i bought a beginner piano book for my child and we are playing a piece in which it is written that the middle c is played on the lower staff with left hand on half note followed by middle c on upper staff with right hand on quarter note.

I am wondering is it written correctly and how it can be executed. I feel you need to release the middle c on the left hand after one beat so that the right hand and play the same middle c. If you continue to hold the middle c on the left hand for 2 beats, you won’t be able to press the middle with the right hand on the 2nd beat.

So my question here is whether it is written correctly. Should the middle c on the lower staff be a quarter note instead of a half note?

enter image description here

Thanks for your replies.. I understand it’s written in a simplified manner and rests are omitted at this early stage of learning. So my question is if written correctly, how should this part be to played on the piano? Should I teach my child to play the middle C on the left hand as a quarter beat instead. Should it be rewritten as below? enter image description here

  • If it were a quarter note there would have to be a quarter rest after it, and apparently the editor wanted to avoid rests in this very early example. Note that rests are also absent from the first bars of the right hand part. Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 14:20
  • 1
    In practice, yes, that's how you would do it, unless you want to sometimes play it as duet, where one person is playing the right hand and the other is playing the left hand. It's easier to split something like this up into a duet if you shift the left hand down an octave, so you're not so squished into each other on the bench. In that case the left hand can play the line as written. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 0:52

4 Answers 4


It isn't exactly correct, as you point out, that C can't be held on and played again simultaneously. It's a sort of simplification, to avoid messing up beginners, with rests. It sort of works, and most will turn a blind eye to it.

  • Just to clarify, the LH half note should not be held two beats so that the C in the melody can be heard. In this situation where a note is held, but another plays "on top of" the same note, the melody note is the one that must be heard.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 0:57

This sort of thing happens all the time in 'real music'. It indicates the musical intention, the player takes care of the mechanics.

It's rather odd to see it in an elementary piano instruction book though. Perhaps the writer was more interested in the religious lyrics than the piano pedagogy :-)


Yes, you should have them release the C after one beat and play a quarter rest. A more advanced pianist can use the pedal to make it seem like the C is being held, but this isn't the place to teach such a technique.

I wouldn't call this notation "wrong": Bach and other classical composers use it, although it can be confusing to players. It invites the listener to hear two voices moving at different rates (here a melody in quarter notes and a bass in half notes).


a playing suggestion might be to double the "E" (in the treble clef) instead.

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