I don't want to change the clef at the top, so I wrote the first group of notes in the bottom, but I also want the first notes (chord) of the bar to be in the second voice. But in this case, it becomes unclear which hand to play them. And besides, it skews the grouping. How to write it best and beautiful?

Original score excerpt

I was looking at Chopin's example and wanted to make something like that. But in my case it's a bit different.

Chopin Etude in C Minor excerpt

Update: The first chord and the last 32nd note in the second voice (should be played by right hand), the rest in the first. I hid the pauses for now. And generally, I try to hide all the "unnecessary" pauses that could be confusing, how it often happens in cross-staff situations. Detail of first score excerpt

  • 2
    Are these supposed to be measures of 32/33, or perhaps a Messiaen-inspired additive rhythm?
    – Richard
    Feb 26, 2021 at 0:09
  • Also, when you say the chord should be "in the second voice", do you mean the left hand should play the chord?
    – Aaron
    Feb 26, 2021 at 0:10
  • I think if the right hand is playing the first chord of each measure, there should be no 16th rest in the treble staff. Also Richard's question is a good one - what's the intention with the final 32nd note of each measure? How does it fit in metrically? It doesn't make sense to me that the first chord is in a separate voice since it doesn't have to be be played simultaneously with the first voice. The last 32nd note is a whole nother problem. Feb 26, 2021 at 1:03
  • Well, I had a choice between a 32nd note, or a grace note before the next chord. I originally wrote with a 32nd note and decided to keep it.
    – prstch
    Feb 26, 2021 at 1:06
  • It really might not make a lot of sense. I just wanted not to group the chord with other notes. If I leave it in the first voice and unbeam, it seemed incorrect to me. That's why I'm asking for help.
    – prstch
    Feb 26, 2021 at 1:12

1 Answer 1


This is almost exactly how it should be written. It will be clear to any pianist how to group it and which hand to play it with. If you want to be extra clear, you could mark it with "RH" for "Right hand".

Here are the changes that should be made:

  1. Regarding the sixteenth rest, either:
    A. Remove it, or
    B. If the intention is that the initial chord be perceived as a separate voice, then use a downward stem and move the 16th rest to be just above the chord. You should probably also place a dotted eighth rest immediately after it and below the right-hand part for clarity. You might also add an indication that it is to be played with the right hand. A bracket would probably be cleanest. See What does the L-shaped symbol attached to C5 and G4 on the top staff mean?

  2. Regarding the 32nd note at the end of the measure, either:
    A. Make it a grace note at the beginning of the following measure, connected to the chord, or B. If the intention is that it be in its own voice, use a downward stem, preceded by a double-dotted eighth rest at the beginning of the beat and below the right-hand part.

Were I the composer, my preference would be something like the below. The major change, which I allow could be a misinterpretation, is that I've converted the chords to whole notes. Also, I've changed the 32nd notes (the first one) to grace notes.

Beaming example

Just to confirm that the above "whole note" example is standard notation, here is a similar "problem" from Erik Satie's Gymnopedie #1. See overlapping note on same staff for an image of the problem measures.

Were this actually written for multiple voice/instruments, the fact that two voices/instruments play the same pitch would be no problem. The issue only arises in trying to manage multiple voices on a single instrument. So interpretively the notation is correct, but it presents a literal problem. See How does one maintain voice integrity when longer and shorter notes of the same pitch occur in two voices for detailed discussion on how to manage the technical aspect.

  • 1
    It looks to me like we have two voices- the right hand playing 16 16th notes + an extra 32nd note (this doesn't add up), the left hand playing 8 8th notes, and then there's a stray 16th rest at the beginning. Are you sure it's right? I can't make sense of it.
    – Edward
    Feb 26, 2021 at 0:03
  • @Edward Ah! Good catch. I didn't even notice the 32nds at the ends of the measures. The sixteenth rest really should be a quarter rest, but you're right, it's not clear. Maybe the chord is supposed to be left hand? Will ask for clarification....
    – Aaron
    Feb 26, 2021 at 0:09
  • @Aaron how'd you write if you wanted a chord to be perceived as a separate voice?
    – prstch
    Feb 26, 2021 at 3:37
  • @prstch I tried to answer that in part 1B. Please let me know if the explanation needs to be clarified.
    – Aaron
    Feb 26, 2021 at 3:38
  • 1
    This is so much clearer! Feb 26, 2021 at 16:18

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