Well on my piano piece, my right hand needs to play a staccato quarter note and at the same time my left hand plays an eighth note... so which one would you play longer?

right hand is playing 4 quarter notes staccato in the measure while the left hand is playing 8 eighth notes.

I am late elementary... if I sort of just tap the staccatos, making them even shorter than the eighth notes... should I try to time the tap of the stacatto into the center of the sound of eighth note... or else start them both at the same time?

  • 1
    A good question to pose to the composer - who must have had a particular feel in mind to write it as such. Is he still alive? What piece is it? Can you post a copy?
    – Tim
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 16:39

5 Answers 5


The one certain part of this question is that both notes START at the same time.

Then we get into a less black-and-white area. If the composer had wanted both hands to play notes the same length he could have written the RH as eighth notes and rests. A staccato quarter is generally rather longer than an eighth. It could help to think of the LENGTH of the quarters, not their shortness.


The quarter-notes all start on the beat, so the starts will be | both, 8th, both, 8th etc.

The length you should hold the staccato quarter-notes isn't absolutely fixed. I suggest you try playing the right hand on its own and see what sounds best, then combine that with the left hand. By the way you did not specify that the left hand is playing legato (smoothly). If the left hand is staccato I would consider ending the notes in both hands together. ie |Both down, both up, Ldown, L up, etc


The eighth note can have at most 50% of the duration of the quarters, while a staccato quarter should be played like an eighth note or longer.

Now, as a notation, staccato quarter = an eighth note doesn’t make sense, so you’d probably shorten them to 60-70% of their actual legato duration.

Attack simultaneously with the eighths, release after the second quaver.


Imagine you play l.h. the boogie bass line GBDE FEDB legato quavers and r.h. G7 repeated block chords staccato quarters. Because of the repetition of playing the same keys the quarters could be possibly played portato (ca. 80%). But the staccato will be shorter than portato and similar or longer than the quavers: In a notation program you can choose the duration of staccato values. A duration between 50-80% seems to be appropriate.

  • I disagree, and further the note lengths are highly dependent on the genre of music in question and the mood of the section in particular. Commented May 18, 2020 at 12:40
  • All information I could find are teaching the reduction of the note lenth is not more than 50%. But I’d agree with the deleted answer by Alan: The staccato "feel" is a very brief bounce on the note with a sharp decay after the attack. "Staccato" is better defined by the "feel" of the articulation, rather than strict note durations. Commented May 18, 2020 at 13:55

Best way to do this, practice separate hands.

Make the eighth notes EXACT eighth notes. With the staccato quarter notes, play them the way you feel they should be, they way that sounds to you like a staccato quarter note.

After much practice of separate hands, practice putting the hands together. And make sure that it sounds as it sounded when they are separate.


Start at the same time.

Ask yourself: how would you play the right hand line if it were the only one? You'd play each quarter note on the beat. So, why should that change because of what the left hand plays?

  • So which one is longer duration? Commented May 17, 2020 at 3:43
  • The duration of a staccato is to some extent a matter of personal style, but it doesn't depend very much on the tempo. It's "hit and go", so at a medium tempo a staccato quarter note will be shorter than an eight note.
    – MMazzon
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 3:46
  • Yes you most certainly adjust each staff's timing to merge with the other staff. Commented May 18, 2020 at 12:40

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