This debate didn't solve this at all. enter image description here


How is this played? Do you play the F and then the F, A, D together, or do you not play the first F, and then play the F, A, D together. And if you don't play the F at all, then why do you play the other quarter notes with the exact same notation, or do you not play any of the quarter notes?

  • 1
    There are many very similar questions, the best match seems to be this and there is also a related meta question.
    – guidot
    Sep 25, 2023 at 21:16

4 Answers 4


You play the F, A and D at the same time. There is only one F to be played. All other quarter notes are played as they are, and are unimpacted by the "extra" F.

The reason the extra F is there is to communicate to the reader that the F in the D + A + F chord serves as part of the melody.

  • Adding to this answer: this is a common feature of keyboard notation (not specific only to the piano but also on the organ and the harpsichord), where the same instrumentist effectively plays multiple separate musical parts (called "voices") and a distinction needs to be made between them so as to make the structure of the music more easily understood.
    – AlexJ
    Sep 25, 2023 at 14:26
  • What? Why? Why is the F at the start of the measure not played?
    – javabart
    Sep 25, 2023 at 17:40
  • @javabart Think of it as if, instead of a piano, you had an orchestra or a choir. Sometimes, some instruments or singers, each with their own separate part, will end up on the same note (maybe for the same duration, maybe, as in your example, not). The way this is written in the example is how one can make clear for the pianist which part is which - i.e. melody and accompaniment.
    – AlexJ
    Sep 25, 2023 at 18:22
  • @javabart I think Andy Bonner's answer below raises a good point. The F quarter note slightly to the left of the F half note; it's not at a different time. Both those Fs occur right at the onset of the beat. That answers your question: "why is the F ...?" Just remember that sheet music a tool used to communicate music. Often it's communicating what to play and when. But sometimes it communicates song structure. That's what this "extra" F is; the writer saying "by the way, in case you hadn't noticed, this F at start of the measure works as both part of the D + F + A chord, and also the melody".
    – Alan
    Sep 25, 2023 at 18:34

I see one potential point of confusion that other answers haven't covered. You ask about timing, and which notes you play first or play together. You might be asking because the F quarter note appears to the left of the other notes. This doesn't actually mean anything about timing; both the quarter and half note Fs count as "beat one"; it's just that one has to be shifted a bit to avoid overlapping.

This is about the idea of having multiple "voices" at once. This might seem odd since you're not a choir, just one pianist. But the idea is that your one instrument can "suggest" multiple ones at once, or that "if this music were being sung by a choir, here are the notes that one voice would sing."

Let's make up a simple example. Say this is the melody:

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Now let's add a few notes:

enter image description here

The way we've notated this, with noteheads sharing a single stem, we're implying that this is not two voices, just a single instrument that can play double stops. But what if this were actually for two singers? On beat one, what happens? Do they both sing F, or does one of them rest? Both could be options:

enter image description here

enter image description here

For singers, those two versions are very different. But for piano, the two examples above will be performed almost exactly the same. You'll press the F key, then the F and A together, etc. So why bother notating it this way? Well, for one thing, even if both examples wind up sounding exactly the same, it shows an idea about the music. Notated music is more than instructions about what to press when. And secondly, you might try to show the different ideas by making some notes louder or more connected than others.

Now, say you want this:

enter image description here

You want to press the F key on beat one, and keep it down while adding A in beat two. This is one way to show it. But so is this:

enter image description here

These two notations say the same thing about timing. The only difference is that the second one shows "two voices." And honestly it might be even clearer than the previous one, in which the tie could be confused for a slur between the F and the A. In the second notation, you still only press the F key once. The quarter notehead is shifted to the left since it can't just overlap the half note, but they happen at the same time. And, as a pianist, you only have the one key to press, but if this were sung, two people would both be singing Fs at that moment.

  • But then if you don't play the F quarter note 1) how is that denoted here, and 2) why are we playing all the other quarter notes in the measure?
    – javabart
    Sep 25, 2023 at 17:42
  • I am having a mental block. The two links you used make no sense to me. This all sounds like gibberish to me. "Let's look at what going in the bass clef. You are playing a B for beats 1 and 2 and then playing another B on beat 3, but you also play a D for beats 2 and 3 in the bass. Because you play the D on beats 2 and 3 and the B is also being played on beats 1 and 2, the rest is used to show you what beat to start playing the D." Well no duh, the D doesn't get played with the B, it isn't positioned there. This all sounds like people are saying random things.
    – javabart
    Sep 25, 2023 at 18:02
  • @javabart I'll see if I can edit with clearer examples. Sep 26, 2023 at 0:48
  • Solved. It seems insane to me to put notes on the page I am not intended to play, but I get it.
    – javabart
    Sep 26, 2023 at 16:45
  • @javabart Or you could say that you do play "both" Fs "at once" in a single key press! That's the thing—on a piano, these "voices" are to some degree "imaginary." But they're still a real idea. Sep 26, 2023 at 23:04

This notates multiple voices where two voices fall together in one voice. This means you play the a and the f and keep them pressed over the next beat where you add the c. It then requires some differentiated touch to phrase this in such a way that the individual voices are audible.

Alternatively one might increase differentiation by playing certain notes early or late, but this is not specified in the score! If notated you’d expect to find tied grace notes to denote this. If it is not notated you can of course still do so as personal choice, but I see no real advantage from doing so in this particular case.

  • The other person above said to NOT play the F quarter note at all though...
    – javabart
    Sep 25, 2023 at 17:41
  • @javabart You do play it, it is just that you can only press down a key once. But you will need to play the note by means of phrasing and articulation.
    – Lazy
    Sep 25, 2023 at 17:59

To all intents and purposes the very first F crotchet is there to 'make up the numbers'. It is the melody, and also part of the accompaniment, but the melody lasts for 1 beat, while the accompaniment lasts for two. So play F,(at the same time as the A beneath) and hold it down.

As in, this is a piano transcription, with multiple parts. The tails up could have been played by one instrument, tails down by a different one. Writing it out for piano, the sums need to add up, so the F is shown with the top line (stems up), and also middle line (of music), (tails down). So there's no need to play the F twice, just keep it pressed while you play the C after. It's a bit of a stretch, so might benefit from use of the damper pedal.

  • Not playing twice doesn't equal ignoring. The voices are notated for a reason. Sep 25, 2023 at 14:54
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    @user1079505 - edited: better? I meant ignore as in not play twice, which I gathered OP was confused about.
    – Tim
    Sep 25, 2023 at 15:10
  • I still don't understand. There are some people saying play the quarter note and hold it into the half not, and others saying don't play the quarter note at all. I do not understand why we would write a note that isn't played at all.
    – javabart
    Sep 25, 2023 at 17:44

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