There is a technique in piano in which one plays a melody by alternating the left and right hand.

A well known example is in Bach's toccata and fugue in D minor, in the toccata part (right after the intro).

Is there a name for this technique?

enter image description here (copied from IMSLP)

  • 1
    If the point is not so much the actual fingering that you use, but an alternation between low notes and high notes, there are some relevant terms. For the toccata, the low notes repeat the same pitch (for several measures); that's a form of pedal point. There's also "hocket," in which multiple voices take turns with their notes to create an "interlocking" texture. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 12:51
  • There doesn't seem to be a word for it! Michael Curtis's answer to an earlier question here may be useful. The problem (my problem, at any rate) with using the word hocket to describe those bars is that it would be anachronistic. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 13:04
  • Is there any reason not to use the term "alternating hands"?
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


This passage is suspected to be a transcription from a stringed instrument, where you would execute this on alternating strings. That technique is called bariolage. No equally standard term exists for keyboard music.

  • The fugue subject is also an example of bariolage, but it does not call for alternating hands on the keyboard.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 16:40

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