Writing multi-hand piano duet questions: 6 hands one piano

Writing music for 6 hands one piano can prove tricky. Here are questions posed by a composer and answered by concertblog.

While the CALL FOR SCORES piano duet submission deadline of 5th April 2011 has passed, the project continues in the lead up to the 15th May 2011 piano soiree in San Francisco.

I will be blogging about writing music for piano duets, getting performers to play new works, audience experience, and topics related to contemporary music (i.e. works of living composers), accessibility, multi-hand duets, sightreading, etc.

One composer from Albany, NY asked the following questions in bold. I shall reply to each.

For three hands, three players:

1) Do I notate three staves, (one per person), on a single system that runs through a single score? Or would each individual get their own part (on one or two staves?), and do their own page turning…they each have a free hand, after all!

I have seen both versions. If it’s a short piece, then one page for each player is good.

If it’s a longer piece that requires page turning, the parallel staves is more suitable.

If the parts depend on each other, that is, the players need to be well-synchronised, the parallel staves may be more conducive.

2) Where do pedal marks go? To the relevant phrase? or to the bass player?

In the parallel staves, the pedal marks go in the bottom staff. In the one page per pianist layout, I would put pedal marks for all as it is not clear who will be doing the pedaling.

3) Should I provide fingering suggestions?

This is fine.

4) At what point do two players on a single key constitute a problem? For example: imagine a sequence of thirds: C E, D F, E G, F A, etc. I would think this can be handled just fine at almost any speed. (Player Rightmost: E, F, G, A; Player Center: C, D, E, F.) But what there is a note being released by one that the other wants to play. For example, if we wanted to play C E, then E G? At what speed, if any, does the E key become a problem? (I can play two-handed arpeggios with one hand one key behind the other at slower speeds, but it gets harder at faster tempos, that’s for sure.)

This is the fun of playing duets that you sometimes have to touch each other, dance around each other, or run into each other.

5) Are reach-overs sometimes okay? I have a spot where I want the Rightmost player to reach over the Center player and play a couple notes between the Center and the Leftmost players.

All varieties are possible. Reachovers are fun.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

2 thoughts on “Writing multi-hand piano duet questions: 6 hands one piano”

  1. Hi everybody, here every one is sharing such experience, so it’s good to read this blog, and I used to go to see this weblog all the time.

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