I'm aware of notes crossing clefs, but I've never seen it being used like this before. For the record, the song is in 4/4.

The notes in question

  • 2
    Which clefs does this passage use? I can see a very incomplete treble clef at the end of the passage for the lower staff, implying that the lower staff uses the bass clef, but all I can do is hope that the upper staff uses the treble clef. Also, what key signature does this passage use?
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 15, 2020 at 7:39
  • @Dekkadeci Fortunately :-), the clefs don't matter so far as the rhythm goes, so long as you recognize the implicit rests. Oct 15, 2020 at 13:25
  • It would be clearer if you included the time signature in the image. But @TimH's answer about tresillo seems right on. Oct 15, 2020 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


There's two things going on here that may be a bit confusing.

  1. There are cross-stave notes, like you already noted.
  2. The rhythm is a so called 'tresillo' rhythm, that's often used in latin-american music. Here the rhythm is structured as 3+3+2 in eighth notes. The note groupings and accents reflect this rhythm. That's why it can seem a bit awkward to read when you approach it as a 4/4 rhythm, but using the groupings like this is actually the clearest way to notate this.

It can take a while to get into this kind of 'groove' but after a while it's very pleasant and dance like to play. It's also interesting to note that on all accents there is a left hand chord.


One thing to add to Tim's excellent answer: Notice the first three eighth-notes in the measure are written in a way that implies two hands should be used (one in each staff). The remainder of the measure, the final 5 eighth-notes, are a bit ambiguous, and quite possibly spaced too far apart to be playable with one hand, but are certainly a single phrase. There's an implicit set of rests for the lower hand which are not written into the lower staff. AFAIK that's common notational style for piano scores.

  • 1
    I would say that the notes on the bottom staff should be played with the left hand in this case - the jumps are definitely too much to comfortably play this all on the right hand (unless the tempo is very slow, which I doubt). So you could say there are missing implied rests on both staves if you want to be strict about it. Oct 15, 2020 at 20:54
  • @DarrelHoffman good point. I don't play piano, so my "estimate" of hand-reach is probably wrong. Oct 16, 2020 at 10:55
  • I think it's the rhythm, not the hand reach, the key to understand idea behind the notation: left hand plays the accented notes. Oct 16, 2020 at 22:43

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