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How should one draw in a staff a chord that contains both a note and the same note with an alteration?

For example: How would you draw in a staff a chord that contains both C2 and C#2?

Addition: Tim's answer provides a good workaround: simply draw the C# as a Db. However, now we have a new weird case: What if the chord contains C, C# and D?

Edit for context: This weird requirement came from a very specific need: I was working on a software that detected pressed keys in a piano and generated a visual staff with the pressed notes. As users could press any combination of keys, I was researching ways to draw anything in the staff, even if it doesn't make sense musically.

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    Possible duplicate of What does this split stem notation mean?
    – Richard
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:47
  • Are you asking how to "draw a note and the same note with a [sharped] alteration" or how to notate a pitch and pitch one half-step above both of which share the same note name?
    – seanreads
    Sep 7, 2018 at 18:08
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    Agreed with Richard here: split-stem notation Sep 7, 2018 at 19:16
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    I'm not sure about the duplicate mark. The other question goes in the opposite direction, asking what does the split-stem notation mean. It may seem that both are the same, but my question seems to have several different answers, one of them being the split-stem. Saying that both questions are equivalent would mean that the way and only way to answer my question is with a split-stem, which doesn't seem to be the case. Still, I'm not a musician and this comment is based in the answers I've got until now, so if you really think that this question is a duplicate, I'd be happy to mark it as such.
    – Racso
    Sep 7, 2018 at 19:40
  • (I don't necessarily think it's a duplicate; this was my way of simply showing a related question to others.)
    – Richard
    Sep 7, 2018 at 21:56

4 Answers 4

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From "Standard Music Notation Practice" (Music Publisher's Association of the United State, Inc., 1966 and 1993), "Placement of Note Heads and Accidentals, part (h)"

When two notes occupy the same place on the staff in a chord but differ in pitch because of accidentals, they are placed with the lower note on the left. The stems are then drawn at a diagonal to meet at a point from which a common stem is added.

Split stem example from referenced publication

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  • What if one or both notes is a whole note? Jul 14, 2023 at 7:37
  • @SarcasticSully The same rule applies — lower note on the left. There just aren't any stems.
    – Aaron
    Jul 14, 2023 at 7:44
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Chances are the C# is going to be Db! Now, it's fairly straightforward. Put the C on blob on one side of the stem, and the Db on the other. make sure the b sign is in line with the D note, and not the C!

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    What if the chord contains C, C# and D?
    – Racso
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:36
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    What if? Then it's going to be a really strange sounding chord, the like of which I haven't played in 60-odd years! Technically you could get around it by making the C a B#, but it would probably not be the correct notes, although with a chord like that, who knows?!
    – Tim
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:38
  • Haha. The thing is that I'm working in a musical game that draws chords, and the player is able to play that weird chord. I'm trying to conclude what to do in that case. Perhaps the answer is that is not possible to draw that specific case in a staff?
    – Racso
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:41
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    @Racso then you would spell it B# C# D.We can keep going down this rabbit hole, but at some point it sounds like you would just move away from any staff or diatonic notation. It does have its limits.
    – Dom
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:45
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Here is what Musescore does with your example. enter image description here

CORRECTION:

enter image description here

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  • If you are deliberately notating two simultaneously sounding notes from a chromatic scale, this is fine and addresses the question as stated.
    – seanreads
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:47
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    This just cannot make sense. The # sign makes both notes to be played as C#.
    – Tim
    Sep 7, 2018 at 18:21
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    That makes more sense. However, I haven't yet come across a chord that would use the same name note in a different guise. C# and C may come into use in an Dbmaj7, but the C# would inevitably be known asDb., Thus in written form, would not be on the same line/space.
    – Tim
    Sep 7, 2018 at 19:02
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    On the one hand, Tim is right; that is a clunky notation that wouldn't really work, but almost nothing really works there, as unisons are notated next to each other. Perhaps a ♮C♯C (written in notation with the sharp between the two C noteheads)?
    – user45266
    Sep 7, 2018 at 22:13
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    Yes, it really is a strange requirement. I cannot think of any time this need be done, save maybe weird split-third chords? Or a tone cluster like C-C♯-D-E♭-E.
    – user45266
    Sep 7, 2018 at 22:41
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If I understood the question right, when you mark there will be an alteration, let's say in C (so all C occurrences will be C#), if you want to say you're playing an actual C, you make use of the natural symbol, which cancels the alteration.

Here is the wikipedia article.

This is the symbol

I hope it helps.

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    Hi. You misunderstood the question, which is how to draw a chord that contains both notes (C and C#) at the same time.
    – Racso
    Sep 7, 2018 at 17:36
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    Okay I'm sorry! Maybe this post helps you! Sep 7, 2018 at 17:41

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