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. Aug 2 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. Aug 3 at 13:04
  • Is there any reason not to use the term "alternating hands"?
    – phoog
    Sep 3 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
    Sep 3 at 16:40

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