enter image description here

Do I simply play both hands legato? Does the slur mean that anything that falls beneath it for both hands are to be played legato? I thought I knew how legato worked, but I'm not sure anymore.


4 Answers 4


This is a phrasing slur spanning the melody line (which has its first note in the left hand and is played mf in contrast to the accompaniment played p). You phrase the melody as such legato and mf. That its first note is played with the left hand is a detail not relevant to the listener.

The phrasing slur does not concern the accompaniment starting at the full bar.

  • 1
    I agree with Tim that the first note is played RH Aug 29, 2017 at 11:50
  • 3
    @CarlWitthoft - thanks, but it actually isn't. Yes, it should/could be, but looking at the fingering, it's not. Just not written that well!
    – Tim
    Aug 29, 2017 at 11:59
  • 5
    Somebody must have decided it as "easier" to play the first G with the left hand, and/or "easier" not to read the leger lines to write it on the two staff. I expect most non-beginner keyboard players would disagree about both of those choices, but presumably this score is meant for beginners, because there is no other reason for adding fingering to every note!
    – user19146
    Aug 29, 2017 at 12:11
  • So when I transition from the G to the triad, I have no other choice but to play it legato. But, from my understanding of the notation, I shouldn't play it legato because legato only applies to the top line. Can i chalk that up to it being written badly?
    – klippy
    Aug 29, 2017 at 14:37
  • Like I've already stated, most things you will play will be legato. it's the way to play so that you sound like a smooth player. I feel you are becoming fixated by the term unnecessarily. Just play!!
    – Tim
    Aug 29, 2017 at 17:07

The "slur" is not a slur - it is called a phrase mark. They look similar, but a phrase mark is best thought of as how you would phrase it if you sang it. Slurs should always be REALLY clear as to which notes are slurred together. Note that not all notes under a phrase mark should be slurred. You may interpret and present the melody as you prefer it! (Slurring a repeated note would be considered 'odd', and the first bar in the RH is all on one repeated note)

And the reason the fingering is as it is, I believe, is because if the pianist positions their hands with both on a C-maj triad (RH thumb on middle C, LH thumb on G below) then the whole piece (certainly the melody) can be played without having to relocate or extend the hands - so the novice can focus on JUST the fingers.

  • When you say "all notes under the phrase mark should be slurred", do you mean that "all notes under the phrase mark in that clef should be slurred" or "all notes in both clefs should be slurred"? I always thought that the phrase mark only applied to the one clef that the mark appears in.
    – klippy
    Aug 29, 2017 at 13:18
  • To be clear: I am saying that a phrase mark does not mean that notes should be slurred.The phrase mark itself just indicates the phrase (which in this case is the melody starting on the low G). You could, in this case, think of it as indicating when a singer might take a breath if they were singing the melody.
    – Tom
    Aug 29, 2017 at 13:43
  • And to answer the specific question :) a phrase can travel between clefs. It can do so several times - it is not bound to a clef. But it almost always refers to just a single line of notes - which is how most melodies appear. So those notes are the "phrase" and the other notes (like the LH triad here) are the accompaniment.
    – Tom
    Aug 29, 2017 at 13:46
  • Are you saying that 'Dub-lin's-fair-ci-ty' shouldn't be slurred, thus will have gaps between each syllable?
    – Tim
    Aug 29, 2017 at 17:13
  • 1
    The music, as written, asks for two contradictory things: (1) the slur requests that the quarter-note "g" be released precisely as the dotted-quarter "c" is struck; (2) there's a dotted-half-node "g" which should be played at the same time as the dotted-quarter "c", which would of course require releasing the key before that. There are ways one could accomplish both objectives (e.g. by using the damper pedal with proper timing) but for a beginner piece the simplest approach would be to omit the "g" from that chord.
    – supercat
    Aug 29, 2017 at 18:53

The first note of the song, an anacrucis, could have been written as a G with a couple of leger lines, under the treble staff, and thus played with r.h. It's slightly confusing as it has been written on the bass clef, making the slur travel from one stave to the other.

As such, yes, it's played legato - if you were singing the words, they'd be legato, wouldn't they? All legato means is played smoothly and joined up together, as 'in one breath', so to speak. And, slurs (and phrase marks) are relevant to the notes under them, in that particular clef - which here is a little confusing, and didn't need to be.

As far as the triad is concerned, that's going to come out legato, as a single chord held for two bars - can't be helped!


This is obviously music aimed at a fairly elementary student. A decision was made to give priority to maintaining hand position. There's a clear instruction to play the first note with the LH. It makes it slightly harder to phrase musically, but easier to not hit wrong notes! That's OK, at this level.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.