I know sometimes piano sheet music will have elongated bold lines running from a note(s) in the treble clef to a note(s) in the bass clef or vice versa, indicating that you should play the note(s) with the opposite hand. The two lines form a large V or upside down V.

Example of Diagonal Lines

What is the proper/formal name of these solid boldfaced diagonal lines?

  • 1
    Any kind of fingering notation is completely optional.
    – user28
    Oct 5, 2016 at 13:49
  • I suspect we have to do with a glissando. Do the lines in question resemble the ones in this question ? music.stackexchange.com/questions/41971/…
    – Neil Meyer
    Oct 5, 2016 at 19:22
  • 2
    I took a picture of the sheet music and uploaded it to the question. Hopefully, this will help.
    – Margaret
    Oct 6, 2016 at 15:04
  • For me this looks like a poorly typeset score. It would make more sense, if a constant number of voices were assigned to each hand, but in your example the lines seem quite arbitrary. Don't mind and play however you like it most.
    – guidot
    Oct 6, 2016 at 15:33
  • I'm more curious about the horizontal bracketed line in the last bar. Presumably, a sustain pedal indication (without the usual "Ped" annotation), though that would have a slightly dissonant c6 (then again, that c is a melody note, so that may work).
    – user18490
    Oct 7, 2016 at 0:56

4 Answers 4


Assuming you're talking about an image like this...then it just the composer telling you what clef the melody is moving to. This is helpful because a lot of times you're going to want to play the melody louder.

This doesn't mean you have to switch hands at all.

From @patrx2 this notation does not seem to have a formal name.

Edit: Adding an image in case the above link doesn't work: enter image description here

  • 3
    I do not believe this is a glissando. But I also don't know of a specific name for this. "Voice leading line", maybe? Usually there is a reason for notation in a piece of music. But ultimately it is optional if it doesn't work for you.
    – user33368
    Oct 5, 2016 at 20:41
  • Nope, not a glissando. Glissando has a very specific meaning, namely to play very rapidly all the notes between the notes on each end of the line, either the white keys, or the black keys, or a full chromatic run. Good notational practice usually starts the glissando with a partial run of beamed notes to specify the scale used, then the line with gliss. over it as a shorthand for the remainder of the run (to the end note). This particular use of a diagonal line has no formal name that I am aware of. It is, as @jomki says, an optional aid to understanding.
    – user16935
    Oct 5, 2016 at 20:45
  • 1
    Given the utterly vague nature of the question, this is a good attempt to help, and downvoting it seems wrong. So I upvoted. Oct 6, 2016 at 3:56
  • Jeremy W, thank you for your photo and response. I believe that in some situations the composer shows the change in melody. Thank you for your clarifiation. However, could you please see the new picture I added to my original question? This pic is taken from a Disney piano solo and I believe the purpose of these lines is different. In this situation, the composer is intending for the change of hands. Do you agree?
    – Margaret
    Oct 6, 2016 at 15:59
  • @Margaret Yes, this score tries to tell you "Keep playing the upper chord with your right hand even though it's written in the lower system". It uses voice leading lines to express this (but it would have been better to simply write "mano destra" or "right hand"). It's definitely not a glissando. Chord glissandi are way to difficult for a fun play-along score like this. Oct 7, 2016 at 6:19

In the image you've now posted, the arranger is telling you to use your left hand to play the F in the bass clef, followed by the bottom three notes in the arpeggiated chord, followed by the Bb and the F in the bass clef.

This is very similar to the answer posted by @Jeremy, but it's not specifically telling you where the melody is going. It's asking you to move your hand.

It's required, because it's rather difficult to play a seven note chord with just one hand, without using your nose. The arranger has decided to make this transition clearer by using the lines you refer to.

  • FYI, I originally attempted to add this as a comment, but I can't right now. If it's too close to Jeremy's answer, I'm happy to delete it.
    – endorph
    Oct 6, 2016 at 22:46
  • The lines are not for suggestion which hand has to play what: the stems of the chords (when in the same clef) do that here. The lines are really just to indicate the voicing.
    – user18490
    Oct 7, 2016 at 0:51
  • I agree that an experienced player would automatically interpret the stem direction in that way, but it's not immediately obvious. If the piece is intended for 'beginner' players (whatever that means), I think the notation is intended to make the hand movement obvious. Particularly considering that the downstems in the previous measures do not imply 'play me with your other hand'.
    – endorph
    Oct 7, 2016 at 1:01
  • True, it may help beginners (whether it's intended as such, I don't know). Though "LH" and "RH" would have been more helpful & clearer. I guess I should tell the editor that, not you ;-).
    – user18490
    Oct 7, 2016 at 1:05
  • I shall send a strongly worded thought bubble in their direction ;-). Honestly, I assumed that a Disney piano solo book was probably targeted towards a beginner, and went from there.
    – endorph
    Oct 7, 2016 at 1:25

As others have supposed, there is no formal name for these lines. In Elaine Gould's Behind Bars, which is the standard reference for music notation, she just refers to them as "diagonal lines":

A middle part may move between staves according to which hand plays it.... A diagonal line may trace the progression between staves.... A dotted line is most conspicuous; a solid line can look like a glissando.... (page 307)

When a voice with an independent contrapuntal line moves stave ..., it is usual to show the voice-leading with a thin diagonal line (solid or dotted) between the notes. (page 475)

  • Nice find, and thanks for posting an answer that actually addresses the question rather than focusing on the function of the lines. I agree, however, with Margaret's assessment of their function, namely that they indicate the hands moving from one staff to another. It may be more common for such lines to be used to indicate details of inner voices, but that's clearly not what's going on here.
    – phoog
    May 18, 2022 at 7:34

These thin (not boldface) diagonal lines indicate that notes in a "voice" (not necessarily a hand) in one staff is moving to the other staff.
They are often solid, but are sometimes dashed to distinguish them from glissandi or something else. They can (and should) be avoided when beams connecting notes in each staff can be used instead.

I don't think there is formal name for these lines, but I would propose "staff changing lines", "voice following lines", or something similar.

  • If someone would like to offer an explanation for the down vote, I would appreciate that. May 19, 2022 at 1:26

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