Context: My teacher and I were playing some AI generated music which included some chords that were quite difficult if not impossible to play. We started speculating about what are the most difficult chords that have been put into music that is expected to be played by a person.

Rachmaninoff notoriously has composed music that includes chords that require a large hand span and a high level of dexterity.

What are the longest and most difficult chords that Rachmaninoff has ever put into one of his songs?

Has anyone else composed a piece with a chord that requires a hand span larger than Rachmaninoff's?

  • 3
    "Difficult" and "large" are very different things. One requires practice, the other just physiology. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 6:22
  • 2
    @KilianFoth Also the difficulty is not really a characteristic of the chord, but of the context. Any chord that is physiologically possible to play should not be too hard to play on it’s own. But put some theoretically very easy chords next to each other and it might become incredible hard to play.
    – Lazy
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 9:55
  • 2
    @Lazy That describes Messiaen's piano music very well :-) Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 10:18
  • @lazy Yeah I agree, When I say difficult I am trying to describe a chord that only a rare few people can play due to flexibility and hand span. Something that Rachmaninoff would put into his music where many people have trouble reaching the keys.
    – Jerome
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 21:51
  • @KilianFoth Yes they are different things but I would say that they're not mutually exclusive. Anecdotally, I've played chords that are over an octave which I found more difficult to play in quick succession than chords that are under an octave. My physical limitation in my hand span makes lining up the chord more difficult.
    – Jerome
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 21:56


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