The piece is Liszt's Heroischer Marsch im Ungarischem Stil, S.231, and the passage is this (measures 57-64). Notice how irregular the beaming is in the right hand, going across barlines and grouping together some notes whilst leaving others stranded.

passage with irregular beaming

At least three versions of the sheet music use this same beaming.

Note that all of the 16th notes have the same duration; none of them are hidden triplets (like in ms 55). I am having a hard time interpreting what this signifies. My only explanation is that it is meant to show phrasing; that you should really feel and express the melody as groups of 3, 3, 4, 1, 4, and 15 notes whilst playing the melody.

But several sources call beaming for phrases a "common error", or establish really strict beaming rules, all in the name of readability. So well, why'd Liszt do it?

Is this phrasal beaming:

  • a highly unusual thing for Liszt to do (as we know him for).
  • something common in Liszt's time that's discredited now.
  • something that, as far as the method works go, young music students need to be discouraged from doing as they are likely to go nuts with it; whilst only experts know how to properly use phrasal beaming.
  • not at all phrasal beaming but something else.
  • 1
    It’s an ‘error’ only if there’s no reason for it, and where phrase marks would be clearer. Strangely, your source gives a perfect example of when it’s useful, despite complaining that it’s ‘unclear’... their ‘clear’ version is pedantically correct but not so easily readable to me. Try some more mainstream sources like Read or Gould.
    – user71850
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


Phrasal beaming is frowned upon nowadays, particularly in ensemble music, but it's still very common in solo music. Obviously Liszt was trying to convey the phrasing, but it does make the music much harder to read. This last aspect is less important in a solo piece which is unlikely to be sight read.

  • Phrasal beaming is frowned upon nowadays, particularly in ensemble music, but it's still very common in solo music. Your sentence reads a little ambiguously to me. Is it frowned upon in solo music, or not?
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 14:52
  • Adding phrasing marks to all that ink usage wouldn't really make it any easier to read and learn to play properly. What would be the advantage to a player? +1.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 15:28
  • @KeizerHarm It's not considered quite as bad when used in solo music. But composers often don't care about the rules.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 15:51
  • 2
    frowned upon by who? Just interested
    – user71850
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 18:31
  • 1
    yes, but the sources quoted by the OP are simple guides for beginners - not really relevant to the Liszt in question. Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky... they’re all fine with it if the notation suggests something that phrasing/articulation don’t on their own. I do agree with the OP that it isn’t clear what Liszt’s notation actually adds here.
    – user71850
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 19:06

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