Piano Triets – resources

Information formerly on the Severnside Composers Alliance website (currently undergoing a reboot, so reproduced here for the benefit of interested pianists/listeners/composers):

In 2012 the Severnside Composers Alliance put on what was probably the first concert of its kind in the UK – a rare collection of music – contemporary music exclusively for three pianists at one piano. The concert programme spanned the whole gamut of the genre – from simple tunes for beginners to displays of breath-taking virtuosity, all by living composers (with the exception of Schnittke who died in 1998). The concert at the Colston Hall 2 comprised triets by: Alfred Schnittke, Tomislav Baynov, Jacques Castérède, Paul Robinson, John Pitts, Frank Harvey, Roger Boutry, Dionysis Boukouvalas, Kaja Bjornvedt, Brian Inglis and Christopher Scobie, Jolyon Laycock and Andre Shlimon.  Here’s a review: https://seenandheard-international.com/2012/04/piano-music-for-six-hands-the-shape-of-the-future/ and here’s the programme: https://www.impulse-music.co.uk/brianinglis/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2015/08/Tintinnalogia-Tintinnabulation-II-Colston-Hall-2012.pdf   A second concert took place in the Colston Hall 2, on Saturday 21 June 2014 www.colstonhall.org/shows/piano-triets

How to compose a Piano Triet – tips from those who’ve gone before!

Piano triets have the potential to be thoroughly new-sounding, in that the format makes possible textures and harmonies not generally available to piano solo or duet. However, it isn’t plain sailing. If getting a duet to play really together is twice as hard as a soloist getting both hands together, three people playing together is at least half as hard again! Then there’s the physicality of it – the more amply-reared person may struggle with the medium. Even for thinner players it can be something of a squeeze, and sitting in an unusual position you may find yourself hurting in places you wouldn’t expect. So, would-be triet-composers, please read the following tips for performers, before reading the tips for composers!


1) Once you have allocated out your parts, when you practise on your own make sure you are sitting in the right place – ie either right to the right, or right to the left, or dead centre. There is no point learning the notes sitting in the wrong position – it feels completely different if when you rehearse with your two partners you suddenly find your hands having to stretch in a completely different (and potentially uncomfortable) direction and position!

2) Make sure your elbows stay right by your side at all times while practising! You won’t have any spare room with someone right next to you. You may wish to practise using a scarf or large belt, placing it around your body and arms above the elbows.

3) Practising on your own – when you are sure you are sitting in the correct place and that your arms won’t be in anyone else’s way, find a way to make sure you are comfortable. Don’t sit for too long in an uncomfortable position – get up and move around every so often.

4) Rehearsing with the other two players – really listen for balance. As a rule, play more quietly than you might otherwise. Make sure each line in the music is clear. Make sure you all understand the role of each part of the texture. Player three in the bass may find that the left hand is on average generally lower than most piano music, and therefore needs to play up and with more definition. Work on getting the overall timbre right, in each part of the piano. Spend some time on just this. Might be worth recording/videoing yourselves to see what the overall effect of what ypu are doing is.

5) Rehearsing with the other two players – even more than on your own or as a duo, playing absolutely together is unexpectedly hard in a triet. Don’t be embarrassed to go dead dead slow as a triet, and only very gradually speed up.

6) Sort out your page turns – who is doing them and when and with what hand.


1) Read and absorb the tips for performers above!

2) Make sure you’ve got a good reason for writing specifically for triet rather than duet. Without wanting to sound la-di-da, what is your piece’s raison d’etre? What are the textures/harmonies you are exploring? Do something that you couldn’t do with two players (or else what’s the point?).

3) Have a clear idea of the kind of textures you are using. Get some mates round, open a bottle of wine and get them to help you try out individual ideas, before you get too far inthe compositional process. More than other genres, you need to try it out physically!

4) Triets are hard to put together. The overall difficulty is not the same as the technical difficulty of the individual parts taken on their own, but significantly higher if you want a good performance. Bear this in mind – keep things as simple as you can to get the effect you want. Are there simpler rhythms / fewer notes that would achieve the effect you want?

5) Physical considerations are at surprisingly important. For example it is extremely uncomfortable for the player at the bottom to play anywhere above the bottom third of the keyboard, or to have to operate the sustain pedal. When composing for player one at the top of the piano, make sure you are sitting in that position, and not in the middle of the piano. Imagine a person with big elbows sitting in the middle, and make sure you can play the notes you are writing from that position at the far right. This is really important. Something that is easy to play with your arms in the normal position might be much harder at an angle and with your wrists turned to one side. If necessary, put a large box on the piano stool in the middle. Obviously, same for notes for player 3.

6) It’s a good idea to carefully map out the keyboard ‘territory’ occupied by each pianist – dividing the keyboard into ‘zones’ of 2+ 8ves per player isn’t a bad idea. Keep the performers as much in their own areas as possible – overlapping and scrunching together is very uncomfortable. The performers will thank you for it.

7) Think balance – generally put a lower dynamic than you think necessary, and really think through (and try out with those mates mentioned above) the overall effect of the texture you’ve built up. Think through precise dynamic markings for each hand/layer.

8) Don’t use six hands all the time. Vary it! Think clarity of texture (as with any ensemble not every part – ie hand – has to be going all the time).

9) Think how it looks. We did a live projection of the players’ hands on the piano keyboard onto the wall behind the piano (see the youtube videos above) – it made the whole concert much more engaging, and the dance-like physicality of the hands interweaving and moving together or independently (and different combinations) is intrinsically interesting, and adds another dimension to the music.

10) Give your players rests – and give opportunities to move/change position – eg: stop playing for enough bars to sit straight and relax the muscles.

11) Any chord or cluster played by pianos 2 and 3 is going to create harmonics, and with a third player up top this opens up new possibilities. Any resulting harmonics can be reinforced by piano 1 in the upper register even if there is an imbalance between the upper part and the other two. Furthermore, if pianos 2 and 3 release their chord/cluster, and leave the upper part sounding, the effect can be very interesting, albeit quite quiet. It might be even more interesting if piano 1 plays its chord silently. FH suggests that the kind of effect that Schumann uses at the end of the Paganini movement of Carnaval, and that Schoenberg uses in the first of his Drei Klavierstucke Opus 11 Nr. 1, could be very effectively expanded by the triet combination.

12) Turning pages is potentially very hard both for performers and for a page turner. So it is worth putting some thought into how this can be managed – eg: specifying which pianist is to turn any given page turn, and making sure they have in fact got enough time and physical space to do it! If anybody can invent a way of allowing performers to page turn easily that would be extremely useful! One possibility is designing things so that one of the outer players can play off their own score while the other two players share a score, which could be turned by a page turner if necessary.

13) From a musical point of view it is often hard for the outer players to hear what each other is doing. So allowing them to link up via whatever the middle player is doing is very helpful.

Thanks to Daniella Acker, Andre Shlimon, Brian Inglis and Frank Harvey for their contributions to the above!

John Pitts
August 2013

List of Piano Triets by living or recently living composers.

We’d like this page to be as complete as possible a list of all contemporary works for piano triet. Please get in touch with info about any triets by living (or very nearly living) composers – we’d be very grateful. We are hoping that by providing links to scores and recordings, this page will be a resource for all potential triet performers.

Harvest Hymn (1942) by Percy Grainger This exists in loads of different scorings. Below is a sample from a 2-piano-8-hand version.  http://www.bardic-music.com/graingerbardic.htm   www.allmusic.com/performance/harvest-hymn-for-2-pianos-8-hands-mq0000282751 
Le voleur d’etincelles (1966) by Roger Boutry Born 1932, French.  Editions Salabert  www.di-arezzo.fr/partition/partition+classique/partition-pour-piano/SALAB02258.html
Hommage a Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich (1979) by Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) Click here for a score: www.boosey.com/shop/prod/Schnittke-Alfred-Hommage-A-Stravinsky-Prokofieff-Shostakovich-1-Piano-6-Hands/594174
Ménage à trois (1989) by Jacques Castérède (born 1926, French) A light-hearted litte triet – theatrical music – in which pianists battle and swap places.  http://www.di-arezzo.co.uk/sheet+music/classical+score/sheet+music-for-piano/GBILL09385.html
Pensees & Montmartre (1990) by Paul Robinson (British) www.paulrobinsoncomposer.com. Email Paul(at)harmonieband.com for info about the scores. Two beautiful pieces from the collection ‘Maison Satie’ – a set of piano pieces around ideas from the Maison Satie in Honfleur – graded piano pieces from solo to piano triet.
Marcia Festiva  (1997) by Heinz Benker (1921-2000, German) The existing MARCIA FESTIVA was created in 1997 from a call for scores sent out from the Baynov Piano Ensembles. The term “festiva” (festive) is not to be literally taken but with a wink and a smile on the lips. This march shows, with its rhythmic disposition, a distinct relationship to jazz. This melody does not want to be marched! It wants to be danced! The speed can be accelerated according to taste. www.deezer.com/en/track/47687061.mp3  http://shop.strato.de/epages/15412908.sf/en_GB/?ViewObjectID=7170241 
Metrorhythmia 1 (1997) by Tomislav Baynov (born 1958, Bulgarian) www.baynov-piano.de. Prof Baynov was born in Bulgaria 1958, now living in Germany. Known for multiple piano performance with his Baynov-Piano-Ensemble.  Helm & Baynov  http://shop.strato.de/epages/15412908.sf/de_DE/?ObjectID=7169609
Revancha Tango Milonga: für Klavier zu 6 Händen  (2002) by Alejando Geberovich (born 1948, Argentinan) www.pianiversum.org  Helm und Baynov Verlag, HB1050    www.musik-direkt.com/Geberovich-Revancha-Tango-Milonga-fuer-Klavier-zu-6-Haenden_px148189de.html
Are You Going? (2003) by John Pitts (born 1976, British) Are You Going?  is a fast, complex, layered, polyphonic romp based on the folk-melody Scarborough Fair, pulled around in various time-warps. Also in the book is Changes for 20 nifty fingers. [19 pages]
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1726363805 https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/are-you-going-for-piano-triet-digital-sheet-music/20688185
Three Wise Men / Sages (2003) by Mykola Kovalinas Deputy Head of Kyiv National Union of Composers of Ukraine, professor of the National Music Academy of Ukraine. Multicoloured 3-page score.
… vielleicht – vielleicht auch nicht … (2004) by Armin Fuchs Armin’s first (of five so far) Capriccio for piano triet. Please let us know if he writes any more!  www.armin-fuchs.com/downloads/vielleicht.pdf 
Slowdown (2004) by Paul Frehner (born 1970, Canadian) www.paulfrehner.com.  Slowdown was commissioned by CBC radio for pianists Kyoko Hashimoto, Sara
Laimon and Richard Raymond who gave its premiere April 2, 2004 in Pollack Hall, McGill University.
…_oder_etwa_doch__… (2005) by Armin Fuchs Germany. www.armin-fuchs.com. A marvellous Capriccio for Piano Triet  www.armin-fuchs.com/downloads/oderetwadoch.pdf
For all his available scores: click here.
10 Playful Pieces  (2005) by Kaja Bjornvedt Email Kaja info@kajabjorntvedt.com for the score. www.kajabjornvedt.com. Book of ten pieces for six-hands piano. Premiered in Oslo, May 2005.
… kleine Raum-Zeit-Mechanik für György …  (2006) by Armin Fuchs Another Capriccio.  www.ipernity.com/doc/armin-fuchs/1552979   www.armin-fuchs.com/downloads/kleineraumzeitmechanik.pdf
… funky frogs …  (2007) by Armin Fuchs Another Capriccio.  www.ipernity.com/doc/armin-fuchs/1558620  www.armin-fuchs.com/downloads/funkyfrogs.pdf
10 Piquant Pieces  (2007) by Kaja Bjornvedt Email Kaja info@kajabjorntvedt.com for the score. www.kajabjornvedt.com Studied in Norway, living in England. Piquant Pieces is a book of ten pieces for piano triet. Premiered in Oslo, Norway, June 2007. It is the sequel to Playful Pieces – both books offering ensemble opportunities for pianists, and take their inspiration from Norwegian folk music with its harmonies and rhythms.
“Fast Forward” has been included in the Trinity Guildhall Graded Exam Syllabus for piano six hands.   Musikk-Husets Forlag
… scorpions’ race …  (2008) by Armin Fuchs Another Capriccio.  www.ipernity.com/doc/armin-fuchs/2061997    www.armin-fuchs.com/downloads/scorpionsrace.pdf
Impulse  (2008) by Viktor Chuchkov (born 1946, Bulgarian)
Carpe Diem  (2009) by Oleg Bezborodko (born 1973, Ukrainian) http://bezborodko.webs.com
For 5 hands (player 1 only uses his left hand).
Rotas  (2009) by Paul Burnell (born 1960, Welsh) www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/paulburnell
African Suite   (2010) by Volker Schmidt www.volkerischmidt.de Email info(at)volkerischmidt.de
In 5 movements. In movement No.4 “African drum” the players I & III are playing “drums” with mallets on the piano bottom. The following mallets
should be used:
– plastic & wooden mallets
– hard, middle hard & soft mallets  www.volkerischmidt.de/en/list-of-works/chamber-music.html 
Scherzetto (2010) by Eric Quezada (born 1995, American)  www.musicaneo.com/sheetmusic/sm-75888_scherzo_in_d_minor_for_six_hands_op_5.html
Dorian Dirge for piano triet (2012) by Sulyen Caradon (British) Another transformation of the ever-transforming Dorian Dirge (2012). Here is a recording of the solo piano version from CD Dunelm DRD0238.
Double Vision (2012) by Frank Harvey (British) First performed 4 April 2012, Colston Hall 2, by Giuseppe Bavetta, Jolyon Laycock and Geoff Poole.
Terzapetty (2012) by Tim Warren (British) 1. …Dakota
2. Aria
3. Follow me down
Three Miniatures  (2012) by Cindi Hsu (Taiwanese) Teaches composition and piano faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester.
Three Piano Triets (2012) by Andre Shlimon https://andreshlimon.bandcamp.com

1. StReich Three
2. Sidetracked
3. Feldmania
First performed by Daniella Acker, Andre Shlimon and John Pitts, 4 April 2012, Colston Hall 2.

Threnody for David (2012) by Jolyon Laycock http://www.jolyonlaycock.uk Written in memory of David Bedford (SCA President), first performed in the Colston Hall 2, April 2012.
Tintinnabulation I & II (2012) by Brian Inglis (born 1969, Scottish) & Christopher Scobie Brian Inglis website. Collaborative composition in 2 movements written in response to a call for scores that resulted in the April 2012 SCA concert, in which the second of the movements was performed.
Bacchus’s Dance  (2013) by Kostis Tsioulakis www.kostistsioulakis.com
Carillons After Couperin  (2013) by Sadie Harrison www.sadieharrisoncomposer.co.uk


Floating Upwards  (2013) by Bjørn Skjelbred www.skjelbred.no
Princess don’t kiss that toad  (2013) by Rita Ueda www.ritaueda.com
Experiencing High Volumes (2014) by John Pitts https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1726363805  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1726363805
Dusk of Day – Dawn of Night  (2018) by Nikolas Sideris http://www.musica-ferrum.com/catalog/viewitem.php?show=108