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Lesson 13: Three Challenging Etudes

Congratulations on reaching a new milestone in your piano journey! As you transition from an absolute beginner to an experienced beginner, this lesson presents an opportunity to refine your skills with three challenging Etudes.

Approach to the Three Challenging Etudes:

These etudes are recorded as I would perform them, providing you with a model of musical expression and technique.

Gradual Learning Process: However, it’s crucial to continue applying the effective practice habits you’ve developed. Rather than trying to immediately replicate the performance-level playthrough, start by practicing hands separately. Then, gradually bring them together, playing slowly at first and increasing speed as you become more comfortable.

Focus on Mastery: Pay special attention to isolating and perfecting difficult passages. The goal remains to play each etude accurately and confidently three times in a row without any mistakes. This approach will ensure that you’re not just playing the notes but truly understanding and mastering each piece.

Beyond Sight Reading:

While these exercises are primarily for sight reading, improving reading skills and coordination, they also sound pleasing and offer an additional challenge. Drawing inspiration from the previous lesson on composing your first mashup etude, I encourage you to take your creativity a step further.

Compositional Limitations: When creating these etudes, I adhered to four specific limitations:

  1. The composition must be in A minor.
  2. Only use the five-finger scale in both hands.
  3. Maintain a 4/4 time signature (counting up to four, with four beats per bar).
  4. Use only whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes.
  • These constraints surprisingly sparked my creativity, and I challenge you to do the same.

Your Composition Task:

Create an 8-Bar Piece: With the same four limitations, compose your piece that is at least 8 bars long. This exercise will not only challenge your creativity but also reinforce your understanding of musical structure and rhythm.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Composition:

Having already addressed the most common technical and sight-reading mistakes in previous lessons, let's now turn our attention to the typical challenges that arise when trying to compose something new. Composition is a different skill set, and it comes with its own set of pitfalls, especially for those just beginning to explore their creative abilities.

Common Mistake No. 1 - Overthinking:

The Challenge: Often, students get stuck after playing just one note, aiming for perfection or an ideal melody that might not fit within the given constraints. This can lead to frustration and a creative block.

Solution: Embrace simplicity. Start with the basics – use the five notes provided and stick to the rhythm. Begin and end with the note A in both hands. The beauty of music often lies in its simplicity, so don’t worry about creating a complex masterpiece.

Common Mistake No. 2 - Breaking the Rules:

The Challenge: Feeling restricted by the five-note limit, some students might be tempted to venture beyond these bounds, using the entire piano to compose. However, this approach can actually complicate the process.

Solution: Focus on making the most of what you have. If you struggle to create something appealing with five notes, adding more notes and rhythms is unlikely to help. In fact, more options can make composition more challenging. Remember, even a single note, played with intention and feeling, can be powerful. Refrain from criticizing your music and allow yourself to appreciate the beauty in simplicity.