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I found a kind of notation in a solo piano book I'm not familiar with (see image below).

As I understand it, I’m supposed to play every note and the ones in between the brackets only if possible. Is that right?

But why are the notes written like that? To distinguish between the actual melody and additional chords more easily due to an unusual structure? If so, is there a term for it?

The notation from the book

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    What piece is this? And the composer?
    – Aaron
    Mar 10 at 1:14
  • To @Aaron's query I would add: what book?
    – phoog
    Mar 10 at 10:20
  • The piece is "Blinded by Light" from the book "Piano Collections Final Fantasy XIII" by Masashi Hamauzu.
    – Mathician
    Mar 10 at 18:50

1 Answer 1

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The music is badly written, it's only possible to play every single note if you have huge hands. The composer or arranger was aware of this and put parentheses around notes that you can leave out. There's no special term for this.

There's also nothing unusual about the structure. It's very common to write multiple voices, in this case two: the melody stems up and the accompaniment stems down.

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  • Alright, thanks! I agree with "terribly written" because like that I find it harder to read. Still a question of personal preference though. I thought there may be a term regarding the separation in polyphonic notation, apparently not.
    – Mathician
    Mar 10 at 0:22
  • @Mathician It might not have been clear from my answer: 'multiple voices' is the term you're looking for.
    – PiedPiper
    Mar 10 at 8:44
  • @Mathician this sort of writing isn't particularly surprising in a so-called "reduction" of an orchestral score. Some arrangers will put a good deal of thought into producing an adaptation that is idiomatic for the piano; others will more or less transcribe the orchestra parts and leave it to the pianist to figure out the best way of playing it. In practice, the two approaches exist in some sort of tension in most every reduction. Of course, individual pianists will have different skill and different anatomy, so the choice of "best" rendering will be different for different people.
    – phoog
    Mar 10 at 10:13
  • @Mathician as suggested in this answer, the parentheses can be seen as a small explicit nod to this situation on the part of the person who created this sheet music. That said, there are some notes that lack parentheses that are unplayable by probably a majority of the population; it's not common to demand a pianist span a ninth as in the second measure of the excerpt, first beat, right hand.
    – phoog
    Mar 10 at 10:18
  • @phoog Now it all makes sense. As I found out in combination with your upper comment the piece apparently isn’t originally for the piano but an orchestral soundtrack. Thus the notation is indeed a reduction of a piece which reflects the approaches you just mentioned. This explains what seemed weird to me. I picked up the book which had a large "piano solo" on the front page at a flea market of a local university but haven’t awarely seen such reductions until now, which lead to some confusion you helped to solve. Thanks!
    – Mathician
    Mar 10 at 18:51

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