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#955119 - 05/14/08 11:08 PM rach3  
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john christie Offline
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john christie  Offline
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hi, just a question about difficult finger positioning in the rach 3 concerto.and how to get around those rather long chord stretches.

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#955120 - 05/14/08 11:31 PM Re: rach3  
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currawong Offline
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Hi John, and welcome. You might get a few more responses if you also post this on the Pianists' Corner. There are quite a few Rach fans there smile . Many of us here teach predominantly intermediate students (not quite up to Rach3) though that's not to say someone won't have advice for you!

I don't play much Rachmaninoff myself (I don't have more than an average stretch) - mainly the song accompaniments, and they're stretchy enough for me. Some general advice - don't overdo it. The last thing you want is an injury.

For more specific information you could try a search on the pianists' corner - Rach 3, large stretches, those sorts of topics. That will probably give you plenty to read while you're waiting for people to respond.

Du holde Kunst...
#955121 - 05/14/08 11:49 PM Re: rach3  
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8ude Offline
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John, I may be wrong here, but just from the tone of your post, it does not sound like you are ready for this piece. If you are asking if it is humanly possible to play some of the chords, then chances are that this piece is beyond you.

Anyone who seriously attempts to take on this piece will undoubtedly have already put in plenty of time in the practice room and will know exactly what they're getting into - that you are asking questions such as these tells me that you are not ready.

Do you have a teacher? Again, if you are asking these types of questions here, I would venture to say you don't. If you do, though, ask him/her.

My personal advice - put aside the delusions of grandeur and put this score back on your shelf for a while. Take on some smaller pieces and build up your technique and repertoire. When you're ready for it, the score will always be there...

oh, and the short answer is yes, they are humanly playable. Check out the multitude of videos on youtube of this piece.

What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.
#955122 - 05/15/08 12:37 AM Re: rach3  
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Akira Offline
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Are you sure you want to learn this?

Source :

The Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (colloquially known as the "Rach 3") is famous for its technical and musical demands on the performer. It has the reputation of being one of the most difficult concertos in the standard piano repertoire....

The concerto is respected, even feared, by most pianists. Józef Hofmann, the pianist to whom the work is dedicated, never publicly performed it, saying that it "wasn't for" him. And Gary Graffman lamented he had not learned this concerto as a student, when he was "still too young to know fear".

#955123 - 05/15/08 07:14 AM Re: rach3  
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john christie Offline
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thanks for the link attachement, i can do more research now on this concerto.

#955124 - 05/15/08 12:41 PM Re: rach3  
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Gyro Offline
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I don't currently have the score for this,
but I've looked through some of it in the
past, and I didn't notice anything that
anyone could not handle with determination.
If you're playing Beethoven sonatas, you
could tackle this. The immediate problem with
something like this is sheer length; you're
looking at close to 100 pages, whereas, you're
used to pieces with fewer pages. This
is the difficulty with this, not the
technical difficulty of the music itself.
Any one page of it might be no more difficult
than any one page out of a Beethoven
sonata, but with the longer length you're
going to have less time to devote to
each page, and this alone will make it
"more difficult." Furthermore, just
the length, in and of itself, can be
overwhelmingly intimidating, discouraging
you before you even start, which seems
to be the case, by what you've said in your

First, get the 4-hands score; this will
enable you to play the 2nd piano part
where the solo piano is silent, giving
something resembling a piano solo
(a digital piano is also recommended
so you can turn the vol. down and not
embarrass yourself as you struggle
with something that's too difficult for you).
Then, because of the length, you should
tackle only one movement, your favorite,
for starters; trying to do the whole thing
would be too much for a person attempting
his first big concerto.

Then just dig in and start to play. You
might find that you can only do a couple
of measures per day at a very slow tempo
without exhausting yourself physically
and mentally. That's okay; pick up where
you left off the next day and do the
next couple of measures, and so forth.
This might seem like futility, but even
at this snail's pace you'll eventually
get through the first page, then the
second, etc. And then you'll eventually
get through the whole movement,
although slowly and with errors. Now,
how about that? You've just "played"
the ___ movement of the Rachmaninoff
3rd, something you thought you couldn't

When you get through the movement the
first time, go right back to the beginning
and do the same thing. Don't even
think about concentrating on the most
difficult sections first, because the
whole thing is difficult for an amateur.
You might find that on the second time
through you can now do 4 measures per
day instead of 2. This cuts the time
to cycle through it a second time in half,
a 100% improvement--that's nothing to
sneeze at. And so forth. Pretty soon,
if you stick with it, you've be able
to do a page a day, then two, three,
etc. And then the day will come when
you can play through the whole movement
in one sitting, although slowly and with errors.
When that day comes, you're on easy street,
so to speak, because from then on it will
be just like the pieces you're doing now:
you play it over and over until its
perfected, which will take a long time
with something as long and difficult as this.

I've done exactly the same thing with
another big Romantic Era concerto movement.
When I started on it, it was so far
above my level that I had to go at it
note by note, one measure a day, initially.
But today, after many painful years of
repetitive effort, I can play it, and my
overall playing has improved a lot in the
process as well.

#955125 - 05/15/08 09:59 PM Re: rach3  
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john christie Offline
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#955126 - 05/16/08 02:38 AM Re: rach3  
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Akira Offline
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"there is nothing that i cannot accomplish where theres a will there is a way"

Can you reach a 14th, like that inconsiderate, big-handed composer? What was his name again? smile Just kidding.

#955127 - 05/16/08 05:21 AM Re: rach3  
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Nikolas Offline
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You can always "cheat" a tiny bit...

I mean a 14th is... C to A, or C to B, right? (C to B probably).

In this case it is impossible to play the whole chord with one hand alone, and all notes together and I doubt Rach planned it this way. Remember don't have the score with me atm.

The main two possibilties I can imagine are:

i. either play the lower note with the left hand, thus distributing the whole thing better. Depending on what the left hand plays it could be possible.
ii. Play the lower note(s) as an appogiatura, very shortly before the rest and jump the hand. Depends on the speed of the passage really, as I don't know which passage you're talking about.

#955128 - 05/16/08 11:53 AM Re: rach3  
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Gyro Offline
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You run across big stretches in all kinds
of music, not just Rachmaninoff. These
occur frequently in Chopin, and he had
a small hand. Apparently, some of these
are idealized situations, that is, in
the process of composition, this is
just how it worked out and so the composer
wrote it like that even though it might
be playable by most people. In any
case, concert pianists with small hands--
for example, the many women students
in conservatories--play Rachmanioff
all the time, and they somehow manage it,
so this is not a hinderance to anyone
and not an excuse you can use to avoid

As far as handling seemingly impossible
stretches, you can do a number of things:
roll them fast, "grace" them fast--hitting
the lowest note first and using the
sustain pedal to aid in this,
divide the notes between the hands, leave
out notes--some of them are duplications
anyway and can be left out without harming
the music (in Chopin, at least, I've found
that generally you can leave out the
highest note, as the bass is more important
generally in Chopin), etc.

But what you need to do is to just dig
in and start playing. If you only look
at the score, it will intimidate you and
cause you to come up with all kinds
of excuses not to play it--when I
first looked at the score of the
concerto movement I play, it was
so intimidating, waves and waves of
high-speed arpeggios (and I had never even
played anything with arpeggios in it),
that I got scared off and didn't look at it
again until a yr. later. But when you
actually start playing it, all these
types of questions will be become
academic and irrelevent as you plow
through it and have to come up with
your own solutions to the many technical
problems you will encounter. This
is a great benefit for your overall
playing, because you'll run into
technical problems that you've never
encountered before--never even dreamed
of, in fact--and you'll have to come
up with solutions to them, real-world
solutions, not textbook, academic
solutions, that will work for you
individually and which no teacher
can really help you with.

#955129 - 05/21/08 07:12 AM Re: rach3  
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john christie Offline
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#955130 - 05/21/08 03:24 PM Re: rach3  
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Gyro Offline
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I've never played it, just looked at the score
in the past and tried sight-reading
some of it slowly. I don't remember
seeing anything unusually difficult.

I don't have the score for it now,
but I have the 2nd Rachmaninoff concerto
score, which is roughly on the same level
of difficultly, and I've read through all of
it slowly; and if an inept amateur like me can do
that, then that means anyone can play it--or the
third concerto--with a lot (and I mean
a lot) of work.

To put this into some perspective, suppose you
were to pick out a page at random from the 2nd
concerto's first movement. It will
be difficult for sure, but then suppose
you looked at it as simply a one page
composition--putting the rest of the
concerto out of your mind. In that
context, you could work on that
one page feverishly--it's just one page
to finish--and you might have it more or
less up to speed in, say, 3 months.

But the first movement is 22 pages in
my Dover edition, all of them difficult,
so if you were to try to do the whole
movement, then that's about 3 months times 22 =
66 months or 5.5 years, which begins to
show why the longer length of concertos
is so much of a factor in their difficulty.
Looking at a minimum of 5.5 years of
grueling work on one piece is psychologically
daunting for an amateur, causing most
people to give up before they even
start--or soon after they start.

With any movement of the 3rd concerto
it would be similar: you'll be working
on it for years, maybe, before it's even
playable in one sitting at a fairly decent pace.

#955131 - 05/22/08 06:41 AM Re: rach3  
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john christie Offline
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#955132 - 05/22/08 07:01 AM Re: rach3  
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Perfect Pitch Offline
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If you want to play it properly and professionally... I would recommend 2 years to learn this... not one. I mean to pull it off seriously well requires a heck of a lot of practice, slow passages and most importantly of all... analysis.

Don't just dive into the piece... what you would need would be a month to just go through bar by bar to make sure you know which technique to use to achieve the most legato sound or connecting of the melody line without clunking up the lower accompaniment lines.

Having said that... if you're currently working on two Beethoven Sonatas... then I HONESTLY don't think you are ready to take this piece on.

I mean if you had gone through a few Hungarian Rhapsodies, as well as some of Alkans etudes and maybe one of Brahms Piano Concertos... then yes... but a couple of Beethoven Sonatas??? You have to be dreaming...

#955133 - 05/22/08 12:07 PM Re: rach3  
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Gyro Offline
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I disagree. We're not talking about professional
concert pianists here; they don't post questions
on these forums. We're talking about serious
amateurs, who want a big challenge and
want to play something big.

And, "analysis?" You can analyze it from
a hundred different angles, but what it comes
down to is hitting all the right notes
in the right time at speed, and any amateur
can do that with enough repetive practice
over a long time--2 yrs. wouldn't be enough
to do this for even one of the movements
with most amateurs.

Being able to go through the whole concerto
in a month first of all to check out
technique and so forth is concert pianist-
level stuff. We're talking about amateurs
here, and a amateur wouldn't be able to
do that, wouldn't even know beforehand
what was the best technique and so forth.
Such a player, if he wanted to tackle
this, would simply have to dig and start
playing and figure out the technique
and so forth as he goes, because he would
never have run across the technical
problems this presents before in his

I'm sure I could, with enough repetitive
effort over a long time, play a movement
from this fairly decently, because I've
worked up fairly well a concerto movement
of roughly comparable difficulty by sheer
repetitive effort, without the "prerequisites."
I worked it up by starting on it, initially,
note by note, slowly, one measure per
day, and just chipping away at it over
a long time, using the only assest an
amateur like myself has: repetition.
This way is slow but it works if you
stick with it--the principle
is similar to moving a mountain with
a teaspoon. And if an undistinguished amateur
like myself can do that, then any amateur could
do it.

#955134 - 05/23/08 06:39 AM Re: rach3  
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john christie Offline
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#955135 - 05/23/08 08:59 AM Re: rach3  
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Kreisler Offline
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Iowa City, IA
There are very few stretches in Rachmaninoff. He rarely wrote more than an octave reach, and when he did, it's always acceptable to redistribute or arpeggiate the chords. The difficulty in Rachmaninoff's chords is that he puts all these notes in between the octave. For that, I always found practicing dominant seventh arpeggios to be helpful. (And a few select Brahms and Dohnanyi exercises.)

The chords are not the difficult part of this concerto. The hard part is handling the texture and voicing, since the melodic material is sparse compared to the accompaniment figures. S

Stamina is also a big issue. You'll want to have several studio class or other mock performance under your belt before you take this piece to public. Otherwise you'll likely suffer the consequences of bad pacing.

I would also amend your saying:

"Where there's a will, 10-15 years of good training, and 5-8 hours a day to devote to practice, there's a way."


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

#955136 - 05/24/08 09:29 PM Re: rach3  
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john christie Offline
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