I am new to Piano and sheet music in general so I downloaded a "simple version" of Fur Elise to play as I already know how the tune goes in my head. Presently, I only play it with my right hand.

Für Elise score

A few questions please:

  • Right in the beginning there is a number "5" on top, then to the right a "2" and then two "1"s in circles. Those numbers seem to be in a few different places, what do they mean? I'm guessing they mean fingerings but why are some in circles and others not?

  • Theres that big curved line, I think its a slur, right on top from bar 1-4... does that mean I hold the sustain pedal down for that whole bit?

  • In bar 9 and 10 there is a "1 block" and a "2 block", I googled it and (correct me if I am wrong) but that means when it repeats play the "1" the first time and the "2" the second time, yes?

  • Lastly, what does "poco moto" on top mean and is it relevant?

  • Poco moto translates as "a little motion". Numbers refer to finger numbers : 1=thumb,..., 5=pinky. Sorry I cannot help you with the circles - perhaps it implies a change of hand position.
    – gamma
    Aug 16, 2015 at 19:09
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    The grouping of this piece is horrendous. How can people ask money for a score and not bother to get the most basic of note grouping correct.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 16, 2015 at 19:27
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    @NeilMeyer - what is it about the grouping that's not correct? It's quite acceptable to use three groups of two quavers in 3/4 time.
    – Tim
    Aug 19, 2015 at 15:56
  • Nope 6 quavers in 3/4 time should be written together. Also it should be three quavers together, quaver rest, crotchet rest (Bar 4)
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 19, 2015 at 15:59
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    This doesn't answer the question, but I suggest you start with a piece easier than Fur Elise. I also recommend you get a piano teacher to teach you the basics - such as slurs, repeats, etc.. Trust me, its much easier than Googling every symbol you see. ;)
    – michaeljan
    Aug 30, 2015 at 9:15

4 Answers 4

  1. Can't think why some numbers are in circles - they refer to fingerings - 1= thumb, r.h. in the treble clef.

  2. Yes, it's a phrase rather than a slur, so no pedal as the harmony changes.

  3. It is a repeat sign. Play the first part again, and second time around, don't play 'bar 1'.

  4. Poco moto is a way to say push it along a bit, rather than just keep a tempo going. Don't worry about this till you can play the piece comfortably.

  • Are you suggesting in point 4 to play the piece as if there is an accelerando from beginning to end?
    – 11684
    Aug 17, 2015 at 13:57
  • @11684 - that just wouldn't work ! The main motif needs to push, and when the E/D#/E/D# bit comes each time, there needs to be a slight slowing, as if to bring it back to 'tempo'
    – Tim
    Aug 17, 2015 at 17:59
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    No, of course it wouldn't. But at least as I read it that is what point 4 says. Furthermore, what you describe in point 4 according to your last comment is some kind of rubato, which has little to do with the "con moto". As I see it, the "con moto" signals the "spirit of the piece" (from Neil Meyer's answer - he put this better than I did).
    – 11684
    Aug 17, 2015 at 18:05

the numbers are indeed fingerings. The circle indicates that the hand position is changing.

The long curved lines are not sostenuto pedal markings, they're "legato" markings. Legato means that you play the marked phrase smoothly note into note, without spaces or rests between the notes.

You're correct that the numbered measures near the repeat sign are the first and second ending marks. You play through to the repeat, playing the "1st ending" and go back to the matching (opening) repeat, playing through until you hit the first ending, instead jump to the 2nd ending and play through.

  • The more commonly used pedal is the sustain (damper). The sostenuto pedal is found on higher grades of piano, and not usually played by beginners.
    – Tim
    Aug 17, 2015 at 6:29

First of all, it should be noted that the edition you have picked is no paragon of typesetting. All of the notes are there, but...

  • The time signature has been changed from 3/8 to 3/4, with all note values doubled. This is probably to avoid scaring beginners with intimidating-looking notes that look short or fast.
  • The eighth notes are beamed in pairs, rather than in groups of six or three. Technically, beaming is just a stylistic choice. However, longer beams have the connotation of unity, emphasis, and flow. (More graceful, less plodding. You should only feel one emphasis per measure.)
  • In the last line of your excerpt, the octave E's are written in the top staff, suggesting that they should be played with the right hand. Nearly all other editions would write part of that sequence on the bottom staff, so that the left hand shares some of the work of the ascent.
  • Tempo indications, such as Poco moto, are ideally typeset in a bold serif font. ("Poco" means "a little" and "moto" means "motion", so the indication is that you should push it along a bit.)
  • The fingering markings are usually less prominent. The circled indications appear to be a non-standard way to emphasize the "tricky" fingerings to get right. It's the equivalent of buying a textbook with highlighter scribbles already printed.

There's nothing wrong with learning to play a simplified version of the piece, but if you are curious about the details (good questions, by the way!), it's worth consulting a more authentic edition. Some better examples of scores that I've found: 1 2 3 4

To answer your other questions...

  • The big curved lines are indeed slurs. They indicate phrases that should be played legato, and how to shape the notes into musical "words", "clauses", and "sentences".

    The original manuscript of Für Elise is lost to history, and the closest thing we have to the original is someone else's chicken scratch. As you can see, the slurs have been added by editors. Your edition's phrasing marks go against the consensus, if you compare against the example scores I've cited.

    The slurs do not indicate pedaling. Holding the sustain pedal for E and D♯ would result in a horrible mess. Pedaling would be indicated by either └─────┘ underneath the grand staff or by Ped. (to depress) and * (to release). In the introduction of Für Elise, the pedaling happens to coincide with the arpeggiated chords in the left hand.

    Advice: a common beginner mistake is to use the pedal as a crutch to mask crappy technique. You should aim to make the phrasing as good as you possibly can without any pedal, then use a light touch of pedaling to add polish. (You might want to use even less pedaling than what Beethoven originally wrote, since modern pianos are more resonant than pianos in Beethoven's time.)

  • Your interpretation of what happens after bar 7 is correct. The first time, play the "first ending". Repeat, and the second time, skip to the "second ending".

  • Thank you, I REALLY appreciate your answer! I'll look for some other piano books, this is one that I downloaded free off the net so can't really complain :) I shall check out your links as well!
    – Ryan
    Aug 23, 2015 at 22:03
  • One more question, (I don't think this would be a good question by itself so I'm asking you here) where would you recommend I go for proper sheet music? I have downloaded some of the sheets from your links and it is soooo much better than the simple version I had downloaded and I dont see the point in playing two or more versions, I would prefer to download the proper version of songs from the beginning even if its harder... Thanks!
    – Ryan
    Aug 24, 2015 at 13:37
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    I find that IMSLP is a generally pretty useful collection. In writing this answer, I used Google Image Search and picked out the ones closest to the consensus, and that looked good in my opinion. Aug 24, 2015 at 16:12

Theres that big curved line, I think its a slur, right on top from bar 1-4... does that mean I hold the sustain pedal down for that whole bit?

That is called a legato phrasing mark.

In bar 9 and 10 there is a "1 block" and a "2 block", I googled it and (correct me if I am wrong) but that means when it repeats play the "1" the first time and the "2" the second time, yes?

You are correct.

Lastly, what does "poco moto" on top mean and is it relevant?

"Poco" means little or "a little" and "moto" means "movement". It is a performance indication trying to convey the spirit of the piece.

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