For example, in Chopin's Etude Op 10, No. 4 (Torrent), the melody is initially in the right hand and it's accompanied by the left hand.

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A few bars after, the right takes over the same accompaniment and the left hand takes over the exact same melody, but just in a lower octave.

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Now my question is how the exact same melody should be treated when the left hand takes it over in a lower octave and the right hand takes over the same accompaniment. I have watched recordings of many different professional pianists performing this étude and in every recording, the chords in the right hand dominate over the melody in the left hand. My thoughts are, that the melody in the left hand should be the one which is played clearly and dominating over the right hand, while the right hand is simply doing the accompaniment. Is this thought correct? I was wondering if there's a technical explanation as to why most pianists suddenly don't pay attention to the left hand and let the right hand dominate, whilst the melody and the accompaniment are simply switched, but they still always focus on the right hand. Does the accompaniment suddenly become the melody when swapped? That doesn't make much sense. In Chopin's Op 10, No.8 (Sunshine), the left hand also takes the melody, so the right hand doesn't always take the melody I'd assume.

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    Not sure what recordings you have, but you are right that the melody is transferred to the bass, and the chords in the right have and accompaniment. By nature, it is always going to be harder work to have the bass clef melody come out as clearly as in the treble clef. If you have Naxos Music Library give Ralf Taal a listen. The melody is transferred from hand to hand for sure.
    – Jomiddnz
    Jul 15, 2019 at 22:42
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    I agree that I would expect and attempt to make the melody on the left hand stand out louder than the right-hand accompaniment. It is true that our ears are less sensitive to lower frequencies and it can be hard to rein in a right hand that is trained to be louder than a left hand, but I'm surprised to hear that the recordings you've found don't show a single instance of the bass being louder when it has the melody. All that said, chords can be the focus of music in many cases, and maybe that's the interpretation that you're hearing - the left hand "melody" is being treated as bass line" Jul 16, 2019 at 2:41
  • Alright thank you very much! It's indeed very strange that every recording I have listened from professional pianists tend to focus on the accompaniment in the right hand, while the melody in the left hand is impossible to recognise and not played clearly. It is true it is difficult to hear lower frequencies, but I assume they don't give attention to the left hand on purpose. Maybe the fact that lower frequencies are harder to hear is the reason they don't give attention to it? It's still weird, since it's still the melody though.
    – user46792
    Jul 16, 2019 at 7:34
  • Wow, the recording of Ralf Taal seems to play the left hand more clearly. One thing I am missing, is that if you look at the melodic line, both the right hand and the left hand hace accents at the end of the melodic line. If you listen to the right hand, these accents are played very clearly. In the left hand he suddenly doesn't play the accents clearly, but he plays the chord with an accent ! I used this link for his recording youtu.be/PUQpODrNmV4 from 00:00 to 00:13. The accents in the right hand are played around 00:05-00:06, so you can compare it to the left hand. Melody left 00:08
    – user46792
    Jul 16, 2019 at 7:39
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    I think it might also have something to do with pianists being used to having the left hand play a secondary role in performing and most people being right-handed. Have you tried searching for left-handed pianists playing this étude?
    – Pyromonk
    Jul 17, 2019 at 4:39

2 Answers 2


The melody should always be prominent in music, and the accompaniment should be in the background. This is true of all music, no matter if it is being played by a solo piano or guitar or whether it is being played in an ensemble.

The idea that lower notes are harder to bring out in melody is not a reason to cause it to be smothered. It just means the accompaniment needs to be played even more softly. I am accompanist and have accompanied double bass quite often. It is the pianist's responsibility to play more softly because the bass simply cannot play louder. The same is true if the melody is in the LH of the piano music.

Good piano teachers teach their students to bring out the melody, regardless of which hand it is in. Pianists with good training are not trained to bring out the RH. They are trained to bring out the voicing that needs to be brought out. Say, in a fugue for example. Different voices at all ranges need to be brought out at different times, while other voices are still being heard. As a pianist, I have to bring out certain notes and put others in the background in the same hand.

There is no good reason for a professional player not to bring out the LH in this section. A professional player should be almost ambidextrous in their ability to manage technical feats.


In this musical example, the problem isn't which hand plays the melody, it's which octave the melody is in, and the mechanics of the piano.

When the melody moves to the bass clef, fast sixteenths blur together because the heavy bass strings don't damp as instantly as the light treble strings. If you play that very loudly to distract the ear from the staccato accompaniment higher up, then the passing tones turn the melody into chromatic mud. Although a robot might be able to play it loud and staccatissimo, that's not how Chopin notates it.

Beethoven's fifth symphony, third movement, "dancing elephants" fast cello + double bass melody doesn't suffer as much from this because each note ends as the next note is fingered.

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