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In this measure, two voices play the same note (one head, 2 stems). Is it just for style or should I play the note louder to imitate 2 notes being played?

An image showing a measure with 2 voices. The final minim has both voices on the same note (one head 2 stems).

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  • Does this answer your question? Same note to be played with both hands?
    – guidot
    Commented May 18 at 20:54
  • @guidot - it's the same situation, but a different way of looking at it.
    – Tim
    Commented May 19 at 13:42
  • Context matters, too. I can see there are more instruments and/or voices above this on the score. Is the piano doubling their notes here?
    – AJFaraday
    Commented May 20 at 10:56

3 Answers 3

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No change in volume. The score is just letting you know that both voices happen to be “singing” the same note.

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As stated in another answer, the different stem directions show two different parts written on a single staff. Typically they might be sung by sopranos and altos, or played by two instruments. A note with stems in both directions is sung/played by both parts.

You might expect that a note played by two instruments together would be twice as loud. While this sounds like a lot, doubling the energy of the sound works out to be only a 3dB change in sound energy level, and this is roughly the smallest change a human ear can reliably detect.

If one instrument is quieter than the other the dB level is even closer to the level of a single part.

Our ears know that two instruments are playing a note because the sound is different, not because it is louder. We can hear a quieter instrument with a louder instrument because of the difference in sound quality.

Additionally, on a piano the sound quality changes as the note is played with more force - a louder note is not just louder, but it sounds different.

For these reasons, playing a double-stemmed note louder does not make it sound like two instruments; it only makes it sound as though the note has been accented. As a result you should not play it louder unless you wish to accent it.

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  • The smallest change in perceived loudness (JND or just noticeable difference) is about 1 dB -- a little less at high levels and a little more at low levels. Commented May 20 at 17:04
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This kind of writing happens often when reduced to piano parts. It simply means here, that the soprano and alto lines converge, and it makes easier reading to put two stems on the same note. No need to play that note any louder than it would normally be played - slightly quieter than the 1st beat f the bar, slightly louder than the 2nd. A logical thought would be that since it represents two different instruments playing that it would be slightly louder, but it's not usually the case: play it as if it had one stem.

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