A method of writing four part harmony vocal music using a Grand Staff (a treble clef and a bass clef). The music is transcribed with two vocal parts written in each clef. Soprano and alto (or contralto) parts are written in the treble clef and tenor and bass parts are written in the bass clef.

As there are two vocal parts written on each staff, the standard rules of adding stems to notes do not apply as they usually would. While standard music theory dictates that stems are to point downward if the note is below the third line of the staff and upward if it is above it, the stem of the lower voice note always points downward and the stem of the upper voice note always points upward. A note that is to be sung by two voices simultaneously has both an upward and a downward stem.

Other forms of short scores enable two or more parts to be written on a single staff, though the grand staff version is the most popular.

The short score originated in the Middle Ages as a way for choir masters and accompanists to follow an entire vocal score easily without having to watch four separate staves that are often separated. Short scores also provide musicians with a better idea of how the parts will sound together as the grand staff enables the parts to be played on piano.

The downside to short scores is that the notes are close together, which often makes it difficult for individual singers to read the music. As such, most singers find open scores easier to follow.

Other names for the short score are the compressed score and the condensed score.


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Wharram, Barbara. Elementary Rudiments of Music. Frederick Harris Music Co.: 1969.

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