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Topic: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor  (Read 1609 times)

Offline omonbateau

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Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
on: September 06, 2022, 02:11:50 AM
Hello everyone!

My dream is to be able to play Chopin's ballade in G minor, but I know that I'm still far from having the level to try and learn it yet. I came here looking for advice on which progression of pieces I should work on before attempting the great jump. I'm aware that this might take a long time (one, two years?) but I'm greatly motivated, and I know it will make me a better pianist anyway.

Here is my background : I've started taking piano courses three years ago with zero music background before that. I studied with a teacher for one and a half year, mostly learning the technique and pieces, very little music theory. I've been working on my own since then, with the help of my pianist roomate.

The main pieces I've learnt and I think play not too bad :
Bach - Minuet in G minor, Prelude in C major, Invention 8 in F major
Beethoven - Sonata n20 in G major, Fr Elise
Chopin - Waltz in A minor, Nocturne n2, Nocturne n15
Mozart - Turkish March
(+ Interstellar by P.Pietschman, Your Lie in April ED2 by Fonzi M)

I'm almost done with Turkish March, which was challenging but not too difficult in my opinion, and I'm now looking for the next step in order to keep getting better and get closer to my goal! (I'm also doing exercises from a piano book to strenghten my fingers)

Hit me up with you best recommendations, and thank you very much for taking the time to read this and help me!

Offline nightwindsonata

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Re: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
Reply #1 on: September 06, 2022, 03:44:49 AM
Read Play It Again by Alan Rusbridger. It does a good job of capturing the myriad struggles that amateurs have with this piece. I would recommend learning all your scales and arpeggios thoroughly, practicing sight-reading on a daily basis, and playing through and learning as many of the Chopin waltzes and nocturnes as you can.

Additionally, find yourself a teacher who can work with you on your musical judgement and advanced technique, such as that required to play Chopin's Preludes, Nocturnes, Polonaises, Etudes, etc. I would honestly not recommend playing the Ballade seriously (besides some of the slow lyrical sections, which are undeniably gorgeous and not too difficult) until you have studied several Chopin Etudes and can perform at least one confidently in front of an audience from memory and at full (or nearly full) tempo with very few mistakes.

Additionally, I would recommend Op. 10 No. 10 and Op. 25 No. 5 for their particular study into many of the same hand shapes that are required by the Ballade. I would also recommend playing Bach--start out with the two-part Inventions (No. 8 first, then No. 1 and No. 15), then take on a Sinfonia, and finally a Prelude and Fugue. This will help you to develop your hand and finger independence, which is absolutely critical for playing the Ballade well, as there are many passages within the piece that feature similar polyphonic (multi-voice) writing that will fall flat in the performance if the notes are not held correctly (either too short or too long).

Make no mistake, the G minor Ballade is a horrifically challenging piece from start to finish--certainly not impossible to master for an accomplished pianist--but nearly so for a beginner/intermediate, for whom it can take years to finally play at tempo. Nevertheless, it is a worthy goal to play the piece, and while you develop your musical taste and technique to accommodate the work, I recommend you get to know Chopin's style and sound thoroughly, as well as that of J.S. Bach, Mozart, and John Field, all of whom Chopin to enormous inspiration from. I recommend listening to Rubenstein, Zimmerman, Cho Seong-jin, and many others who have mastered this piece.

Good luck in your studies!
1st-year Master's Program:
- Ravel Piano Concerto
- Liszt Ricordanza
- Liszt 3 Liebestraums
- Liszt 3 Sonnets

- Rhapsody in Blue
- Dante Sonata
- Schubert Sonata D.780
- Mozart Piano Quartet in Gm

Offline lelle

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Re: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
Reply #2 on: September 06, 2022, 11:08:45 AM
I think nightwindsonata has some good points. The only thing I disagree with is having played multiple Chopin etudes before tackling the Ballade. I performed the Ballade before I performed any of the Etudes (I had studied some of them before tackling the Ballade, but not thoroughly). Now that I have studied almost all of them to at least some degree, the Ballade of course feels easier. I would say the Ballade is overall easier to play than most of the Etudes. So I think you can tackle it without having played a lot of the Etudes, especially if you are not aiming at a high performance standard, but it'll be significantly easier if you have developed your technique more.

Offline nightwindsonata

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Re: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
Reply #3 on: September 06, 2022, 10:32:05 PM
I think nightwindsonata has some good points. The only thing I disagree with is having played multiple Chopin etudes before tackling the Ballade. I performed the Ballade before I performed any of the Etudes (I had studied some of them before tackling the Ballade, but not thoroughly). Now that I have studied almost all of them to at least some degree, the Ballade of course feels easier. I would say the Ballade is overall easier to play than most of the Etudes. So I think you can tackle it without having played a lot of the Etudes, especially if you are not aiming at a high performance standard, but it'll be significantly easier if you have developed your technique more.

They don't have to be hard Etudes lol Op. 10 No. 6, 9 or one of the Three New Etudes would be fine
1st-year Master's Program:
- Ravel Piano Concerto
- Liszt Ricordanza
- Liszt 3 Liebestraums
- Liszt 3 Sonnets

- Rhapsody in Blue
- Dante Sonata
- Schubert Sonata D.780
- Mozart Piano Quartet in Gm

Offline andrewuk

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Re: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
Reply #4 on: September 12, 2022, 06:52:54 PM
I'd endorse the advice to read Alan Rusbridger's book. But if you can't find/afford it, you can get his  annotated version of the score, which includes some interesting comments from the of the pianists he consulted.

Offline omonbateau

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Re: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
Reply #5 on: September 21, 2022, 01:46:54 AM
Read Play It Again by Alan Rusbridger. It does a good job of capturing the myriad struggles that amateurs have with this piece. I would recommend learning all your scales and arpeggios thoroughly, practicing sight-reading on a daily basis, and playing through and learning as many of the Chopin waltzes and nocturnes as you can.

Additionally, find yourself a teacher who can work with you on your musical judgement and advanced technique, such as that required to play Chopin's Preludes, Nocturnes, Polonaises, Etudes, etc. I would honestly not recommend playing the Ballade seriously (besides some of the slow lyrical sections, which are undeniably gorgeous and not too difficult) until you have studied several Chopin Etudes and can perform at least one confidently in front of an audience from memory and at full (or nearly full) tempo with very few mistakes.

Additionally, I would recommend Op. 10 No. 10 and Op. 25 No. 5 for their particular study into many of the same hand shapes that are required by the Ballade. I would also recommend playing Bach--start out with the two-part Inventions (No. 8 first, then No. 1 and No. 15), then take on a Sinfonia, and finally a Prelude and Fugue. This will help you to develop your hand and finger independence, which is absolutely critical for playing the Ballade well, as there are many passages within the piece that feature similar polyphonic (multi-voice) writing that will fall flat in the performance if the notes are not held correctly (either too short or too long).

Make no mistake, the G minor Ballade is a horrifically challenging piece from start to finish--certainly not impossible to master for an accomplished pianist--but nearly so for a beginner/intermediate, for whom it can take years to finally play at tempo. Nevertheless, it is a worthy goal to play the piece, and while you develop your musical taste and technique to accommodate the work, I recommend you get to know Chopin's style and sound thoroughly, as well as that of J.S. Bach, Mozart, and John Field, all of whom Chopin to enormous inspiration from. I recommend listening to Rubenstein, Zimmerman, Cho Seong-jin, and many others who have mastered this piece.

Good luck in your studies!

Thank you very much for your very detailed answer!!! As a matter of fact I bought Alan Rusbridger's book last month and it indeed shows how nearly impossible the piece can feel to an amateur, but still really helps to dive in the piece and get an idea of its inner workings.

I really appreciate your recommendations and I'll make sure to try and follow your advice. I see I have a long way to go but I know I'll enjoy it. Hopefully I'll be able to give you updates on my progress, however long it takes.

Again thank you!

Offline davidarditti

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Re: Roadmap for Chopin's ballade in G minor
Reply #6 on: September 30, 2022, 03:40:23 PM
I'd say Rusbridger makes rather heavy weather of this whole thing, claiming it is 'One of the most difficult pieces ever written' when it in no way is. On the other hand it is obviously not a beginner piece either. Everybody progresses at different rates, but I'd say for an adult learner starting from scratch, who can spend an hour a day practicing on a good piano, it is likely to take at least 10 years to reach that level. You can be looking at it now and trying to understand it as music, but be under no illusions that you will be able to play it in a couple of years.

What you should be doing is (more or less as already said) playing a lot of Bach (it doesn't really matter which pieces, they are all good), and several Mozart or Haydn sonatas, then progressing, with the aid of a teacher, to some of the easier Chopin pieces such as some of the Nocturnes, Preludes and Waltzes. On the way you would probably play all through some of the middling-difficulty Beethoven sonatas, like the Pathetique or the Pastorale. Although it is unfashionable, I'd also say there is much benefit in studying Czerny's exercises, such as his Op. 299 School of Velocity. These form part of the background to Chopin's style  as do pieces by Chopin's near-contemporaries Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn. A teacher will be best-placed to recommend the pieces that will challenge you appropriately and develop your stylistic understanding at every stage.

The Ballade in G minor is certainly a good long-term ambition, but make no mistake, it takes some doing. It is lengthy and takes stamina as well as technique. I can't do it properly, and I've been studying 40 years.

 

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