In the opening bars of this c-sharp minor nocturne, we have the famous descending scales that are played twice, first in piano then in pianissimo. Here's a snapshot (source) of the part in question: enter image description here

Question: The lower curved line connecting the two c sharps of the right hand, (i.e. between the 2nd and 3rd chords of right hand, similarly between 4th and 5th chords), does this line correspond to a slur in which case the two chords are played in a legato or does it correspond to a tie, in which case the c sharp note is only played in the starting chord but held down during the following chord?

  • Finally, what is the general rule in distinguishing between slurs and ties?
  • An interesting question - on the 4th and 5th chords, does the E (R.H.) get played once or twice?
    – Tim
    Jul 17, 2015 at 17:39
  • 1
    @Tim twice, as there's no direct tie line between them. The double e is actually quite audible, when you listen to the piece, e.g. here.
    – Ellie
    Jul 17, 2015 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


A curved line that connects two successive notes that are the same pitch is a tie. If they are different pitches, it is a slur.

In this example, the C sharps in the bottom voices in the right hand are tied, and the other voices are played legato according to the slurs.


As an addendum to @musarithmia's answer:

The Henle edition contains two versions of this Nocturne: one from a copyist's manuscript, and one from Chopin's autograph (which the editor suggests was a draft version.)1 In both cases, the tied C#s (that don't cross the bar line) are indicated not as tied notes but rather as dotted quarter-notes.

Here are the first measures from the "Kolberg" copyist's manuscript, which shows the dotted-quarter notation.

Chopin B.49 (KK IVa no. 16), Kolberg copy, mm. 1–4
(Image source: Online Chopin Variorum Edition

1 Frédéric Chopin. "Nocturnes". ed. Ewald Zimmerman. 1980(?). G. Henle Verlag. See esp. pp. v and 130-31.

  • It seems that ties are used to avoid off-beas tied notes.. Both notations are played the same way.
    – ttw
    Oct 29, 2022 at 20:37
  • @ttw Indeed, the point of this answer is that we know they're ties and not slurs because they could have been written this way instead. Oct 30, 2022 at 11:04

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