I'm writing down piano sheet music and I'm not sure how correctly to write a specific section. The left hand is playing a little arpeggio and I want the first note to be sustained. I came up with two ways to write it down (see below), but I'm not sure which is correct. So the question is: which is the right way to notate this? If it's the first method, I would also like to know if the starting rest is necessary?

two ways to write down sustained note

  • 1
    Can you play this with your left hand only? I think I injured my left hand just by looking at it! :)
    – xnakos
    Sep 29, 2016 at 18:01
  • @xnakos This is about as far as I can play it with one hand, but it's a fair point since the later parts might be a bit too wide even for me. Thankfully this piece is well suited for a sustain pedal, so straining a hand shouldn't be necessary. :)
    – jahu
    Sep 29, 2016 at 18:07
  • 4
    @xnakos An adult should be able to play it with the left hand alone without too much difficulty, and without the aid of a pedal. Sep 29, 2016 at 19:11
  • @200_success I do not have a piano nearby, but I think that, as it is and without a pedal, the G-F#-G part can only be played with the thumb jumping, which will not sound that good. I do not believe that the index finger could reach that F#. But I do not have a piano nearby and I guess I am speculating a bit.
    – xnakos
    Sep 29, 2016 at 19:23
  • 2
    @xnakos I would use 5-2-1-2-1-2 as the fingering. Sep 29, 2016 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


The first way is correct, and yes, the initial quarter rest is important. It might not seem important in this example, but in more complex environments these rests are vitally important.

A performer will probably know what you mean if you were to write the second measure, but it's needlessly "busy." It also doesn't clarify that it's two separate musical lines occurring, which is clearly shown in the first measure.

  • The essential thing is to make it clear exactly when to play the first D. If there are no other notes, you need to rest to indicate that. If there was some music on the top staff, or if this pattern was repeated, maybe the rest is not absolutely essential, but since it doesn't take up any space on the score that could be used for anything else, there is no good reason not to include it.
    – user19146
    Sep 29, 2016 at 23:08
  • 2
    I find it easier to explain both the rest and the use of the dotted whole note as there being two voices (bass and tenor) on the same staff. In fact, were the whole note to have a stem, it would be pointing down, to distinguish this voice from the upward pointing stems of the other voice.
    – user18490
    Oct 3, 2016 at 0:38

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