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Length of notes in a chord
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December 25, 2018 - 11:19 pm
Member Since: May 10, 2018
Forum Posts: 16
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I was wondering what the standard length is for each part of a 3 note and 4 note chord. For example, if you have a 4 note chord that lasts for a whole note; do you split it exactly in half, playing the bottom two notes for two beats and then the top two for two beats or do you play the first half shorter and hold out the second half for the rest of the duration? I keep seeing people do it very different from each other in youtube videos so i was just wondering.


Sacramento, California

December 26, 2018 - 12:58 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1379
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You definitely don't split the note value in half -- I've literally never heard of anyone doing that in 19 years of playing. In most cases, you hit the bottom two notes and let them ring, while moving on quickly to the upper two notes which are sustained. That is the default. The speed is usually as quickly as possible, but that may vary depending on stylistic considerations for the piece.

Composers may instruct you to play differently. You may see different note values for some of the notes than for others, in which case the notes with the longest values should be played last and sustained. (It's common for a composer to ask for only one note to be sustained, and I've occasionally seen music that calls for playing the upper notes first.) Also, composers sometimes ask for a rolled chord, which would mean hitting one note at a time, quickly, and sustaining each as long as possible while moving up the chord.

Fort Lauderdale
January 3, 2019 - 4:37 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 15988

There is no defined length of time for the split but traditionally the chord is broken up quicker from the bottom up. As Andrew mentioned, it depends on the piece.
The idea is that the bottom two notes first played before switching to the top two notes will continue to resonate while you play the top two. I usually give more emphasis to the bottom two notes for that reason.
As with all music, experiment and determine what you personally prefer.
Listening to many recordings of the piece that you will be learning or performing is very helpful in getting an idea as to how you want to be playing it.

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