I know a single musician would read from a partiture in real time and that is no problem, the partiture has its silences and tempo.

I am more a lyric musician but I like composing music because I just love to, but I have always wonder How do an orchesta read a partiture...

So my question is How do the musician knows where to start, do the partiture has lots of silences (for example a piano could just play at the end of the song)?

For example this is a sheet of 4 instruments of a song composed by Seiji Yokoyama This is relative easy as every musician has it sheet, but I wonder do every partiture look like this, do you know where I can find a complete orchesta partiture example?

enter image description here

  • 1
    Well, you could take a random piece of music, search for [name of piece of music] partiture on imslp and you see what a real partiture looks like. I don't know if you are aware of it, but some instruments are transposed or use other keys. Writing a piece for a full orchestra is not something you can easily do on a rainy afternoon without some theoretical knowledge.
    – 11684
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 15:56
  • yeah, I know I have studied all my life but not in a particular school, but from musicians, the question is how do a partiture looks like?, Does it have lots of silences or what is it the trick for every musician?
    – edgarmtze
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:00
  • Here You can view the full score and individual parts for a Haydn symphony. Look particularly at the Horn parts to see how sections of rest are handled.
    – Laurence
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


Parts for most instruments only include the staff for that instrument. Musicians know when to come in by counting the rests written in their parts. Often lengthy rests are written as multi-measure rests, which look like a thick horizontal line with the number of measures printed above.

Piano scores for small groups or for choral accompaniment usually include the staves for the other parts in small type, to help the pianist hold the group together. So the example piece above would usually be broken down into 1 violin part that shows only violin, 1 guitar part that shows only guitar, 1 string part per string instrument (different clef and range depending on the instrument), then 1 piano part that shows the piano staves in normal print and the other parts on staves above the piano in small print.

The suggestion to look on imslp.org is a good one. Go there, search for any symphony, download the .pdfs for the full score and for the parts to see how parts are usually printed for an orchestra. Search for anything called "piano trio" to see what parts usually look like for a small group of instruments including piano.

Edit: wasn't looking carefully enough at the example piece -- the curly bracket made me think there was piano, but there isn't. So you'd only need the 4 individual parts, adjusting for the number of different string instruments.


How does an orchestra read a partiture?
Well, the orchestra doesn't. There is a separate part for every instrument.
Some musicians in an orchestra like to read along with the partiture when they have a long tacet, but playing is mostly done from a 'private' part. The conductor cues entrances and the musicians in the orchestra should have a general idea about the structure of the piece. I would go so far as to say that it would be normal to expect from a professional orchestra that they can find their entrances without a conductor. So, every musician knows where (s)he is, and has a general idea about when his/her tacet ends. The conductor, of course, reads from the partiture. (S)he should have had training for that.

How do the musicians know where to start?
This is the task of the conductor. (S)he should notify the particular section of the orchestra at their entrance (or reentrance) with his/her gestures.
The conductor only does this at difficult places, i.e., where it is hard to hear where exactly your entrance is. If it is very obvious where the entrance of a certain group is, the musicians can do it themselves. A professional orchestra should be able to not mess up entirely if the conductor fails (which Is far from unheard of).

A real partiture:
The real partiture (I don't know what piece it is, just a google image)

  • Ok, i am understanding now, only one more question, do every sheet of every musician has only his part of the song, or the sheet has all instruments, I guess for simplicity the sheet contains only the musicians instrument part...
    – edgarmtze
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:13
  • Most musicians have only there sheet music on their score. There are exceptions, such as in early band music. There, the solo cornet often has two or three parts on his sheet music. For most players in most circumstances, however, there is only one part per score.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:16
  • 1
    Your guess is right, only sometimes there are really tiny notes from another instrument just before the start of that score's instrument that help him/her to find his start.
    – 11684
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:16
  • In Dutch, the German term is used: Stichnoten.
    – 11684
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:16

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