How proteins assemble into sarcomeric arrays to form myofibrils is controversial. Immunostaining and transfections of cultures of cardiomyocytes from 10-day avian embryos led us to propose that assembly proceeded in three stages beginning with the formation of premyofibrils followed by nascent myofibrils and culminating in mature myofibrils. However, premyofibril and nascent myofibril arrays have not been detected in early cardiomyocytes examined in situ in the forming avian heart suggesting that the mechanism for myofibrillogenesis differs in cultured and uncultured cells. To address this question of in situ myofibrillogenesis, we applied non-enzymatic procedures and deconvolution imaging techniques to examine early heart forming regions in situ at 2- to 13-somite stages (beating begins at the 9-somite stage), a time span of about 23 h. These approaches enabled us to detect the three myofibril stages in developing hearts supporting a three-step model of myofibrillogenesis in cardiomyocytes, whether they are present in situ, in organ cultures or in tissue culture. We have also discovered that before titin is organized the first muscle myosin filaments are about half the length of the 1.6 mum filaments present in mature A-bands. This supports the proposal that titin may play a role in length determination of myosin filaments.