I have a simple question on the following image. How would I know if the first C is a quarter note or eighth note?

Could this ever be considered a tie between the two C's ?

enter image description here

Additional: This is the 2nd measure of Pomp and Circumstance from the book Funtime Piano Classics. FYI, I googled an alternate arrangement, and found enter image description here

which leads me to believe that it is meant to be a tie - and yet another way to write it :(

  • This is poor notation, as the answers suggest. It's certainly a written eight-note, which it should not be (should be a quarter) Jul 12, 2021 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


I'm writing another answer, after reading the comments, and doing some research. I am going to delete my previous answer, as I now realize it's misleading.

The measure comes from an arrangement of part of March no. 1 from "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar. If the book doesn't mention it, it's not good.

Elgar composed the marches for an orchestra. Arrangements for piano were done by other people. In such case it's always good to check the original composition.

An example recording can be found at:

and the score at: http://cantorion.org/music/552/Pomp-and-Circumstance-March-No.-1-Full-score section I.

There are only two rhythmic layers in that section: a melody, and a steady, quarter note accompaniment. No voice plays a half note in the measure in question.

This answers the question: the C belongs to accompaniment. It is supposed to be played twice, as a quarter note each time.

The piano notation you showed is bad for several reasons:

  • the curvy line is supposed to be a slur and it's supposed to refer to the top notes in the example. It should be therefore printed above the top notes
  • the line is stylized as a tie. I'm not an expert of typography, and I'm not sure if strict rules exist, but after seeing many scores in my life, visually the line in the example looks more like a tie than a slur. For example Musescore draws slurs more curved than ties, and it seems right to me.
  • even if we correctly interpret the slur correctly, there is one more issue: each of the C notes should be of the same length, quarter note, rather than an eight note followed by an eight-note pause.

This is a correct notation of the measure:

enter image description here

All this hints issues with the book you're using.

I'd like to also draw the community attention to a question I once asked on Meta: Could SE ask for more details on the scores in questions

  • 1
    Interesting, that your other answer, although inaccurate, garnered 9 upvotes. Can't help wondering how many of those were prompted by OP accepting that answer. Just a thought...
    – Tim
    Jul 21, 2021 at 6:46
  • Thanks for the detailed answer! With regard to the comment about whether the question had enough detail, I thought that I was asking an academic question about how to interpret the music notation as it was written, and whether there was any ambiguity in its interpretation. But the community went after the wider question of whether the measure is in fact written correctly (which requires a lot more context). In any case, I am glad the question wasn't closed out of hand since it led to an interesting discussion and I think we all learned something.
    – Darren
    Jul 23, 2021 at 18:12
  • 1
    @Darren Yes, looking at many questions asked at SE I often see people asking questions assuming that music notation is always perfect and unambiguous. In fact various abbreviations, markings specific for given style, instrument, or even composition, and plain bad practice and mistakes are quite common. It's therefore important to know the context. For arrangements, even good ones, learning about the original is invaluable. Jul 24, 2021 at 1:32

Whilst it looks like a tie, it must be a slur, which ought to be over the top notes rather than under it all. It seems to be a poor example of writing, as there doesn't need any tie to be there; the first C could have been written as a minim, with the stem down, indicating a different voice, which it should be anyway.

Were the first C only a quaver, it could't be tied to the second, as there is then a missing quaver rest. Putting that rest in would negate the tie.

  • @user1079505 - don't you think the slur mark in the 1st example is the slur mark in the second, but written properly? There's no point at all in not using a minim for the C note - that actually does last the 2 beats needed. So maybe it's meant to be a tie, but a slur over all (3 top) notes makes more sense. That apart, the 1st C looks far more like a quaver than a crotchet, hence my answer. 1st one is just badly written - and actually amounts to nothing. Yes, maybe it should be a tie, but it's a badly written tie. In your second example, all of what I say becomes clear - the minim, and ...
    – Tim
    Jul 12, 2021 at 13:57
  • ...the slur/phrase mark. What else?
    – Tim
    Jul 12, 2021 at 14:01
  • @user1079505 - the tie mark is used wrongly, so could easily actually be the slur, as shown in the 2nd example. Yes, the C needs holding for the whole minim, but that's not shown well, in example 1. And, funnily enough, in the video, that C is actually played twice. So where's the tie now? Watch, check, and respond, please!
    – Tim
    Jul 12, 2021 at 16:25
  • 1
    The mark is stylised as a tie, so it’s intended to be a tie, but the second eigth note should be a C-G chord, not just a G, and the tie must be between adjacent notes (so you need two smaller ties here). tl;dr: this is invalid musical notation, but you can fix it up with a pencil yourself ☺ as the intent is… sort of clear enough.
    – mirabilos
    Jul 12, 2021 at 16:35
  • "The" video? I found at least five. OK, at least three played by apparently competent adults.
    – David K
    Jul 13, 2021 at 2:56

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