Author Topic: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves  (Read 154 times)

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RJB54

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Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« on: May 08, 2020, 07:06:46 PM »
I have a question regarding writing for a single piano using more than  two staves which I could not find in Behind Bars.

When you have three or four staves is there a rule about where one may place between staff items (such dynamics, hairpins, etc.). For example, if there are three staves, is it OK to place these items between the first and second staves or the second and third staves depending on the room available between the staves?

Thanks
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2020, 07:51:23 PM »
It's contextual.
If the more important material is between staves 1 and 2, then you should put indications there.
If there are indications that are different for the 3rd (or 4th) staff, then add them where applicable.

Sometimes, the top staff contains the least notes, sometimes the bottom staff.
You have to have an eye for this. It's almost hit-or-miss.

That said, I have RARELY found that piano writing actually required more than 2 staves.
You end up with three (or four) sparsely populated staves, instead of two slightly over-crowded ones.
Pianists are used to reading crowded staves, it's part of the job.

In my own piano writing I've often started out using three staves, then later reduced it/condensed it to two staves.
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RJB54

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Re: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2020, 04:52:20 AM »
OK, thanks.

My thinking was that if you have multiple 'parts' with multiple stems (both up and down) things get very tight in terms of fitting slurs, haripins, dynamics, etc., without collisions and having three or four staves would make it possible to avoid these problems.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2020, 11:40:23 AM »
in piano music, keep the slurs to a minimum. cover major events, never mind the minor internal stuff... it won't get played anyways.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

RJB54

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Re: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2020, 11:45:01 AM »
OK, I guess I tend to over use slurs in my piano writing. That's the woodwind player in me coming out, I suppose.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2020, 12:42:35 PM »
there are a few things to remember in piano writing.
1. pianists use the sustain pedal as a normal part of idiomatic writing, whether the pedals are marked or not.
even if you don't include pedal markings, pianists will STILL use pedal. it's part and parcel of the technique for the instrument. it's like saying you'd specify all of the vibrato in a violin part. it's not necessary, it's part of the normal operation of the instrument.

2. The pedal often works to cover a bit of any written slurs. Remember that the piano isn't capable of a real "legato" like a violin. The mechanism of the instrument means that there IS a slight hammered effect at every note. Think xylophone. You can't really slur a xylophone part. I'm not saying slurs are useless in a piano part, but rather that they don't quite have the same impact as on wind or string instruments.

3. if you have independent parts (contrapuntal, for example) and they all use different slurring, the dominant musical line will generally have precedence as far as the slurred sound is concerned. this is simply because slurring requires a certain amount of prestidigitation in the fingering. unlike woodwinds, pianists are VERY free to finger passages as they are most comfortable.

4. as far as fingering is concerned, if you write a long legato line at the top, with a heavily articulated 2nd line, both intended to be played by one hand, one or the other will end up losing. If the legato line covers a lot of range, it will either require specific fingering to keep it legato, or it will require much use of the pedals to achieve the effect. This means that the more articulated short lines will not have the required resources to achieve their effect.

5. most important: remember that there are ONLY 5 fingers per hand.

6. and completely off this particular topic: I still see no need for the use of more than two staves unless it's a particularly excessively busy part.. and that is either extremely virtuosic or extremely unidiomatic for the instrument.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

RJB54

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Re: Question Regarding Piano With More than Two Staves
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2020, 04:30:43 PM »
As always thanks for your informative comments. I'll keep all of this in mind (especially point 5 :))
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.
Frank Zappa