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Piano instruction: Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique,” Adagio mvt.–applying voice analysis and muscle memory to the opening ( 4 Videos)

The Adagio movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata requires attentive listening, deep in the key practicing, muscle memory, and a natural breath that flows out of phrases.

I start with the top most voice and work my way through to the alto and bass. (practicing individual lines)

Blocking is applied to the alto and should be executed musically using a supple wrist with a smooth follow-through from one chord to another. When the alto chords are unraveled, a flexible wrist enables a rolling motion. (muscle memory helps) The moving notes within the alto draw the player’s attention, not the same notes played by the thumb.

Ultimately, intensified listening wedded to the physical side of playing, go a long way to realize an imagined sound ideal.

The bass, or cello line is isolated and phrased with needed depth into the keys..

Various lines that were sectioned or “voiced” out can then be combined in different ways such as soprano and bass:

Soprano/blocked alto

Soprano/unblocked alto


Soprano/Bass etc.


The ultimate goal is to put all voices together with the desired balance, preserving the uppermost voice (the melody) as the leading line, balanced nicely against the middle voice, and supporting bass. (cello line)

4 thoughts on “Piano instruction: Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique,” Adagio mvt.–applying voice analysis and muscle memory to the opening ( 4 Videos)”

  1. I really enjoy your website and learn so much from your tutorials. Thank you for sharing your time and tremendous skill!

    I am looking for some pointers on Debussy’s Clair de lune from Suite Bergamasque. Is this a piece that you have previously posted about? Do you take requests 🙂

    Again, I really enjoy your blog. Thank you!


  2. Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for your note and kind words. Ironically, I was thinking about Claire de Lune just the other day, and stumbled upon the score in my piano bench all marked up with fingerings. (Everyone thinks this is an easy composition to navigate, but it’s quite the contrary) I am not sure when I will get to this particular project but it’s on my wish list. Some current undertakings on my plate but hopefully things will clear soon so I can cover more ground.


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