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I'm working on an atmospheric/minimalist piece for Pierrot ensemble. I have the following figure in the piano part. I know that while the tempo is rather brisk (it's in 6/8 time, dotted quarter note = 80) it is not terribly difficult. But I'm wondering how many bars of this a professional-level pianist can maintain without physical discomfort. Obviously because I can play it as a very-not-professional it should be fine once, but can I expect a pro to be able to go for 8 bars? 16 bars? Will they kill me if I ask for a solid minute?

If this is not good for a pianist, what could help? Any good workarounds?

repeated sixteenth-note figure: D-E-A-G#-E-F#

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  • A reasonably good pianist could play this for ever. (Well, for as long as they could play anything else.) Nov 21 '21 at 8:19
  • Should be absolutely possible.
    – Lazy
    Nov 21 '21 at 8:25
  • Before (or as well as ) asking here, I'd be asking the player who has to play it. After all - it's for that person, and the legitimacy of it will be purely down to him, surely. And with nothing for the l.h. to do, if it was me, I might use both hands to play it..!
    – Tim
    Nov 21 '21 at 10:58
  • Good thought @Tim2 but there isn't a specific player in mind yet
    – nuggethead
    Nov 21 '21 at 11:00
  • 1
    Ask the snare drum player in Bolero... Nov 21 '21 at 16:32
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At 80 dotted quarter notes per minute I run into two problems:

  1. Fingers getting twisted up and
  2. Losing count of the repetitions.

As a skilled amateur, after a few minutes of practice, I played 12 bars before getting tangled up. After a fingering adjustment, I played 20-or-so bars before losing count. I don't see fatigue as being an issue, even in an extended passage. One minute would be 40 bars, which seems fine.

A professional pianist should have little or no trouble with the passage (though I can't rule out an eye roll).

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As a sideways answer, consider one of my favorite pieces: the seventh movement of Ligeti's Musica ricercata. (See a faster performance here.)

In this movement, the left hand has a rather rapid ostinato that lasts for over three minutes (!). It's a little slower than yours: Ligeti's is basically septuplets at 88 beats a minute, yours is a twelve-let at 80 beats a minute.

Eight bars of yours is definitely doable, as is sixteen. And a minute sounds doable, albeit it with some training. Pianists might not be happy with you, but they're not always happy with Ligeti either :-)

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  • It doesn’t last as long, but this question made me think of the repeated note in the right hand of the second movement. Nov 21 '21 at 2:27
  • 1
    How does that compare with the opening 3:30 of Tubular Bells? [Serious question, I don't read well so have trouble abstracting from score to 'feel']
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 21 '21 at 8:08
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You should be perfectly fine. Most professional pianists have probably played other really hard pieces with very fast trills / runs, for example Chopin & Liszt Etudes and Rachmaninoff's Etudes-Tableaux / Concertos (Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 3, 3rd movement) so they should be able to play this perfectly.

Only problem could be the pianist losing count, but that's unlikely

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