9

Here is a bit from the standard piano arrangement of Sondheim's "Loving You" (from the Musical "PASSION"). This is near the start of the song (measure 9). The key is D-flat major (there are 5 flats).

enter image description here

Maybe it's me, but I'm finding it near impossible to play those six notes with only two hands. Do I need to do some serious stretching, or is there something here I'm missing?

10
  • 1
    What is a comfortable span for each of your hands? For example, can you comfortably span an octave? Less? More?
    – Aaron
    Aug 18 at 2:24
  • 2
    Also, you might find this post on dealing with large chords helpful.
    – Aaron
    Aug 18 at 2:57
  • 2
    I can span a tenth easily, but I don't think I can span the octave between those two B-flats with the second and fifth fingers of my right hand. I could, however, play the G and the F simultaneously with the left thumb. It's likely that Sondheim didn't write this piano part; it's probably a reduction of the orchestration (which Sondheim also didn't write), and it's also possible that the orchestra doesn't double the melody but that the doubling was added for this piano-vocal arrangement.
    – phoog
    Aug 18 at 3:36
  • 1
    Oh, it's a G flat.
    – phoog
    Aug 18 at 4:46
  • 1
    Given @phoog's comment, it might be helpful to put into the OP that there are five flats in the key signature at this point (or however many there are, if he modulated).
    – Brian Tung
    Aug 18 at 19:41
14

A published version of a musical theatre song is usually a reduction from an orchestrated version, so there's a desire to include the main lines of the various instruments even if the reduction can't quite be played on piano.

Another aspect of piano versions of musical theatre songs is that there's a lot of expectation on the player/accompanist to make it work and have the elements that are most important for the singers, dancers, and audience.

The piano versions of musical theatre scores aren't written to be played precisely the way classical piano music is. I've been told by a broadway MD and accompanist once that for a big arpeggio, just to put the root note down and write "big arpeggio" and the pianist will understand and make it happen.

Point being, merely omit the note(s) that you think are least important and hardest to play.

4
  • 4
    Not playing what's written? Blasphemy!
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 18 at 14:25
  • 4
    @DKNguyen: I can play it but I'd lose a beat setting up fingers for that spread. Sheesh.
    – Joshua
    Aug 18 at 18:45
  • 4
    DKNguyen surely means it ironically. I'd even drop the 4 notes that copy the melody, because this part is performed by the singer. Aug 19 at 9:00
  • Don't some scores just include the abbreviation "A.G." for arpeggio grosso?
    – Theodore
    Aug 19 at 20:34
7

I recommend two possible solutions for you. Neither is better than the other except for your own personal preference.

Solution A

Play the LH Eb as a grace note, play the RH Gb with the LH thumb, and use a single sustain pedal hold through the entire measure.

The image below is an illustration of how this works. The parenthetical Eb is to show that the pitch will be present, but held by the pedal.

Solution A notated

Solution B

Move the RH Gb up one octave.

Solution B notated

5
  • Yah, I suspected something like your Solution A might be the “accepted” approach. Thanks
    – David H
    Aug 18 at 4:19
  • 2
    @DavidH I would probably drop the vocal doubling and play the G flat an octave higher.
    – phoog
    Aug 18 at 4:47
  • 3
    @phoog Good point. I made the unwarranted assumption that this was being played piano solo.
    – Aaron
    Aug 18 at 4:52
  • 4
    Good point yourself. I made the equally unwarranted assumption that it wasn't :-). I've since listened to a recording of this piece and found that the orchestra generally does not double the singer. Obviously the best approach for the pianist depends on whether there is a singer and, if so, whether the singer is good enough to carry the part without doubling.
    – phoog
    Aug 18 at 14:24
  • Of course the piano score is often used not just in performance but in rehearsal, where there's no orchestra, and it's all the more necessary to double the singers as they learn. I imagine the pit pianist might play very differently in the performance than in rehearsal. Aug 18 at 15:55
4

Is is very possible. A simple option is to play the G(b) with the left hand:

enter image description here

You can use the left thumb for only G or both F+G (put the thumb tip at the front edge where the F and Gb are actually almost at the same height, rather than the side edge). Le right hand is free to play the rest.

If you hand is too small the usual strategies are:

  • arppegio, or
  • drop notes; usually those that are already present, or that are not crucial, eg., not part of a melody or bass, or
  • chords splitted (eg., the LH: E then the rest of the chord), if the "chord" sound is more relevant aesthetically than an arpeggio.
  • rearrange: change the octava/registry of one or several notes; eg., put the G one octava below for LH or higher for RH.
7
  • 1
    Thanks. A left handed G-flat to E-flat stretch is a bit too far for me.
    – David H
    Aug 18 at 15:07
  • 4
    It's a G-flat. If it were a G-natural, that'd be my recommendation too, but it's a G-flat, and the different heights makes that attack too difficult to sound at the same time.
    – Brian Tung
    Aug 18 at 19:45
  • 1
    @BrianTung I've been able to straddle white/black like that in the past. It's certainly not as easy as white/white or black/black, but it's doable. Still need the basic reach, though. This answer would be my suggestion as well. Aug 19 at 17:48
  • 2
    @AdrianKeister: Fair enough. I mean I can reach it too, and I suppose if it's a relatively slow tempo, it's not too hard to line it up. But it's not quite a slam dunk like it would be if it were F-natural and G-natural.
    – Brian Tung
    Aug 19 at 18:46
  • 1
    @BrianTung Agreed. Aug 19 at 18:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.