In piano music there's the technique called blind octaves where you create a rumbling melody over three octaves by playing the melody itself with the thumbs of your left and right hands alternatively, each octaved with the fourth or fifth fingers. blind octaves in Cziffra's Flight of the Bumblebee blind octaves in Carnaval des Animaux I am looking for the word to describe the equivalent, but with whole chords. That can either stay with the same chord throughout the passage: alternating chords in Totentanz Or it can form a quasi-melody: more alternating chords in Totentanz Sometimes one hand plays octaves and the other chords: alternating chords in Shostakovich Piano Concerto 2 Finally, Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano does this for two and a half minutes! In this video, from 23:50 to 26:20. This analysis calls it "alternate hands" or "alternate chords", but purely descriptively.

What is the general term for this technique, if there is one?

  • 1
    Upvoted. Interesting question and good examples, IMO. Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 6:45

2 Answers 2


When it just rhythmically articulating a chord tremolo or shake seems appropriate terms.

But when the tones move it seems there is a question of if there is a hand position change - in which case tremolo/shake simply isn't the technique - or if there is bona fide harmonic/melodic movement - in which case the passage isn't a mere ornament.

Bravura seem appropriate, but a bit generic.

From Mason's Touch and Technic...

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For the chord based passages with some movement I suppose you can adapt Mason's wording and call it interlocking chords. Interlocking being understood to mean the distribution of the rhythm evenly between the two hands.

Looking around at some other method books, I found this convenient summary...

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  • Cisler, Technique for the Advancing Pianist: An Essential Collection of Progressive Exercises and Etudes

That provides alternating hands and linked trills as additional terms.

  • Thank you for your answer. I'm not sure there's a better answer than the method works in this regards :)
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 8:21

Tremolo comes to mind. Rapid repetition of certain sounds.

Not to be confused with tremolo on electric guitar - which is a misnomer for 'vibrato'. Mr. Fender swapped the two round, and had the other on his amps, so also a misnomer!

  • 1
    But does any tremolo involve chords that don't repeat (a la the second last example and arguably the last example in the question)?
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 17:45
  • @Dekkadeci - Hmm, maybe - not... could be 'alternate hand playing.'
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 17:48

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