I've listened to Ludwig Schunke's Piano Sonata, Op. 3 before, and my favourite movement is its second movement (a scherzo), so I got the sheet music and tried to play it. It was surprisingly easy and, partially as a result, very fun!

I was perplexed by large swathes of the score implying that I should play them with my hands crossed:

Schunke Piano Sonata Op. 3 Movement 2 Hands Crossed Passage

I thankfully get to stop playing with my hands possibly crossed at the start of the last line/system above, but that's 11 straight measures of piano music that might be better played with the right hand playing the lower staff and the left hand playing the upper staff.

The second movement, according to http://ks.petruccimusiclibrary.org/files/imglnks/usimg/3/31/IMSLP187196-PMLP321465-Schuncke_op.03_Klaviersonate.pdf, even sometimes assigns the 16th-note runs to the lower staff instead of the upper staff.

So, am I better off playing this and similar passages with my hands crossed or with my right hand playing the lower staff and my left hand playing the upper staff? My left hand can pull off its 16th-note runs.

3 Answers 3


I'd say that provided you can play the semiquavers/16ths in your left hand smoothly, and keep them running smoothly in that 3rd system's 1st bar as you pass them from your left hand to your right, go for it.

There are several moments in piano works, I've found, where the notation suggests cross hands, but you can avoid it by suitably assigning notes to hands.

I wonder sometimes if some pianist/composers deliberately wrote crossed-hands passages to enable the performer to show off. (Scarlatti was one for this is some of his early sonatas.)

  • show off! piano artists in the circus, that's it ;) Oct 5, 2019 at 9:35

The start of the movement has some hand crossings that are explicitly marked with "s" and "d" (sinistra and destra) which are repeated later on.

Looking at the bars after the hand crossing, the each hand continues to play the same note patterns, but uncrossed.

So it is clear enough what the composer intended. If you can produce the same result without crossing hands, that's fine - but it's probably easier to get the intended result with crossed hands than without. Since your left hand is the mirror image of your right, the "built-in" phrasing and dynamics caused by changes in hand position etc will occur in different places using different hands to play the same notes.

  • For the matter, in my first playthrough, I actually didn't play any passages with my hands crossed.
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 5, 2019 at 11:12

Always play the way that is better, convenient and more comfortable to you. Everything else is chewing gum for the brain or as Rosie says: show off.

btw: Cross crawl is not just nonsense! Look at Mozart playing piano in the movie Amadeus. It is good training to integrate the working of both brain hemispheres: Practical Guide to Natural Vision Improvemen

  • Always? Some fairly difficult keyboard pieces are written for just one hand and it would be easier to play them using two hands, but you would never consider doing that would you?
    – JimM
    Oct 5, 2019 at 11:37
  • Of course I would. They are not written in purpose to be played with one hand, they have been written for pianists who had lost one arm in the war. But what I often use to do is play a one hand reduction of e.g. a two- part invention. This helps me better understanding the counterpoint of this music ... Oct 5, 2019 at 12:06
  • 1
    Perhaps I have misunderstood you but I believe that they are written to be played with just one hand. They are often performed by two handed pianists using just one hand.
    – JimM
    Oct 5, 2019 at 16:55
  • @JimM Your example qualifies as an exception imo. Since such pieces were written for pianists who lost an arm in the war, by playing the pieces with one hand only, the two-armed pianist feels, at least in part, the struggle the one-armed pianists had to go through.
    – Divide1918
    Aug 12, 2021 at 5:41

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