arioso 7

Learning Two Chopin Nocturnes (Eb and F minor) with a framing bass line/treble perspective

One of the biggest challenges in playing the Eb Major (Op. 9) and F minor (Op. 55) Nocturnes is preserving awareness of the fundamental bass note movement against the melody while after beat chords provide a harmonic enrichment in the overall voicing.

Too often, however, these chords on the off beats (following the downbeat) somehow intrude on the horizontal flow of the melody. They will poke out or sound like they are not woven through as harmonic fulfillment of what the composer conceived as his framing outline.

That’s why with both Nocturnes referenced, I recommend first exploring the outer frame before adding the chords. (In this examination, a sense of harmonic rhythm still becomes clarified, as attention to resolutions of notes in a counterpoint between melody and fundamental bass ultimately helps overall phrasing) It basically prevents awkward insertion of chords that can INTERRUPT a seamless vocal line.

The Eb Nocturne (As always, the supple wrist, and relaxed arms are important ingredients of phrasing)

In this tutorial which followed a lesson with an adult student, I reviewed the steps taken during our practicing. As we shaped the melody and separately studied the bass line, we were made aware of melodic destinations and sub-destinations, some using rotation and others (appoggiatura figures—skip up and step down) enlisting a rolling forward wrist motion. Again, to avoid an awkward playing of after beat chords, we examined the fundamental bass and melody to clarify a HORIZONTAl movement that underlies poetic phrasing.

A parallel Journey with the F Minor Nocturne

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