Learn Big Piano Chords in Chopin Prelude Opus 28 no. 20

Piano Chords are Complex Since Every Situation is a Bit Different. But There is a Technique to do That!

by Lars Nelissen // updated: March 6, 2023

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In this video, we will learn the prelude by Chopin,
from Opus 28 no. 20, in C-Minor.
The prelude that Rachmaninov also chose
for his Chopin Variations.
It's a nice piece to work at to learn chords,
how to play chords,
how to use arm weight and arm pressure,
and the combination of the two.
And how to make the melody sound "Legato",
A nice line in the melody,
all in the 5th finger, in the upper notes.
Later on in the 2nd and 3rd line,
we will take out the middle voice as well.
And before we start, download the score.
Maybe you have the score already,
but I put fingerings in the score so that you can
learn this piece a little bit more easy.
I think those fingerings that I write can help you.
So let's play it first!
'Largo' Chopin writes.
Largo means; broad, slow;
very slow tempo.
It starts with a 'fortissimo'; so strong.
But we don't make this 'fortissimo'
just with the arm weight.
Not just like...
We want to have some intensity in it.
That we cannot just create with the weight of the arm.
So what we do is to use a combination of weight
and pressure from the lower arm.
The fingers need to be strong, not too round.
So if I would work on this,
I would really first work on each individual chord.
Then we're going to work on the connection
of the chords.
Because that's crucial that
there is a melodical line in the upper voice
in the 5th finger.
The weight goes a little bit to the right,
so there I have a very concentrated 5th finger.
See, here there's a little bit.
Not like this:
Not like this, or not like... not like this, but like...
There lies the melody.
See? That's the first part of the sentence.
And then the next:
And in the next sentence:
This is the melodic line.
It's important to work on it,
so that it will be very audible this line.
You have to pull the listener with the melody.
Then what is important that all the notes sound.
So all these inner notes,
you have to make them sound.
And a little bit of weight to the right.
A good way of working on chords is to first start soft.
To hear all the notes and feel the fingers.
Feel it and repeat a few times the chord until you feel;
ah, this is, this sounds good,
nice equal, nice balance.
Okay! It feels like that...
And then you're going to increase the strength.
With a pressure from the lower arm.
See, so that's very good to work at and listen...
Listen and feel!
Feel in your arms and your muscles,
and listen to what you get back.
So I do this...
It sounds like that...
Okay I do this, it sounds good...
Okay, what I did differently than the moment before?
I like this and
you are trying to search for the right sound,
until you have it in your system.
Because it's crucial to play chords like this
with a nice, good and great sound.
The rhythm here with...
Has to be counted exact.
And the 16th notes perhaps come a fraction too late.
But never too early!
Also not too late, because then it becomes the 32nd note,
we don't need that
So first you need to count exact
before you going to interpret.
And make sometimes a little bit,
a fraction, with a delay if you like that. Your starting point
with any "Rubato", as we call that. 'Stealing' of the time.
It should always start from the exact counting,
otherwise it will sound amateurish.
Not very pleasant to listen at.
And to connect, the 16th notes must be connected to the beat
after that the quarter note.
So it is not:
But it is...
And not...
That's wrong but this is correct...
And the pedal they will be connected.
This is correct.
So that about the rhythm.
And like this you're going to make a nice line.
And each time in 4 beats.
And here you see here,
this big chord with this 9th here...
you use the thumb on D-flat and on E flat.
See and with this together...
Another way to practice the 16th note is to take...
take time, prepare, and...
And prepare. When I prepare
the 16th notes with the chord up behind it.
Here again...
See? So that it will be a good connection.
So the preparation of the chord after the 16th notes
is important.
In the second line the color changes. "Piano" Chopin writes.
But it needs a little bit be a more round tone.
In the last line,
it's like a repetition of the second line,
but "pianissimo". It is a more desolate tone.
I will let you hear how that sounds.
Second line:
As you hear, I also take out the middle voice.
It's very important that this is,
that you make the listener aware of this middle line.
In the 3rd line with the "pianissimo" it is even more obvious.
You will soon hear. And still
the melodic line in the upper notes in the 5th finger,
that needs to be audible.
See? The fingering
by the way, I will write in the score
in the PDF that you can download,
as I often do with videos like this.
So download it.
Make sure that you use the good fingerings,
the best fingerings to play "legato".
It will help you.
See nice round tone.
A little bit more...
And diminuendo...
And "ritenuto" he writes, from here "ritenuto".
But not too much.
And here pianissimo...
A little bit slower even...
You know, he writes 'ritenuto'
in the ending of the last bar of the second line.
So there's a 'ritenuto'
which ends up in a slower tempo in the 3rd line.
And a more desolate sound,
concentrated sound.
And make this middle voice,
you have to really work to get it out.
Weight to the right
and this second finger a little bit more vertical.
And crescendo and a ritenuto...
The "crescendo" I would really work on.
Work in a way that you combine
working on the rhythm, and on the sound simultaneously.
Making the middle voice, make it your metronome.
And in the same time
you let it come out, this middle voice.
Listen to how I do that.
We should invent all kinds of exercises of it.
The position of the arm
is a little bit in a higher position
in this 'pianissimo'.
Also in the 'piano' by the way.
But particularly in the 'pianissimo'.
I really search for the sound.
The balance between this...
And the other notes have to be present too.
But this one has to come out.
It's not easy!
But that's the beauty of it.
The pedal use of the piece is per quarter note.
Except in the last 2 chords. These are in one pedal.
So that was Chopin's Prelude Opus 28 no. 20 in C-Minor.
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In this piano tutorial we shall be learning Chopin's prelude in C-Minor from opus 28. A popular piece among beginners, but don't be deceived. Making these chords sound great is hard work! 

I like to approach the 24 Preludes opus 28 by Chopin as one big work of 24 preludes following up each other in an order that makes sense musically. Yet, some pianists play these in concerts as separate pieces. There is nothing wrong with that; it is even a good idea to learn some of these for your pianistic benefit. 

This particular prelude is an excellent piece to work to improve your chord playing for all levels. I remember at the conservatory, even though I could easily sightread this music, spending a lesson on it together with my teacher to create the best possible sound.

Again, working at SOUND QUALITY should be HIGH on your list!

Chords are complex since every situation is a bit different. But there are techniques involved that come back in all the chords. With these techniques, you can search for a solution to each chord.


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As a young teenager, I started to learn the piano and fell in love with this instrument. Although I was a late starter, I knew that I wanted to play professional. So I worked hard and became a student of Rubinstein's pupil Avi Schönfeld at the conservatory. Only playing the piano for about four years when starting my professional piano studies, I needed a system to catch in my lost years. I was in luck, Avi Schönfeld, who we easily may call a genius in understanding piano playing, gave me that system that I needed so much. Here I am to share with you...

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