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rythm
#1337291 12/30/09 06:11 PM
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I am new to this forum. I have been looking on line to find something that can tell me how to play the Polyrythm of Chopin Etude OP. 25 NO. 2. I have no problem with 2 against 3, but this one is a mystery to me. I can't seem to get it right. Is there some mathematical way to count it or a drawing of where the notes are to come in or some other reasoning that I can use. Any help would be more than greatfully appreciated.
I am lubim1@aol.com

Thanks

Re: rythm
lubim1 #1337317 12/30/09 06:36 PM
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There are 12 notes per measure in the right hand's voice, and 6 notes per measure in the left hand's. Each quarter note played by the left hand has the duration of two eighth notes played by the right hand; therefore, each left-hand note is played simultaneously with every other right-hand note.

The alignment of the notes seems straightforward to me. Could it be that you're overthinking the issue? Of course, I may be I'm misunderstanding your question. smile

Steven

Re: rythm
lubim1 #1337319 12/30/09 06:38 PM
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There is, really, no complex polyrhythmic pattern in this Etude; it's a relatively straight-forward six against three. For every left hand quarter-note there are two right hand eighth-notes. If you think of it as two beats per measure (three notes in the left hand and six notes in the right hand for every beat) it should come more easily than if you try to think of it as four beats per measure. In other words, it's the left hand that is the "leader" in this Etude; the left hand sets and maintains the tempo.

Try practicing it hands separately, slowly, in very strict tempo, and make sure that you practice both hands at exactly the same tempo, perhaps even using a metronome for your initial practicing.

As Eleanor Bailie points out in The Pianists' Repertoire: Chopin, A Graded Practical Guide it is the right hand that has to fit into the left hand's pattern, not the other way around.

Does this make it any easier?

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Re: rythm
BruceD #1337327 12/30/09 06:48 PM
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He's not exactly "overthinking" it. If anything, you guys are sort of "underthinking" it, although what you're saying is 100% right 'for practical purposes.'

I think sotto voce and Bruce are at the 'disadvantage' of KNOWING THE PIECE VERY WELL, if that makes any sense. It seems like y'all may have forgotten Chopin's quite odd notation for the rhythm. And I must admit I've never understood what Chopin was driving it. In any event, it's Chopin's odd notation that confused Lubim, and really with good reason.

If it were as simple as the two above replies indicate, Chopin wouldn't have gone to the trouble of indicating each 6 notes of the R.H. as two triplets; he would have given the usual and 'more normal' indication of just a group of 6. (Which, among other things, is easier to write.)

So, if you don't know the piece (like you guys do), at first blush you don't know what the heck to do, because it seems like "certainly" you don't just do what you'd do if it were a normal group of 6.

Even though really you DO do that same thing -- or at least so it seems from every performance of it that I've ever heard, plus what I've ever been able to do when I've tried to play it. The notation makes it seem like Chopin wants you to play each 6-note group in the R.H. as though it consists of "two 3's," rather than the usual "three 2's." But in practice, people generally think of it and play it like the latter, as far as I've ever been able to tell -- and which is in line with the above two replies.

It's a little mystery. I don't see how you can do anything like how the score "looks" and still make musical sense. If anyone has a clue, please chime in.

P.S. For what it's worth, this exact issue has kept me from ever working on the piece, because I wouldn't know what I'm doing and even though I often say that we needn't drive ourselves crazy over what the score says, I couldn't comfortably play a piece while being completely stumped about something so major about it.

Last edited by MarkCannon; 12/30/09 06:56 PM.
Re: rythm
Mark_C #1337339 12/30/09 06:59 PM
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I think you're overanalyzing it, Mark.

In most editions, this etude's time signature is alla breve. There are two strong beats per measure, and each of them is a two-against-three figure: two quarter notes in the right hand against three quarter notes in the left hand.

I think even that is pretty prosaic, but I wasn't sure it would helpful to the OP to think of in that way. For someone who thinks he needs a graph to figure out "where the notes are to come in," the simplest answer may be that there's nothing to figure out after all.

If you don't agree, that's fine! I'd prefer to agree to disagree right now and obviate the predictable back-and-forth. I wouldn't see any point to that; whether one thinks of the figures as six-against-three or three-against-two, everything still lines up precisely.

Steven

Re: rythm
sotto voce #1337356 12/30/09 07:30 PM
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The rhythmic difficulty is not in whether the notes line up, it's more where the triplet notes of the rh line up with the lh notes. I hear a lot of people play the rh sounding like groups of two notes - to match each note of the lh - instead of each measure as 4 sets of triplets.

When I learned it the proper rhythm was the most difficult aspect of it.

What makes it easier is if you divide the measure into two beats - which is what the time signature indicates anyway - and play two groups of triplets as one group of 6 notes. However, that's not the way it was notated.

Re: rythm
sotto voce #1337429 12/30/09 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by sotto voce
I think you're overanalyzing it, Mark.
In most editions, this etude's time signature is alla breve. There are two strong beats per measure, and each of them is a two-against-three figure: two quarter notes in the right hand against three quarter notes in the left hand.

I think even that is pretty prosaic.....

It's not. It's an extremely unusual rhythmic notation which takes some mental gymnastics to explain. If you think you can, I'd love to hear it. And remember, you'd need to explain why Chopin went to the trouble of notating it in this unusual, more arduous manner than in the usual simple way.

Quote
.....For someone who thinks he needs a graph to figure out "where the notes are to come in," the simplest answer may be that there's nothing to figure out after all.....

As I acknowledged, that's true. But I say if we're a bit more serious about it, we want to know more than 'where the notes come in.' We want to know what Chopin was trying to say with this odd notation.

If you want to agree to disagree, that's fine. But there was a clear reason why this rhythm was unclear to the OP, rather than that he was "overanalyzing" it -- and IMO it's serious food-for-thought even if we know very well how the notes line up.

Otherwise, you're figuring it means nothing that Chopin went to that unusual trouble, which I would say is impossible.

Re: rythm
Phlebas #1337431 12/30/09 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Phlebas
The rhythmic difficulty is not in whether the notes line up, it's more where the triplet notes of the rh line up with the lh notes. I hear a lot of people play the rh sounding like groups of two notes - to match each note of the lh - instead of each measure as 4 sets of triplets.

When I learned it the proper rhythm was the most difficult aspect of it.

What makes it easier is if you divide the measure into two beats - which is what the time signature indicates anyway - and play two groups of triplets as one group of 6 notes. However, that's not the way it was notated.

Yes -- you are recognizing the specifics of the notation.

But, the way you say you've 'sometimes' heard it played is the way I've invariably heard it played, including by the greats. Have you really heard it played the "right" way, i.e. truly sounding like 2 triplets rather than three 2's? I sure haven't. But the most puzzling thing about it, to me, is that even in the ivory tower of my mind's ear, I can't make any sense of it the "right" way (i.e. how you said); it just doesn't seem to work.

The earlier replies seem to feel it doesn't matter than Chopin wrote it as 2 triplets rather than three 2's. It MUST -- but I have no idea exactly what.

This isn't "overanalyzing"; it's recognizing that when a great composer went out of his way to write something very unusual, it wasn't for nothing.

Re: rythm
lubim1 #1337458 12/30/09 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by lubim1
.....I can't seem to get it right. Is there some mathematical way to count it or a drawing of where the notes are to come in or some other reasoning that I can use....

Please ignore everything I said, and listen to Sotto and Bruce. smile

I mean, what I said is true, but not necessary for what you're asking.

Just forget that the right hand is written as triplets, and 'pretend' that each group of 2 triples is just 6 ordinary notes being played against each 3 notes in the left hand. It'll sound just as good as if you didn't pretend. smile

Re: rythm
Mark_C #1337481 12/30/09 10:37 PM
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Re: rythm
Mark_C #1337489 12/30/09 10:45 PM
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For a very very condensed explanation, click here:

There are many "X against Y" rhythms happening, but it basically boils down to the 6 against 3 sotto and Bruce were talking about.


If you REALLY want to know why I believe what I do, click here (at your own risk):

-With left hand, use your ring, middle, then index (or vice versa order) fingers to tap the rhythm of the left hand triplet quarter notes (not full tempo of course).

-With right hand, use the ring, middle, index (or vice versa order) fingers to tap the rhythm of the right hand triplet eighth notes.

-Now for each hand, "ACCENT" the ring finger (or if you used vice versa order, the index finger) and eventually phase out the other fingers until you have only the ring finger (or index finger) tapping.

<>What you should now hear is the right hand tapping at twice the rate as the left hand. This is a very roundabout way to say that what sotto and Bruce are saying is correct.
_______________________________________________________________

-NOW, go back to doing the tapping again.

-This time, tap only the ring (or index) finger of your right hand, but all three fingers of your left hand, and have equal emphasis on all three left hand notes.

-You hear a 2 against 3 rhythm, right?

-And now, to REALLY confuse things, internalize the "duplet" rhythm coming from the one finger in your right hand, and tap the left hand triplet quarter notes and right hand triplet eighth while counting out loud "1, 2, 3, 4" the duplet rhythm. This is what duplet quarter notes would sound like in this piece.

<>We now see that there is a straight 6 against 3 rhythm, but also a 2 against 3 rhythm going on at the same time! This goes to support MarkCannon.
_______________________________________________________________

-Count the "1, 2, 3, 4" duplet quarter note beat and do the triplet eighth note rhythm with your right hand fingers. We have a 6 against 2 rhythm.

-In the right hand, tap only the ring (or index) finger while counting "1, 2, 3, 4."

-Interchange the single note tapping of the ring/index finger with the three-note triplet eighth note pattern. This goes to show that the emphasis in the 6 against 2 rhythm is on the 1st and 4th note of every right hand triplet eighth note.

-Count the "1, 2, 3, 4" duplet quarter notes with your mouth again, and this time, tap the left hand triplet quarter notes with the three fingers you were using. We hear a 3 against 2 rhythm again.

-Let's make it 6 against 2: tap each left hand finger twice instead of once so we have double the notes. The left hand is accenting the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes, but our counting is falling on the 1st and 4th notes! Equal emphasis in both of the conflicting rhythms! Neither rhythm wins in this case, unless you intentionally emphasize one over the other.

<>The discovery of all of these polyrhythms (and there are more than I won't bother to post because they are way less important and may not even be relevant) also supports MarkCannon.
_______________________________________________________________

-From what I can tell at my sleep-deprived perspective, the first section of this spoiler is the only actual relevant point to make.

-I believe Chopin notated the music how he did because it would be even more awkward and even contradictory to have it in a 6/8, 12/8, 3/4, or 6/4 time signature.

-A 4/4 (or in this case 2/2) time signature with triplets takes away the "contradiction" of what a 3-based meter would pose, and is only partly awkward. It's basically the lesser of two evils: there isn't a less-awkward way to notate this piece!

-The only way it COULD be notated less awkward would be to take out the emphasis Chopin wants on the first note on all the triplets and have either a straight single 3/4 or straight single 3/8 sort of meter throughout. However, that would be MUCH less interesting.


HOLY BANANAS that was the most epic post of my life to this date! Ever, on any forum. confused crazy sick

Last edited by Orange Soda King; 12/30/09 10:49 PM.
Re: rythm
Orange Soda King #1337506 12/30/09 11:04 PM
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Here's how I learned it:

1) Just get the notes in your hands at a good tempo. Get nice and comfortable with the technique, without fussing too much over the rhythm. I basically ended up matching the 6 of the LH in the RH.

2) Next, to get the polyrhythm to come out, I turned it into a counting exercise. As I was playing, I'd focus my attention on the LH and count "1-2-3-4-5-6" (every quarter) or "1-2" (the two large beats.) Then I'd shift my focus to the RH and count "1-2-3-4", with strong accents in the appropriate place.

3) After doing a LOT of that, I started to be able to hear the larger 2-against-3 feeling.

In other words, I don't think it's really possible to achieve the kind of rhythmic complexity from the beginning. Because the polyrhythm in this piece is very nuanced, I think technical comfort has to come first. Otherwise you end up trying to paint the house with a trim brush. Just get the paint up on the wall and worry about the petty details later.

On a side note, I sort of stole this idea from John Perry. I once heard that he wouldn't hear a piece until a student pretty much had it in their fingers - the reasoning being that it's easier to work on something when there's something tangible to work on, even if it's a bit of a rough draft.

What I'm suggesting is that you not worry about the rhythmic nuance until you get a working draft in your fingers. Having it in your fingers will give you something to really work with, and may even suggest some solutions to the problem itself.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: rythm
Kreisler #1337516 12/30/09 11:10 PM
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OK...... smile we've got 2 completely different schools of thought, plus 2 addenda:

1. As per the first couple of replies, it's no issue and they don't understand what was puzzling to the OP -- it's just 6 notes against 3, like any other 6 notes against 3.

2. Your idea and phlebas', which, if I get it, is basically the opposite of the above: It's a complex thing that's sort of 2 sub-beats in the R.H. against 3 sub-beats in the L.H. (but don't worry about it at first) -- which is exactly like the weird thing that it looks like on the page, and which I think theoretically it should be.

Then there's two other views:

3. Mine, which is that while #2 is correct, it's never really achieved, so you might as well do it according to #1, although I never would because I think it's gotta be just wrong.

And finally.......

4. People who feel they know that the whole thing is stupid and just blow it off. ha

Re: rythm
Kreisler #1337586 12/31/09 01:02 AM
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P.S. to Kreisler and Phlebas, who talked about playing it with the "cross rhythm" exactly as written.....

I've done a little "compilation."

While I agree that your suggested goal would seem to be what Chopin meant, I said that I've never actually heard it carried off that way, even by the greats, and frankly I can't make that idea "work" even in my mind's ear, even though it seems like Chopin would have had to mean something like it.

Here are some performances on YouTube. Do you really hear the right hand as 2 groups of triplets, rather than 3 groups of 2's?
I sure don't.
If you say you do, I couldn't argue against it, because this is subjective.

I don't hear it in any of these, and I've never heard it carried off by anyone.

Earl Wild
Sokolov
Cecile Licad
Lisitsa
Cziffra

P.S. I'm not arguing that all of these people are "great" (nor that they're not), and I didn't cherry-pick. I just looked for the "biggest names" among the recordings of the piece on youtube. I'd love it if someone could find or mention a performance that does achieve the impression that Kreisler and Phlebas talked about.

Re: rythm
Mark_C #1337597 12/31/09 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by MarkCannon
[...] Do you really hear the right hand as 2 groups of triplets, rather than 3 groups of 2's?
I sure don't.
If you say you do, I couldn't argue against it, because this is subjective.
[...]


I hear the right hand as two groups of triplets per beat.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: rythm
BruceD #1337601 12/31/09 01:40 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
....I hear the right hand as two groups of triplets per beat....

In which recording? Everyone's?

I mean, I said I couldn't argue against it, but we gotta know what you're talking about, don't we..... ha

Re: rythm
BruceD #1337626 12/31/09 03:37 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by MarkCannon
[...] Do you really hear the right hand as 2 groups of triplets, rather than 3 groups of 2's?
I sure don't.
If you say you do, I couldn't argue against it, because this is subjective.
[...]


I hear the right hand as two groups of triplets per beat.



I try to hear it as a perfectly smooth molto legato line without any bumps that would indicate any mental grouping at all. I always thought that was one of the main points of the etude, in fact. It has never even occurred to me that there might be a polyrhythm involved, given the molto legato indication together with the long phrase marks of the right hand. I think if Chopin wanted a 2 against 3 feeling, he probably would have been more explicit about it. Op. 10, no. 10 provides examples of how he shows it when he really wants that kind of thing.

Re: rythm
wr #1337636 12/31/09 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by wr
......I think if Chopin wanted a 2 against 3 feeling, he probably would have been more explicit about it....

You puttin' us on? smile

I know you mentioned that other etude, but I gotta tell ya, this is absolutely as explicit as you can get without writing some of the notes big and the others small.

Absolutely as explicit.

BY THE WAY: I agree with you that it is mainly heard as "just 6" -- mainly. But, such groups of 6 are almost always also heard, in a lesser manner, as one of those other things: two 3's, or three 2's -- and it's very important which one.

For example, and a famous one: Last movement of Beethoven's Tempest sonata. Yes, it's groups of 6. But, unless you're careful, it will absolutely sound like two groups of 3 -- and that's wrong. It's 3 groups of 2, and the ability to convey this impression is a huge thing separating the [whomevers] from the [whomevers].

And here, unless the performer very actively "does" something, it will absolutely be heard as three groups of 2, because of what the L.H. is doing. The "default" in such a situation is for the ear to hear it in terms of the other hand's beat.

I promise you that if you think about it enough, you'll realize that in addition to mainly hearing it as "just 6," you're also hearing it as one of these other things, even if ever-so-slightly -- and I'd bet it's three groups of 2.

Which Chopin went way out of his way to tell us it shouldn't be. If you don't think so, why do you think he went out of his way to indicate it as he did?

Re: rythm
Kreisler #1337660 12/31/09 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Here's how I learned it:

1) Just get the notes in your hands at a good tempo. Get nice and comfortable with the technique, without fussing too much over the rhythm. I basically ended up matching the 6 of the LH in the RH.

2) Next, to get the polyrhythm to come out, I turned it into a counting exercise. As I was playing, I'd focus my attention on the LH and count "1-2-3-4-5-6" (every quarter) or "1-2" (the two large beats.) Then I'd shift my focus to the RH and count "1-2-3-4", with strong accents in the appropriate place.

3) After doing a LOT of that, I started to be able to hear the larger 2-against-3 feeling.

In other words, I don't think it's really possible to achieve the kind of rhythmic complexity from the beginning. Because the polyrhythm in this piece is very nuanced, I think technical comfort has to come first. Otherwise you end up trying to paint the house with a trim brush. Just get the paint up on the wall and worry about the petty details later.

On a side note, I sort of stole this idea from John Perry. I once heard that he wouldn't hear a piece until a student pretty much had it in their fingers - the reasoning being that it's easier to work on something when there's something tangible to work on, even if it's a bit of a rough draft.

What I'm suggesting is that you not worry about the rhythmic nuance until you get a working draft in your fingers. Having it in your fingers will give you something to really work with, and may even suggest some solutions to the problem itself.


That's how I learned it as well, but I wasted a lot of time before deciding - point # 1 - getting the notes in my hands at a good tempo, without fussing too much over the rhythm.

Re: rythm
Phlebas #1337674 12/31/09 07:43 AM
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How about in Arrau's version?



I hear a very subtle interplay between the left hand and right hand in his version.

Rich


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