Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play the Ocean Etude Op. 25 No. 12 by Chopin

Learn how to approach this beautiful etude by Chopin

In this video, Robert shows you how to play the famous Ocean Etude by Chopin.

Released on April 3, 2013

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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. I'm Robert Estrin here at And today, we have an answer to a viewer question about how to practice Chopin's Ocean Etude. Chopin wrote two books of etudes, brilliant works. Incidentally, there are two types of etudes in this world, those that are strictly exercises, and those that explore technical problems in great pieces of music. And the Chopin etudes are certainly in the latter category of monumental compositions that tackle different technical challenges. The Ocean Etude, for those of you who haven't heard it before, I'm going to play just the beginning, because the entire etude is built the same way. So once I show how to practice the beginning, you'll know how to practice the whole piece. Here's a little bit of it for you.


That's what the music sounds like. It sounds like an ocean, doesn't it? The big waves. The whole thing goes like that. So how do you practice it? Well, the entire piece is basically broken chords. What you see, the very beginning, starts with this, and then it goes up an octave again, and up an octave again, and then back down. So the secret, then, is practicing the point where you change from octave to octave. If I play it very slowly, you'll see how it works... I'm only playing the very first measure because it's all the same. So it's the transfer from octave to octave, so if you practice just this much, and make sure you're over the next octave...there we go again. I missed that one, so I wanna practice the one.

The secret, though, is not just doing it instantly, but studying your hands to make sure the fingers are precisely over the next notes in the chord an octave higher. You could make adjustments. For example, start just with the very beginning, and then at this point, you should be firmly over the next chord. If you're not, you might see that your hands are not far enough, or maybe your fifth finger is over the E-flat over the octave, but the second finger is too low or too high, so you do it again. Once they're perfectly in place, instantly and completely relaxed, then it's easy to play to the next octave. And then the same thing here. Now notice on this one, I go all the way until the change again, until the new position. You can actually, for your memory's sake, you could practice the whole piece in chords so you're absolutely solid on the progression.


But the real trick is not just being solid with the chord progression, but getting the transitions from octave to octave. So try practicing that way until the note that gets you over the next position, studying your hands. Make sure you can land not only precisely over the next keys, but in a relaxed manner. That was a great question, because that etude has one technical challenge pretty much throughout, so the method I just gave you should work for the entire etude. Good luck to you, and thanks so much for the question. Great joining all of you. Once again, I'm Robert Estrin, Look for more videos here. More to come. Thank you.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Tony Finch on April 5, 2018 @8:33 pm PST
Dear Mr Estrin, The penultimate semiquavers in bars 16 and 72 of the etude op 25 no 12 appear in some editions as G and in others as F. Which is authentic? I find F easier to play!
Robert Estrin - host, on April 7, 2018 @12:12 pm PST
If you are referring to the second to last notes of the measures in the right hand, the Henle Urtext edition has "G's" in both places. That is the way I have always played it.
Tony Finch on April 9, 2018 @8:39 am PST
Thank you. Some versions on YouTube have F in both cases so I was puzzled.
paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on February 22, 2017 @1:54 pm PST
if you want to eat an elephant, you have to cut him in small pieces. Just the right approach.
Denis Gogin on June 24, 2015 @2:34 am PST
Hello, Robert,
I have a question about transitions from one octave to another in this etude , could you suggest some preparatory exercises to improve this skill?
Robert - host, on June 24, 2015 @2:50 pm PST
As I show in the video, practice going to the repeated note that changes fingers in each hand without going further. Practice arriving on that note with the other fingers of the hand over the octave (and middle note). You should practice very slowly at first until you can make the change to the higher octave instantaneously.
Iretnal on August 11, 2014 @11:52 pm PST
Thank you, that was very instructive!
robertfields * VSM MEMBER * on April 14, 2013 @8:21 am PST
This was very informative
Thank you very much
henry morris * VSM MEMBER * on April 6, 2013 @6:23 am PST
thanks for this, Robert! appreciated.
J. Shaw on April 5, 2013 @6:39 am PST
Thank you. Nice to see someone else who uses the same approach in teaching. My students will have another reference.
Judith Stijnis * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @12:52 pm PST
Thank you . It is very interesting
Ross * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @9:32 am PST
Exquisite! Before watching your video I regarded this Etude as the Mount Everest never to be tackled by me; now it looks more like a piece that I may actually dare attempt!! Your simple explanation and analysis of the Etude makes all the difference. Thank you Robert.
BJ on April 4, 2013 @8:27 am PST
Have been playing and teaching for years and always avoided the etudes as I have small hands. However you've prompted me to get my book open and have a go. Thanks
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