I stumbled upon this notation on the first page of the 3rd movement of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata:

Sheet music moonlight sonata

Does the position of the note mean that it is to be played with the right hand?

I can see no reason why it couldn't be on the second staff, so I guess there must be a reason why it's been placed on the first staff. But at the same time, it feels really unnatural to play this note with the right hand.

  • 1
    Good question, which spawns another - why did Beethoven feel the need to make that A natural. It was going to be so anyway- or was it something to do with the melodic minor notes, but still it doesn't need the natural.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 8:03
  • 1
    @Tim It is to point out the A was creating a dissonant (major 7th) with the g sharp in the upper voice on purpose (or minor ninth with the lower g sharp). Composers often do this so it won't be changed by the editor in a misguided attempt to 'fix an error'.
    – 11684
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 8:50

2 Answers 2


There are no pedal markings, so the low G should be held with the left hand. That makes this note possibly more convenient to strike with a sforzando with the right hand depending on the reach of your fingers. The edition of the score that you've quoted indicates this (clearly, IMO).

As nonpop observes, the original manuscript is different on this point, closer to what you describe. I'd still avoid the pedal so as not to blur the upper notes(1). But the sforzando is not strictly necessary. So the melody may be more fluid by not splitting it between the hands.

snip from manuscript

(from http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Sonata_No.14,_Op.27_No.2_%28Beethoven,_Ludwig_van%29)

  1. It will be very useful to try to break the habit of using the pedal unconsciously, training your fingers to hold the notes for their full value.
  • So do you mean that this notation really says that it's to be played with the right hand?
    – BenMorel
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 22:31
  • That's how it looks to me. I think it would be more difficult to play the note with the proper sforzando accent with the left thumb while the pinky is holding the low note. The left hand is anchored through the measure, while the right hand is not. Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 22:45
  • That perfectly makes sense then. It didn't for me at first glance as I always remove the pinky straight away and actually rely on the pedal even though it's not on the score (I always play the pedal intuitively and have never actually read the markings) - that might be an heresy though!
    – BenMorel
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 22:53
  • 2
    @Benjamin: If you're worried about heresy you should know that Beethoven did not write it like that. He wrote no accent, no sf, no hairpins, the slur should start on a different note, and all the lower melody notes in this bar, from A to C# instead of just A, he wrote on the upper staff (suggesting that he did not suggest them to be played with the right hand). You can find the manuscript on IMSLP. In your version the editor clearly suggests right hand for A, though.
    – nonpop
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 7:06

In my personal experience, I play that note with the left hand. You are right that it feels unnatural to play the note with the right hand. Notice how you have a sort of melodic line in the middle voice (F# - E - A - G# ...). Therefore the melodic contour should not be broken up between the hands if you can help it.

Then again, that is an interval of a minor ninth, and if you feel that your l.h cannot stretch the distance then it would be okay to use your r.h.

  • Interval's more likely a minor 9th.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 7:10

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