Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play the Prelude No. 4 in E minor by Chopin

Step-by-step instructions to approach one of Chopin's best-known Preludes

In this video, Robert gives practical tips to approach one of the most well-known of Chopin's works: the Prelude No. 4 in E minor.

Released on January 22, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. Welcome to and Today, our tip's for how to play Chopin Prelude in E minor. You know, this was actually the first piece of Chopin I ever studied, and I've always loved this piece. As a matter of fact, I remember as a kid loving it so much I couldn't imagine any other piece being as beautiful. Well, I've learned that there's a wealth of great music by Chopin and other composers, but today we're going to focus on the E minor Prelude of Chopin. Now, it's a gorgeous melody. This is a really odd piece, because if I play just the melody, without the chords underneath, it's surprisingly simple. Listen to it.


And it goes on from there. How could that possibly be interesting? Well, the genius is in the harmonization. The left hand has some really exquisite chords.
Now, so how do you approach a piece like this? Well, of course, when you have a melody in the right hand and chords in the left hand, you want the melody to come through stronger than the left hand. That's one challenge. But the other thing that is vital is that you get a true legato not just in the melody, but in the chords. So, you must practice first without the pedal. I suggest memorizing this piece. It's not very long. You'll be able to play it better. I have a video on how to memorize that you can reference for yourself. In the left hand, instead of playing all the chords as they're written, you can just hold them out, so you can get a sense of the best fingering to connect smoothly from chord to chord, and then play all the separate chords later. Let me show you what I mean.


Makes it much easier to learn that way, plus you'll have the benefit of feeling the connection from chord to chord. So you can take a small section and learn it that way. Now, when putting the hands together, you want the supreme legato. This is oftentimes how people would play this piece. And I'm going to play it with the pedal at first. Playing without a true legato, and letting the pedal do the work, kind of like a crutch. And this is the sound you'd get if you played it that way.


Now, if I were to do that without the pedal, this is how I'm actually playing it.

Now, the pedal does help a bit, kind of, like putting icing on a subpar cake improves it. But listen to it now without the pedal, but playing extraordinarily legato in both hands, and using a nice weight of the arm in the melody notes of the right hand, so they come through. These long notes come through against the thick chords.


Already, it sounds better. Now, playing legato like that, with the weight of the right hand to make a nice, sustained melody, the legato chords, and adding the pedal, listen to the sound.


Now, it's starting to come together. Now, the other thing about this that you must be aware of is that you always have to be going somewhere. Now, the interesting thing about this music is that it is very malleable. In the hands of a great artist, there are so many different ways you can play this piece. In fact, you can listen to several different performances on YouTube or other sources, and you can hear that people have very different approaches. The imperative thing is that you have, always, a direction. You're either rising or falling. There are many different ways you can approach the phrasing, but I suggest going with what you feel the melody is doing, and definitely delineate the direction. So, you should never be playing the same. It should be either going up, or coming down, looking for the largest possible phrase unit you possibly can. And that's how you'll have a successful performance of the Chopin Prelude in E minor.

Thank you so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and Look for more of these videos. And if you want a more thorough tutorial on this piece, as well as others, please send an email to There are some thorough tutorials on this piece and others that you might enjoy. Thanks for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

wayne russell * VSM MEMBER * on November 8, 2017 @3:36 am PST
Hi Robert,

You mentioned other tutorials are available, and I would appreciate having access to them.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful knowledge!

Wayne Russell
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on November 8, 2017 @9:14 am PST
Hi Wayne, I am glad you are enjoying Robert's videos!

I think Robert is referring to all other videos he made available from this page:

Please, let me know if I misunderstood your question, or maybe Robert can clarify if I am wrong... thank you.
Robert - host, on November 8, 2017 @11:30 am PST
Wayne - Fabrizio has shared with you a link to my videos and articles on VSM. You can also access them here for your convenience: You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel here:
Joe Norris * VSM MEMBER * on November 8, 2017 @2:22 am PST
Playing legato and staccato without any pedal sound very different. But, when you play with the pedal, why would they sound different if the dampers are up in both cases? The hammers hit the strings the same way, and with the pedal depressed, the strings are sustained in the same way so the result should be identical.
Ian Hingeley on February 26, 2014 @3:15 pm PST
Robert, could you film a video on how to approach the wonderful harmony in Schubert's Impromtu III in G Major please?
Robert - host, on February 27, 2014 @3:04 pm PST
There may be some Schubert Impromptus in upcoming videos.
Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on January 22, 2014 @4:45 pm PST
Thank you, Robert, you are a great teacher!
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