The Chopin "Etudes": An indispensable pedagogical tool for developing piano technique
Doctor of Musical Arts
Today's pianists perform with a high degree of technical efficiency and versatility demanded by the recording industry and expected by audiences world-wide. The piano student with aspiration towards a major performing career needs to develop such standard of skill in order to find recognition in the competitive musical scene. It is the obligation of every pedagogue to introduce specific pieces to the student at the appropriate time which give him or her a calculated technical challenge. Even though exercises are usually a prominent part of the systematic training, most students dislike practicing them because they are mechanical and worthless towards building a performance repertoire. In addition, too much emphasis on technical studies will lead the student to think that skill is the most important goal of practicing. Therefore, the teacher has to find pieces which stimulate technical progress and feature musical beauty at the same time. The 27 Etudes by Chopin represent a collection of pieces which contain many technical and musical tasks. Compared to other etudes written in the early nineteenth century (e.g. by Czerny, Moscheles, Hiller, and Thalberg), they have earned superiority through their many pianistic and musical innovations. Because the Chopin Etudes were written over many years, they feature many similarities to other works by the composer which facilitates their performance. In addition, the thorough study of these etudes will give the pianist the necessary skill to deal with many other technical problems in late classical and romantic pieces. The Chopin Etudes are not suitable for the beginner. However, when the student has acquired proficiency with arpeggios, trills, and scales in the Baroque and classical repertoire, the Chopin Etudes will not only serve to expand the technical ability, but can be added to the performance repertoire as well.