I have been transcribing a piece in 4/4 time for the piano. There is a portion of the piece where I am unsure if cross-staff beaming should be utilized or not. I have provided two examples below for how I think each triplet could be formatted.

enter image description here

Which would be better in this example (or is there another way this should be done)? The fingering is much clearer in the first triplet, but I think it might be more confusing in other aspects than the second. Also, if cross-staff beaming is be used here should are there any additional rests that need to be added?

  • 6
    Since this for piano, the first thing I'd recommend doing is using a regular bass clef for the lower staff instead of an ottava bass clef and moving the lower staff's notes accordingly. I have never seen an ottava bass clef in any piano sheet music published in paper form before. (3 ledger lines below the bass clef are perfectly fine.)
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 18:21
  • 3
    Is there a good reason you have got triplets throughout a bar of 4/4, rather than using a different time signature such as 6/4? Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 20:56

2 Answers 2


I do find this rather confusing to read. Personally I’d probably do something like this:

enter image description here


There are a few problematic aspects as written:

  1. The ottava bass is likely to throw off the reader.
  2. The triplet brackets align awkwardly, so visually confusing.
  3. The cross-staff beaming is also awkward.

Here are two alternatives.

Place everything in a single staff

Note that Lazy's version of this is more precise. I'm taking for granted that the pianist will understand the imprecision in favor of fewer markings.

Single-staff version

Change the meter to eliminate the tuplet brackets

Again, both the time change and the "incorrect" upper staff may give the reader a moment's pause, but it should be clear enough.

6/4 example

N.B.: At one point I deleted this post out of uncertainty over the appearance of "too many beats" in each example. Since then, I've confirmed that this approach is okay, as long as there is clarity in how the voices related metrically. Below is just one example, from Clara Schumann's edition of Robert Schumann's "Curiose Geschichte", Op. 15 No. 2, m. 7.

Schumann, Op. 15/2, m. 7


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