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What Chopin Should You Learn First - And How Do You Start Learning Chopin?

house David Chang Apr 19, 2022

Chopin is a composer many students think about when they first start learning piano. Adult students in particular aspire to playing a set of Chopin pieces, and the depth of communication that Chopin’s music contains makes it easy to understand why.

But Chopin isn’t easy, even for advanced musicians! Here is a brief guide to Chopin’s more approachable pieces. And if you would like more information about my piano lessons in Brooklyn or online, please get in touch.

Also, my YouTube channel features a number of Chopin’s piano works, so feel free to follow along - Visit My YouTube Channel.

What Chopin Should You Learn First?

Perhaps the most accessible piece of music by Chopin is Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E Minor. Most classical music enthusiasts will recognize the tune, and even if you’re new to the piano, you’ve probably heard it. You can hear this piece in the TV drama The West Wing, the film The Pianist, and in Fifty Shades of Gray, believe it or not. Here’s a recording:

This piece would be considered an early intermediate piece, but like anything by Chopin, it’s not easy! You must learn how to play the left hand chords with your fingers close to the keys to minimize volume in the accompaniment. You must also be able to phrase the right hand melody beautifully, almost as if you were singing. Additionally, the fingering must be perfect so you can connect the notes fluidly.

Last but not least, many young pianists pedal much too heavily when playing this piece. The truth is, accomplished pianists manage to make this piece sound legato while using very little pedal.

Other “Easy” Chopin Pieces

Again, nothing by Chopin is truly easy, because each piece requires a tremendous amount of musical interpretation. Just because a piece is slow does not mean it’s easy.

Prelude Op. 28 No. 7 in A major

This prelude is short, beautiful, and approachable by intermediate pianists. It may be slightly more difficult than the E Minor prelude because of its chromaticism, but you should be able to learn these notes. Another pitfall in this piece - you will need to bring out the melody in the inner voices, meaning the top note is not always the most important. Video:

Prelude Op.28 No.20 in C Minor

This piece (brought into pop culture by Barry Manilow) requires a caveat: it is mentioned in many lists as an “easy” Chopin piece, but it’s ridiculous to say this piece is easy. It’s not! It is full of tricky diminished chords, accidentals, and important voicing.

The technique in the left hand is easy, because you are simply playing octaves. But even there, you need to learn how to control the volume of the bass octaves. The right hand is not fast, but you must voice the melody with your little finger and suppress the volume of the filled-out chords. A recording:

Prelude Op. 28 No. 15 in D Flat Major (Raindrop)

And here is yet another Chopin that is only considered “easy” because it isn’t as hard as his etudes or concertos. This can be played well by late intermediate or early advanced pianists, and it’s incredibly rewarding when done correctly. The notes could technically be learned by an intermediate player, but the subtleties in the voicing might make this a bad idea.

Interestingly, the piece is in both the tonic key of D flat major, and the enharmonic minor of C sharp minor.

See the recording:

Should Beginners Even Learn Chopin?

If you call me and would like to take piano lessons, I would be happy to help you learn your favorite Chopin pieces from day 1. But I would only recommend doing this under the guidance of an expert. Chopin was a virtuoso pianist, and his music was written for other serious pianists.

His etudes and concertos are performed by the world’s leading pianists, and they are famed for their difficulty. Not to mention the International Chopin Piano Competition, an annual affair in Warsaw that springboards the careers of many famous pianists.

Please get in touch if you would like to start pursuing your dream of playing Chopin. I would be happy to have a free phone consultation with you, hear about your goals, and start you on the path towards advanced playing.