Occasionally I run across sheet music that has the left and right hand playing the same note at the same time. Is this on purpose? If so... Why? And how do I play it? For example, see the first measure below. Both left and right hand playing g at the same time.

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5 Answers 5


Usually this happens when the piece was originally for some other instrument, and most likely for more than one. For instance, this might have been an orchestral piece or a song for voices, where it would make sense for two different voices to play (or sing) the same note.

Of course, on the piano you cannot play the same note twice. So, you will only play it with one hand; play the one G and ignore the other.


This is apparently a rather carelessly produced version, since the composer's name is spelled wrongly! She is Imogen Heap, not Imagen Heep. So it's probably not worth trying to guess why the music is written the way it is.

But this notation does sometimes occur in keyboard versions of music that is in several melodic "voices," for example a piece that was originally written for a choir or a group of monophonic instruments. In the original, two different "voices" may sometimes "collide" and sing or play the same note, and that is reproduced in the piano arrangement.

On a piano version, you just play the "doubled" note once, with whichever hand seems easiest.

Of course if you are playing a keyboard instrument with more than one keyboard (organ, synths, etc) there is no reason why you shouldn't play the same pitch note on different keyboards at the same time, and often the two keyboards will be producing different sounds from each other.

  • Although sometimes, especially in polyphonic music, playing the common note with only one hand means you have to make the other hand drop out for that one note, which can be even more awkward than if you play the note with two fingers simultaneously.
    – Divide1918
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 3:10

This is actually extremely common in keyboard music with any degree of polyphony baked in. I don't think I've written a keyboard piece that doesn't have at least one unison in it.

Yes, you normally play the unison with one finger on one key, with rare exceptions in pieces specifically written for instruments with 2 or more manuals (e.g., Goldberg Variations). The unisons are there to make the voice leading clear, because understanding how the voices proceed will affect your phrasing.

I'd recommend looking over the answers and commentary to Same note to be played with both hands? - this question has come up before.

  • I don't understand why you would write the same note in lh and rh on piano. If it's to show voice leading, wouldn't it just need to show in the relevant place?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 7:08
  • @Tim I think the idea is that the staff on which the voice already is notated is a "relevant place" to show that voice.
    – David K
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 13:57
  • @DavidK - but that would be both staves in this situation - where's the point? The voice leading would usually occur in one hand's notes, not both.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:04
  • @Tim There is usually more than one voice. Often (though not always) some voices are notated on one staff, some on another. Hands are not voices, and a voice can cross from one hand to another.
    – David K
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 15:11
  • 1
    @Tim, often enough both places are relevant. A unison implies that a note belongs to two separate lines, not one, that meet on that note. Both lines will have implications for the phrasing of that passage. A piano grand staff is not tablature that only depicts what the hands are doing: it primarily gives a structural picture of the music, and this can give the performer a better idea of how to bring out the music's structure.
    – user16935
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:42

This is very common in early keyboard music, in which the two hands could play on different manuals on either a harpsichord or an organ. On a piano you just play the note once.


This is the correct notation of this song:

She’s singing/playing with a vocoder.

I agree with user 16935 that this kind of notation is quite usual. I remember several Bartok pieces training exactly this problem to play the same piano key with both hands, using both thumbs on the little G-key.

We can compare this situation with a picture of a drawing with transparent silhouettes.

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