I've started learning Bach's Toccata in E minor (BWV 914), and I'm having trouble understanding which hand plays which notes. Since I don't want to assume and learn it wrong I'd like to clear my doubts.

Some notes pretty much overlap and I can't understand if the left hand is supposed to play them together or not. The pauses are confusing too.

Here is the first page, I'm stuck at the bars n.7-11-12. If there's some kind of way to tell the hands apart more generally I'd like to know.

Quick note (making it clear just to be sure): I know the treble clef is usually right hand and the bass clef is left. It's just that I can't tell how it works here. Plus, my version of the score doesn't have numbers.

Thank you very much for your time.

  • 1
    I see no reason to doubt that each hand should play one staff as usual. Yes, they are very close and have in bar three the same E note right one after the other... so what? Jan 2, 2021 at 15:06
  • because sometimes they don’t...see end bar 11
    – user71850
    Jan 3, 2021 at 17:41
  • @DamianleGassick - What is wrong with playing all the lower-staff notes in Bar 11 with the left hand? Even the fingering doesn't exclude that possibility!
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 4, 2021 at 12:39
  • the ‘2’ is above the note, so this editor is suggesting Rh. You can use Lh of course but the first beat of bar 12 is very awkward if you sustain the g#: way easier to use the Rh, hence the editor’s suggestion.
    – user71850
    Jan 4, 2021 at 14:48
  • @DamianleGassick - All fingering numbers are below their respective notes in Bar 14, so I don't think that fingering numbers being above or below notes counts for anything when it comes to which hand plays which note.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 5, 2021 at 12:16

4 Answers 4


The score shown in the question appears to be the one edited by Hermann Keller, and which can be found on IMSLP.

The fingering suggested in the score is based on the idea that the right-hand plays the upper staff notes, and the left-hand plays the lower staff notes.

However, the primary issue with Bach is maintaining the integrity of the individual voices. So if the performer uses an alternative fingering -- perhaps one in which the left hand takes a note written for the right, or vice versa -- as long as the voices are preserved, there is no problem.


Fingerings above the note are Rh, those below are Lh. On this page, Rh is in top staff throughout except for the end of bar 11, and Lh stays on the lower staff.


Upper stave = r.h., lower stave = l.h. also the fingerings, even the voicing is distributed corresponding to hands and staves.

But you may always feel free to find your own solution, if you think it‘s more comfortable and better convenient.


"Plus, my version of the score doesn't have numbers."

Well, an obvious good first move would be to get a version that DOES have fingerings! Like the one you showed us an excerpt of.

Bach didn't write anything in this piece (BWV 914) that COULDN'T be played by two hands, but his interweaving musical lines often needed some 'ducking and diving' to make them work! Study the printed fingerings. Very often it isn't a simple case of 'top stave right hand, bottom stave left hand'.

  • I thought that Bach's organ pieces would require the feet in addition to the hands (which is why piano transcriptions of that famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor often prove problematic).
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 4, 2021 at 12:40
  • 1
    Yes, his organ works did use the pedals. But BWV 914 (like the 'Well-tempered clavier' set) is for 'clavier' not organ.
    – Laurence
    Jan 4, 2021 at 13:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.