With voice parts for piano the stems usually go on opposite directions, when they're on the same staff. But I have a book where a half note and an eighth note are one semitone apart but together like a chord. Does this mean that they share the stem? Shouldn't their stems go in opposite directions?

  • 3
    If you can put in a scan or picture it will help a lot to answer the question. Feb 29, 2016 at 22:51
  • I'm looking for the option to upload pictures but i don't see any on this website.
    – Johnny H.
    Feb 29, 2016 at 23:09
  • Click "Edit" under your question and then click the little box that has a tiny mountain and sun in it above the text box with your question in it. Feb 29, 2016 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


I believe the situation you're referring to should look something like this:


Note that their positions should be reversed if the 8th is the lower note, and also probably the 8th would be joined via a beam to other 8ths (as in the example at the bottom of this answer).

This is a good explanation from retmusic.com, emphasis mine:

When writing the interval of a second, the stem should be placed between the note heads. The higher pitch is always placed to the right, regardless of stem direction (this results in one of the note heads being “displaced”). [...] When the interval of a second is written with opposite stems, as with multiple voices sharing the same staff, the stems are aligned vertically — in the case of a second, this means that the higher note is placed on the left.

image from http://micrologus.retmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/21st_post_seconds.png

The second bar in the referenced image corresponds to the bolded text. If your example looks like the first bar, then the two notes do not represent separate voices! (Or the editor made a mistake.)

You even draw both stems when both voices share the same pitch:

image from https://musescore.org/sites/musescore.org/files/ideally.png

  • My question looks like figure 1 but the half note doesn't have a stem, so it could be an editor's error.
    – Johnny H.
    Mar 1, 2016 at 15:53
  • @user26931Could it be a whole note?
    – user28
    Mar 1, 2016 at 18:13
  • I don't think so because they're 2 of them in the same measure, 4/4 time signature.
    – Johnny H.
    Mar 1, 2016 at 18:35

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.