I'm a beginner at piano, and struggling to understand what I'm looking at here, and how to play it. I've bought and downloaded some piano sheet music from musicnotes.com. It's in 12/8 time, and part of it looks like this:

Odd note representation in chord

How am I to interpret the two-note chord I've circled in red?

As far as I can tell

  • the note marked X is D below middle C,
  • the note marked Y is A flat above middle C (where middle C is marked with a blue arrow), and
  • the fact that they share the same stem in the treble clef suggests I should play them together with my right hand.

But that's really odd because (a) it would make more sense to write note Y on the treble clef itself, not on ledger lines above the bass clef, and (b) the interval between the two notes is a 12th, so the stretch is surely unreasonable for almost everyone.

  • I suspect this is the MusicNotes transposition engine failing at an extreme degree of transposition. What's the piece? DID you specify a transposition? My bet is on the interval of a 6th continuing, the lower note is intended to be F.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 21:53
  • 7
    It would be really helpful to know what the piece is, who composed it (and when) and who published it. That would allow comparison with any other available editions. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 23:57
  • 2
    It's possible that the two notes don't even share a stem, and that the lower note is a quarter note (that's presumably played at the same time as the upper note).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 6:20
  • It was very reassuring to know that the notation was an error and not just something with obscure meaning that this beginner was unfamilar with. I contacted musicnotes.com as suggested and they acknowledged the error and corrected it. As some here had suggested, the A flat above middle C should have been a B flat below middle C, consistent with the other 6ths in the bar.
    – Nik Silver
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 21:01
  • Knowing Lilypond, and from the context, I suspect this is simply a <d hes'> that was mistyped as <d aes'>. Just play the obvious sixth instead. Commented Jun 24 at 10:59

3 Answers 3


This is just poor notation, plain and simple. My guess is that you're supposed to play the D and A♭ below middle C here, with both pitches in the right hand.

Do you have a recording of this piece? If so, your best bet is to listen to the recording and see if that is in fact D/A♭ there.

Otherwise, perhaps there's a system in place at musicnotes.com that allows you to report "bugs" in the notation, or the ability to contact the transcriber (if it was even a human!).

  • 5
    "Poor notation" is overly charitable. It is a blatant error, plain and simple, for the reason described in the last paragraph of the question.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 22:37

It is clearly an error, and without more context it is difficult to guess what the correct notes are. The right hand melody might make more sense if the D were an octave higher, of course, but the A-flat seems a bit out of place even if it's an octave lower.

My advice is to bring this error to the attention of the customer service department of the business that sold it to you and ask for a corrected copy.


Assuming this is not an error, I would play it like this:

  • Using the Sostenuto pedal for the low C and G on the bass clef
  • play the chord you highlighted normally, D on the treble clef with the right hand, and the A♭ on the bass clef with the left hand
  • 'release' the sostenuto pedal when you have to play the E♭ on the bass clef.
  • 1
    But it can only be an error, for the reason described in the last paragraph of the question.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 22:38

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