I have a piano theory test real soon and it will require writing modern vocal score in open score.

When I see examples of open score, sometimes the bar lines go through the 4 parts, and sometimes they don't. Is there a reason?

(Below are examples of two pieces, one with bar lines that go through, and one with bar lines that don't.)

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  • homework questions don't belong here.
    – Stinkfoot
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 20:47
  • 2
    @Stinkfoot, this doesn't look like HW to me. The first sentence is providing context. I think this is a perfectly legitimate question, and the examples pretty clearly aren't scans from a worksheet a teacher handed out. More philosophically, I think this site is for students of music at many different levels. To that end, I would expect that many of the questions pertain to one's studies, and thus one's HW. Does the help section say students can't ask questions pertaining to their HW? Where did that notion come from--maybe I just missed it? Personally, I find this Q to be interesting & useful.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 4:29

2 Answers 2


Bar lines don’t connect in vocal music. This avoids bar line-lyric collisions.

I notice that both appear to be vocal pieces, but I see no lyrics on the one with connecting bar lines.

As a general rule, don’t connect bar lines in vocal music; do connect them in piano music.

  • 7
    Adding to this, in orchestral scores the bar lines correspond to the margin brackets: they connect instrumental sections. Therefore the brass staves are joined, but separated by a gap from the string staves and the wood wind staves. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 8:23
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    @KilianFoth this could be an answer on its own right. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 11:08

In orchestral scores connected barlines (sometimes - though not in this example - along with brackets at the start of a group of staves) are used to denote instrument families.

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In choral works we don't connect barlines, for the simple practical reason that they'd get in the way of the lyrics. For the same reason, dynamics go ABOVE the stave in vocal music.

But we may still use brackets or braces to denote groups of voices. Note here how the chorus staves share a bracket, the solo voices don't (and the piano has connected barlines and a curly brace).

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