View Full Version : Playing Fur Elise with one hand

09-22-2013, 05:10 PM
Quick question... this isn't a HUGE element in my plot or anything but I don't want to pull any better pianists than I am out of the story with it.

Basically I want to know if it seems totally implausible that an extremely gifted musician who has lost the use of his right hand could come up with a recognizable (but not completely perfect) rendition of Fur Elise on the piano?

I know there are lots of amazing one-handed pianists out there (all over YouTube) but I haven't been able to find anyone playing Fur Elise specifically.

If that seems like it wouldn't work, are there any other classical pieces that would be recognizable to the average reader by title alone that would be more believable?

Or would you be willing enough to suspend disbelief, provided it's not a major plot point, that it doesn't matter?

Thank you in advance for any opinions!

09-22-2013, 06:04 PM
I think with "recognizable but not completely perfect," you've made it entirely believable. I'd read on.

09-22-2013, 06:08 PM
I am not a talented musician, but I did play Fur Elise on the piano some time ago. The beginning is relative simple, but it spans several octaves, which means one-handed play would be very choppy and hard to do well, even with pedaling. Tempo, and tempo changes are important to this piece, so a talented one-handed pianist might find it somewhat frustrating to accomplish. Also, much of the middle-to-end of the piece relies on both hands to get the flavor of the piece across. If the pianist would be happy with the simple melody, I think there might be better choices.

Please realize that I am, at best, an extreme amateur. I had eight years of piano lessons decades ago, and since then I have mostly picked out songs from sheet music for my own enjoyment.

09-22-2013, 06:09 PM
Yeah, recognizable would be possible (it's a very distinctive piece after all), but anything beyond that, very doubtful.

09-22-2013, 06:10 PM
I'm no expert on playing the piano (with one hand or two), but you might consider Moonlight Sonata as another option; it's a bit slower, so therefore it might be easier to play one handed.

09-22-2013, 06:47 PM
Hmmm... thanks. You guys have given me a lot to think about. I may just change it to be some unspecified classical piece (my POV character wouldn't know the title unless it was something really REALLY well-known).

Thank you for the insights!

Siri Kirpal
09-22-2013, 09:29 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I'm also not a good pianist, but Traumerai by Schumann is slow and has an easily recognized melody.


Siri Kirpal

09-22-2013, 09:43 PM
There have been a number of well-known professional pianists who play at concert level with only one hand. Paul Wittgenstein (who lost his right arm in WWI) had quite a few pieces written specially for him by leading composers of the early-mid 20c. Leon Fleisher is a contemporary example - he was a well-established pianist when he lost the use of his right hand, but relaunched his career playing left-hand-only. It may help if you you look into the repertoire of actual one-handed pianists for an idea of what your character can and can't do.

09-22-2013, 10:18 PM
There's a part of that piece that has a super fast interchange of 32nd notes where you're bouncing back and forth between hands on single notes. I can't imagine anybody could play that with one hand, but then maybe somebody reeeeeally good could? You'd have to have reflexes of lightning.
Please ignore that. It's been like 10 years since I've played that and I just looked up the sheet music and that part it IS done with one hand. Sorry! I'm wondering if something by Mozart might work better, like his stuff with fewer chords and unsustained notes.

09-23-2013, 02:01 AM
It's been years since I would consider myself a good pianist, but I played Fur Elise quite often. I just tried, and I can play the melody pretty well left-handed. Does your character need to play ALL the way through or would melody (ie. the most recognizable part of the opening) suffice? The melody is usually all right-hand, but if your character is well-practiced, I think it could work if he just needs to play part. Once you start jumping between octaves, the melody shifts to both hands, and that's extremely hard to do -- wouldn't be recognizable with only one hand unless he can rewrite it somehow.

Does that help?

09-23-2013, 06:46 AM
Melody is easy to do one-handed, but not the flavor of the whole piece. Maybe "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" by Bach? (I guarantee you'd recognize the tune!) It's easy to do one-handed, even the slow parts, and although the full instrumentation is prettier it's still pretty amazing with a melody plus simple chords (doable with just one hand).

09-23-2013, 10:31 AM
Thanks! There's no real reason that it has to be Fur Elise, or Beethoven, or even a famous piece of any kind. The only point of this particular scene is that the POV character (who can kind of plunk out a melody with chords, but not much more) is messing around with a piano and then this other character completely shows him up with one hand. Which, judging by some of the videos I've seen trying to research this point, is completely possible. As long as the POV character is amazed and shown up, it doesn't matter what it is. So I'll either go with something that I know can be played one-handed or just have it be something that the POV character doesn't recognize (but can still recognize that it's better than anything he can do). Thanks!

09-23-2013, 04:16 PM
Alright, I tried it myself and the verdict is... I could do the first part on a keyboard with no pedals, years out of practice with smallish hands, not actually playing the first, lowest note in any of the left hand segments... but it still sounded more or less like the "real thing." So I'm going to assume that my character, who's had years of practice and bigger hands and pedals, can probably do at least that much and make it sound decently impressive. ;)

I'll just forget about the second and third sections, and it sounds like that should be alright. Mods, you can close this, I got some great help and I think I know where I'm going with it now. :)

09-23-2013, 05:18 PM
Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand.