I have a few questions in mind regaring Debussy's Clair de Lune!

What does the line with the number "2" between B-G and A-F mean?

enter image description here

And also, should I follow the fingerings for the left hand as shown? It says that I should be playing F > C (ascending) in one swift movement which is somewhat difficult to do considering the transtition from thumb (1) to pinky (5) at E > F#

3 Answers 3


It is called a Duplet which means two notes in the time of three. So basically you count three beats, but you only play two notes. So in what looks like 9/8 time you will play two notes in the time of a beat.

It is also worth noting that the second chord of the Duplet bar is tied to the first part of the next beat.


  • Thanks for sharing this photo! I fully understand what it means now, thanks :) I think this picture is good to know for anyone else who might need help so I'll put it up as the answer!
    – Nadfee
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 8:48
  • 2
    What is the reason for using a duplet instead of writing two dotted notes after each other? That would describe the exactly the save rhythm, wouldn't it? Is the reason clarity? In that case I'd prefer the dotted notes.
    – Lii
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 15:38
  • There is subtle differences in rhythm, with what you describe
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 16:02
  • Remember this is impressionist music, they are all about the unusual rhythms.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 16:22
  • 2
    There's no dfference in rhythm between using a duplet or a pair of dotted notes. There is an opinion that "x notes in the time of y" are conventionally notated as a tuplet, even on the occasions when they COULD be written with normal notes. Agree, or not!
    – Laurence
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 18:45

The '2' means play two notes in the time of the usual three. Rather like a triplet in reverse. A little slower, but even. If you look carefully at where the second note is, compared to the notes under it, you'll see that the r.h. is played at the same time as the C# (l.h.).

Fingering is usually very subjective, as everyone's physiology is different. What's there is a suggestion, but if if doesn't work for you, experiment to find alternatives. Concert pianists will do this all the time.


As for the fingering, I use 4 instead of 5 there, and probably most people would. A reason not to is that it might be quicker to get 3 on A if 5 is on F# than if 4 is. Since the passage is pretty rapid, and also pedaled, it's acceptable to make a small jump between 1 and 5, so that might be the motivation for the fingering. Nevertheless I find 4 easier to use here, and the best finger to get a smooth passage.

Also, though, that looks like a Schirmer edition, and some of the Victorian fingerings in those editions are hopelessly pedantic. Meaning, fingerings often appear to be chosen because of what was considered "proper technique" in that time period rather than what works best. Hanon had a finger exercise (number 35) designed to practice little finger over thumb and thumb under little finger, and put a little note "this exercise is of the highest importance." Well, no it isn't. The only place I can think of that really requires it is the run near the end of Chopin's Prelude No. 24 in D minor:

enter image description here

Admittedly, I don't play that passage well, so perhaps the exercise is more important than I think.

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