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The most difficult piece I can play is Claire de Lune, which I learned without too much trouble. I can play it well enough for my own enjoyment, which is to say not like a professional, but at a good tempo without making a huge number of mistakes, even if I don’t get the phasing down particularly well.

The piece I would most like to play is Ballade in G. I know it will be a challenge, but if I was able to learn Claire de Lune without a huge amount of difficulty, is it reasonable to think I can attempt Ballade?

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Take a look at the final section of the Gm Ballade that starts at measure 208 and is marked Presto con Fuoco. Most players find this part to be the most difficult part of the piece, although measures 1-207 are more difficult than Claire de Lune.

Have you played other works of Chopin? The Gm Ballade would not be a typical first piece of Chopin to try. How did the others go?

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There is definitely a huge gap in difficulty level between Clair de lune and the (Chopin) Ballade in G minor.

What pieces have you played that require dexterity, accuracy at a fast tempo, large left-hand leaps, passages in octaves, etc., etc.? The technical challenges are almost too numerous to mention.

In my opinion - since you asked - it would be an exercise in futility and frustration to attempt work on the G minor Ballade if the most difficult work you have played is Debussy's Clair de lune and that, as you say, not to a professional standard.

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Thanks for the advice. To be honest, Claire de Lune is the only piece of classical that I can currently play. The rest of my repertoire is limited mostly to movie or Broadway themes that I learned when I was younger—as well as a rather difficult version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Knowing that, what are some pieces you would recommend I learn first, with the goal of building up to Ballade?

I should clarify that I am not looking to be a concert pianist. At 39, with a full time job and two small children, I play only for the enjoyment of myself and my family, who do not care (or know) if I occasionally miss a note and don’t use proper phrasing. I would like to be able to play the Ballade at a good tempo while not mangling the actual melody, so building up to that is my only real goal.

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I'm no expert about Chopin music, but generally, if you want to play the most difficult pieces from a composer, is a good idea to get familiar with his style by learning previously a good amount of his more easy pieces.

I'm doing this with Bach, with Goldberg variations as a goal, and after some time playing his pieces, i perceive his patterns and tricks more clearly. I guess if you start with Chopin nocturnes and other pieces, that will help you by the time you decide to go into the ballade.

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In terms of building up to the Ballade, I think other works of Chopin would be among the best to choose. Here is one listing of the Chopin works by difficulty:
https://www.pianolibrary.org/difficulty/chopin/#4.5
There are probably many others on the internet.

I suggest starting with some of the easiest(not necessarily meaning the absolute lowest level). Some of the easier Preludes, Waltzes, Nocturnes, or Mazurkas. Listen to some pieces in one of the lower levels on Youtube and try some that appeal to you. You may find some that you like as much as the G minor Ballade.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 06/15/21 05:25 PM.
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I suggest you take a couple of extracts and try to play them just to feel how you are doing and sense the level of difficulty. Indeed the last part is the most difficult so you can take some parts of that one. To be honnest when a piece is overly difficult, it is not so enjoyable to work on it. To get to a level where you could play it with a certain level of comfort could take quite some time, especially if you dont have a classical background.

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The preludes would be good to look at. They span a wide range of difficulties, pose different challenges, and they’re short.

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Answer to OP's question: Yes.

"Reasonably" assumes that you even asking the question means you feel yourself willing and able for the attempt. So, sure...give it a go.

My friend Sam Rose from these forums gave it a go as his first piece and while it's still a WIP these many years later, his playing chops skyrocketed alongside his labor. He ended up putting it on the shelf for later. He is an outstanding pianist.

The Presto Con Fuoco seems to pose the greatest demands on the performer, I would start there.

I'm not sure you should listen to my advice.

You might also consider an Op. 10 or 25 etude or two to get a feel for the demands and composer.

Good luck!!


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Originally Posted by Dkahn04
The piece I would most like to play is Ballade in G. I know it will be a challenge, but if I was able to learn Claire de Lune without a huge amount of difficulty, is it reasonable to think I can attempt Ballade?

Claire de Lune is the only piece of classical that I can currently play. The rest of my repertoire is limited mostly to movie or Broadway themes that I learned when I was younger—as well as a rather difficult version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

I play only for the enjoyment of myself and my family, who do not care (or know) if I occasionally miss a note and don’t use proper phrasing. I would like to be able to play the Ballade at a good tempo while not mangling the actual melody, so building up to that is my only real goal.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but look before you leap.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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You can try the two scales on the last page and see if you can play them somewhat like the below. An execution a little slower than this might be acceptable, but it must not be much slower.

If yes, go for it.

There are of course many more challenges than these simple scales. But IMO it is a good starting point.

The audio is from 2016 Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition Quarterfinal Round (by my brother who is an amateur pianist)


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You won't succeed at playing it, but can gain quite a bit of insight from the journey. As long as you don't keep at it for months and kill your enjoyment for the piano, you should be fine.

I used to attempt sections from HR2 in my first few months playing the piano. Could I play it? heck no. But I gleaned a lot of insights and realized how to produce different kinds of textures at the instrument.

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No you won't be able to play it. The Presto Con Fuoco section is harder than any piece written by Beethoven for example, including movements 1 and 4 of the Hammerklavier!
Realistically, after a few years of hard work you might have a go at Ballade 3, which is at least an order of magnitude easier than the other 3 ballades - more like a normal Beethoven sonata difficulty. But work your way there with nocturnes, mazurkas, the easier preludes, waltzes and the like. The nocturnes would be the best ladder into Chopin's harder works - with Op 48 no 1 pretty close in level to the third ballade. So start with the easier nocturnes and slowly work your way up.

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Try the Ballade the Gminor by Brahms.It is much shorter, rather "big sounding", and about a similar level to Clair de Lune.Just a suggestion. 😀 Apart from the the difficulty, I cannot imagine turning all those pages of the Chopin Ballade!
Memorization of sections may help.But yes really a concert level piece.Other interesting pieces are the Polonaise in Csharp minor, and Debussy's Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum.


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Originally Posted by Sgisela
The preludes would be good to look at. They span a wide range of difficulties, pose different challenges, and they’re short.
As a compendium of short, pieces representative of and showcasing the diversity of Chopin's manual configurations and idioms (possibly unmatched by any other piano-composer) , and likewise the range of difficulty-levels to be found across his other works, the Preludes are second to none, without doubt. Unfortunately, the majority of the preludes are incontestably in the difficult-to-extremely difficult range, precluding non-advanced pianists from gaining a technically manageable introduction to many of those manual configurations and idioms. Their brevity in no way offsets the difficulties they pose.

Last edited by Scordatura; 06/15/21 07:09 PM.

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Originally Posted by Scordatura
Unfortunately, the majority of the preludes are incontestably in the difficult-to-extremely difficult range, precluding non-advanced pianists from gaining a technically manageable introduction to many of those manual configurations and idioms. Their brevity in no way offsets the difficulties they pose.
I think about half the Preludes are quite reasonable for someone who could play Clair de lune well.(In no particular order:A minor, B minor, E minor, A major, C minor, D flat major, F major, C major, E major, A flat major, B flat major).

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Why not play some more of the Suite Bergamasque to see if you have the ability to play a longer piece first? It is no less of a piece than the Ballade, but sometimes it is easier to work on pieces in chunks.


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In terms of a high level of reward and musical richness for the level of technique and effort required to learn the pieces, you might look at the Em and Bm preludes and the Am waltz Op 34 #2.

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I'm not essentially in disagreement as to the preludes you list, pianoloverus; certainly I had in mind the first 6 on your list and the E major as within the non-advanced level, and the C major, A flat major and B flat as of moderate difficulty, but I differ as to the F major. I might point out that the 10 I identify are not merely the easiest of the but the least ground-breaking in terms of pianistic novelty/ inventiveness; comparable configurations can be found in any number of piano works predating Chopin's.

That said, you identify 11, and I 10, of the 24 - a minority, that is, and it was expressly in that literal, rather than a hyperbolic, sense that I used the word "majority". Since the use (i.e., misuse) of the word to imply "the great majority" (i.e. all bar a few), is commonplace among native English speakers worldwide I was indeed anticipating a reaction to my post's point! I realize now I would have saved your time and effort had I listed the 10 preludes in question myself - so many thanks for seeing to that for me!

Last edited by Scordatura; 06/15/21 09:36 PM.

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You are the only one who can say if you can reasonably attempt (play) the Chopin G minor Ballade. My only suggestion - given that there is a very wide gulf, maybe chasm, between the skills required for Claire de Lune and the Ballade, is there are hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces within your reach that will help develop your musicianship. If you have never played Chopin, the Ballades are not the place to start. Start with some of the more accessible Preludes, Waltzes and Mazurkas.



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