Misocal score where some note heads are smaller than the majority

This is piano sheet music for "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie. I've been trying to search for what these notes mean. Do I play them with the left hand? Not play them? Are they optional? I'm not sure.


1 Answer 1


This small pitch just means that it's an optional pitch to play. You definitely have to play the D, but you could also play D and F. (But you'll never play only F.) You can play this pitch with either the left or right hand.

The musical term is ossia, which is Italian for "alternatively." Oftentimes ossia parts are written on a different staff:

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But in your case, since it's just a single note, they wrote it slightly smaller.

These smaller notes are not to be confused with the small pitches discussed in Small notes on the staff. The small notes there are grace notes, which are completely different.

  • 2
    Just to make things clear since you said "alternatively," I can play the D or the F in the first measure? Or is it an option to play both? Aug 28, 2018 at 12:57
  • 6
    @AndreAngelo It seems to me it's either D&F or just D. Note (no pun intended) that only the F is smaller
    – JAD
    Aug 28, 2018 at 13:14
  • 1
    @AndreAngelo Very good question, and JAD is right on. I'll edit to make that more obvious.
    – Richard
    Aug 28, 2018 at 13:19
  • 1
    ...and on orchestral sheet music, the small notes could mean "this is what you'll hear by another instrument"... Aug 28, 2018 at 16:22
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    @elliotsvensson: All the cue notes I've notivced would have small stems of their own, rather merely having small note heads sharing the stem with performed notes.
    – supercat
    Aug 28, 2018 at 18:32

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