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Topic: What does it take to be able to play Chopin's nocturnes Op. 62?  (Read 2632 times)

Offline hpiano

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Hi everyone,

I have been playing piano for 3.5 years. It didn't long before I became obsessed with the classics. It started with Chopin, and it grew from there when I heard other amazing composers like Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Chopin however is still at the very core of my favorite piano literature. And of his remarkable oeuvre, the Nocturnes, Op. 62 stand out the most. I want to learn these pieces so badly but my teacher says that I'm just not ready for it. Unfortunately, she didn't elaborate why this was. I certainly have the desire and motivation to learn these pieces. Although upon reading through the music I realized it was going to be quite a challenge- and my teacher was right- some of my skills really need to be worked on for me to get this piece under my fingers.

Here are some of my strengths:
Memorizing music
Good ear- I can recognize intervals and almost have relative pitch.
I can play scales pretty well and know a lot about music theory. I've been studying music in general much longer than piano
I've refined my trilling and ornament skills a decent amount
I have big hands and can reach an 11th
I am great at understanding the repertoire and bringing out its appropriate elements. (I can bring out Classical or Romantic repertoire the way it was meant to be played)
I have a good grasp of dynamic control
I can handle multiple voices in one hand

And here are my weaknesses:
I struggle to sight read. I am often uncomfortable not looking at my hands. And I don't have a confident sense of the keyboard and its geography.
As a result, big or fast leaps kill me. I despise them with a passion.
I think my left hand is pretty weak compared to my right so it can't play scales, arpeggios or chords as quickly and comfortably as my right.

I haven't played the pieces so I am interested to hear from those who have... drawing form what I just listed, what would you say are some of the musical and technical obstacles that need to be overcome to ensure a clean and captivating study of these pieces? Do you have any recommendations of pieces or etudes that I could practice to improve the specific challenges that underlie these nocturnes? Which measures are doozies? I really appreciate your response and hope that what I am asking makes sense... ;)
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Offline dogperson

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First, since you have a teacher, why donít you let your teacher assign you pieces that will help you prepare to play this grade 9 Nocturne?  i.e., easier preludes and nocturnes would be a good start
- your arpeggios will need to be fluid and sound effortless
- you will need to effortlessness voice a chord (I.e., play multiple notes/voices in one hand while making the melody prominent in the same hand
- op 6/ 1 has a section with an ONGOING light trill while the melody is still being played. Not an easy skill . Try just play the RH  of these measures.

If you learn it now, it will sound like a student that learned it too soon and struggles rather than an accomplished pianist who was able to negotiate the beauty of the music.

Offline ranjit

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Certain pieces are difficult to play technically, but easier to bring out musically. Some are the opposite. I think this nocturne is of the second kind. There are so many meandering melodies, and multiple voices going on which I can hear, and so it doesn't seem straightforward to comprehend and bring out musically. Playing a mediocre version of such a piece won't really make any sense. Although you say you are a good memorizer, you have only worked on easier pieces before and this looks like it will be a real pain to memorize, especially if you have no prior experience with Chopin AND can't read well, as you stated here. Why don't you learn a few other Chopin pieces (other waltzes, nocturnes) before you come back to this? If you're truly ready for it, it shouldn't take long.

On the other hand, I would suggest just attempting to read through the piece if you can. That way, you'll see for yourself where the difficulties of the piece lie. You should also ask your teacher why she thinks you're not ready, as that can give you a much better idea.

Offline j_tour

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- op 6/ 1 has a section with an ONGOING light trill while the melody is still being played. Not an easy skill . Try just play the RH  of these measures.

Oh dear.  I looked these up yesterday and saw some pencil markings from probably thirty years ago leading me to think I'd played these as a child and forgot about it.

Apparently not:  mm. 68-75 in the Dover edition has those trills.  Couldn't do those then, can only barely do them now, and not very well at all.

Beastly.  Yeah, it can be done, but those are just a real PITA IMHO.

Even the second one looks OK until one turns the pages and finds the rest of it is not trivial mechanically.

My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline anacrusis

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Of the two, op 62 no 2 is the easiest technically, but they are both difficult. Not in the sense of being flashy technically, because they are not, but in terms of the technical skill needed to pull them off. You need a certain degree of relaxation combined with fine control over the fingers to play any Chopin well, imho.

Offline hpiano

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First, since you have a teacher, why donít you let your teacher assign you pieces that will help you prepare to play this grade 9 Nocturne?  i.e., easier preludes and nocturnes would be a good start
- your arpeggios will need to be fluid and sound effortless
- you will need to effortlessness voice a chord (I.e., play multiple notes/voices in one hand while making the melody prominent in the same hand
- op 6/ 1 has a section with an ONGOING light trill while the melody is still being played. Not an easy skill . Try just play the RH  of these measures.

If you learn it now, it will sound like a student that learned it too soon and struggles rather than an accomplished pianist who was able to negotiate the beauty of the music.


Well I have actually played Chopin. I performed his Funeral March, I've learned the waltz in A minor (hard for me honestly) and the Minute Waltz, and I'm learning Nocturne op. 9 no. 2 and Nocturne Op. 55 no. 1. Hopefully those are good choices. Well my arpeggios aren't really fluid yet but I think they are getting better. Maybe I'll focus on B major, E major, F# major arpeggios etc. to prepare for the pieces. Thanks for the tips. From what you've said I think I may have to wait a good year or so before I can legitimately take it on.

Certain pieces are difficult to play technically, but easier to bring out musically. Some are the opposite. I think this nocturne is of the second kind. There are so many meandering melodies, and multiple voices going on which I can hear, and so it doesn't seem straightforward to comprehend and bring out musically. Playing a mediocre version of such a piece won't really make any sense. Although you say you are a good memorizer, you have only worked on easier pieces before and this looks like it will be a real pain to memorize, especially if you have no prior experience with Chopin AND can't read well, as you stated here. Why don't you learn a few other Chopin pieces (other waltzes, nocturnes) before you come back to this? If you're truly ready for it, it shouldn't take long.

On the other hand, I would suggest just attempting to read through the piece if you can. That way, you'll see for yourself where the difficulties of the piece lie. You should also ask your teacher why she thinks you're not ready, as that can give you a much better idea.

Like I said above, I do have prior experience but yeah it would still be a leap to go right into Op. 62. I think you're right- I might try to really polish my arpeggios, Op 9 no 2 and Op 55 no 1. I'll ask my teacher about it again and she what she has to say about difficult sections.

Of the two, op 62 no 2 is the easiest technically, but they are both difficult. Not in the sense of being flashy technically, because they are not, but in terms of the technical skill needed to pull them off. You need a certain degree of relaxation combined with fine control over the fingers to play any Chopin well, imho.

Yeah.. i think I may just have to wait on this pieces. The good thing is there is no rush and I'll have plenty of time in the future to work on these pieces.

Offline dogperson

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Even if you donít take on the entire piece right now, there is no reason you canít work on the specific technique challenges op 62 requires. Take it to your lesson snd  mark up the  challenges  with your teacher.  For example, the ongoing trill with the melody. Learn how to practice those few measures snd incorporate into your exercise routine.  If you are not adept at chord voicing, work on that skill.  Prepare yourself without committing  the majority of your practice time. Use that for a piece you can conquer and polish now.

Offline mjames

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Literally nothing, they're relatively straightforward pieces. If you can play waltzes and the op. 55 nocturnes, you can play the op. 62 nocturnes.

Just stop being wuss about pieces you think are challenging and go for them.
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