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I want to transalte "sheet music" in Italian. Should I use "partiture (di musica)" or "spartiti"?

Example. Here is a list of sheet music for piano

  • Welcome to Italian.SE! – Charo Jun 15 at 12:26
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    There is no direct correspondent; can you please add more context? Something like “he can't read sheet music” would become “non sa leggere la musica”. – egreg Jun 15 at 16:13
  • I added an example, thanks – Blincer Jun 15 at 16:16
  • @Blincer: The problem is that if, according to Wikipedia, with "sheet music" one means any form of handwritten or printed musical notation that uses musical symbols, that is, the «use of the term "sheet" is intended to differentiate written or printed forms of music from sound recordings», it's a very generic term that can mean many different things. – Charo Jun 15 at 19:02
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    when I studied classical guitar I had many “spartiti” and no “partitura”. The only “partiture” would have been the ones used by the conductor for the two concerts for guitar and orchestra I played in. – Walter Tross Jun 16 at 18:41
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The problem I find trying to answer this question is that the definition of "sheet music" is not completely clear to me, but trying to explain this in an answer is out of the scope of this site. What we can do here is to explain the meaning of the two Italian terms you propose, so you can choose the translation depending on what exactly you mean with "sheet music" in a specific context.

According to Treccani dictionary, "partitura" means:

In musica, notazione complessiva delle parti, vocali e strumentali, che si concertano in un pezzo di musica, disposta in più righi musicali sovrapposti esattamente gli uni sopra gli altri e sistemati in modo che l’occhio possa constatare immediatamente di quanti e quali suoni si componga l’impasto sinfonico; anche, il fascicolo su cui è stampata tale notazione

That is,

In music, overall notation of the parts, vocal and instrumental, which are combined in a piece of music, arranged in several musical staves disposed one over each other and so that the eye can immediately see how many and which sounds make up the symphonic mixture; also, the book on which this notation is printed.

As said in a comment, this corresponds to the book with musical scores used by the conductor. That is, "partitura" refers to the full orchestral score.

This dictionary asserts that "spartito" is commonly used as a synonymous of "partitura", but that that use is erroneous:

Nell’uso corrente, è per lo più usato, erroneamente, come sinon. di partitura.

According to the same dictionary, a proper meaning of "spartito" is a reduced version for singing and piano of a composition for singing and orchestra:

Versione ridotta per canto e pianoforte di una composizione per canto e orchestra

With this sense, "spartito" refers to the reduced piano-vocal score that is often used for studying purposes.

But, according to Grande dizionario della lingua italiana, the word "spartito" is also used in a generic way to convey this meaning

testo scritto di una composizione musicale

That is, the written notation of a musical composition. If you use "sheet music" in a generic way (as I believe is often done), it may be translated with "spartito" with this meaning.

Also in the website of the Istituto Bibliografico Musicale Italiano you can find that the word "spartito" has these two meanings, namely, the musical score of the reduced version for singing and piano of a composition and, in common language, a printed or manuscript music book:

Rappresentazione grafica di una composizione per canto e orchestra che allinea le parti vocali ed eventualmente corali come una normale partitura, e reca la riduzione per pianoforte dell'insieme strumentale.
Nel linguaggio comune usato anche come sinonimo di libro di musica a stampa o manoscritto.

And, in fact, Vocabolario pratico della musica by Roberto Braccini translates both "spartito" and "partitura" in English as "score".

Another word that may correspond in certain contexts to "sheet music" is "parte" that, according to Treccani dictionary has this meaning

Foglio o fascicolo su cui un singolo cantante o strumentista legge la musica che egli esegue in una composizione per più esecutori (si dice anche p. staccata in quanto costituisce un estratto dalla partitura del brano eseguito)

That is,

Sheet or book on which a single singer or instrumentalist reads the music they perform in a composition for several performers (it is also called perte staccata as it is an extract from the score, i.e., "la partitura", of the piece performed).

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  • I'd say that “partitura” is generally out of question. “Partitura” is the big book on the conductor's desk. – egreg Jun 15 at 14:46
  • @egreg: The problem is that I really don't know if the full orchestral score of a musical composition (that is, "partitura") is or is not called "sheet music". So, I think the best thing to do is trying to explain the meaning of the two Italian terms proposed in the question: this is what I have tried to do in this answer. Then, it's up to the OP to decide if any of these words fits in their specific context. Do you think we could do anything else? – Charo Jun 17 at 11:17

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