If a left hand arpeggiated chord sits directly bellow a block chord in piano music, should the block chord be played when the first or last note of the arpeggiated chord is played?

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  • Wouldn’t you play the block chord rhythm as written regardless of what is happening with the arpeggio?
    – b3ko
    May 2, 2019 at 14:04
  • @b3ko since the arpeggio takes longer to play than the block chord, you can either start the arpeggio and play the block chord on the last of the 3 arpeggio notes, the block chord in the middle e.g. on the second arpeggio note, or start the block chord and the arpeggio at the same time, having the remaining 2 notes of the arpeggio sound after the block chord. I assume the answer is to start both at the same time, but I'm not sure enough to put it as an answer.
    – MeanGreen
    May 2, 2019 at 14:28
  • @meanGreen are the arpeggios in this case played like grace notes or like 8ths spanning the measure? I was assuming the left hand would play the chord as arpeggiated 8ths and the right would play a quarter and an eighth. So the first and last beats would line up. But maybe I am just totally wrong. I have only ever formally studied music as a drummer so this never really came up.
    – b3ko
    May 2, 2019 at 15:07
  • 1
    @b3ko - Arpeggios in piano music are played like grace notes. If they're played like 8ths spanning the measure, that's one really slow arpeggio.
    – Dekkadeci
    May 2, 2019 at 15:23
  • @dekkadeci thoughts on the top example here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpeggio
    – b3ko
    May 2, 2019 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


It depends on the situation. Often the arpeggio feels like grace notes preceding the top note which is played on the beat. Sometimes the bottom note is harmonically more important, so it's the one that's on the beat, followed by the higher ones. Brahms sometimes writes downward arpeggios as grace notes leading to an on-the-beat melody note. Sometimes it's just kind of mushy around the beat somewhere.

In this example (the bar in the middle; treble clef both hands, right hand 8va?), the Ab is just harmonic filler, so play the bottom note on the beat.

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