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#1072760 - 01/05/09 04:26 PM tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
waldstein11448998 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/15/08
Posts: 130
Loc: Connecticut
I've never played a Chopin Nocturne before, and I need some advice. In his pieces I see all of these crazy markings, like 11 eighth notes over 6 eights, or 8 sixteenths over 3 eights. How do you play those? I'm assuming that it doesn't have to be mathematically correct, instead it's more of a feel thing. When I try to play these patterns, I can't keep the left hand steady. Maybe I should use a metronome when I'm first working these patterns out?

The first one that I read through was the posthumous Op. 72, No. 1. According to many members on this forum, that is the easiest one. It was quite beautiful. The ones that I'm thinking of doing next are Op. 9, Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

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#1072761 - 01/05/09 05:04 PM Re: tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Practice these parts hands separately. Have both hands down dead cold before you try to put them together. Your mind is going to have too much to do trying to keep the sequence straight to be trying to figure out notes too. I find it helpful to divide the long treble sequence "mathematically," drawing lines to where I believe the base notes should go in. Then I practice it that way very slowly. Eventually it will become automatic then you can speed up and allow just a bit more freedom in the treble.
Slow down and do it right.

#1072762 - 01/05/09 05:21 PM Re: tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
waldstein11448998 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/15/08
Posts: 130
Loc: Connecticut
I'm thinking that I should wait for my lesson with a teacher (next week) before even attempting this. The polyrhythms just seem downright scary and next to impossible right now. However, it seems like a good idea to take your advice and practice these sections hand separate. That way I'll go into my lesson knowing the notes.

#1072763 - 01/05/09 06:07 PM Re: tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

#1072764 - 01/05/09 10:02 PM Re: tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
salzdt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 260
Loc: Greenport, New York
Just saw this posting and also looking for some advice on starting one of the Chopin Nocturnes. Just finished Mozart Sonata 1, all three movememts, and would like to start one of the Chopin Nocturnes. Which one less challenging? I was considering Op 9, No.1 Bb minor. Would appreciate any suggestions.
Dot \:\)

#1072765 - 01/07/09 03:45 PM Re: tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
waldstein11448998 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/15/08
Posts: 130
Loc: Connecticut
Well, the good news is that in Op 9, No 1, on the first page I do have all of the parts figured out when I play them hands separate, and I've even tried putting both hands together. The odd passages like 11 RH over 6 LH will take some time to work out, but after playing these very slowly for about an hour, they seem to be very do-able. The middle section isn't too hard technically either. I feel like I've made very good progress after only two days.

After listening to Op. 9, No. 3, I think I'll save that one for later. The stormy middle section seems very difficult!

#1072766 - 01/08/09 03:21 PM Re: tips on playing Chopin Nocturnes
ChristinaW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/05/04
Posts: 153
Loc: Washington DC
If you know basic math, you can figure them out. Yes, they are supposed to be mathematically correct, not just a feel thing. It's no different than playing three against two, that's supposed to be mathematically correct, also. It's the concept of the least common denominator. The least common denominator of 2 and 3 is 6. If you play in an orchestra, you really have to know this stuff in order to play the score correctly with all the other instruments and their lines.

I think you just need to work out where the notes are played and then mark them on the score, that's all. That's what I do. I draw a line from the top one vertically down to the bottom note as the point where they each intersect, for example. So if you play 11 against 6, obviously, the middle note of the top (or the 6th one) should be at the point after you've finished the first three of the bottom. You could also just do the math and divide 11/6 and get 1.83, so you know there are almost two of the top for one of the bottom.

I think if you practice them smoothly, the right and left, to take up the same amount of time, it should work when you put them together, just try to get one point that is clear (like the middle point. I also sometimes just focus more on the part that is difficult and let the other hand play reflexively, more or less (such as a triplet, when is a pretty simple pattern). SO I might concentrate on the 11 and let the left hand play 6 more or less by rote. I think with practice, it works if you practice making sure the measure takes up the same amount of time.

I think the first nocturne is the easiest, then the posthumous one.


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