Sunday, 17 May 2015


As you may have noticed, this blog has been very quiet recently...

Well, I just wanted to make it known that I have not abandoned the project at all and I have been steadily working at the etudes ever since my last post.

The only reason I have not been posting on this blog is because it takes me a very long time to write a post about a specific etude (I usually have to give up an entire day for this) and I simply do not have the time to write blog entries alongside my piano practice.

Currently I am in what I call the 'overview' phrase. This is when I spend about 7-10 days on each etude, with about 1-1.5 hours a day of focused practice, before moving on to the next etude. This is certainly not sufficient time (for me at least) to play the piece at the final speed fluently, it only serves as a way of getting the etude under my fingers. But I think it is important not to spend too long practising one specific piano piece, it is important to take a long break to gain a fresh perspective in approaching the piece in terms of practising and musical interpretation. Besides one tends to get bored if they play the same thing over and over again for a long time, to the point where piano playing becomes a sort of chore.

That is why I am not lingering on one etude too long, and move on to the next one relatively quickly, even if I feel I'm nowhere near the 'finish line' for that specific etude. (Let me again emphasise that when I say or imply a 'finish line' I do not mean one in the ultimate sense, only that I can play the piece well enough to pass in an amateur recital or online recording/video).

I'm just about to finish looking at Op.25 No.3 (Horseman) and will then move on to No.4. When I get to the end of Op.25 I plan to write a larger blog post where I summarise my experiences with each etude and the learning experience as a whole. I plan this to be sometime around July...but of course I can't be sure about that!

So far all I can say is it has been great fun looking at these etudes. I feel like my technique has definitely improved and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and comments later on in the year!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

CEP #5A - Op.10 No.3 RECORDING

As promised, here is the link to a digital piano recording of me playing Chopin's Etude Op.10 No.3.

Still a work in progress of course!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

CEP #5 - Bach on Acid

Chopin Op.10 No.3 Update

Whoops! Sorry for the recent lack of posts. Here's what's been going on: I signed up for a local concert to perform Chopin's Etude Op.10 No.3, so for the last few weeks I've been putting most of my focus into trying to get the best out of the piece for the concert. The concert wasn't recorded, however I will upload a separate recording of me playing the piece some time this week.

Without further ado, let's move on to the next etude in the set:

Chopin Op.10 No.4


Etude Op.10 No.4 in C# minor is one of Chopin's angriest and most dramatic pieces for piano. It's pure rage, from the beginning right to the very end. There are many factors which contribute towards this:

  • Fast tempo (the tempo marking above corresponds to just under 12 16th notes a second)
  • Loud. Yes, most of the time this piece is very loud!
  • Sharp contrasts in dynamics. There's a lot of fortepianos and sforzandos in this piece!
  • The "perpetuum mobile" feel to the piece. There are almost no breaks between the 16th notes, and if there are, the rest only has a value of a 16th. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the piece earned the nickname "Torrent"
What is especially special about this piece is the fact that Chopin places plenty of focus on the left hand. Up till this point, the right hand has been in the spotlight, doing the tricky moves, while the left hand was more or less accompanying. In this etude, however, the hands seem equally split in their difficulty (which in this case are different aspects of fast runs)

Perhaps this was intentional by Chopin. To me, however, this piece greatly resembles the kind of 'hand-to-hand' passing patterns you see often in Baroque and Classical music. I have a feeling that Chopin was trying to compose a more romantic rendering of the likes of Bach and Mozart (hence the title of this post). Therefore, the fact that the focus is on both hands seems like an aftermath of this.

Probably one of the main criticisms of Chopin's etudes is the imbalance of focus between the hands. It is clear that Chopin places most of the focus on the right hand throughout the entire etude set. Of course, this is not a result of Chopin's inadequacy as a composer - in the Romantic period, the right hand simply was considered to be more important than the left hand, and it is only in the 20th century when composers decided that the right and left hand were, actually, equally as important. The composer-pianist Leopold Godowsky even published his own "Studies on Chopin's Etudes" which aimed to rectify the imbalance of hand focus in Chopin's etudes, by rewriting many of Chopin's etudes for the left hand, sometimes even with no right hand accompaniment. 

How I studied the etude
This piece is all about improving the finger dexterity in both hands. This is especially useful for me since my left hand is severely lacking compared to my right hand...the result of focusing too much on playing early-Romantic pieces (!). I quickly realised that there is no point in rushing when learning this piece. One must learn by practising slowly until you can play all of the quick, tricky passages perfectly with your eyes closed. Then speed up the tempo...until you reached the desired tempo (which may or may not be 88 half notes a second - that's crazy fast!).

There are no 'alien' bits in this piece, at least not as alien as some parts in the previous three etudes! 
The trickiest bit is probably:

simply because of the fact you have to play complex 16th note patterns in both hands simultaneously! 
Another sequence which deserves a special mention, which appears just before the final exit section:

Probably the most dramatic moment in the piece! The contrary motion of the hands in the first two bars, coupled with the dynamic markings, amounts to one of the biggest crescendos one can get at the piano! Especially since what follows is one of the most rageful expressive markings you can get in music: "With as much fire as possible". 

Here's one of my favourite recordings of this piece, played slightly above the marked tempo (but only slightly):

I'm still in the early stages of studying this piece. I've come to the realization that, probably the best way to study the complete etudes for performance level is to first take a 'tour' through the entire two sets, getting each etude under my fingers, then to study each etude separately, but not necessarily in order. Therefore, by the time I finish reviewing each etude on this blog, expect the blog to continue for much longer!

As for now...

'Till next time!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

CEP #4 - The Sadness(?) Etude

Op.10 No.2 - Update

Last time we left off I was in the middle of studying Chopin's Op.10 No.2 etude, the one with the "perpetual motion" scales in the upper register.

Over a week has passed now, and I am glad to say that a lot of progress has been made. However, despite this I am still not completely fluent in the piece. It turns out that there are a whole host of little tricks and difficulties in the piece, which, however much I practise, always seem to catch me out. 

Where are the difficulties? 

For example, pretty much the entire middle (B) section is incredibly difficult. Here are the first four bars of the section:

The right hand is tricky enough due to the way it constantly twists and turns up and down the keyboard, unlike the first bars of the piece, for example, where it's just one long swoop up and down: 

But what makes this part even tricker is the left hand, which is constantly changing position. For me, playing this section hands separately does not present great difficulties, but playing it hands together is a nightmare, and almost always makes me stops in my tracks.

Later on in the B section, we get these awkward shifts in the right hand:

Very tricky to get right. It's just one of those "this-could-go-horribly-wrong" moments.

But what is, probably, the trickiest aspect of this piece is overcoming the 'strain' in the right hand you get from playing it, especially after playing No.1! I'm not sure if you can call it 'strain', but I find that by the time I get to the end of the piece, my 3 right fingers in my right hand sometimes appear to fail to respond to nerve firings!

This could be a problem with the way I'm playing the piece, or it could be simply that I haven't practised it enough. 

Whatever it is, I think I should take a one or two week break from the piece. I've found in the past, with all the pieces I've learnt, that after endlessly practising a section of music over and over again, I have to give myself a longer break before I get results. I guess this is just a natural 'delay' present in the brain's learning system. 

So anyway, I won't release a recording of this etude for at least a week. In fact, I think this will probably be a more likely occurence in the future, since I am expecting that, as I study more of the etudes, I will be 'layering' the study periods on top of each other, in the sense that I will be moving on to other etudes before 'perfecting' previous etudes. So, rather than giving out recordings of new etudes periodically, I will probably remain silent for a longer time before releasing a few etudes at once (approximately). Or not. Either way, I don't want to make any promises about the release dates of any of the "in progress" recordings - what's important is that, ultimately, I will be able to record all of the etudes played fluently, regardless of how I go about learning them.

With that said, let's take a look at the next, and possibly my favourite, etude.

Etude Op.10 No.3

Op.10 No.3 is, along with Op.10 No.12, one of Chopin's most famous and popular piano pieces. The melody is instantly recognizable to most.

However, I'm sure that most people who have heard the piece aren't aware that this a piano study. And rightly so! Nos 1 and 2 are certainly 'studies', that's quite clear, but No.3 sounds like anything but an etude on first hearing. It's much, much calmer, for one, but also includes an absolutely sublime melody. Chopin himself has apparently stated that, in all of his time as a composer never has he stumbled upon such a beautiful melody (although I'm not sure whether he said that when he composed this, or later on when reflecting over his work).

This etude is often nicknamed "Tristesse", which means "Sadness" in French. 

But, personally, I don't see anything sad about this piece!

Many of us imagine stories when playing or listening to music. In my case, I don't 'conjure up' such stories very often, but in the case of Op.10 No.3, this is certainly not true.

For me, this is above all a very nostalgic piece. What I see when I listen to this piece is images from childhood. Not my childhood, but a childhood (I suppose it's a kind of 'reflection' of everybody's childhood). 

In the A section I see a child playing in a field full of trees and grass, laughing, the summer sun high up in the sky. The child is happy, as happy as can be, with not a worry in the world.

Then the B section comes along (bar 21):

The child's older sibling is suggesting they go explore into the woods. "But our parents say we can't go there!" But the sibling insists! Eventually, they end up exploring, and stumble upon a cave or some sort of bunker. They decide to enter, then...

bar 32

 "HUH! What was that?!"

The children run away, but return. They get scared once more, until eventually, they both discover the monster, who begins chasing them, and they run away screaming! (bars 46-54)

Finally, they arrive home, and are greeted by their worried parents, who comfort them (bar 54):

and back we go to section C, where everything has returned back to normal, and the child is playing in the fields again. Only this time, the ending is slightly different. It is the nostalgia the composer feels as he remembers the blissful ignorance and complete happiness of his childhood, which is represented by the beautifully moving I-iv chord sequence:

Of course, this is just my story -  everybody has their own, and some don't even think of a story. But, for me, the fact that the piece is able to conjure up such vivid imagery is a testament to Chopin's creative genius.

Anyway, enough with the sentimentalisms. Let's take a closer look at the technical challenges of the piece.

As I have said before, many people who do not know much about classical music would not even consider that this beautiful piano piece which they hear in fragrance commercials and Chopin documentaries is, in fact, a study for the piano. 

My reason for this is simple yet paradoxical: This etude is a study in how to take an etude and make it sound as if it weren't an etude!

Here's the idea. Generally speaking, when we imagine a piano piece with a melody, we imagine that the melody is in the right hand, and the accompaniment is in the left hand. Of course, it's not often like this in terms of classical piano literature, but when it comes to, for example, arranging pop songs or folk tunes for piano, this is often the model the arranger goes for, because it will feel and sound the most natural.

In etude Op.10 No.3, the right hand is definitely playing a melody. But it is not the only thing the right hand is playing. 

Take a look at the first few bars of the etude. There are 4 voices in the bulk of the piece - two in the left hand, two in the right hand. The voicing in the left hand is fairly trivial - you can almost render it as one voice, if it weren't for the quarter notes on each beat, which must be held down.

The right hand also has two voices. In the Schirmer edition (and my Alfred edition), however, the lower voice is shown in the bass clef in the first two bars, but you can see more clearly how the voicing works in bars 3-4. The upper voice is the beautiful melody! It almost becomes lost amidst the convoluted mess of the score, because not only are there four voices playing at once but they're all very 'dense'. The bass quarter notes are sonically dense, as is the upper left hand voice, and the lower right hand voice plays constant 16th notes a few pitches below the melody. 

Thus, the aim of the etude is to render the upper voice of the right hand as an expressive melody whilst taking care of the other 3 voices arranged between both hands. It becomes a bit of a game in dynamics and expression when performing. If done correctly, the piece (or at least parts of it) should sound like a natural "right hand melody, left hand accompaniment" piano piece. Like not an etude at all! 

The technical difficulties in places like bars 38-41:

or the 'screaming' section are, I think, distinct from the overarching difficulty of the piece. Personally, I find these short sections the most technically demanding, especially bars 38-41, which is a bit of a hand-twister. 

But it is important to understand that, when it comes to the sections where you have to play four voices, although it is relatively easy to press the right notes at the right time, it's the rendering of the dynamics and exression which is the really difficult part. And what makes it especially difficult is that this is easy for the pianist to overlook, yet it's obvious to the audience when they listen that you're having trouble with playing the piece expressively.

When I started practising this etude oh-so-many years ago, I didn't take this idea seriously at all (but then I was very young then!). I just wanted to learn to hit the right notes. Now, when I return back to this piece, I realise that this is obviously the wrong approach to take. There's much more going on here.

So yes, I do have a headstart when it comes to practising this piece. I can play sections A and C pretty much fluently. But I think there's still a great deal to be learnt about expression...possibly an infinite amount.

So I've started practising this piece a few days ago now. I'm pretty much studying the "hand-twisters" from the ground up. As for the rest...well, it's pretty much a journey of discovery. Let's see how expressive and controlled I can be with the outer section of my right hand!

'Till next time!

P.S. Here's Lisitsa playing No.3. Looking at the hands, you sometimes get the sense that you don't know where the melody's coming from, as if it's a separate track added on top of Lisitsa's playing. This is what makes the etude pretty remarkable, IMO.

P.P.S. Notice the similarities between etude no.3 and etude no.2. Namely, in the focus Chopin places on the outer right hand. In No.2, it was more about finger gymnastics, but here, it's about bringing out an expressive melody.

Friday, 31 October 2014

CEP #3 - The journey continues...(Op.10 No.2)

Etude Op.10 No.2

Etude Op.10 No.2 bears many similarities to Op.10 No.1 - in fact, I always considered the first two etudes of Op.10 as a sort of pair which complement it each other. 

In the first etude, Chopin played with the idea of arpeggios in a sense. He wrote a piece based on "expanded arpeggios", where the hand had to be able to span an interval greater than that spanned by a simple triad. 

In this etude, Chopin plays with the idea of scales (the 'counterpart' of arpeggios I guess?). More specifically, chromatic scales. A quick glance at the score makes it immediately apparent what's so tricky about this etude. The fingering is all weird! Instead of the standard 1312313... pattern, you have 434534... a much more awkward fingering to use.

This etude is, in essence, an exercise in the dexterity of the 'weak' fingers of the right-hand (345). And no, there's no way to beat the system here, because fingers 1 and 2 have to play every quarter beat! So unless you have three hands, you can't play both clefs without using 345 fingering for the chromatic scales.

Perhaps it also exercises the lightness of touch, both in the right and left hand. Note that the right hand 'supporting' notes should only be played as sixteenth-notes. They can be seen as springboards for the scale runs, and they perhaps can disturb the flow of the piece if great care isn't taken over being very light with them.

The etude is quite short, about the same length as No.1. Personally, I think it's much less nasty than No.1 (which is ridiculously punishing!) but, as with all Chopin's Etudes, a lot of care needs to be taken when practising. Especially slow practice!

How I practised

While the piece itself is difficult, luckily it is very approachable for studying.

The etude can be very easily split into three voices:
  1. Scales in the upper register (right hand, fingers 345)
  2. 'Supporting' notes (right hand, fingers 12)
  3. Left hand
The obvious way of practising this piece is to start off with the upper register scales (which is more or less the meat of the piece anyway). Once this become fluent, it is simply a matter of layering the other voices on top, one by one. This is how I'm doing it!

Regarding the fingering of the right hand scales, in both my edition and the Schirmer edition it seems like, in general, when playing patterns upwards the pattern for the fingering is: 34343434... and coming down it's 5454545454... I find it easier when going up to replace the fourth finger with the third. So, in the first bar, the fingering goes: 5345 3534 5353 5345... I dunno, I suppose it's a matter of preference.

As with No.1, there are a few interesting 'tricky' sections in the etude:

Bar 21: It would be nice if the Eb could be played with the 2nd finger but, in the context of the piece, the fourth finger is really the only option. The result? - a passage that's a bit shifty!

Bars 33-4: This pattern gets easier with practise but at the beginning it felt like hit and miss! It's awkward because the normal 'scalic' pattern from the rest of the piece is broken. You need to use a completely different finger motion.

Unfortunately, I do not have a recording to provide you with today, as it's too early at this stage and my playing of the entire piece isn't fluent enough. Unless you want to listen to me playing at half speed - but I'm guessing you probably don't!

Instead, here's a link to a video showing you how a pro does it:

Till next time!

P.S. Happy Halloween!

Monday, 27 October 2014

CEP #2 - Progress on the Waterfall Etude

Last time we left off with me posting a recording of me playing Chopin's Op.10 No.1 etude.

It has now been 5 days since that recording, and after spending that time working on nothing but that impossible etude I will allow myself to post an updated recording to show the progress I've made since then:

Op.10 No.1 - Take 2

(note: this recording was taken with a microphone live of me playing on a Bechstein grand piano)

Personally? I'm fairly happy with the progress. I think the playing is overall much cleaner than it was 5 days ago.

Of course, the speed is nowhere near the 176 bpm Chopin asks for. So far the highest I feel confident at is ~ 124bpm, so there's still a lot of work to be done!

I did notice one particular thing that I would like to share. I have been practising this piece with a metronome (something I've never done willingly by myself!), and I spent a lot of time playing the etude over and over again at 124bpm, trying to perfect my accuracy. However progress was painfully slow. Today, I tried playing over at a much slower tempo (106bpm) a few times, then I played again at 124bpm There was certainly a difference! Not only in the accuracy but generally with confidence in playing. I think it goes to show that you must have patience when practising. Take it slow and get it right. Take it fast, get it wrong, and you'll end up nowhere!

The Importance of relaxation

This is another thing I think this etude tries to make you master. I have realised that you cannot play through this etude without a relaxed hand and not feel like your hand is about to fall off at the end. You cannot stress the hand in this etude. It is something I find quite difficult, especially because the action on my Kawai electric piano is pretty stiff compared to a grand piano. But, as I said in CEP #1, it seems like your hands can get used to long as you put effort into consistently having a relaxed hand when practising.

And it's strange - you look at a pianist's hands and it doesn't occur to you that their hand is relaxed. You say to yourself "That hand is doing a lot of work!". But it's one of those pseudo-paradoxes in piano-playing, I guess. A relaxed hand reduces unnecessary strain ('s unnecessary!) and prevents injuries. I had an injury in the left hand due to piano playing me, it doesn't feel good. At all!

So, what next? I think it's time to move on. I will be starting Op.10 No.2 tomorrow, but I will still be working on No.1, just not as often. I think I perhaps need a bit of time off to allow the music to 'bleed' into my hands.

Otherwise this etude will just become a study in masochism...and will get the better of me in the end.

Till next time!

<----- CEP #1

P.S. I present you another recording of Chopin's Op.10 No.1, this time from the indestructible and downright freaky Russian pianist Valentina Lisitsa:

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

CEP #1 - And so it begins...

Before we begin, I have a quick confession to make...

I have already begun to study two etudes from the set. These are Op.10 No.1 and 3. I looked at No.1 for a couple of weeks a few months ago, so while I didn't study it for a long time I studied enough to memorise the notes and have the piece "in my hands", if you will. As for No.3, I have had a long history with this one as I first started practising it from a collection of Chopin pieces many years ago. However, I am proudly ashamed to say that I only studied the A section seriously, i.e. the first section containing the main melody. I deemed the middle section too difficult at the time.

I should also briefly point out which printed edition I will be using for the project. There is a lot of talk out there on which edition is the best for the Chopin Etudes. Henle Urtext, Paderewski, Schirmer,'s enough to make your head spin!

Me, personally, I think when it comes to editions of sheet music, it's important to ask which editions to avoid. Fortunately, it's quite simple to determine which editions these are, because they almost never come up on online discussions.

Either way, I decided to go down a less conventional route and ended up purchasing the relatively new Alfred Masterworks edition. I have had a good experience with them in the past, and I liked the fact that the book was ring bound and included the 3 Nouvelle Etudes. Judging by the Amazon "Look Inside" feature, the notes themselves looked clear and nicely spaced out.

I could've referred to IMSLP for the sheet music, however I did wish to have a physical, professionally bound copy of the etudes for this project as I've found that, in many cases, sheet music which I print out ends up being written over with phone numbers or turned into paper airplanes or simply thrown in the recycling bin. Not to mention that, of course, printing for yourself also costs money!

If I ever wish to refer to a specific bar or part of the music on this blog, I will be using extracts from the Schirmer (Mikuli) edition found here on the IMSLP site. If there are any important differences between the Schrimer and Alfred edition, I will point those out.

Etude Op.10, No.1

We begin our studies with, quite possibly, the most terrifying etude in the whole set.

On the page, all it looks like is a series of arpeggios in the right hand going up and down and up and down, and the left hand playing nothing more than very basic octaves. Ha, this is the stuff of 6 year olds!

Oh dear...this is not the stuff of 6 year olds at all. In fact, even the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz once said that he wishes never to perform this etude in public due to its difficulty.

So what's so difficult about it?

First of all, it is wrong to assume that this is a study in arpeggios. The right hand is not playing arpeggios at all. Let's follow the piece note for note...

The piece starts off with the left playing a C octave in the bass, followed immediately by the right hand playing the notes: C G C E, followed by the same set of notes an octave higher...and an octave higher...until reaching the top E of the piano, and then descending with the same, reversed pattern all the way to the C at the bottom. The fingering for "C G C E" given by the sheet music is "1 2 4 5".

Try the right hand out slowly on a keyboard if you can. It feels awkward because, unlike in basic arpeggios, you are required to shift your hand across the keyboard in playing those four notes (unless you have very big hands, but that's not the point). Then, after playing those four notes, you have to shift the whole hand up an entire octave, playing the C played by the 4th finger again by the thumb.

This pattern is, pretty much, the essence of the piece. The notes themselves change throughout the piece as Chopin uses different harmonies, but the pattern pretty much remains the same throughout, with very little rest for the right hand throughout the piece.

(note: I will assume throughout these blog posts that the reader has never studied the Chopin etudes, but of course that won't be true for everyone)

I initially thought, therefore, that this etude is about stretching and shifting the right hand.

But I have come to terms with the idea that, no, this etude is not about stretching at all, although it may seem like it at first due to the grouping of 10th chords. There is, counter-intuitively, no need to stretch the right hand at all in this piece!

I think this etude is definitely about being able to smoothly and efficiently shift the right hand while being accurate with the fingers.

I also think there's something to be said about the expansion/contraction motion of the right hand. You need to spread the fingers out to play the broken chords, but then you've got to bring the thumb right up to the position of the little finger when you're shifting the position of the right hand to an octave above. And vice versa on the way down, where you bring the little finger up close to the thumb.

All this might not seem so tricky at first, but that's because we haven't taken into account what makes this piece so terrifying...

The tempo.

The tempo marking of the piece is "quarter note = 176". How fast is this? In the context of this piece, that is roughly 12 notes a second. Take a look at the video below to see a performance played in proper tempo (if not slightly slower):

There are 79 bars in the piece. There are, roughly speaking, 31 notes in the right hand every two bars, for 78 bars (the last bar does not have any notes in the right hand). This means that there are:

(78/2) x 31 = ~1209

notes in the right hand in this piece, which have to be played at a rate of 12 notes per second non-stop, not mentioning that also the right hand needs to repeatedly travel up and down the keyboard range in the space of just under 3 seconds.

I think this tempo marking, with the combination of the very shifty and active right hand, is what makes this piece so frightening and seemingly impossible to play.

How I practised

The way I approached practising this etude was, naturally, by ignoring the left hand and practising the right hand slowly. The very first time I started playing the etude seemed incredibly awkward, and I wasted too much effort by stretching my right hand rather than smoothly shifting the hand horizontally across the notes. After some time, though, I gradually began to discover easier, more comfortable ways of positioning my hand, and the whole playing became more natural.

I believe that it's not very different from when a complete beginner to the piano starts practising scales and arpeggios for the first time. Everybody finds that sort of thing awkward when they've never experienced it before. But as pianists become experienced with more and more pieces, everything becomes more familiar to them, and they forget that feeling of awkwardness. However, by writing Op.10 No.1, Chopin introduced some quite alien piano techniques which I think surprise many experienced pianists out there, and push them out of the comfort zone.

Thankfully, with a bit of practice and a few nights to sleep over it, this new technique loses a lot of its 'alienness'. So while, at first sight, getting used to the hand movements of this etude might seem an impossible feat (especially after watching somebody like Garrick Ohlsson play it) your brain will naturally adapt to it.

Then comes the task of discovering the motion of the hand which makes the etude as easy as possible to play. This, I think, is the ultimate 'trick' of the piece - finding the correct motions. I feel like I'm confident with my hand motions in about half of the bars of this piece, but there are many awkwardly spaced note sequences which I still don't think I've cracked yet.

Some examples:

1. What makes this sequence awkward is the big jump between the notes played by the 2nd finger and thumb. The big jump means that it's especially tricky to create a fluid motion with the hand. I find I need to do some funny rotating motion with the hand where I start each 5321 group with the hand rotated 45 degrees to the left, and end up pointing 45 degrees to the right, meaning that when I bring the pinky back to the D# I need to make a quick, 90 degree rotation with the hand to the left. It's bloody difficult!

2. This passage would be quite simple if it weren't for the E-flats! The trickiest part is the need to 'reach' the Eb at position 5 from position 4 while you've got the Bb in the way. It feels almost impossible to play this smoothly.

Anyway, let me show you what I can make so far out of the piece. Here is a recording of me playing the etude on my Kawai MP6 piano at home:

Op.10 No.1 - Take 1

Few things I noted when I listened back to this:
  • Tempo is much slower than it should be - this is as fast as I'm willing to showcase at this point. I should also quickly mention that, this being a study, you do not need to be able to play at 176 beats per minute to learn something useful from it. But, of course, I would quite like to reach the marked tempo at some point!
  • It sounds like I'm generally quite uneven with my playing - perhaps I need to undergo more slow practice, or practise using something like a dotted rhythm for the right hand. I have a slight suspicion that the recording capabilities of my electric piano aren't entirely accurate, but it's best to be on the safe side and assume the unevenness is entirely due to my playing!
  • Accuracy is not the greatest at the moment, but hopefully this will improve over time. 

Op.10 No.1 is, I think, quite an easy piece to 'get on top of', but it is an absolute bitch to master. It's perfect for technique-philes - you can get away with not putting in a lot of emotion, but it requires a ton of work to play at the right speed with 100% accuracy...enough to drive anybody mad!

I will give this piece one more week of practice, and post my progress. After that, I plan to leave it temporarily and turn to the next etude, Op.10 No.2.

Till next time!

<---- Introduction 
CEP #2 ------>