Modern Vocal Score Dynamics

Advanced Rudiments Lesson Plans

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics

In Advanced Rudiments, students are introduced to Modern Vocal Score (Page 113). Each year, I receive a number of emails from Teachers and Students who just want clarification where Modern Vocal Score Dynamics are placed.

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics have specific placement positions as they are intended to be followed by the vocalist.

So here are some Ultimate Music Theory Tips to remember how to write Modern Vocal Score Dynamics - with and without lyrics - in Open and in Short Score.

Modern Vocal Score - Open Score

Modern Vocal Score is written for four voices - Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.

Open Score is also called Full Score. Open Score is written using 4 staves - each voice has its own staff. Starting at the top (with the highest voice) and going down (to the lowest voice):

  • The Soprano is written in the Treble Staff
  • The Alto is written in the Treble Staff
  • The Tenor is written in the Treble Staff with an "8" underneath (to indicate that it is written one octave higher than it sounds)
  • The Bass is written in the Bass Staff

My students remember the required Clefs using this funny saying "In Vocal Score, you have Treble, Treble, Treble ate the Bass" (Treble, Treble, Treble 8, Bass). Okay - so it's not that funny...but it helps them remember the Clefs!

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics - With Lyrics - Open Score

In Open Score for Modern Vocal Score, lyrics (the words) are written below each staff line. The lyrics will line up with the melody and rhythm of the voice that is singing them.

When there are lyrics included in the Score, the Modern Vocal Score Bar Lines are written on each individual staff (and not completely through the Open Score). This allows for the words to be read (sung) without being hindered by the bar lines.

UMT Modern Vocal Score Dynamics with Lyrics in Open Score

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics should be written above each staff in Open Score. The vocalist must follow the dynamics above the staff and read the lyrics below the staff.

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics - Without Lyrics - Open Score

Option #1: (Recommended) When words (lyrics) are not included in an excerpt of Modern Vocal Score, it is still preferred that the dynamics be written above each staff.

Option #2: (Acceptable) However, it is "acceptable" for them to be written below each staff. (A student would not be deducted marks on an examination for placing them below each staff.)

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics - Short Score

Short Score is also known as Keyboard Score, Condensed Score and Close Score. In Short Score, there are only 2 staves - the Treble Staff (on top) and the Bass Staff (on bottom).

  • The notes for the Soprano Voice are written stems up in the Treble Staff.
  • The notes for the Alto Voice are written stems down in the Treble Staff.
  • The notes for the Tenor Voice are written stems up in the Bass Staff.
  • The notes for the Bass Voice are written stems down in the Bass Staff.

In Short Score, the lyrics are written in the middle of the Grand Staff. Modern Vocal Score Bar Lines are written through each individual staff (and not completely through the Grand Staff).

UMT Modern Vocal Score Dynamics with Lyrics in Close Score

Dynamics are written above the Treble Staff for the Soprano and Alto Voices, and above the Bass Staff for the Tenor and Bass Voices.

Modern Vocal Score Dynamics - Short Score - No Lyrics Included

There are times when words (lyrics) are not included in an excerpt of Modern Vocal Score. Remember that there are 2 options for Bar Lines in Short Score without Lyrics:

Option #1: (Recommended) The Modern Vocal Score Bar Lines are written on each individual staff.

Option #2: (Acceptable) The Modern Vocal Score Bar Lines are written from the top of the Treble Staff straight through to the bottom line of the Bass Staff.

Be consistent though - if there will be lyrics eventually in your music, write the Bar Lines on each individual staff throughout the composition (even when there are no lyrics).

There are 2 options for the Dynamics in Short Score without Lyrics:

Option #1: (Recommended) Dynamics are written above the Treble Staff for the Soprano and Alto Voices, and above the Bass Staff for the Tenor and Bass Voices.

UMT Modern Vocal Score Dynamics with no Lyrics in Close Score

Option #2: (Acceptable - as shown in the above example) Dynamics are written in the middle of the Grand Staff.

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Keep on Learning... With a Smile and a Song!

Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren

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