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#

  • 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

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).


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 :-)

  • 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

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

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.