I've been trying to understand the occurance in various scores of two instance of the same note with different durations, and I've tried looking up various things to see if I can find out what I am supposed to actually play. My working solution is to play the longest duration note, and ignore the other.

Today I found a score with some text that seemed to referred to them as "double stemmed" notes. Yeah! off to my ref books and the internet to look that up - but another dead end. I think it may have just been a coincidence in that piece.

Please can anyone tell me the name for this and possibly explain how the are meant to be interpreted and why?

Thanks so much.

So, to be clear, here are two versions of the first two bars of Heller's Etude in E minor Op.46 No 7. This is from a book of piano studies written for that instrument. enter image description here The top version is the original version

But there is a "dilemma" the pianist is asked to play the same note twice at the same time with different durations (First note second bar). Obviously that's impossible - sure I can play chords or multiple voices, but this feels like a musical nonsense phrase. The second version plays the same, as far as I am aware, but does not share this problem? Q: Why has Heller, who is undoubtedly doing the correct thing, taken this first (top) approach?

I also found pieces in which both the right hand and the left hand end on the same note; with it drawn on the LH and RH stave. So one hand presses the note, and the other hand presses the finger of the first hand.

  • Do you mean something akin to music.stackexchange.com/questions/33948/…?
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 22:06
  • Yeah, that's it.No name is mentioned in the link, but at least the interpretation is clarified.
    – JMLCarter
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 22:12
  • A possible name would be "double voicing" Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 22:20
  • Well that would be audible if I was using two instruments, but on a solo piano score? I still don't quite see why composers would complicate the score with it?
    – JMLCarter
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 1:12
  • @JMLCarter, on a piano or guitar - instruments that can play chords - you can hold the first note for the full beat with one finger and then play the next two notes with your other fingers. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


The notation is likely showing two voices in the music. This can be played by holding the longer of the notes and moving the other voice when it is indicated. I’m assuming you’re talking about something akin to: enter image description here

  • Out if curiosity: what does the 40 in your example refer to?
    – Arsak
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:59
  • Not sure, grabbed it from wikimedia. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 17:45

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