Specifically in the context of Baroque trio sonatas. If part books are preferred, then what is the point of printing such works in score in the first place?

3 Answers 3


When you are practising on your own, separate from the other members, then an individual part book is more convenient. You have less music to look at and follow, fewer page turns to make.

When you are playing together, having to co-ordinate what you play with the other members of the group then a full score is essential so that you can follow what the other members are playing in places where you have a rest marked and so that you know exactly when to come in when your part starts again.

  • How would that full score work? Everything you wrote while practising is on your individual part. I exclude keyboardists from this, because they always play from a full score.
    – Rosie F
    Apr 30, 2020 at 19:20
  • 2
    @RosieF: "Everything you wrote while practising is on your individual part" Not true. A lot of what I wrote has been rubbed out because I changed my mind. In fact it looks a mess and some of what is there I really don't need anymore. Fortunately I didn't write all that on the full score. Late on I can copy really important stuff onto the full score and maybe later I will end up adding things that only become apparent when all are playing e.g. in bar 10 I should play that note a little sharp because otherwise it doesn't sound quite right with the Cello. Apr 30, 2020 at 20:10
  • When you are playing together, at best only the leader needs the full score. I never needed to read from the full score in any of the school concert bands I was in--the conductor got to do that.
    – Dekkadeci
    May 1, 2020 at 13:34

A huge amount of scanned, period music at imslp.org is parts only.

That's frustrating to me when I just want to study the compositions, not perform them.

I've assumed the absence of an ensemble score is because:

  1. the music was printed primarily for performance where each player only needs their part, and
  2. printing was much more expensive then so they wouldn't have added the expense of the extra printing. From the typesetters perspective, they have to do double the work!

With modern software and printers, it's easy and cheap to print full score and parts.

I don't know what chamber musicians prefer but regarding why print a score?, it seems one important reason is study and analysis.

  • I had thought of that of course, but I wonder whether there would be enough demand for study scores of obscure works for it to be worth the (my) trouble. :-) Apr 30, 2020 at 17:30

I happen to disagree with some of the acccepted answer. It only takes a couple rehearsals to know enough about what the others are doing in your rests that single parts work just fine. You want a reference score available to coordinate questions and check for misprints. The advantage of single parts is that you have far fewer page turns to deal with.

That said, some quartets are transitioning to tablets rather than paper music. Once you do that, page turns don't matter much (just a foot-tap), so the use of a single part vs. full score is entirely up to each player's discretion. As a side feature, it's really easy to add and remove markings!

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