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I'm totally new to piano. I have a background in guitar, programming and some math, therefore I tend to think a little in an "exact number of boxes" fashion or "an array of numbers" as in programming.

From the little I've learnt so far, I've become used to finding a complete subdivision of the time signature on each clef (bass and treble) such as this:

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where it is very clear that both the bass clef can be divided into 8 eighth notes. The bass clef has 8 eighth notes and the treble clef has 8 eighth notes.

With some effort I could eventually figure out how to count and play this.

Now, in the following case:

enter image description here

I'm expecting to find 16 eighth notes on each clef, but I can't possibly figure out to match the notes+silences present to a 16 eighth note measure on each clef. The treble clef adds up to 12 eighth notes (4 eighths missing which are somehow equal to the bottom dotted quarter plus the subsequent eighth??).

The bass clef adds up to 10 eighth notes (6 eighths missing which are equal to the treble's eighth silence + subsequent eighth note chord + subsequent quarter note chord). You get the idea, and I assume the math is pointing somewhere very clear but I can't yet grasp how I would both clefs together.

I'm managing to play this part by listening to the recorded song, but without that aid I would have failed to figure out the proper rhythm. My attempt at re-writing the bass and treble parts as complete 16 eighth note measures failed completely.

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    You’re miscounting. There are eight eighths in both staves, as expected.
    – Aaron
    Oct 11, 2023 at 15:49
  • Maybe you've been confused by the fact that some of the notes "overlap"; e.g. the left hand changes halfway through a quarter note that the right hand is sustaining. You're on the right track to try writing it out as a measure full of eighth notes; perhaps post your attempt as a separate question and we can see what went wrong. (Also, why do we keep talking about "16 eighth notes on each clef"? There should be 8 in a measure.) Oct 11, 2023 at 16:00
  • To put it in programming terms: the treble of the first example is an array that contains some null elements. The second example contains only one null element, but it contains some that occupy more than one of the smallest unit; in an Excel sense, they're like "merged cells." But the two arrays aren't dependent on each other. Make sure you're counting each one accurately independently before you try to merge them. The results of merging treble with bass are simply the results of executing both independently and simultaneously. Oct 11, 2023 at 16:14
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    Thanks you guys for your answers. Sure I have this messed up in various ways. Yep, I was indeed confused by the overlaps. I was also messing up 8ths for 16ths because in some Spanish teaching methods 8th notes are called a "half time" note.
    – geeheeb
    Oct 11, 2023 at 16:39

1 Answer 1

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Why are you expecting to find 16 8th notes per stave in a 4/4 bar? 4/4 is 4 quarter notes per bar (or 8 8th notes or 16 16th notes, etc).

You are also miscounting. The staves are independent of each other and there are 8 8th notes in each stave, just like in your first example, which is probably also in 4/4. Rests count the same as notes, dotted notes (notes with a dot following them) are 1.5 times their value and tied notes are the sum of the two values. The dots and lines above or below the notes are staccato or legato articulations and do not affect the durations of the notes:

Treble clef: 1+1+2+2+1+1=8

Bass clef: 3+3+1+1=8

Also, regarding your title question, in this case the treble and bass staves do not share notes, although that is sometimes done in more complex piano music.

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    Thanks you guys for your answers. Sure I have this messed up in various ways. Yep, I was indeed confused by the overlaps. I was also messing up 8ths for 16ths because in some Spanish teaching methods 8th notes are called a "half time" note.
    – geeheeb
    Oct 11, 2023 at 16:40
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    @geeheeb as I read your question I was expecting something a little different. Sometimes, a right hand note or a few will be written on the lower staff or a left hand note or two on the upper, and when this is done there is typically no rest written (because the hand is doing something; it's just written somewhere else). It's not strictly important to be able to consider each staff separately in adding up the time values in each bar; what matters is the overall part. Sometimes more than one logical voice is written on each staff, and in some pieces the number of logical voices is not constant.
    – phoog
    Oct 11, 2023 at 18:07

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