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Nemaara Offline OP
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Don't know if it's just me, but is this etude just really hard? I was practicing the other op 10 ones just fine, but this one I somehow can't play. Does anyone have any tips?

More info: I can play each section more or less up to tempo but the problem is I'm getting tired about 1/3-1/2 way through the piece and then it goes downhill from there. Maybe that's a byproduct of not relaxing enough?

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It's one of the very hardest -- sometimes said to be the hardest.
(I call it 2nd hardest....)

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This is not just you. This etude is extremely difficult, for the reasons you describe. It's ironic because this might be the easiest sounding Chopin etude of them all (other than maybe the slow ones). I've heard pianists call this more difficult than Rach 3 or even Gaspard. It might be hyperbole or just specific pianists but that just goes to show how much some people struggle with it.


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Wild, I didn't think it would be that much harder than no 1 (for me) but I guess I should just keep practicing haha!

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Originally Posted by Nemaara
Wild, I didn't think it would be that much harder than no 1....

I don't think we have to say it's 'that' much harder than #1 in order to be as hard as we're saying.

#1 is way up there too.

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I seem to recall reading that Anton Rubinstein had practiced this beastly étude an hour a day for a year in his youth.
And reading somewhere else that in a concert performance of the 24, Richter came to this one... appeared to ponder for a moment... then made a grimace and skipped on to number 3. (Apocrypha...)

As someone who has tried learning it late in life I also find the stamina to be an issue. But although I'll never play it up to tempo, it still seems to have strengthened my hand over the years.

This recording is not the fastest I've heard, but I really like its musicality and playfulness. (It's played by one of the advertising sponsors of this forum).


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I don't agree that "stamina"' is the main issue.
The main issue is being able to play it at all.

Anyone who can play even the first couple of phrases well -- I mean well -- is way, way ahead of the game.
And I'd guess that by far most of those people can play the whole thing fine too.

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Elsa Púppulo is brilliant at playing and teaching technique for Chopin Etudes in my opinion. Her videos are in Spanish. A number of them in which she's teaching this or that Etude are subtitled in English. Unfortunately, the only one I could find where she's teaching Op. 10 No. 2 is not. It's mixed in with a session in which she discusses and demonstrates good technique for Nos. 1 through 5. Her coverage of No. 2 starts at 13:56 in this video (she demonstrates everything she's talking about, so those who, like me, don't speak Spanish may still find it worthwhile):


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Thanks for the vid! I can understand some spanish so it was informative. smile

I actually do most of the exercises for practicing this one that she demonstrates, but one thing I'm noticing in these demos is that their hands don't stretch nearly as much as mine do when I play it. I think it might actually be the chords (weirdly enough) that are tiring me out since I need to stretch to reach them. At least that's what I think anyway.

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Originally Posted by Nemaara
Thanks for the vid! I can understand some spanish so it was informative.
You're welcome. Glad you found it helpful. There are a lot of instructional videos by her in YouTube under various accounts, many of them with English subtitles.

Originally Posted by Nemaara
...one thing I'm noticing in these demos is that their hands don't stretch nearly as much as mine do when I play it. I think it might actually be the chords (weirdly enough) that are tiring me out since I need to stretch to reach them.
With not very large hands, she does a lot of pivoting, after setting up her fingering accordingly, and making use of the rotary action capabilities we all have where our hands meet our wrists. She discusses those techniques in detail in other videos that include English subtitles. Here's her playing all 24 of the Chopin Etudes (my favorite performance of hers is Op. 10 No. 9):


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^ Also, like another Argentinian, Martha Argerich, she is a master of knowing when and how to use flat fingers. This is the best article on that subject I've seen (very long, but lots of good info):
http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/1.III.4.2

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Yeah, I recognize the pivoting thing, I have to do it a lot for no 1 but somehow it doesn't apply as easily to no 2 for some reason (nevermind no 11, that one is completely unplayable for me right now). I'll take a look at the flat fingers though, maybe that'll have some helpful tips. Thanks again smile

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Originally Posted by Nemaara
Yeah, I recognize the pivoting thing, I have to do it a lot for no 1 but somehow it doesn't apply as easily to no 2 for some reason....
You're right, it doesn't; I mentioned this more as an aside on Elsa's habits. No. 2 is obviously heavily reliant on fingers 3, 4 and 5 in the right hand, two of which of course are considered "weak" fingers. Like you, I've found 4 and 5 to be problematic when used back-to-back like this at higher tempos. It's easy for those two, especially 4, to get tired to the point the tempo becomes unreliably erratic. Trying to "strengthen" them with exercises only makes the problem worse, as does trying to "force" them to behave through sheer will...a good sign we're doing it wrong I think. To avoid tension and fatigue, experts tell us, all motions should feel unforced and fluid while being developed to near-perfection at slower tempos before increasing the overall tempo of the whole piece. As for evenness of tempo where 4 and 5 are heavily involved like they are in No. 2, I've found experimenting with the following in varying degrees/combinations to be helpful:
1. A feeling of "pulling" on the keys (Gould greatly relied on this, which was one of the reasons he sat so low).
2. One of pushing them forward, especially immediately following a repositioning of the hand.
3. A gentle rotation of the wrist in one direction or the other.
4. A lowering of the wrist.

As for the last item, lowering the wrist, Rameau, when he wrote at length about keyboard technique in the early 1700s, advocated leaving it raised while learning a piece, but then lowering it to develop speed. He also harped on maintaining a relaxed "suppleness" in the wrist at all times.

Don't mean to imply I'm some sort of expert or virtuoso. Only throwing out thoughts on methods that have been useful for me.

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Originally Posted by MrSh4nkly
[...] To avoid tension and fatigue, experts tell us, all motions should feel unforced and fluid while being developed to near-perfection at slower tempos before increasing the overall tempo of the whole piece. [...]

For me (and while I have read through this Etude a number of times, I have never really worked on it), the above is the real key to mastering this Etude. Play it as slowly as you need to be able to keep all body elements fluid and relaxed. Never try to speed up the tempo, even moderately, if tension builds up. It may take months to master even at a moderate speed, but I see no other way to bring it up to tempo until your body (fingers, hands, wrists, and arms) is ready for it.

Regards,


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Originally Posted by BruceD
Never try to speed up the tempo, even moderately, if tension builds up. It may take months to master even at a moderate speed, but I see no other way to bring it up to tempo until your body (fingers, hands, wrists, and arms) is ready for it.
This is great advice, I believe. However long it takes.

On another note, and this may sound odd, but I "cheat" with a fingertip moistener known as SortKwik. Retailers rub a little on their fingers to make it easier to quickly count cash. It's a pinkish, clear, solid substance that feels wet when you first apply it to your fingers but completely dries within a minute or two. It's hygienic and leaves no residue. Once it dries, you can't feel it, but your fingers are ever so slightly tacky, yet not sticky. Your fingers easily "grip" the keys, so they don't slip on them but not so much you can't easily slide them forward or backward on the keys when you need to. It's also a game changer for recitals when nerves make your hands sweat and your fingers slippery.

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Great tip about SortKwik. I never thought of It in relation to playing but back in the dark ages I did use bucketfuls of it whenever I needed to count pages in a document.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Great tip about SortKwik. I never thought of It in relation to playing but back in the dark ages I did use bucketfuls of it whenever I needed to count pages in a document.
Thanks doggo person, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it works.

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Jeez...I forgot all about SortKwik. I used it many moons ago when my job included counting paper money. What a good idea to try it at the piano. My finger pads tend to be dry, so often slippery on the keys; maybe SortKwik is the answer. Worth a try.


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Originally Posted by AaronSF
My finger pads tend to be dry, so often slippery on the keys; maybe SortKwik is the answer.
Same here, Aaron. This fixed it. If it made them sticky, too, it wouldn't work; but it doesn't as you may recall from long ago.

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