I'm learning "Tahitian Sunset" by Martha Mier, but i'm not sure how to play this part:

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To be more specific, i don't understand the G on the upper part. Should i keep my pinkie on the G for all the 4 bars? The fact is that the sustain it's not so long to hear the note for all that time also, it makes me keep the hand in a weird and unconfortable position while playing the other two chords.

  • 1
    You could play the lowest note of the chords with your left hand.
    – user28
    Aug 4, 2015 at 19:27
  • The position of the first chord is a very common one, so if it feels weird and uncomfortable you probably need to work on it until it feels normal. The second one is pretty common as well and you ought to get used to how it feels. There are many places in music where you have to squish 1, 2 and 3 pretty close together while stretching between 3 and 5. It's something else to get used to while not as basic as the first chord. Matthew's idea is good, too, although you have to be careful to hold down the Ab while playing the repeated Eb if you do it that way. That's another thing to learn.
    – BobRodes
    Aug 5, 2015 at 1:25
  • Anyone think we should use the sostenuto for the G note?
    – Jamie
    Aug 8, 2015 at 3:33

4 Answers 4


I am a full-time music instructor. I have taught piano for over ten years. This type of situation is very common, and there are 4 camps to be in:

TL;DR; Do what feels best to you, for your physical comfort and/or personal musicality.

  1. If you can, play literally what is on the page, and ignore the discomfort. Your hand will get stronger over time, as long as you don't injure yourself. That would mean in your case, holding your 5th finger on the right hand down for the entire 4 measures.

  2. If you can't play what is on the page, due to physical limitations, come as close as possible. Perhaps in your case, only hold the top note for the first 2 measures. The musical ear of the audience may still "hear" that note anyway, and your performance will not be seriously affected.

  3. Use the pedal to "cheat". As another suggested, you might be able to jump your left hand and use those half notes to your advantage, here, so your right hand only has to play the top two notes of each chord. This one requires much more coordination to pull off, with any success. And in this case, I think it's more than the piece calls for.

  4. Alter the piece to suit your limitations. Yes, that's right. You are not a performing monkey :-). You can write in your own changes to suit your playing style, and it will become your version of the piece. Purists frown on this; but as a composer, I'd have to say that it is the beginning of freedom to explore your own musicality.

People have played this composition (any most compositions out there) for a very long time. And even if they haven't, what's wrong with putting your own style into it? Purists still argue over how best to interpret Bach inventions, written over 250 years ago. The real point of being a performer is to take the music the composer has given you, and make it your own.

  • Never, ever ignore discomfort when playing the piano. That is how injuries happen.
    – Aaron
    Nov 14, 2020 at 6:42
  • @Aaron There is a difference between productive and unproductive discomfort, though. Working muscles is OK. Straining is not. Weird is OK. Pain is not. OP said weird, not painful. Nov 21, 2020 at 4:09

The tempo is fast enough that the note shouldn't fully decay within the four bars, so yes, you should continue to hold it. These notes are not very far apart, and it shouldn't be uncomfortable to play this passage as written. Let your fingers go up the keys as far as needed--the thumb is going to have to reach a bit but unless you have very small hands this should be very manageable.


The G is a resonant note, starts with an accent, and the rhythm might end up faster in the end than you start practising it, so holding that note might indeed make acoustic sense as well as musical. The right hand range is merely an octave and the intended fingering is clearly intended to put the whole treble staff material into the right hand, and not unreasonably so. You can decrease awkwardness by starting in a hand position reasonably suited for the second chord, namely playing G-B-D rather far in in order to be close to the A-flat and possibly turning your hand a bit to the right. Basically find a nice position for the hand where the change for the left three notes is small and minimally impaired by the pinky position.


I'll comment a bit further on the purpose for holding the note down. It's more common to see it in the bass (it's called a "pedal point") because holding certain bass strings open while playing higher notes creates a richness of tone. Debussy liked to do it often. Have a look at "Isle Joyeuse", between 3:00 and 4:20, where he uses it extensively:

Look at the arpeggiated figure at 2:46 (where it says "A Tempo"), and then compare that with the similar figure at 2:54, which has the double pedal point at G#-D#. You'll probably notice that there's a richer and more complex tone, even after the pedal point notes die away. There are several more examples that you can compare further along in the passage.

By the way, this is one bit of music that makes extensive use of the sostenuto (middle) pedal.

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