Is there a way to say in Sheet Music notation a chord with part of it quiet, and part of it loud?

For example, a normal Am. What if it was loud, but the C is quiet?

Or a C♯ chord: C♯ and G♯ quiet, but E♯ loud?

I need it to be a single chord with the same duration at each pitch. The reason I need to do this is because I want the voice and accompaniment to be played by one person. And the bit I want is more effective when the accompaniment varies in volume. The volumes need to be precise.

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    You may consider using multiple voices, rather than writing it as a single chord. It is as though the hand is playing two separate parts. – Michael Stachowsky Apr 24 '17 at 15:51
  • By "I want the voice and accompaniment to be played by one person," do you mean that the melody will be doubling something that a singer is already singing? – Richard Apr 24 '17 at 18:10
  • @Richard, could you rephrase that in simpler vocabulary? – VortexYT Apr 24 '17 at 18:12
  • Is this just a piece for piano? Or is it a piece for singer and piano? – Richard Apr 24 '17 at 18:13
  • @MichaelStachowsky , that is exactly what I mean – VortexYT Apr 24 '17 at 18:13

In this example score you will see some of the note heads are normal size and others are slightly smaller. Footnotes under the score indicate the large note heads should "emerge" as clear melody notes.

enter image description here

Obviously the example shows broken chords, but you could use large/small note heads on simultaneous chords.

A limitation is you can't be specific about dynamics, such as large notes are forte and small notes are pianissimo. But maybe it would work for your purpose.

If you really want to treat the chord as separate voices, use multiple staves (three notes chords would then become single notes on three staves) and then you can indicate the dynamics with the usual level of detail.

If all the melody notes where the top of the chords, you might try setting the stem directions up and the lower notes stems to down and then apply the dynamics separately above and below the staff.

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  • That's freakin' weird and certainly not part of the 'language' of notation. My interpretation here would be that the larger heads are there just to indicate each beat. – Carl Witthoft Apr 25 '17 at 11:52
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    @Carl Witthoft, I updated my post with a new image that includes footnotes regarding interpreting the note head sizes. The wording is 'flowery' and doesn't say 'play the big notes louder,' but that seems a sensible way to understand the meaning. – Michael Curtis Apr 26 '17 at 16:58

It depends on the logic behind the pitches being brought out. As Michael mentions in the comments, often writing the two lines in separate voices will make it clear to an informed performer:

enter image description here

But it becomes impossible to discern if they're the same rhythm:

enter image description here

In which case I think you would need some other means of clarification, and it would really be up to you to determine what is the most concise and efficient way of getting your point across. This is especially true if the pitches being brought out aren't part of a larger melodic line. If you're just trying to create a particular atmosphere and want random pitches of different chords brought out, you'll have to devise your own system.

I am not necessarily suggesting this particular way, but here is one method of getting this point across:

enter image description here

I'll be curious to see what others say.

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    Personally, I would say "don't bother about this notation at all". Unless you are writing only for professional-level pianists, it's not going to happen reliably anyway, because it's too difficult to do. If you really want to bring out a "solo" part, rethink the music. And writing the loudest notes with the smallest notation symbols seems back-to-front in any case. – user19146 Apr 24 '17 at 18:39
  • Perhaps paradoxically, I agree. – Richard Apr 24 '17 at 18:41
  • What does a diamond mean? Should I say that I am on piano – VortexYT Apr 24 '17 at 19:45
  • Interestingly, for guitar this is actually useful, and quite common: you can define one string as louder than the others. – Doktor Mayhem Apr 24 '17 at 19:45
  • Tell me about it!! – VortexYT Apr 24 '17 at 19:46

I would notate it thus:

Example of how in-chord dynamics could be written

The accents should IMO be quite unambiguous. The small notes might be confused for cue notes from other voices, though, what would be the point of that?

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  • The problem is that no one would know which one you want to play louder (A&E or C louder) – Ansel Chang Apr 25 '17 at 1:14
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    @AnselChang no? I find it quite clear to see the accent is over to the left, in this case over the notes with downward-pointing stem. – leftaroundabout Apr 25 '17 at 9:18

For single instances of unequally loud chords, a strategically placed sforzato sign might do the trick. But the preferred solution is to notate the emphasized note in a larger size (or more probably, notate the unemphasized notes in smaller type). A good example can be found here: the second of the six études ("For finger independence") consists entirely of unequally-stressed chords.

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