Friday, 31 October 2014

CEP #3 - The journey continues...(Op.10 No.2)

Etude Op.10 No.2

Etude Op.10 No.2 bears many similarities to Op.10 No.1 - in fact, I always considered the first two etudes of Op.10 as a sort of pair which complement it each other. 

In the first etude, Chopin played with the idea of arpeggios in a sense. He wrote a piece based on "expanded arpeggios", where the hand had to be able to span an interval greater than that spanned by a simple triad. 

In this etude, Chopin plays with the idea of scales (the 'counterpart' of arpeggios I guess?). More specifically, chromatic scales. A quick glance at the score makes it immediately apparent what's so tricky about this etude. The fingering is all weird! Instead of the standard 1312313... pattern, you have 434534... a much more awkward fingering to use.

This etude is, in essence, an exercise in the dexterity of the 'weak' fingers of the right-hand (345). And no, there's no way to beat the system here, because fingers 1 and 2 have to play every quarter beat! So unless you have three hands, you can't play both clefs without using 345 fingering for the chromatic scales.

Perhaps it also exercises the lightness of touch, both in the right and left hand. Note that the right hand 'supporting' notes should only be played as sixteenth-notes. They can be seen as springboards for the scale runs, and they perhaps can disturb the flow of the piece if great care isn't taken over being very light with them.

The etude is quite short, about the same length as No.1. Personally, I think it's much less nasty than No.1 (which is ridiculously punishing!) but, as with all Chopin's Etudes, a lot of care needs to be taken when practising. Especially slow practice!

How I practised

While the piece itself is difficult, luckily it is very approachable for studying.

The etude can be very easily split into three voices:
  1. Scales in the upper register (right hand, fingers 345)
  2. 'Supporting' notes (right hand, fingers 12)
  3. Left hand
The obvious way of practising this piece is to start off with the upper register scales (which is more or less the meat of the piece anyway). Once this become fluent, it is simply a matter of layering the other voices on top, one by one. This is how I'm doing it!

Regarding the fingering of the right hand scales, in both my edition and the Schirmer edition it seems like, in general, when playing patterns upwards the pattern for the fingering is: 34343434... and coming down it's 5454545454... I find it easier when going up to replace the fourth finger with the third. So, in the first bar, the fingering goes: 5345 3534 5353 5345... I dunno, I suppose it's a matter of preference.

As with No.1, there are a few interesting 'tricky' sections in the etude:

Bar 21: It would be nice if the Eb could be played with the 2nd finger but, in the context of the piece, the fourth finger is really the only option. The result? - a passage that's a bit shifty!

Bars 33-4: This pattern gets easier with practise but at the beginning it felt like hit and miss! It's awkward because the normal 'scalic' pattern from the rest of the piece is broken. You need to use a completely different finger motion.

Unfortunately, I do not have a recording to provide you with today, as it's too early at this stage and my playing of the entire piece isn't fluent enough. Unless you want to listen to me playing at half speed - but I'm guessing you probably don't!

Instead, here's a link to a video showing you how a pro does it:

Till next time!

P.S. Happy Halloween!


  1. For Bar 21, Friedheim's edition gives the chromatic fingering as 3434 3454 5454 5353. I guess that can be a solution to avoid playing the Eb with the fourth finger.

    1. Right, so the 2nd finger plays the D in the next bar. Thanks for that - I'll try it out next I'm at the piano! :)