Episode 28: Chopin's Singing Fingers

Etude in E Major, Op. 10, No. 3

Your first piano lessons. There they are: the notes on the page.rc-fingers-200

You begin to decode. You learn if their stems point up, you play them with your right hand. Down, play them with your left. Pretty soon you’re putting both hands on the keyboard at the same time. At this point in your career, the right hand usually plays the melody – the singable line – and the left hand offers support. A few chords, some complimentary pitches and rhythmic underpinnings…there! You’re playing a tune!

But there comes a moment when the music grows more complex. The supporting material isn’t just a few notes or chords any more, and you have to learn how to hear and play several ideas or “voices” at the same time, with some getting more attention than the others.

Chopin composed an etude – or study – meant to teach you to use your right hand in this new way. Instead of just the melody, your right hand has to play two ways at once: some fingers emphasize the melody, while others are part of the accompaniment. It’s a technique you’ll need once you start playing the good stuff…

…except, Chopin’s etudes ARE the good stuff.

Chopin revolutionized etudes for solo piano. They’re not utilitarian exercises; they’re music - the real thing and then some. And in his Etude in E Major, Chopin created one of the most singable lines in all his works.

"In all my life,” he said, “I have never again been able to find such a beautiful melody.” - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 28: Chopin's Singing Fingers



Etude in E Major, Op. 10, No. 3