and staves.

In Richard’s example of a score in the “French tradition”, staves without music are omitted to save space and page turns. However, there are rules about how / and when it is done to avoid a disorienting score reading experience. This type of score is sometimes referred to as an “abbreviated score” but more commonly referred to as a “consolidated score”.

As in the case of your specific example where individual measures without music are missing, that type of score is referred to as a “cutaway score” as the omissions are so individual it’s almost as if they have been “cut-away” by a pair of scissors.

This type of notation is an extension / variation on the type Richard showed. The intent is to show musical relationships more clearly, which, during the mid-20th century, was becoming an increasingly difficult proposition. This type of notation rose to prominence in the 1960s-70s and and by today’s standards has fallen out of fashion / favor. There are still many, many contemporary scores that use elements of this notation, albeit in a more reserved / conservative way.

  • 1
    Edited question to reflect that it refers to "measures of staves that have no music" rather than the entire staves. And thanks!
    – wallace
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 17:25

Samuel Adler's – The Study of Orchestration describes this as a "Cutout Score", providing the example below [p. 761] : Cutout Score

  • Why does this book start at $238 on Amazon??
    – wallace
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 15:14
  • @wallace it's a nearly 800+ page university textbook Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 16:01

In case an official term never appears, I thought I'd mention the "French score" tradition where empty staves are removed from the score:

enter image description here

Notice how the voice staff just doesn't exist starting in m. 39 since there's no further vocal music.

The same is true in your example, it's just that, although the staves aren't visible, there is still space for them. I don't have a term for you, but the notational practice seems to be a direct descendant of this "French score" tradition.

PS - It's gotta be Requiem Canticles.

  • 2
    This is different and a lot more readable. In your case, the staff just isn't present in the lines where it has no music. If it was like the OP, then measures 34-38 wouldn't've been printed either in the voice staff.
    – Arthur
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 13:01
  • I've also heard it called an "optimized" score, but I suspect that's only because that's what Finale calls it...
    – nuggethead
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 17:48

It's called a 'cut-away score'.

The thing of omitting complete staves when the instrument doesn't play for a time is just called 'normal engraving practice'.

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