Line from NW to SE, from top of upward stem to note-head with downward stem, both notes on B

The small diagonal line shown above comes from Chopin's Ballade #1 in G minor, measure 170. What does the small diagonal line between the two notes mean?


3 Answers 3


It is a "chord" consisting of both B flat and B natural.

The 19th-century notation for this was just two notes on the same stem, with two accidentals (flat and natural) in front of them. In the 20th century some composers started using two separate notes joined by a "forked" stem. The OP's graphic looks like a poor attempt to reproduce this with an (unknown) notation software application that can't do it right - or the user didn't know any better.

Klindworth's edition (1880): (note the horrible 5:3 tuplet notation with the tiny slur over the 5!) Chord represented by two adjacent note heads

Breitkopf und Härtel (1878) has staccato dots over the notes, which somebody may have mistaken for the slanting line:

Another example with two adjacent note heads

More modern notations:

notes with shared stem and notes with forked stem

  • Nice detective work. Given that the original slant bar doesn't even show up in Dolmetsch's list, this looks like a good interpretation. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 15:05
  • Sorry for the late reply and thanks for the answer. And yes, it is Chopin's Ballade.
    – soap
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 1:03

The B natural and B flat should be played together as a chord.

The notation in the OP is an attempt to reproduce the one used in the 1894 Mikuli edition of the Ballade.

Chopin Ballade #1, mm. 169-171

The more modern notation mentioned by user19146 is used, for example, in the Dover/Paderewski edition (1981).

Measure 170, showing forked stem


Looks like a slide. You can't do that on a piano, but you can emulate smearing from B natural to B flat (which I presume this notation is supposed to suggest) by striking both right after another and releasing the B natural after striking the B flat and then release the B flat "regularly" on time.

Probably intended to render a "blue note".

  • Normally the first note will be written as a grace note, smaller than the ordinary dot.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 10:49
  • -1. This is Chopin, not 20th century notation!
    – user19146
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 12:20
  • @alephzero you sure about that? I don't see that note pair in an IMSLP copy. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 12:28
  • I don't see a match in the Grieg either... Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 12:33
  • @CarlWitthoft See my answer, when I've finished writing it!
    – user19146
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 12:34

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