Piano Reductions

Any words of advice from anyone regarding making a piano reduction of a piece for mixed ensemble? Pitfalls etc.

if there’s any chance it will be used as a performance score as well (for example, as an accompaniment without orchestra for a soloist), I highly recommend NOT staying too true to the original score.

usually, what works well in an instrumental ensemble does NOT work well for a piano.
I just finished the orchestral reduction of a viola concerto, and have to admit that I massively changed many parts just so they would be playable and satisfying to a certain degree.

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I’m finding the same issues. Voice leadings, right hand/left hand, hand spans, et al. How did you proceed? It’s a rehearsal score.

Consult a professional keyboardist who can help direct you as to what is idiomatic to the instrument.

Also: simplify. Absolutely resist the urge to try and have the piano take everything it possibly can. Better to get the “gist” of what’s going on and have that played well than have the pianist trying to manage too many things, and playing none of those bits all that well. This is not to say that the reduction has to be simplistic; just try not to make it cover everything all the time.

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I added an “ossia” staff in spots, to show what was going on in parts of the orchestra that were not covered by the piano reduction (some woodwind flurries were outright impossible to render in a satisfying manner).

I had a large passage in repeated 16th notes, which sound wonderful played by the woodwinds and strings, but are carpal-tunnel-inducing for any pianist. I simply changed those to a repeated short arpeggiated pattern in 16ths that covers the same harmonic material.

The only thing I have not found a convincing way of dealing with is an important section with basically a trio between the viola soloist, the timpanist, and a percussionist playing snares.

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I typically use the Reduce function first to create a note-for-note piano score (typically unplayable), then add a second piano below it and adapt that for what’s playable/practical.


Excellent advice here.

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In case this is helpful to anyone, based on input in the thread, I found these steps most expedient for reducing a five-instrument ensemble to piano.

  1. Add a piano part called Piano Reduction.
  2. Use Paste Special to reduce all 5 parts to both piano staves.
  3. Remove all dynamics from PR left hand.
  4. Remove all slurs from PR.
  5. Measure by measure, use shift M and shift N to put notes in appropriate hand/staff.
  6. Try to limit PR voices to one upstem and one downstem in each hand.
  7. Either 1) shorten sustained notes, or 2) remove ties on long sustained notes, or 3) re-tie long sustained notes into shorter chains. **Note that ALT/Shift + arrows will not work if the “tick” duration is longer than the note, and that the key combination does not seem to work for tuplets.

8, Change octaves for notes causing chord hand-span problems. I limited spans to a 9th.
9. Remove unisons and many (most) octaves in chords.

The results were a playable, simplified piano part.