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I am trying to play this on piano but it seems very hard for me and I may be doing it wrong. Can anyone give me some suggestions on how to play this with my left hand playing the chords and the right hand playing the treble clef melody? Would you need to play this with a sustain pedal in the first note? When I do that it kind of sounds better but not sure if that is the right technique for such a piano part.

  • 1
    There are many questions on this topic. Please take a few minutes to check them out.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 18:37
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    The last bars of this sample are virtually impossible to play without having freakishly large hands. This is quite simply very bad piano writing. Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 8:20
  • Is this a piece written for piano, or is this a score of a larger ensemble condensed into two staves? If it's the latter, that would explain the "impossible" moments (like the last measure).
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 11:34
  • Richard, I am not sure if it is written for piano and the fact that you ask kind of already half answers the question. Ignoring the end, would the bass note and chords be a normal part for the left hand alone or would the lower stave be for playing with two hands ie bass note in left triad shape in right.
    – user35708
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 11:58
  • Aaron which questions?
    – user35708
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 12:00

3 Answers 3


When I first wrote my answer, I looked at the beginning and thought it was just an oddly notated piano piece. After reading some of the comments and paying closer attention to measures 7 and 8, I think this may be a condensed version of an ensemble piece, not meant for direct performance at all, but shown on one staff system for the purposes of analysis.

As Tim said, the bass notes should not be sustained while the chords are played. Rests are explicitly shown. At first, it seems one could play the lower staff on piano with the left hand by pedaling the bass note through its duration to give enough time to lift the hand and prepare for the chord. I've pedaled many a waltz this way:

measure 1 with pedal sample

But once we get to measure 7, we have a chord in the bass clef that spans a tenth (from E♭3 to G4) followed by a chord that spans a twelfth (from B♭2 to F4):

measure 7

You'd need "Rachmaninoff hands" to play that. At least the bass notes are notated staccato to give us license to arpeggiate a bit. (If we ignore the slur between the chords!)

Then we get to measure 8 which is simply impossible in two [human] hands as it spans two octaves (from E♭2 to E♭4):

measure 8

Picking up the whole chord with the right hand is also impossible as the span is a minor thirteenth, from G3 to E♭5. One might split the chord between hands, but it would still require a span of a twelfth in the left and an octave in the right or a tenth in the left and an eleventh in the right.

So I think if this is for piano at all, the piano is meant to play only the bass clef. The rests clearly indicate it should be thought of as two voices.

If the treble clef is intended for a solo instrument, I'm not sure which one. The chords in measures 4 and 5 suggest it's a string, not a wind:

measure 4

measure 5

The melody is in the range of a violin.

I don't think the "P" above certain notes is standard notation for any particular instrument; it's more likely part of a lesson— the "P" only occurs above circled notes, when the melody is descending through non-chord tones. I concur with Dekkadeci and Laurence Payne that these are indicating "passing notes".

If this piece were really is meant for a single instrument, what might it be?

I suppose the whole piece might be playable by the right person on a guitar, if it were tuned down a semitone (to reach that last E♭ in the bass.) I haven't made an effort to work out the fingering.

One other possibility for the whole piece is accordion. I'd have to check to see whether the bass clef chord voicing aligns with a stradella system. However, accordion music often omits the chord tones and just notates the root with a symbol to indicate chord type.

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    How would you pedal what looks like the most problematic measure by far, Bar 7?
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 21:52
  • Thanks and I agree with pedaling the bass note just to play the chord but is this common on the piano or would that lower stave normally be played with 2 hands, the left playing the bass note while the right plays the chord? I am asking because this is a fairly common pattern in 3/4 time
    – user35708
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 12:26
  • @armani I wrote this answer before I caught what's going on in the last couple measures. I will edit the answer.
    – Theodore
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 13:12
  • The Bar 8 fragment can be pulled off with two hands as long as your left hand can span a 12th or your right hand can span an 11th (and your left hand can span a 10th), as the two highest notes are only one octave apart (both E flats).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 16:41
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    Also, as far as I can tell, the "P"s stand for passing notes (the type of non-chord tone).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 16:43

This is not a piano part that can be played literally. More a 'short score' of an instrumental work. A pianist would recognise the musical intentions and do the best they could to reproduce them (and might actually get surprisingly close with judicious pedalling and chord spreading!)

What are the circled notes marked 'p'? My guess is that this piece may be presented for analysis rather than for performance, and 'p' means 'passing note'.

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    I think your "passing note" explanation is correct.
    – Theodore
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 15:34

Strictly speaking the bass note does not need holding with pedal. The rests tell us that. The bass note lasts one beat only, the chords one beat each. That's the way it's written. It may sound better with being pedalled, but that's not what it asks for.

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    What about Bar 7? The half note chord on top conflicting with the staccato quarter note below....
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 21:53
  • @Dekkadeci - this seems to be a transcription from 3 or 4 part music onto a piano score. Often not a successful undertaking. Even use of the sostenuto pedal won't help. Written by someone who's not particularly versed in proper piano playing. Only sort of solution, unless one has huge hands, would be to play the bass note with pinky, swiftly followed by the chord, but that's not strictly what's written. Your answer?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 8:18

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