This may be an obvious thing for more experienced piano players, but I was wondering whether there is a difference between having a single arpeggio symbol that spans both the left and right hand and having two separate arpeggio symbols for each hand.

Cross-stave arpeggio Split arpeggios

I am thinking that they likely mean the same thing (play all the notes consecutively, first the left, then the right hand), but I thought that it might be possible that the split arpeggios are meant to played in parallel (each hand plays its notes consecutively, but both hands play in parallel).

So my question is whether the two notation types are actually the same (maybe due to a limitation in notation software or because of readability), or whether they could notate different ways of playing the arpeggio(s). And if they are the same, are there cases of "parallel" arpeggios? How would they be notated?


I want to thank everyone for clearing up that the two are in fact different.

However, by accident I came across this article, which claims

When playing an arpeggio with both hands on a keyboard instrument a distinction is made between chords where from the bottom of the left hand chord to the top of the right hand chord no note is missing and those where one or more chord notes are missing.

So it seems that the second version with the split arpeggios should be interpreted as a continuous arpeggio based on whether or not the left and right hand chords are complete or not.

This sounds very confusing to me and would require the person writing the score to know this small difference and it would require the player to guess whether or not the notator was aware of this rule. It sounds kind of arcane and prone to interpretation errors. Is this actually widely accepted? I would be happy if you could incorporate this aspect in your answers.

  • 1
    BTW With a tempo of allegretto there's hardly any audible difference between the two techniques. Arpeggio squiggles crossing the staves get in the way of the expression marks.The precise interpretation of arpeggios is often left up to the pianist. In harp music parallel arpeggios can be marked brisé which, confusingly, means broken. Nov 7, 2020 at 11:20

2 Answers 2


The long one in the first example sounds starting from the bottom note in the left hand and runs through to the top note in the right hand. In your second example, you start and finish both arpeggiated chords at the same time.

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    Wait, you always finish both arpeggiated chords at the same time if they're started simultaneously? I thought a 4-note chord might not end at the same time as a 3-note chord.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 7, 2020 at 14:08
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    @Dekkadeci probably part of interpretation at that point
    – minseong
    Nov 7, 2020 at 22:12
  • @Dekkadeci I agree that it's up to interpretation, but I'm gleaning (perhaps incorrectly) from your question that you're suggesting the 1st note of each chord should line up, 2nd of each, and so on, hence the 3-note chord ends at same time as 3rd note of 4-note chord. I think such an interpretation is not in the spirit of a rolled chord and risks turning a flourish into something rigid and metronomic, particularly through the effort required to sync each note at quick speed. Perhaps there's a style where this is works, but I would suggest almost any timing over that one. Dec 7, 2023 at 3:39

No, they're not the same. Yes, if several divided arpeggio lines appear underneath each other, then the arpeggios are supposed to be played in parallel. (In practice, this is almost always one arpeggio for the left and one for the right hand, so you're never going to see more than two such lines.)

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