The score I’m working on has a four-part SATB choir, thus:

enter image description here

For space-conservation reasons I usually condense my choir parts down to a SA/TB grand staff. But this choir section has different dynamics and hairpins and voices starting at different times, so I’m not sure how best to condense it into two staves, if that’s even possible. Obviously the T/B would take the bass staff and the A would be on the treble staff, but how would I notate the soprano’s dynamics & hairpins in a way that doesn’t conflict with the alto’s?

Any advice, especially from someone with arranging/engraving experience, would be appreciated.

Here is my current attempt at condensing the staves, complete with all necessary text (lyrics, div. instructions, etc.) – apologies for the small size, it’s the best I could do given the layout:

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


One way is to place any expression markings relative to that voice's placement on the staff. In other words, markings relating to the soprano and tenor lines should go above their respective staves, since they are the higher voices. Meanwhile, markings for the alto and bass should go below their respective staves.

For example (with apologies for any incorrect pitches and/or markings due to looking at an incomplete score):

enter image description here

With complex scores the notation can get pretty dense, but this seems relatively common in my experience as an analyst and engraver.

  • Thanks for the reply and the example! Yours doesn’t look too dissimilar from my first attempt. I’ve edited it and updated the OP with it; would you mind taking a look and letting me know what you think of it?
    – Walter
    Sep 16, 2019 at 22:44
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    @Walter Yes, your new examples look great!
    – Richard
    Sep 16, 2019 at 22:51
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    @Walter be careful of the alto divisi. Because the noteheads have no stems, you probably have to add some text like alti divisi or a square bracket to the first divided notes, or both. I see you have that in your first example. It's probably not necessary to label the soprano entrance, but it doesn't hurt unless it causes crowding. The labels on the men's entrance seem redundant to me; there's no ambiguity without them.
    – phoog
    Sep 17, 2019 at 13:58
  • @phoog Great point; I didn't see that there wasn't a rest for the soprano line!
    – Richard
    Sep 17, 2019 at 14:41
  • @phoog I thought of adding a square bracket, but I figured that since the “alto div.” is clearly labeled and the soprano starts later, it wouldn’t be ambiguous enough to need it. I’ll try adding it then (soon as I figure out how to do that in Sibelius, heh).
    – Walter
    Sep 17, 2019 at 16:01

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