What does the dotted line mean between the eighth note stems in the LH part? This appears in the Dover edition of Haydn's Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major. It is present in both movements one and two. When I've looked at other versions of this piece, the dotted lines are missing, but in their place is portato notation. I'm wondering if the dotted lines have anything to do with that? Any insight would be much appreciated!

Haydn Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major: Movement 2, showing dotted beams between pairs of quavers


3 Answers 3


In Haydn's time, short beams were used in the same way as short slurs in modern music, i.e. to show articulation. Since much sheet music at that time was hand-written, this convention saved time for the copyists - and it's just as easy to read as modern slurs, when you know what it means!

I haven't looked at the OP's particular example, but in some critical editions this type of "dotted" beaming is used to show differences in beaming between different hand copies of the same piece, or to show editorial "corrections" where different beaming was used for different repetitions of the same musical phrase within the piece. (Whether such changes are really "corrections" or just editorial pedantry is a different question, of course!)


I doubt that Breitkopf & Härtel intended the beams to be aligned and the dotted lines not to be printed. Here's another example, from the second movement's b.8:

2nd movement, b.8

That beam between the first two quavers/8ths in the lower stave is definitely wrong -- it goes down whereas the notes go up. That shows that it's implausible that the engraver intended separate beams and the dotted line was not intended to be printed (a suggestion that had been made earlier in this thread though it has since been deleted).

This edition has a few editorial marks in parentheses (dynamics; accidentals for ornaments). This suggests the possibility that the dotted line is editorial. Seeing as four successive quavers/8ths in half a bar of 4/4 would normally all four be joined with a single beam nowadays, perhaps the editors indicated "we beam the notes in fours though the original beamed them in twos"? But that doesn't explain why this is done in some but not all possible cases.

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    @Rosie F "That first beam is definitely wrong -- it goes down whereas the notes go up." Noticing the Bass Clef that precedes the end of the beam, i would hazard a guess that before that downward movement the composer was writing in the treble clef and thus the beam is in fact correct, otherwise why would the composer arbitrarily add a bass clef sign into the music? The composer is going from E to D and then lower down the scale, in order for the music to not look silly, with the downward progression and endless notes running off the staff, changed the Clef to bass and continued. Jun 11, 2018 at 16:58
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    See the post by idontneedadisplayname; the slope of the beam is about what it should be if all four notes had been written in bass clef (using ledger lines for the first two, and up-stems for all four) or all had been written using treble clef (using ledger lines for the last two, and down-stems for all four). Using an upward-sloping beam for a run of four consecutive descending notes would seem weird.
    – supercat
    Jun 11, 2018 at 17:07
  • @supercat You seem to be referring to a different beam from me. I have edited my answer to clarify. I was referring to the example in this answer, not the one in the OP.
    – Rosie F
    Jun 11, 2018 at 19:21
  • I commented to bring that post to your attention. That having been said, perhaps "that beam between the first two quavers above would definitely be wrong if the dotted line were not intended to join it to the next pair of quavers. Given that intention, I think the slope of the beam is correct.
    – supercat
    Jun 11, 2018 at 20:36

This might seem silly and anticlimactic at first, but think about it: might not the editor have marked the page for aesthetic accuracy - that is, to make sure his lines are parallel?

My first guess was that this was meant to show the reader the transition of the B with the change of clef. However, what then, would the second line denote?

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