How should I notate syncopations happening at the level of the sixteenth note? I'm composing a piece and in the piano accompaniment, there are 2 layers of staccato, one being on beat eighth notes so 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + etc. and the other being a sixteenth note off that beat. So far I have been notating it this way: sixteenth rest, eighth notes for as long as possible in the bar, sixteenth tied over to the next bar. But is there a better way to notate it? Here is how it is being notated right now. You can see it starts with the staccato accompaniment alone in the bass and then the main melody and the second layer of accompaniment joins in at bar 5. I only have 1 bar's worth of the upper layer of the accompaniment because I want to make sure that it is being notated in a good way before I continue writing the accompaniment to the melody.

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Piece so far, with sixteenth note level syncopations at bar 5

I have been given 2 suggestions so far. Those are cross staff beaming of sixteenth notes and breaking the beam in between the third and fourth eighth note of the right hand and not having tied sixteenth notes. I was told that at 90 beats per minute, it will barely make any difference to the rhythm whether I have the sixteenths rearticulated or tied and that a pianist would get confused by both the tied note and the note that starts the tie having a staccato articulation. Here is what the piano accompaniment looks like with cross staff beaming:

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So what is the best way to notate this 2 layered staccato? Is it cross staff beaming or is it the way I have notated it with 2 layers of eighth notes? I will probably put sempre staccato in the piano staff and if I want to change it to legato, I will mark it as such.

  • As you've written it, the tied staccato notes seems like it'd be difficult to read; the last 16th note could just be left regular, no tie, no stacc. required, and it should be equivalent. – Nevin Williams Mar 23 at 19:41

Here are three possibilities. I think I'd rather read B. The LH should really keep the same notation it's had from the beginning. enter image description here

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  • So, you would rather see beaming over rests than cross staff beaming or off beat eighths(which is the way I am notating it right now). And since the sixteenth notes are so quick, even at 90 BPM, the difference between non-legato sixteenths and staccato eighths will be almost undetectable. And keeping the staccato eighths in the left hand like in example B makes the similarity to the beginning phrase and the fact that I am adding to it much more obvious than with example C, even if what results is almost exactly the same from the players. – Caters Mar 22 at 1:44
  • I'd neglected the need for continuity in the LH part. So B. I've amended my answer. – Laurence Payne Mar 22 at 2:15
  • I've seen A written more than the others. And slightly better than Caters' example, beam-wise. Tidier. The staccato problem can be alleviated by a direction written at the beginning. It also somehow portrays better what is happening - alternating notes with alternating hands. – Tim Mar 22 at 8:38
  • I agree with Laurence: B is the most easy and usual for reading and interpreting. It reminds me on the setting of a March (when there are staccato quarter and eighth notes. – Albrecht Hügli Mar 22 at 14:11

To take Laurence's examples, I would definitely prefer to read B. A is terrible for me, C is tolerable, B give me the easiest understanding of what's going on.

Incidentally, Beethoven used this device a great deal, and A is how he usually did it. Here's an example (bars 15-20):

The wedges are one of Schnabel (the editor)'s many eccentricities. They mean the same thing as a staccato, but Schnabel differentiated between a harder and softer staccato (sometimes called "portamento") for which he used the dot. Beethoven didn't make any such distinction in his manuscripts. (I couldn't find another performance with music that doesn't use Schnabel's score, but none of the several other scores with which I am familiar use this wedge.)

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