# Why would a piano composer use voices 1 and 2, when voice 1 is fine?

• Mar 11, 2023 - 20:36

Please help me understand something music notation related. In a recent piece of sheet music I encountered, the composer chose two whole notes in a measure as voices 1 & 2. The image below is from that music. The top note is voice 1 and the bottom note is voice 2.

Yet, if I changed voice 2 to voice 1 and set both notes as voice 1, the result is visually and musically identical. There is no difference. Here is the same image. Now, both notes are voice 1. There is NO difference. Why would someone do that? I'm afraid I don't get the reason? In fact, I don't know how any pianist can play voices 1 and 2 at the same time. HELP!

You present a very simple case where either 1 or 2 voices work. Consider, however, if measures that followed looked like a Bach 3-part invention, then 2 voices (assuming treble clef here) would be necessary

No, there is no difference. So one may do that - or even not.
Different voices are only needed if you have notes with different durations.

I am no pianist but a pianist has 10 fingers. So he can play 10 notes at the same time, didn't he?

Suppose the measures before this needed two voices. In the measures in your image it is easier to continue to use two voices rather than mess around with hiding rests for the unused voice.

In reply to by bobjp

I guess I can understand if a piano piece suggests the player hold two different notes for different times. For example, in the example below, the whole note is voice 2, and the other five notes are voice 1. Not sure how the pianist plays this, given he/she has to hold the "B" note for the full measure while the "F" note is played for a half measure, but I guess I can see the reason. However, the example I posted earlier was a voice 1 and voice 2 notation with nothing in the measures in front of or behind it ... just two whole notes that did not need voice 2 at all.

Anyway, do you pianists out there have problems when a composer notates two voices, particularly since the pedal marks can easily override any note length? In other words, if a piece has two voices but I am adding pedal marks to every measure as in the example above, should I convert all voice 2 notes to voice 1 notes for ease of reading?

In reply to by fsgregs

Just because you see something in a published score or in a MuseScore score, doesn't mean it is correct. Or standard. To pass the proficiency test to graduate from college, I had to take a number of years of piano lessons. Still I wouldn't count myself to be a "piano player". In any event, your example above is indeed playable. But messy. Especially with the addition of the pedal. For me, the pedal is more effective if used sparingly. If at all. Players will tend to use it automatically when they want, anyway. Regardless of what the score says. Performers get to do that.

In reply to by fsgregs

As I said above: I am not a piano player!
The only thing I see in your example: How can he play the whole note B and at the end of the bar also play a B as an eighth note on the same pitch? Only if he uses the pedal. But as far as I know then also the half note F and all the following eights will then be hold. Is that even playable as written?

> should I convert all voice 2 notes to voice 1 notes for ease of reading?
You can only see notes. In Musescore, the voices have different colors, but only to clearly indicate the assignment to the voices. The printout will be black for all notes. And a piano player often plays chords, that is, he strikes three, four or more notes at the same time, or as a run after each other.

In reply to by HildeK

There is a chance that using the pedal will render the last B almost unheard. And maybe that is the effect the composer wants. Otherwise play and hold the B with the thumb and replay the B on the last 8th note. No pedal involved.
The piano is a percussive instrument. The sound decays, naturally. Even with the pedal. Although the pedal make things jumble together if not used properly. And you can't tell from notation software how it actually sounds in practice.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob: In my example above, I can see the thumb holding the voice 2 "B" note for the full measure and playing it again on the voice 1 eighth note as you suggest, but the "F" voice 1 half-note cannot also be played with the left hand if the B note is to be held. So, I would guess the composer wanted the "F" note to be a half-rest. I understand composers do not always get things right, but assuming I am adding the pedal rests, which render much of the timing moot, would I be remiss in changing the "B" note to voice 1 so that it reads as a "B"& F chord, given that the pedal will hold all the notes through the measure? It seems to be it is easier to understand if the pedal marks are present.

In reply to by fsgregs

All right hand for the upper staff. The B is played with the thumb and the F is played at the same time with the little finger. Or the ring finger, depending on the player. Other fingers play the other notes as needed. Not difficult.

The left hand plays the lower staff.

In reply to by bobjp

Oh Duh! Of course. I imagined both notes being played one on top of the other as appearing in the measure, but of course the "F" note is played with the little finger while the "B" note is played with the thumb. Sorry for the stupid confusion. Thanks for the clarification. I also did know the right hand handles the treble clef. My mistake.

In reply to by fsgregs

Personally, I use the "Columbus" method of typing on a keyboard. Discover and land. I roam the keyboard with one finger until I accidently find the letter I want. Takes a while though.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Ah yes. Your method gives a "birds eye view" of the keyboard. With mine, I can't hardly "sea" the keys. Looks like I'll need to learn your method. As flighty as it seems.