In Für Elise by Beethoven, in many variations found on the net, starting from bar 13, and as I have seen in many videos playing this part, both hands are used consecutively while most to all of them can be easily played with just the right hand. Is there any special reason why this happens (something like making it look pretty)? Is it written by Beethoven himself or have later editors made these changes? Is it wrong or considered rude (because great pianists have not done so) if I play it with only one hand?

This is the part of Für Elise I'm asking about

PE: My problem is not where E has different octaves, but those D# & Es and continuous moving from the bottom staff to the top staff starting from bar 13, is my main problem, and yes about those Es: although that E to E travel could be done using both hands differently, for example it's much easier for me to play the starting E in bar 13 with my left pinky, the second E with my left thumb and the rest with my right hand, and the highest E with my right hand.

  • please limit your posts to one question. I have edited this for you - your other question is already covered on this site anyway. See the related sidebar to the right.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 6:37
  • Although these two question may be about one piece of music of BT, I thought the topic would be different, so I asked them in two different places, though one of them contains more questions. Sorry if it violates SE rules cause I wasn't aware...
    – Amir F
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 8:38
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    Regarding your update: finger legato is why you start the octaves 5-5-1 instead of 5-1, because it sets you up to play the phrase legato after that first jump. And the minor seconds (d#-e) are all the same two notes, in treble clef. They are easy to play with one hand but easier to count with two, plus the first left hand beat gives you time to bring your right hand back from the high E. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 9:21
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    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 10:40
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    One note is that a composers can use this type of clef separation to indicate which "voice" is intended to be playing those notes. (especially in a more polyphonic piece as was popular in Beethoven's day) E.g. it could indicate that in a duet you should switch between the two instruments for what, in this example, is the bass and treble clef.
    – GetSwifty
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 16:02

2 Answers 2


Fingering suggestions, including handedness, are always just suggestions. You can play it how you like. That said, there are a few reasons to use both hands in this passage:

  • The octaves are much easier to play smoothly and evenly when you play with both hands.
  • Using both hands, you can play the octaves with finger legato, which is good technique even when using the pedal.
  • Alternating hands helps less with technique for the minor seconds, but it helps a lot with counting the minor seconds to keep time, especially because the length of that phrase varies throughout the piece.

These reasons are a bit more compelling for beginning and intermediate players, which is usually when you learn this piece, and once you have learned it, there is little reason to change the technique.

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    Yes. The old 'finger legato'. The most desireable thing in piano music. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 7:44
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    Yes, and it's such a big deal in learning classical and romantic piano like this, along with the touch and evenness that you mention. This is a great piece for developing that technique! Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 7:46
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    Which hand to use is a suggestion. But the clef is not a suggestion, it defines the pitch as much as the lines do. Make sure you are not confusing clef with staff as they mean different things. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 15:38
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    And this advice is for piano – guitars have different issues. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 15:39
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    @AF by writing that E in the lower staff, Beethoven has suggested that it be played by the left hand. If you play it with the right, it doesn't mean you're playing the piece wrong. If using the right hand causes you to break the legato phrase, though, it does mean you're playing it badly. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 19:26

For me, I would use the combination of both hands for two main reasons:

  1. The less "jumping around" on the piano, the better. Fewer fast movements (such as going from that upper E to the D# 8vb) usually equates to fewer mistakes (or chances for mistakes). If we can make the movements easier by spreading it over both hands, why not?

  2. It's very much about 'touch'. To get those E octaves, most people will need to play the lower with their thumb and the upper with their pinky finger. The lower octave E is repeated, and doing this with the thumb (which is the shortest and strongest of human fingers) can result in an excessive, 'harsh' tone on the repeated note. It's a subtle thing, but by using different fingers on the same note, we have more control; not just over tone, but also at fast tempos with rhythmic "even-ness".

Is it "wrong" to play with only one hand? No. But I would suggest that that is not the best method of performing this piece. It may get the job done, but as you say, "great pianists" use both hands, for the reasons above.

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    Totally agree about touch, which is what I was getting at talking about smoothness & evenness in my own answer. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 7:47
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    Also, that technique of switching fingers for the same note is helpful for the bass in the C section of the piece. I find that it is much easier to play an even pulse on the bass when I play it 3-2-1-3-2-1 instead of 1-1-1 or 2-2-2. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 7:49

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