Benjamin Steinhardt,

Piano Technique: Executing Tremolos as occur in Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique”

I’ve picked up various ideas about practicing tremolos from the piano forums as applies to the Alla Breve section of the “Pathetique” Sonata No. 8 (movement 1) and extracted a valuable tutorial from a colleague who posted it to you tube.

Beethoven tremolos

At first I concurred with pianist/teacher Benjamin Steinhardt that rolling the C broken octave (or tremolo) forward, for example, might best benefit the execution of it in fast motion. But I came to the conclusion that it’s not mandatory in any sense to ride up the key. (on the C broken octaves)

In fact, there are no hard and fast rules about playing tremolos since physiology of the hand, and octave span of individual players are varied.

Here’s what I found most relevant to playing the alla breve section of Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique” with its redundant bass tremolos.

First I played solid octaves, and thought in TWO while simultaneously playing the melody. (Musically, I thought of 2 beats per measure not 4 as comported with the composer’s metrical indication)

Naturally, I aimed to shape the bass octaves and treble line in a musical and dynamic way.

This preliminary better clarified how my hands would work TOGETHER when I unraveled the bass octaves.

In this regard I recommend separately playing the octaves while SINGING the melody above.

OR one can play the melody separately while singing the bass line.

This is a more parceled approach to the whole tremolo permeated section which should help advance the learning process by increments.

By far what’s most important is arm and wrist relaxation, and making sure the thumbs don’t tighten but drift naturally with the hand. Little dips of energy to sustain the tremolo over many measures are also helpful.

Here are thoughtful suggestions uploaded by colleague, Benjamin Steinhardt:

And a supplement contributed by Jackie Sharp


My Additional Beethoven “Pathetique” extract:

2 thoughts on “Piano Technique: Executing Tremolos as occur in Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique””

  1. (Musically, I thought of 2 beats per measure not 4 as comported with the composer’s metrical indication)

    But.. Cut time is 2 beats..


  2. It has to be played by rotating the wrist only. Keep the fifth finger on the lower C a bit smooth and flexible (not hard) and rotate the wrist. There are no other ways. Practice at slow tempo because it’s only a matter of time when you get the right speed. After a month if regular practice you can achieve the 152 bpm with minimum no effort. N.B it has to be “ben misurato” and “quasi non legato” with the right hand otherwise the sound will be poor…


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