This might be a silly question, but why is it that pianists (sometimes) get a page turner, whereas violinists, cellists etc. turn their pages by themselves? A violinist too can have both hands busy, so what accounts for the difference?

This is particularly noticeable in (though by no means limited to) piano trios: there are four people on the stage - pianist, violinist, cellist, and the pianist's page turner. Why is it that only the pianist needs a page turner, while the others do not?

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    Aw, life is sometimes so unfair! More and more players are using tablets et al to read from. With a pedal to turn the page. Then the pianists will moan that they already have three pedals to contend with !!
    – Tim
    Oct 31 '18 at 8:11
  • To add on this: for organ players it's probably more common to have a page turner (or even two!), who may also (or only) help to control the stops during a piece. I have seen some page turners (assistants) for organ players, but not ever for piano.
    – MeanGreen
    Oct 31 '18 at 15:26
  • @Tim - not to mention the harpists, who will then have eight pedals to contend with... Nov 1 '18 at 19:42
  • I once turned the pages for a cellist playing Flight of the Bumblebee so it does happen sometimes!
    – JimM
    Nov 2 '18 at 12:00

A possible contributing factor is that violinist page turners simply aren't needed as much. Piano music is written on two staves, violin on one. Also, most violin scores utilize multirests (combining prolonged periods where the violin doesn't have to play into one measure with a number showing how many measures the violin rests). Because of these things, violin scores are usually less than half (perhaps a third) the size of the accompanying piano score. Not to mention, these multirests make great page turn spots.

  • This is the main reason. In hundreds of performances on various monophonic ensemble instruments, I've never once run into a situation where I had two full continuous pages of music such that there was no natural place for the engraver to allow a page turn. Of course, I've had plenty of ugly page turns, but only because of lazy engravers!
    – MattPutnam
    Nov 2 '18 at 4:14
  • Good points. In a piano chamber work, the pianist plays from a full score, thus further increasing the number of page turns in a work. (Perhaps not so in the early 19th century, but by the late 19th c, full scores for pianists to play from were the norm.) Not only that, but the custom of having page-turners is an old one, and if you go back to the 18th/19th c, in a piano chamber work, the piano part was the most important, and had fewer rests long enough for the performer to turn their own pages, so the pianist had the greatest need for a page-turner.
    – Rosie F
    Nov 2 '18 at 6:13
  • To follow on from this argument, in musical theater, the sound engineer might also have an assistant keeping track of cues for them and handling page turns. This is because the sound engineer will have a full lyric script, and might have several page long sections with a continuous stream of cues. Nov 3 '18 at 21:33

In fact, orchestral players often do have a "page turner." The string sections play two people per music stand, and when passages overlap a page turn, the inner player stops for a couple beats to turn the page, while the outer player continues on.

For soloists, it's very rare that they use music.

For small ensembles such as string quartets, you just have to learn to turn quickly, or photocopy a couple of desks & tape the music up until the next measure rest. Or, ideally, switch to an electronic tablet display - once you learn to work with those, they are much better than paper. For one thing, you can choose to view the full quartet score rather than just your own part. (if you haven't seen these: the page turns are achieved via a foot-pedal)

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    Regarding electronic scores, I might add that there are reliable apps e.g. michaelng126.github.io/ai-page-turner which use your face gestures (e.g. winking) to turn pages. It's worked well for me :) Aug 10 '21 at 9:05

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