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#915665 - 02/21/08 07:04 AM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
Piano-pianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 50
Loc: Rome, Italy
The most important and simple tip to play the left hand of the Pathetique is constantly paying attenction in relaxing the hand.

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#915666 - 02/23/08 08:55 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
andanada233 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 5
Loc: Rochester, MN
I suppose there is no ONE approach to these difficult notes, for every hand, every physiology is different. But a common complaint is losing the strength (and therefore the control) over the tremelo notes. Hence the need for what just about everybody refers to as rotation. For me, the greatest impediment has been tension in the thumb (which then gets transferred to tension elsewhere).

Some years ago I needed to wear one of those medical bracelets which has a message plate. I found I could move the message plate aroung my wrist by ROTATION only if my thumb were sufficiently relaxed. This sensation of flicking the wrist while keeping the thumb completely relaxed seemed to help me a great deal in grasping what I needed to perform this difficult passage at a satisfactory and satisfying level. Just a thought; hope it might help.

#915667 - 02/26/08 11:42 AM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
Mr_Kitty Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/07
Posts: 667
Loc: Toronto
How is this a difficult passage? There only ARE two notes repeated over and over again....only one octave apart!

Why is there a sticky threaded devoted to this?

#915668 - 03/07/08 11:03 AM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
ChopinChamp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 113
I play the Pathetique. Truly is a masterpiece, and it amazing how the left hand is so simple yet so challenging. Theres alot of thing you can do to improve the tremolos. Of course, first you want to have a comfortable posture, planted left foot, and make sure your shoulder isnt raised. It all starts with the shoulder. By raising it you lose the comfort of your forearm, wrist, and especially your hand. Try to keep the hand as still as possible. Dont raise your thumb and pinky more that you have to. Kind of juggle the keys, they dont have to all be played staccato. The worst part is when the the tremolos move up from C. This was where my hand got tight. Practice them slow, remember to keep your fingers lowered, of course use 4 on the black keys. I realized that working on pieces that stretch the left hand. Chopin's Op.9-1 Nocturnes middle section really helped me alot with the beethoven..
Currently Working:
Brahms: Intermezzo Op.119 no.3 in C

Currently Polishing:
Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu Op. 66

#915669 - 03/07/08 11:07 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
Secondo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/15/07
Posts: 312
Loc: Seattle, Washington
Mr. Kitty said:

How is this a difficult passage? There only ARE two notes repeated over and over again....only one octave apart!

Why is there a sticky threaded devoted to this?
Mr. Kitty, you have me laughing!
Baldwin SF-10 320152, Marshall & Wendell, Steinway B

#915670 - 03/08/08 01:19 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
computerpro3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/04
Posts: 375
Loc: Connecticut/Cincinnati
Originally posted by Mr_Kitty:
How is this a difficult passage? There only ARE two notes repeated over and over again....only one octave apart!

Why is there a sticky threaded devoted to this? [/b]
After a week or so of working on this I tend to agree. I am having no troubles at all with the tremolo's; I am having a far harder time phrasing the next page the way I like it without making it overly romantic.

#915671 - 03/11/08 10:42 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6148
Loc: Down Under
Originally posted by Mr_Kitty:
How is this a difficult passage? There only ARE two notes repeated over and over again....only one octave apart!

Why is there a sticky threaded devoted to this? [/b]
I can't say I ever had much of a problem with this myself - but many people obviously do, and for that reason it's worth discussing, and worth having this stickied for easy reference isn't it? If we confine discussion to what you find difficult we might have nothing to talk about \:\) .

Only two notes repeated over and over. And Chopin's 3rds etude just has a whole lot of 3rds, really. But I for one find it pretty difficult \:\) .
Du holde Kunst...

#915672 - 03/11/08 10:50 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
Kreisler Offline

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13837
Loc: Iowa City, IA
And the right hand opening of La Campanella only has 2 notes, but the bottom note moves around, so it's maybe a little bit harder than the LH of the Pathetique...

"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


#915673 - 03/23/08 04:23 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
pianokris Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/23/08
Posts: 12
Loc: Scandinavia
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Try varying the height of your wrist and the height of the bench. Also, avoid extremes - your wrist should not be concave or overly convex (I prefer a slightly raised wrist.) Another interesting way to practice is to turn your bench and your body about 60 degrees to the right. This will keep your left elbow away from your body in a more natural position. Once you've got the hang of the passage in this position, it'll be easier to transfer that feeling to your regular position.[/b]
I will have to disagree with this. IMHO, a consistently low and muscular 'open' wrist is mandatory if you want to escape from this ordeal unscathed. It is necessary to maintain a certain balance in the arm while allowing a rotational movement to operate freely, but the wrist height is critical. You should adjust positions using the underarm - as steered all the way from the shoulder - not the wrist.

Really, the Pathetique left hand at speed is in the don't-try-this-at-home category, unless you have a competent teacher to instruct you and guide your movements. The internet is good for many things, but this isn't one of them.
A keyboard is a keyboard is a keyboard...

#915674 - 03/31/08 08:48 AM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
Dan101 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 45
Loc: Canada
You've gotten so much feedback so I'll make this short. Try playing your fifth finger on the low C while you repeatedly play the octave above with your thumb. Then do the reverse (all at a loud dynamic level). This will increase your strength.

However, in order to accomplish the tremolo in concert, you must have a rotation of the wrist (like opening a door knob). Lighten up on the dynamic of the previous exercise and try involving this movement in a secondary exercise.

Best of luck.
Daniel E. Friedman, co-owner of www.pianolessons101.com
You CAN learn to play the piano in a fun and positive way.

#915675 - 04/10/08 03:37 AM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
rct203 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 20
Loc: FFLD County, CT
just hitting it from another angle here. these tremolos are a series of eighth notes. eight of them per measure. one and two and three and four and... counted like so. it is not a free for all in the left hand trying to get as many notes in as you can. the tremolos have a specific time value to them. this is something that less experienced pianists might not realize or ever had explained to them.

i think if most players saw the eight notes written out in the notation it might make the tremolos less mysterious. a helpful visual aid. it also helps you to sync the right hand to the left. now of course i know the tricky part is the fast tempo in this section of the piece (152-176 in my addition). it is not any easy piece, i am not suggesting that. especially without good technique. my point is that perhaps it would be helpful to some people to think of and visualize the tremolos as the eight notes that they are.

having said that, i have not played this piece yet, so i am not the expert on it. this is just an observation i though might be helpful to some who are having tremolo trouble. perhaps this is redundant but i haven't see it covered in this thread. all i know is that it helped me to look at the first movement in a different way.

i recently finished the second movement and i am working on the third now. after the third, with the blessing of my teacher i will begin the first. \:\)

#915676 - 05/10/08 01:23 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
kathyk Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/03
Posts: 6971
Loc: Maine
What serendipity! I'm trying to get Beethoven Ghost Trio up to snuff for next month and was despairing at the tremolos - particularly the ff chord ones - when I happened upon this thread. This is incredibly helpful - particularly the idea of dropping the wrist with each beat.

#915677 - 05/11/08 04:15 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
Fleeting Visions Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 1501
Loc: Champaign, IL
Originally posted by Kreisler:
And the right hand opening of La Campanella only has 2 notes, but the bottom note moves around, so it's maybe a little bit harder than the LH of the Pathetique...

;\) [/b]
I have been told that the hardest part is the 454 turns because they are the weak fingers.
Amateur Pianist, Scriabin Enthusiast, and Octave Demon

#915678 - 05/12/08 06:58 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
virtuoso_18 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 81
Loc: Syria
Originally posted by dnephi:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
And the right hand opening of La Campanella only has 2 notes, but the bottom note moves around, so it's maybe a little bit harder than the LH of the Pathetique...

;\) [/b]
I have been told that the hardest part is the 454 turns because they are the weak fingers. [/b]
Yes, those cannot be played up to tempo unless the agility and strength of the weak fingers are incredible, not to mention endurance as the turns last for several measures. However, if your hand is large enough, they could be played 353 or 343 (the large hand is required to strike a note an octave away with every 3rd turn) which dramatically decreases the difficulty.
Currently Working on:
Beethoven : Piano Conerto No.2
Mozart : Piano Sonata No.6
Schubert : Moment Musicax No.3
Chopin : Black Key Etude

#915679 - 06/11/08 10:44 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
john_v_r Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/31/08
Posts: 15
My approach is to make the RH so breathtakingly beautiful that no one notices any rhythmic slips in the LH. ;\)

Beethoven wasn't writing for such a heavy keyboard as the modern piano. Try this stuff on a fortepiano and you will be astonished at the difference in touch. So do your best. If you have stunningly accurate tremolos but pedestrian melodies, your listener will still be bored.

#915680 - 07/12/08 02:59 PM Re: The Left Hand of the Pathetique
PeterB Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/06
Posts: 1
Loc: East Sussex, England
Evening people. If anybody has any more advice to offer about this piece then I would be extremely interested to read what you have to say.

This tremolo has been causing me a lot of trouble lately. A few weeks ago my semi-regular teacher gave me some ideas about how to practise it which I shall quickly list here:

1 - Practise around four bars and then stop and do the same with the other hand. After a while like this look at something completely different and then revisit the tremolo. Also, vary the tempo at which you practise every so often to see how the technique your are using works at different speeds.

2 - Keep fingers one and five placed on the keys and "rotate" your wrist so that you aren't so much pressing the keys with your fingers but are moving your wrist/arms to allow your fingers contact with the keys. "Feel like you are using the movement of all your lower arm" was the vague jist of what I was told, but it's been a couple of weeks and I honestly can't remember word for word what I was told.

Other advice which I have found helpful from reading online has been in agreeance with Kreisler's extremely useful posts; practising in triplets, etc. I've also read somewhere that fingers 2,3 and 4 should be rested on the keyboard whilst playing the tremolo, while other sources state that keeping these fingers raises or having them move with your wrist rotation is acceptable. Any thoughts?

Now, I actually have been 'tremolo-ing' quite well sometimes (and have recently been able to play about 72 repetitions of the octave - the length of the RH tremolo in this piece - at a very fast tempo with no pain) but at other times my tremolo is not nearly as good and I will either experience pain while playing or my tempo/tone will have worsened. I think this is possibly because I keep experimenting with ways to tremolo and am actually practising over methods that are working for me in the hope of discovering a better technique. But I don't know.

All of that being said, I feel my main problem now is one that has not yet been touched upon in this thread; jumping between one octave to another (eg. Bb-Bb/A-A in the R.H) or, more notably, from Ab down to D in the L.H. When I play the actual tremolos with the change of notes, I find I cannot tremolo nearly as well as when I simply tremolo on any arbitrary octave with no movements. I believe I may be tensing unnecessarily when moving hand positions but I could not be certain. Any discussion on this point would also would be interesting to read.

I'll stop my ranting now and just say finally that if anybody has anything to say at all regarding this tremolo, whether in reply to my post or not, I look forward to reading your posts.

Thanks guys. \:\)

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