Given the sheet below (4/4 measure signature), how would you play the bass clef?

Image of measures 12 and 13 from unnamed piece

My understanding is that this is one voice with a large range (not two right?).
I'd hold down G1 & ♭D2 in the first measure, while playing the rest of the measure (same for the 2nd measure).
However, this is too far apart for me (my max is a 10th).

I thought about playing the ♭D3 in the bass clef of the first measure with my right hand, but I'm little bit lost with how to play the 2nd measure. And why is the sheet even written that way, you'd need very large hands I guess? Or do I have a misunderstanding in my sheet reading?

  • 1
    Better to not choose an answer too soon. It sometimes puts others off proffering another answer.
    – Tim
    Feb 16, 2021 at 18:20
  • Where did you get the score? Also, just curious, what is the tempo? Feb 16, 2021 at 19:47
  • 1
    It is a fan written score of an Indiana Jones soundtrack, you can find the track at youtu.be/3utehdnYtsI (check the description for sheet music). The tempo is 60bpm.
    – 0vbb
    Feb 16, 2021 at 20:42
  • 1
    It's not the worst spread I've seen. Some composers like Liszt and Rachmaninoff were able to reach a 13th, and sometimes wrote that into their music. Players with more average-sized hands may have to make modifications in order to play some of these things. Feb 17, 2021 at 14:12

4 Answers 4


This is where the middle pedal comes out to play.

Sostenuto will hold the semibreves, leaving your hands free for everything else. The D♭ itself - I'd be playing that with rh thumb, in order to play the lh A♭ and E♭ at the beginning of bar 13. Hold those with the sostenuto, freeing lh for the rest of the bar.

No middle pedal? Then the sustain will do at a push, as most of the notes belong to the same harmony, but press it after the D♭'s let go.

  • Piano makers should stop making pianos without the sostenuto pedal.
    – Vighnesh
    Dec 28, 2023 at 6:15

You are correct for the first measure. Use fingers 5 and 2 to hold the chord, and use your left-hand thumb for the Eb, F, and G. Then use your right-hand thumb for the Db.

In the second measure play all but the final C with your right hand, and pick up the C with your left.

There are three voices in total (or four, if you count the bass chords as two voices): The bass chords; the "inner" melody; and the treble voice. It's not necessary to keep a voice within one hand -- Bach, for example, routinely demands that voices move from one hand to the other -- though it's good to do so when possible.

  • 1
    Because you can play what is written with the hands, I think this is a better answer than using pedals. music.stackexchange.com/questions/63250 examples in that question show when pedals really are necessary. I suspect the music in this question is played by notation software with no thought given to actual hands. Feb 16, 2021 at 20:09
  • @MichaelCurtis - I disagree. Not everyone (including myself) can reach the D, hold it, then play the A and E. So we need to use a pedal. Your last sentence, I do agree with. Software doesn't think.
    – Tim
    Feb 16, 2021 at 20:14
  • 1
    @MichaelCurtis I'm with Tim on that as well, except I am morally opposed to the sostenuto pedal (except when explicitly indicated by the composer). However, sustain pedal will provide everything required by this particular passage. I left that out since Tim already covered it in his answer.
    – Aaron
    Feb 16, 2021 at 20:29

First of all, this is not a very good piece of music. It's just a dry and boring transcription of the main theme played at a slow tempo. It's not worth spending more energy worrying about technique than the arranger spent writing it.

That being said, many people are overly obsessed with the sostenuto (middle) pedal, and with doing weird hand gymnastics to dutifully keep fingers on the keys for the full written durations. The real solution is to just use the damper pedal. Keep everything in the hands indicated. If you have to clear the pedal before the end of the bar to keep it from getting muddy, that's fine. This is also where half-pedaling can be helpful.

Here's where everyone downvotes me and tells me I'm wrong in the comments.

"But what about the staccatos????"

(1) You're putting more thought into this than the arranger did. (2) You can create the illusion of staccato notes even with the damper pedal down, and again half-pedaling helps with this.

"But you have to sustain the whole notes for the whole bar!"

No you don't. That's just not how piano music works. Piano notes start decaying immediately, and our brains do a lot to create the illusion of sustain when it's not actually there. It's a normal notational shorthand to just slap a whole note on a measure to indicate "this is the chord for the measure"; you're not disgracing the piece if you don't manage to keep it ringing the whole time.

  • 4
    One wonders if this answer would be just as valuable without casting aspersions on the OP's music choices, the arranger, and the other SE users who chose to answer.
    – Aaron
    Feb 17, 2021 at 6:11
  • @Aaron I wish I didn't have to take an argumentative tone, but the quality of the music is integral. If this were a serious piece of music written by a serious composer, it would be worth figuring out what difficult acrobatics could be employed to execute it more faithfully, but it's just not worth it. For the underlying question of "why am I struggling with this music?", the answer is because it's poorly written, first and foremost.
    – MattPutnam
    Feb 17, 2021 at 15:05
  • I appreciate the response. My feeling is that the argumentative tone doesn't help your case. Much appreciated if you revised to say "I disagree with ..." or, better, "I feel strongly that ...", and leave the judgmental part out. (To be clear, I'm especially talking about "too many people are overly obsessed", which reads like a pretty thinly veiled jab at other answers on this and other pedal-related questions.)
    – Aaron
    Feb 18, 2021 at 23:30
  • minor edits made - I didn't take away any of the good content, just hopefully removed the rudeness that could be offputting to others
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Feb 23, 2021 at 9:30

Every single note in the excerpt is playable even if both your hands only span an octave each. I'd have to go with my left-hand pinky and middle finger for the whole notes in the bass clef of Bar 12, then figure out the bass-clef E flat, F, and G with my left-hand pointer finger and thumb. I'd play the D flat above Middle C in the lower staff of Bar 12 with my right hand instead of my left and hold down the D flat above the C above Middle C with my right hand at the same time. (Note that I play all the notes in the treble clef of Bar 12 with my right hand.) Then I'd play all the notes of the uppermost voice of the lower staff of Bar 13 except the last note of that voice with my right hand, too. In Bar 13, all the left hand needs to play are the whole notes and that last C below Middle C in the uppermost voice of the lower staff. The right hand plays everything else in Bar 13.

No sostenuto pedal required! None of the spans are actually too wide for even those whose hands span only an octave! Just split one voice between hands as necessary!

  • So I write my answer and then read Aaron's more closely. -oof to self-
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 17, 2021 at 3:38

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