I am learning Chopin's Prelude No. 15 in D flat Major, and I was curious as to why the Db F notes in the bass are written in the lower stave in the first bar but then the upper stave in the second bar. What is the purpose/implication of this?

Also am I right in assuming that in the second bar, the Db and F notes are joined to the bass notes (instead of the Db) to indicate that it is to be played with the left hand? Or does it imply something else?

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Edit: Is this not a contradiction, since the chord at the start of the third bar is impossible to play with one (normal-sized) hand:

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  • In the third bar, a normal sized left hand should have no problem playing all the notes with cross-beams. The stretch is only a 9th, and that is easier between two black keys than between two whites. You don't have to hold down the Gb Ab Bb all at the same time, so you can play all three notes with your left thumb. On the other hand, it's impossible to play all the notes on the upper staff with the right hand and sustain the C through the pedal changes, unless you are an octopus or you have hands the size of Rachmaninoff.
    – user19146
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 1:55
  • @alephzero I can just about play the C Gb Eb, but the first chord in the fourth bar is certainly not possible for most people. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/…
    – user85798
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 10:43

2 Answers 2


This type of notation is called cross-staff beaming. In this example it indicates that certain notes are to be played with the left hand even though they are placed on the upper staff for the convenience and ease-of-reading of not using too many ledger lines between the staves.


I haven't played this piece, but I would suggest that the beams in the second bar indicate that the notes are part of the bass line, even though they are played with the right hand.

Edit: I agree with Wheat

  • 1
    Are you aware that Wheat's answer directly contradicts your own?
    – user85798
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 5:44
  • Yup. Well the notes are part of the bass line, but Wheat is correct in saying that they have been placed in the treble staff for clarity rather than as an indication as to which hand should play.
    – user25389
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 4:30

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