I am currently spending some time with this piece of music and I am a bit confused as to how long I should hold some of the notes and what some of the symbols mean.

In blue: Should i repeat/hold the lowest F?

In red: How long should I hold the Ab?

In yellow: Repeat/hold F?

In green: What does this connecting line between the notes mean?

enter image description here

Thank you

  • Good question - good answer of Lars Peter! I can’t explain the ties, but imaging an arrangement I would keep an I at them distributing those notes to the different voices in a setting for SATB. Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 20:20
  • 1
    Yes that does look odd doesn't it. It might be worth looking at some performances on YouTube (or elsewhere) and see what the "experts" do.
    – JimM
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 20:25
  • Blue is a tie: the note is repeated by the thumb but not by the pinkie. Yellow is a tied finger change: left thumb takes over from right thumb without repeating the note.
    – user207421
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 3:45

2 Answers 2


It is music original written for organ where you have more than one manual plus pedals. Busoni made piano editions of many of Bach's organ pieces and your image shows Busoni's piano version.

Maybe it can help to understand the voices in the music by looking at Bach's original and thereby understand what is going on. Below is an image from Bach's handwriting and an image where the 3 parts are written in 3 staffs. The sheet music can be found on IMSLP on this link: BWV 639

Fraction from BWV 639 Bach's handwriting: BWV 639 Bach's handwriting

Fraction from BWV 639 Bach, the three parts notated in three staffs: BWV Bach, three staffs


The blue circled tie is likely a slur because the german text under it says "bass smooth and stately" and the slur reinforces the technique you should be following for the bass line of the piece.

the red circled tie is a slur from the a to the g, including the stemmed down f.

the yellow circled section:
- first tie is a slur from the bass note to the f so the high f is not sounded twice and specifically played after the low f.
- second tie is a tie so the high f is still only sounded once

the green circled section contains another slur so the high f is not sounded twice and specifically played after the low f.

  • Agreed, except blue is almost certainly a tie (from style comparison to the other ties and slurs) for the lower note (restrike the higher though).
    – mirabilos
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 11:53

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