I mean something like this:


I'm guessing it means they're played together but I'm not sure.

Also, does the sharp apply to both pitches or just the G?

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    I don't think that this is big enough for a full answer, but I would like to add that on woodwind instruments and possibly instruments which can only play one note at a time (my experience is with flute), it can mean in an orchestral/band context that the note with the staff going up is played by the first instruments (e.g first flutes), and vice versa.
    – Restioson
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 15:30
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    That's some weird engraving. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 2:57
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    An accidental sharp applies to the staff line on which it appears, for the remainder of the measure. Here, it is on the G (assuming E-G-B-D-F treble clef staff). It cannot apply to the F.
    – Kaz
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 19:50

4 Answers 4


Noteheads take up one full space on a staff. (The corollary to this is that noteheads placed on a line take up half of the space on either side of the line.)

When notes are at least a third apart (as in the first measure of the example below), there is plenty of space for two noteheads of standard size to fit on top of each other.

enter image description here

But when notes are less than a third apart (as in the second measure of the above example), there's not enough space to notate the pitches directly on top of each other; doing so just confuses the notation.

So we settle on the solution shown in the final measure, where the noteheads are offset slightly. But in all cases, this notation indicates that the given pitches occur at the same time.

Lastly, accidentals only apply to the staff line or staff space on which they are placed. Since the ♯ here is on the second staff line from the bottom (G, assuming this is treble clef), it only applies to that G, not to the F. If the composer wanted an F♯ in addition to the G♯, s/he would have indicated a second ♯ in the score.

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    Very well explained. :)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 4:09
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    I have a question about that last sentence. If the composer added a second sharp to the F, would that sharp also have to be offset slightly?
    – AduyummY
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 23:46
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    @AduyummY It would have to be offset from the G♯, yes. Typically, the F♯ would be written as the very first thing in the measure.
    – Richard
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 8:32

Here are two different screen shots of the same bit of music, from the beginning of the coda in Chopin's second Ballade. You can see clearly that the passage has groups of doubled 16th notes. If you look at the last 16th note of the first barred group in the second measure (a D with a natural mark and an E) it will probably be obvious from the context that these notes are to be played together.

I showed you this example because it has an interesting additional problem of notation. If you look at the fourth and fifth 16th notes in the last group of barred 16th notes in the second measure, you will see that a simultaneous D natural and D sharp need to be played. Here we go one step further with the problem: two different notes that are on the same line or space of the staff and need to be played together. The problem is that you can't fit both notes on a single stem as you can two notes right next to each other. There are different ways to handle this.

This example (which is more common, and is the way that Chopin notates it in his manuscript) has two separate bars on the double notes. You'll notice that this isn't done with any other group of 16th notes, so the only reason that it's done is to accommodate the D/D# notes.

This example forks a single stem in two so the notes can be written next to one another and still be understood to be played simultaneously.

enter image description here

There is no difference in the way these are to be played. I personally prefer the second way of writing this, even though it is less common, because I find the intention more immediately obvious. You'll notice that the two D natural/E double notes before it look exactly the same, whereas they look a bit different in the first example. So all in all, I find the second example a bit easier to read.

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    Fantastic example. This also makes clear that regardless of what choice the engraver makes, the stems of the simultaneous notes should approximately line up (though of course, in the first way of notating it, the stems are offset by the width of the natural sign). Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 18:02
  • amazing example!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 17:35
  • I wonder if using either Dnat and Eb, or D# and C##, would have made things cleaner, giving up a little "theoretical" precision in exchange a cleaner page and easier performance?
    – supercat
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 19:18
  • @supercat For me, that would be harder to read than the way it's written.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 0:48
  • @BobRodes: Look at e.g. page 5 of My Grandmother's Watch at loc.gov/resource/sm1878.09874.0/… for an example of what I have in mind. The Cdoublesharp in the second measure is hardly wonderful, but I think it's better than alternating sharps and naturals on every note.
    – supercat
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 15:35

Yes, play them together. They are only placed slightly next to each other, and not one above the other, because they are adjacent pitches and would overlap slightly otherwise. The # is just for the G. So the pair of notes are F and G#. (Unless of course the tied note is an F# anyway...)


On fretted instruments (like guitar or mandolin), it is possible to play a unison, such as (for mandolin) an open E string and the B string fretted at 7 to make another E; both are played simultaneously. This is fairly common in Bluegrass.

The Notation for this sometimes shows two of the same notes immediately adjacent to each other and on the same line (or space).

Here is an example from part of "Jerusalem Ridge": enter image description here

  • another amazing example! :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 17:35

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