This is from a piano song called "Jane's Song" by Christopher Norton. There are two whole notes that are held for the entire measure, but the left hand is also holding a note way into the bass and the right hand has to do a short run. Unless I have more hands than the average pianist, I can't possibly hold these notes. Is the notation just indicating that the pedal is what's holding them?enter image description here

2 Answers 2


This line refers to the pedal:

enter image description here

You are holding the pedal down before, at the triangle you release it and hold it down again for this bar. So, you can use the pedal to hold down the notes you cannot stretch your fingers for.

  • Thanks. I do know it's for the pedal, so just to make sure - the tie that has me holding down those whole notes actually means that pedal is what's holding them down, not my hands? May 17, 2019 at 11:12
  • @MichaelStachowsky usually when you see notes like that for the entire bar, you'll have to hold them down for their whole duration. But in cases like this, you won't be able to, so you should use the pedal (since the author has included that indication as well) May 17, 2019 at 11:13
  • Great, thanks. I suppose I've always read a tie as "only with your hands", but I guess that the pedal achieves the same effect for those notes. May 17, 2019 at 11:14
  • 3
    @MichaelStachowsky if you are holding the sustain pedal then whether you hold the keys manually has no effect. The tie is there to instruct you to not attack the key again at the next notehead.
    – OrangeDog
    May 17, 2019 at 17:15

There is sometimes a middle pedal on pianos, called the sostenuto pedal. Its role is to hold only the notes played when it's operated. so here, using that sostenuto pedal, the three semibreves can be held with it, which doesn't affect the other notes.

Using the sustain pedal, found on all pianos, will obviously hold the long notes without having to hold the keys down, but will also make the other, shorter, notes last until the sustain pedal is lifted.

It's not clear whether the long notes are tied into the next bar - a shot of that as well would make things clearer.

  • Would there not be a different notation for the sostenuto pedal? I suppose I'm not quite at the level where it's ever been used, since I've never actually seen anything other than sustain pedal notation as far as I know (unless they're the same and that's up to me which to use?) May 17, 2019 at 11:31
  • Actually answering the header - yes, there is a difference between holding notes on using fingers, and holding notes using the sustain pedal. As answered here! Sos. isn't usually notated, as it's up to the player to work out the best way to hold certain notes but maybe not others.
    – Tim
    May 17, 2019 at 11:33
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    @MichaelStachowsky What Tim said. The sostenuto pedal has become rare, because it's not found on most uprights, so players have gotten used to not having it. It's one of those things that's usually just left up to the performer ("this will be a lot easier if I hit the sostenuto here"); if it's explicitly called for, the composer will have to write out "sostenuto pedal" or the like.
    – Draconis
    May 17, 2019 at 17:46

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