Double Note Stems

On some music, the pick up note will have a note stem going up as well as down on the same note. Why does it do this?

Notes that have double stems are called "polyphonic" notes. The double stem indicates that the note is part of two different voices.

Music is divided into "voices" or parts. A lot of the time, there are only two voices--melody and accompaniment. Sometimes there are more than 2 voices and each hand may play more than one voice.

If I could see the music, I could tell you more.

This is also why you will see rests in the upper or lower right hand while other notes are being played with the right hand.

If you have any more questions about this, let me know--I will be happy to help.

Best Wishes!

Comments for Double Note Stems

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 26, 2008
Double Stems are mainly for Choirs
by: Satovey

Hi Lynne,

You have that almost correct.

The double stemmed notes are primarily for Choirs, Quartets and can apply to some wind instruments.

I have performed in Choirs most of my life, and while I don't have a whole lot of music theory kicking around in my head, I can tell you from experience that when we come across those double stemmed notes, say the C one octave above middle in the treble clef: Both Alto and Soprano will sing that particular note.

In Choir or quartet singing, the stem can be used to indicate which "voice member" of the group sings that particular note. By doing this, you can have the altos sing a note that is higher than the sopranos and obtain a slightly different sound than if the sopranos sang all the higher notes and altos all the lower notes. Doing this however has extreme limitations and for obvious range limitations can not be done with every note combination.

Take care.



While the double stemmed notes are used for the applications that you mention, I think that their use in instrumental polyphonic music--Bach, for example--is not less important.


Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask Piano Questions.