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I've seen people on the internet argue a suite can only have up to 4 movements plus a prelude, others say up to 18. Is there a minimum / maximum amount of movements a suite has to have? And are there any specifications as to how long the movements have to be?

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  • Consider any number of published "Suite from XXXX Ballet," which have as many sections as the arranger desired. Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 15:15

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There's an element of historical performance practice to consider when answering this question.

In the early days of the "suite" idea, the movements were not pre-determined. Rather, a composer gave an entire array of movements (with multiple versions of each dance type) and the performer then chose which movements to play and in what order. Quoting here from Taruskin's Music in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, p. 260:

The French composers, in other words, did not write actual ready-made suites, but provided the materials from which players could select a sequence (that is, a suite) for performance. It was Froberger and his German progeny who began, as it were, "preselecting" the components, thus casting their suites as actual multimovement compositions like sonatas.

So whereas modern suites typically have a more limited number of movements, the earlier concept of suite was often a vast compendium of movements to be chosen by the particular performer.

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    Whoo, bringing out the Taruskin! @Neins The other variable here is that this answer (and your internet arguers) is within the context of the Baroque dance suite. The word can also be used for any free-form “set,” often extracted from another work, like the Nutcracker Suite or Peer Gynt suite. These can have as many components as they want, of any type (thus PiedPiper’s answer). Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 21:56
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    Out of left field - this could be considered akin to a modern set-list. Out of a total of 4 hrs rehearsed material, an hour of the most appropriate for that particular gig can be chosen.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 10:54
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    @Tetsujin Oh, clever. I like that!
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 13:28
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A suite can have any number of movements (at least two). There's no upper limit, but a suite with more than about ten movements would be highly unusual. They can be as short or as long as you want.

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