Fragmented, spot practicing, opening phrase:
Slow practicing, Page one
At a quicker tempo, complete Etude:
Chopin’s popular “Black Key” Etude can either be a show stopper or a finger trapper. It’s a challenge for both piano students and polished performers because of its rapid tempo; singular bias toward black notes in the Right Hand (the Left Hand has some white ones), large note spans, and leaps over the octave. On top of these pyrotechnical demands, the player has to produce a convincing legato (connecting the notes) Fingering, therefore, becomes pivotal to the whole learning process from the start.
A few editions of the Etudes have sparse fingerings, others have none. The Urtext (Henle) I used, provided ample entries, though the editor thought nothing of economizing by leaving repeated passage work without a finger trace, which, for all intents and purposes, is a student’s green light to wing it, and make up a fingering as he goes along.
Creating contour, observing dynamics, and treating the pedal with kindness, are the minimum requirements to pull off this Etude. Throw in a few prayers to help things along, and just maybe, a slow tempo will gradually ripen into Vivace, with record setters, Lang Lang, Evgeny Kissen, and Jua Wang still well ahead of the pack.
1) Begin by mapping out the harmonic outline in the Left Hand. The treble, for the most part is in “harmony” with the bass, expanding upon it through strands of passage work with lots of skips of infinite variety.
These interval cues in the Right Hand suggest “blocking” out notes. Where there are small and big skips or jumps, a blocking out approach is always helpful. It shapes the hand in motion, with a reinforced awareness of “spacing” under the fingers.
2) Learn individual parts in the right and left hand, practicing very slowly, observing fingering (Copy where necessary from one section to another)
Use the whole arm, along with a supple wrist. Think of an image to spur relaxation.
3) Take care to nurture a legato, and contour the treble line.
Circles, curves can help “shape” things along. (Let your arms do what comes naturally)
4) Keep playing behind tempo for as many weeks, months or more if necessary. There’s no rush to the finish line.
Finally, expect to have a long association with the Etude, because there’s no other choice if you want to be “deeply” involved and make progress toward the goal of playing musically and with finesse.
Other suggestions: Keep to a regimen of playing scales and arpeggios in every key (Major and minor) on the Circle of Fifths. (I use the FJH Classic Scale Book)
Build chords on every scale degree depending on the key you are studying. Become familiar with chordal progressions and cadences.
RELATED: Blocking notes, and thumb tracking, Black Key Etude