Arpeggiated chord [A] can be realized by either playing the first note on time, and the following notes later [B], or starting a bit in advance and playing the last note on time [C].

When each of them should be used? Is it entirely up to the performer, or are there some guidelines or conventions, perhaps depending on the epoch or style? Are there any notation marks that suggest which realization to choose?

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    Or you could time it so the second or third note is on time Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 1:08
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    @ToddWilcox yes, of course one can imagine various possibilities, but at least to me these two seem the most characteristic. It would make an interesting answer if you could show an example where what you propose is preferred or recommended. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


Great question! My bible (Oxford Companion to Music) shows arps starting on the beat, rather than before it. Then goes on to state arps should not destroy the rhythm of the passage. Somewhat of an oxymoron!

An arp. sigh across one stave means play all those notes arpeggiated. Across both staves means start at the lowest and play through to the highest. And a split arp. sign means play both hands (on piano) simultaneously. Not that that helps, just interesting.

I tend to play arps so that the main note - usually the melody note - gets played in time, thus the arp. comes before the beat. But that's just my style. It will most likely depend on the genre and era, and will be left to the jurisdiction of the player to interpret what the composer wanted.

EDIT: Just retrieved my Elaine Gould's 'Behind Bars', out on loan, which states that 'A chord will be spread before the beat unless the playing style suggests otherwise'.

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