Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play the Ballade in G minor by Chopin - Part 1

Learn how to approach Chopin's beautiful Ballade in G minor

In this first video of a 2-part series, Robert teaches you how to approach the Ballade Op. 23 in G minor.

Released on October 7, 2015

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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, and welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. And today we have a tutorial on tips for playing Chopin Ballade in G Minor.

Such a phenomenal piece of music. It shows the almost manic emotions of Frederic Chopin in the wild swings of emotion, from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy. You know, I'm going to focus in on just a couple of the middle sections here because there's so many techniques that come fast and furiously one after the other. And each one you have to adjust to, so I'm going to give you some pointers on how you're going to practice these different sections.

You probably know the big heroic middle section, the restatement of the theme, and that it ends with a big flurry of octaves and then comes the fun. So that's where I'm going to start, just getting into that section. You'll know the part that starts like, that goes like this. [piano music] And it goes on and on. See, already there's been a whole lot of different techniques. So I'm going to break it down for you and show one by one how you can practice them effectively.

Well, first of all, that descending diminished cord. You've got kind of an awkward thing to do and I'm going to show you how you can practice it. And that's that first thing I started with. [piano music] So it goes so quickly you might wonder, "What the heck is going on there?" I'm going to play it very, very slowly and then show you how you can practice it. [piano music] So the trick is to be able to move the hand over the new position instantly.

So you practice just a small number of notes at time. Like this. [piano music] Notice that when you land, you must be over the entire chord. [piano music] So even these fingers are over these notes. [piano music] And the same thing... [piano music] each subsequent group. [piano music] So that's how you can get fluid with it. [piano music]

Then you've got another little section here with just... [piano music] Then we have this wonderful passage. [piano music] You notice how you have the bottom line? [piano music] So that's pretty obvious, that you want to bring out that bottom line. So there are a number of ways you can achieve that. Now another thing you can do is to practice in note groups, like this. [piano music]

You can also then practice in rhythms, like... [piano music] Or something like that. You get the idea. You can practice both ways. You can do it the other way also. So these are a number of ways you can practice but mostly just the two notes. [piano music] Why is it so helpful to practice those two note groups? Because it will force you to come up with a fingering that can accommodate the passage most successfully.

You want to think two note groups because otherwise it's almost impossible to play it at the speed. If you can play that in two note groups rapidly then breaking it up should be fairly effortless. Which brings us to the next section. [piano music] Now here you've got two completely different techniques in the two hands and you must approach them differently to be successful. The right hand is fast and light and of course you can practice that with metronome speeds to get fluency. First practicing very deliberately at a slower tempo. And as you get faster, lighten up and stay closer to the keys. [piano music]

It's pretty straightforward finger-work. The left hand however has some interesting phrasing and the way you want to practice this is by moving instantly for the leaps. So it's not a gradual motion. Watch how you can practice this, so you can be successful being over the notes in time. [piano music] Notice how it's an instant motion. As soon as you play the bottom E-flat, you're already over that next chord.

Now when I play this B-flat, I'm over that one. This enables you to be able to play accurately and have fluidity without missing any of the notes. [piano music] Then of course, once you have the two hands worked out and up to speed, go slowly and put the hands together with that same delineation in the left-hand phrasing, as well as the clear right hand finger-work, staying close to the keys. [piano music]

If you practice slowly in that manner and work up with a metronome, one notch at a time, you will be able to play this successfully. You might want to practice first hand separately so you get very comfortable because what makes this a challenge is that you have two completely different techniques in your two hands. And you must not confuse what one hand is doing with the other.

We can go on to the next section, but I'm going to do that in a future video for you. This is probably enough for you to work on for right now. Again, I'm Robert Estrin here at This is the Chopin Ballade in G Minor. Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Kevin on August 8, 2017 @6:49 pm PST
Thanks for the lesson,this is my favorite piece and i'm can only reach a 9th on white keys(keep in mind, im only 12), anyways can u give me any technical advice (for example which pieces to learn) in prep of this first ballade.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 8, 2015 @5:19 pm PST
Great lesson. In what grade would this piece be studied? Somehow I don't seem to be able to handle Chopin, but I am very capable of playing the entire Moonlight sonata of Beethoven, and other Beethoven and Schubert music.
Robert - host, on October 15, 2015 @4:31 pm PST
When you get to this level of music, it is beyond any arbitrary grade. It requires an extremely advanced technique. If you have never studied anything like this before, you may start with other shorter works of Chopin first. Then you can tackle the G-minor Ballade and gain a tremendous amount from it.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 16, 2015 @8:18 am PST
When I was a teenager I was able to play the Minute Waltz, and the Mazurka Op. 7 N.1. I will download the Ballade you suggested.
Carol Ebert * VSM MEMBER * on October 7, 2015 @7:24 am PST
Looking forward to your continued good teaching on this wonderful piece. We are so fortunate to have you "just a click away!" Thank you.
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