I've read a bunch of questions on how to play something like this, but I'm not sure how best to notate it. It seems to me there must be a more elegant way, e.g. if the whole note had a dropped stem or something as well.


Alternatively, since the whole note will have to be released by the second beat, I suppose it could just be dropped altogether without changing the melody.

  • 1
    How have you been actually playing on the piano? This seems like something written and performed in software, which when played back will be treated like a two manual keyboard rather than the single keyboard of an acoustic piano. Commented Apr 2 at 20:54
  • @MichaelCurtis As if the whole note were a quarter note; I hold it till it needs to be released so it can be restruck for beat 2. Note that this ends a melody phrase from the previous bar so I strike it with my right hand — let me just add that for context. Commented Apr 2 at 20:56
  • 2
    Can you explain more about what you don't like about this way? I'm not sure what a stem would have to do with it Commented Apr 2 at 21:04
  • 1
    Well, stems don't necessarily say anything about which hands to use; they just mean that there are two "voices," which is more a musical idea than anything. (That's also why you should print a whole note if it "makes sense for the music," even if the actual execution doesn't create one.) But my perception is that usually the two staves of the grand staff do make an implication about which note is played with which hand, so you've got that covered. Commented Apr 2 at 22:24
  • 1
    I'll let actual pianists answer more conclusively, but that's what I expect is true, and that this notation is just fine. You could switch to a quarter note plus rests if that's what you feel really fits your compositional intent, but if the whole note is the "musical ideal," what you want the performer and hopefully hearer to imagine, or what you would want done on an instrument that could do it, then I say stick with it. Commented Apr 2 at 22:36

3 Answers 3


This really is the best way insofar as:

  1. the musical intention is for a whole note in the right hand, and
  2. it's well-established convention at this point.

However, one does sometimes see the left-hand part written in the treble staff, which can make recognizing the overlapping notes easier, depending on the specific situation.

In the case of the given example, it would look something like:

LH part written in RH staff


There is nothing wrong with this - it just doesn't make logical sense. The l.h. will be expected to play all 8 quavers, but the r.h. will be expected to hold the semibreve for the whole bar. All a bit silly, as that won't actually happen.

There's no need, of course, for the l.h. to play the first note at the same time as the r.h. plays it - pointless! But it may help some players to actually do that. Most will hold down the r.h. for its full value, while the l.h. plays the remaining seven notes in the bar.

There is no simpler way to write out this kind of thing - which actually would be more fitting for two manuals, or two different instruments. So, continue, and we'll all translate it as it is in reality!


If you are using the pedal at that point, I think a pedal sign would be appropriate, and it makes execution clearer...

enter image description here

If you aren't doing that, and you want the notation to reflect what your hands are actually doing, something like this seems to make things clearer...

enter image description here

...or something like that. You might change stem directions, etc. depending on the exact details.

If the pedal is used, there really isn't much point is the two part rhythm details, the C4 will sustain, with repeated strikes, til the end of the measure.

If the pedal is not used, using the whole note leaves it a bit unclear how many repeated strikes of C4, when, and for how long are needed. At least to me.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.