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Visiting Chopin in Valldemossa
Summer means vacation time and for many also traveling places. There are countless opportunities to enjoy wonderful music during summer festivals or embark on thrilling visits to historical venues that our esteemed composers and musicians once frequented. While on vacation in Mallorca, Piano Streetís Patrick Jovell took a quick visit to Frťdťric Chopinís Valldemossa. Read more >>

Topic: Rapid Left Hand Arpeggio Beethoven Sonata no 1 4th movement  (Read 1310 times)

Offline tickandtock

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Hello! Im writing to you all because Iím feeling very discouraged about the left hand in Beethovenís Sonata no 1 in F minor the 4th movement the opening bars. The left hand races up and down f minor arpeggios. Iím finding this left hand extremely uncomfortable and hard to control. My pinky seems to stick up and come way above the keys and slap down upon depressing the key. The whole arpeggio itself feels as though itís on the verge of breakdown when I play it fast. Iíve practiced it unbearably slowly for weeks with no progress. Iíve considered doing technical exercises or stretching my hand but I think I really just donít know how to handle the technique of this monster arpeggio. Anyone have any thoughts or advice?

Offline brogers70

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I'm also learning this piece. I haven't started on the fourth movement, except that I've been working on those left hand arpeggios as a technical exercise. One thing I've noticed is that the limiting factor is how fast you can leave a note, not how fast you can arrive on it. So I practice the arpeggios slowly, but with a very quick finger staccato. That gets you used to getting the finger off the note quickly.  I also suggest experimenting with fingerings - at the beginning after you've done three f minor arps and one Bb minor arp and you are about to start the descending f minor arp, I find that the F-C-Ab that you play before you descend works well fingered 5-2-3. I also suggest playing short bursts of notes fast that cover changes in hand position so you work out what you need to do with your arm and wrist to make the shift easy - that's something that hours of slow practice will never tell you. I found that after playing around like that with a few of the sets of arpeggios in that movement that I can play them up to tempo. Like I said, I have just been messing with them as exercises for now, but I think if you play around like that you'll get the hang of them.

Offline anacrusis

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Hello! Im writing to you all because Iím feeling very discouraged about the left hand in Beethovenís Sonata no 1 in F minor the 4th movement the opening bars. The left hand races up and down f minor arpeggios. Iím finding this left hand extremely uncomfortable and hard to control. My pinky seems to stick up and come way above the keys and slap down upon depressing the key. The whole arpeggio itself feels as though itís on the verge of breakdown when I play it fast. Iíve practiced it unbearably slowly for weeks with no progress. Iíve considered doing technical exercises or stretching my hand but I think I really just donít know how to handle the technique of this monster arpeggio. Anyone have any thoughts or advice?

If slow practise does not work, one has to consider what enables us to play fast in the end. If your hands, wrists, fingers are even a bit tense as you work slowly, you'll still have trouble playing fast, even after a lot of slow work, as the tension is what interferes with quickness, precision and agility of movement. Ultimately, especially in a technically demanding, fast piece such as this one, you'll have to learn the skill of not unnecessarily tensing any part of your body as you move each key with each finger.

I'd try some mid-tempo practise and see if you can figure out how to catch and stop yourself from tensing up whenever your body shows an inclination to do so.

Offline nw746

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I've also heard good things about "chaining" (i.e. starting by just playing, say, a single beat at the correct tempo, which according to Czerny is about half note = 112, and then gradually adding on extra notes/beats at the same tempo, making sure each new addition is secure before moving on to the next one). (Brief outline here.) Have never tried this myself but since slow practice has never actually helped me in any way, it seems potentially useful.

Offline roncesvalles

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I've had a lot of pinkie tension issues.  I've managed to all but eradicate it in my left hand and significantly reduce it in my right hand.
Nw746's "chaining" if I'm correct on what they meant by it, is one of the methods I use to find relaxation at tempo for fast passages.  I think of hand positions.  If you keep your hand in the first position of an arpeggio, it's pretty easy to stay relaxed even at high speeds. So if I'm having tension issues, I first play one hand position at a time, pause, and go to the next for the phrase or series of arpeggios I'm working on.  You should be able to stay relaxed with a stationary hand, so you know it's possible to do it. 
The next thing I do is to connect hand positions, work on playing hand position 1 and hand position 2 together.  Play it first at a moderate speed making sure you relax, and watch your hands as you increase speeds.  Increasing speed you can sometimes be jerky, and this makes the transition between hand positions more tense.  One of the things I noticed that I was doing is that my hand would start moving towards the next position before I finished playing the notes of one position.  So what was happening is that my fingers would actually have to reach somewhat laterally to sound the arpeggio's notes, which caused a lot of tension and made my pinky fly up to compensate for that tension.  So I focus on making sure I play all the notes in the hand position I am at in a relaxed manner, then shifting to the next position and doing the same.  If there are a series of fast arpeggios covering a couple octaves and going up then down and vice versa, I isolate into groups of two hand positions every part of the arpeggio.  Once I can do those isolated two-position arpeggios in a respectable tempo with relaxation, I start doing three, etc. until I can play it all with little tension.
Having a teacher would be really helpful for issues like this, because a lot of variables go into patterns like these.  Rotation and arm movement can come into play (herky jerky elbow movement can make the fingers tense up to compensate) in ways that are difficult to describe in words.
 

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