From the first page of the sheet music for "Graceful Ghost" (preview available from Sheet Music Plus), you can see that in the third measure (the first chord the right hand plays after the repeat starts), the notes are C, D♭, C. How on earth is this supposed to be played? Am I supposed to mash both C and D♭ with my thumb? Am I supposed to roll the chord somehow? Is it a misprint? Am I misreading it?


3 Answers 3


Thumb on C, second finger on D♭, fifth finger on C. You need a wide hand for that, and the ability to stretch almost an octave from the 2nd to 5th finger. Playing both notes with the thumb seems awkward because of the way the thumb has to bend for it. If you can't reach all 3 notes, try it leaving out one of the notes and see which two notes sound best.

This piece requires careful fingering. Spend time on it to find the fingering that works for you, particularly in the third strain. There aren't any misprints; all those crazy chords are for real.

  • 1
    ugh, I can make the chord that way stretched to capacity but I doubt I could hit it in the middle of a sequence. bolcom is a jerk.
    – Andy Ray
    Nov 19, 2012 at 3:12
  • 4
    @DelvarWorld Dropping the bottom C would be the most appropriate compromise if you can't reach it.
    – NReilingh
    Nov 19, 2012 at 3:48
  • @AndyRay See my comment below. Bolcom is not a jerk. I can't play Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' sonata to my satisfaction; that doesn't make Beethoven a jerk, just me an insufficient pianist.
    – Peter
    Jun 17, 2020 at 16:09

That chord (and passage) pops up 6 times in this piece. I've got small hands and can still reach second finger on D♭ and fifth finger on C (both far up the keys, near the fallboard) with the thumb on the near edge of the key; this fingering also sets up the next chord, with the second finger remaining in place. I've listened to several recordings (including Bolcom's) and either the C or the D♭ often get left out, but it seems to sound best if both are there and slightly rolled. In any case, I wouldn't make a big deal about it -- it's a very transitory chord and only another piano player is going to notice.


It turns out the other posted answers are completely wrong. You're supposed to play the C and D♭ both with the pad of your right thumb. Your right thumb can easily hit both notes. Trying to involve your second finger is incorrect.

  • Sorry, I disagree with that comment 100%. There is no such thing as a 'correct' fingering, as I think I've said here before. Only a fingering that works for you. My hand has a good extension (I've been known to finger octaves 2-5), and I find that 1-2-5 works very well for me, and allows me to voice the chord as I would like. With a smaller hand 1-1-5 is the only option, but you have to get the pressure on the C and D flat equal, which needs a lot of practice. And Bolcom is not a jerk - just a rather good composer of ragtime.
    – Peter
    Jun 11, 2020 at 9:35

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