I have this Gershwin songbook for piano and voice. I am not sure whether I am supposed to play the vocal line. The vocal line has its own staff, but the notes are also doubled on the piano's staff as well. In some sections of the songs it is clear that the accompaniment follows the vocal line but the piano plays chords underneath the melody notes as opposed to just the melody notes. However, in other sections of the song, it seems impossible to play all the notes written on the piano's staff. For instance in the music below, at the second line from the top where the lyrics are: "We'd love to take a picture of the happy bride" The vocal line appears identical in the top single staff as well as the treble clef of the piano part. But in some instances the melody notes go too high to be able to play all the notes written. Why do they do that? How am I supposed to approach this? Am I supposed to only play the notes with the stems pointing down, indicating the accompaniment part?

Pag 179 from Gershwin songbook


4 Answers 4


Do what the singer wants you to.

Some singers may prefer you to double the vocal part, perhaps to help give them confidence. A more experienced singer is likely to prefer that you do not double the vocal part, as this approach allows more prominence to the voice. An inexperienced singer learning the music may prefer you to double the melody during early rehearsals, but not later on. There may even be sections played with the vocal line and sections played without. The music is written in a way that provides for all these options depending on the skill and desires of the singer and accompanist.


As a piano solo, the piano part — the two lower staves — is intended to be played as written. Were it being used to accompany a singer, then the stem-up notes could be included or omitted as desired.

The one place where the notes span more than an octave is in the middle of the second system on the word "of". In that case, though, the chord on "-ture" is only an eighth note. That can be played, then released to play the D on "of". It is also expected that pedal will be used to assist as needed.


In my opinion you can just ignore the melodyline performed by the voice.

But why do they do this?

If you play the song without a singer you need to play the melody too:

Be free to adapt the arrangement to your abilties. The biggest span is in the 3rd line groom. The middle E and D can be played with the thumb.

  • There's no D there; it's an E. The chord is E-F#-A#
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 9:13
  • in the measure of groom - 1st bar 3rd line - there's is no F#. But yes, the 2nd bar needs a spam of finger 2-5 of a 7th. So we have to drop the higher E. Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 9:18
  • Oh, you mean probably the groom in line 4 ? There is a decime in the left hand F#-A#, that could be a handycap to: Play first F# and then subito A# Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 9:43
  • Ah, yes. You're right. My mistake.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 12:55

The middle line is there to cover all. The top line is there to cover solely the vocal part. Tha bottom line covers what the piano left hand will play - or even a bass guitar part.

As far as 'what lines do I play?' is concerned, it's up to you - and the vocalist. They may prefer either - a consummate singer will probably like his own melody line absent from the r.h., whereas a beginner, or one learning the piece, would like it for support. 'Twere it me, I'd be playing verbatim until the singer is confident, then trying without the top notes in the treble clef.

There's also the very top line - the chords, for guitar, uke, et al.And there's no good reason why the piano player can't use that as a guide to accompaniment, making the bottom two lines redundant.

It's interesting that the 2nd and 3rd lines actually desigate vocals, with stems up. But the 1st line does no such thing - and at the end, there are notes which are only payed by piano, not sung.

So, no golden rule, but lots of options!

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