Could anyone let me know how I'm supposed to play these two measures on a normal sized piano? The bottom two staves are for piano (treble clef on top and bass clef on bottom).

Firstly, I'd like to ask about the half notes in the first measure of the top staff. I'm really confused about the tie. It looks like it is connecting them to some of the 16th notes that start on the bottom staff that I need to play before the duration of the half notes ends. I'd probably still call myself a beginner at piano, and I'm really unsure of how go about playing this. Do I lift the fingers holding down the half notes before 2 beats is up so that I can play the 16th notes? Of do I simply ignore the 16th notes that overlap with the half notes?

Another thing that I'm not so sure of is the 16th notes. Firstly, what hand should I use? Should I try to use my left hand for the bottom staff and change hands when I reach the upper staff? But I see that the notes on the bottom staff overlap with those on the top one. I'm confused. And my hands certaintly aren't wide enough when you add in the half notes at the bottom.

So, how would an experienced pianist play these measures? Or would they simply not bother to play everything? I'm sorry if this is a stupid question. I'm a beginner and really have no idea. Anyway, any help would be appreciated.

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  • 4
    Hi, Please post the name of the piece AND the particular edition shown here. It might be interesting to see if there are any introductory comments from the composer, or if a different edition has different markings. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


This passage is actually playable without any pedals assuming your hands can span an octave each.

While I'd like to use the sostenuto pedal at the half notes with pause signs on them before playing any 16th notes afterward, lifting the necessary fingers on the half notes when you need to play the 16th notes is acceptable (if more difficult). I wouldn't ignore the 16th notes--they seem like a flourish that should be played in full.

If all your hands can do is span an octave (like mine; I can span a ninth, but I hit adjacent inner notes at this point), distributing notes between hands should be easy. The only 16th note your left hand can play is the lowest B flat in that run. The rest of the 16th notes need to be played with the right hand. Change which finger is holding down chord notes while still holding down those notes as necessary if you're not using the sostenuto pedal.

If your hands can't even span an octave, you either need the sostenuto pedal or you're out of luck and need to use the damper pedal or lift a note for too long. But if your right hand can't play the B♭sus4 chords in the upper staff of the beginning of your excerpt or an unarpeggiated version of the B♭maj7 chord at the end, I personally believe this piece is out of your reach.

  • I disagree. Even if you could somehow play the RH chord F-B-D with 2-4-5 so that you can play the D. with 1 and the A with 3, that leaves no fingers to play the F' and A' at the end of the measure. This passage cannot be played without sostenuto unless one can span the LH octave 5-3 to cover the D. and F with 2 and 1 leaving RH 4-5 for the F' and A', or else having seven fingers on one's right hand. Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 14:48
  • @AR-solidarityforModstrike - I left unstated that you will have to silently swap which RH fingers hold down which notes in the middle of the 16th-note run. This is a common enough tactic in fingering notation (e.g. "5-4") that I thought I didn't need to say this.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 9:26
  • @AR-solidarityforModstrike - On further inspection, it does look like that last A in the first measure can't be hit without sostenuto, letting go of the half-note F (I'd actually go with the latter), or having a hand size that can span a 10th (this is common enough in piano sheet music).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 9:35

The sustain pedal is often assumed in piano music. In this case, the notation implies it. The half note at the bottom tied through the end of the piece implies holding the pedal throughout, and the half notes tied to nothing says to hold those too ("properly", they would be tied to whole notes, but then the ties would have to go through the music so it would get messy).

So use the sustain pedal through the entire six beats. Hit the chord, and then you can use both hands to play the run. Since your right hand is already right there to play the first part of it, I would start with D-F-A-Bb with the right hand, then the next D-F-A-Bb with the left, then D-F-A-D with the right, A-Bb with the left, and then the last chord with the right.

  • I'm not sure I agree, because I would want the 16th-note run NOT to be sustained. I understand that this may be a matter of interpretation. Wonder what the composer actually intended? Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 14:32
  • @CarlWitthoft why do you say you want the run not sustained?
    – MattPutnam
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 15:16
  • Matt, just because I'd like to hear it as a run rather than a "building chord" . Purely personal taste. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 16:04
  • You'll hear it as a run. This is very typical stuff.
    – MattPutnam
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 17:25
  • Btw, those ties on the half notes should be connected to whole notes in the next bar. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 22:28

The tie connects to an implied semibreve of the same three notes in the last bar.

I would play the B♭ octave and the RH chord, catch it with the sustain pedal and do the entire B♭maj7 arpeggio with my RH. Holding the B♭ octave in the LH throughout.

If a sostenuto pedal was available, you could use it to sustain the chord and leave the arpeggio clean. A pretty effect. But not, I suspect, what the composer would expect.

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