Deconstructing Andersen is back! Today we're talking about Etude No. 4 in E Minor from his Op. 33 collection. Here's the original etude (click the image to download a printer-friendly version):
There are four major aspects that are important in this etude:
1.) Endurance. This is a full page of 16th notes, which means it will test your ability to maintain agility and control for a long period of fast technique. Try breaking up the etude into smaller chunks of 4 or 8 measures and seeing how light your fingers can be on the keys, then string together those chunks. The goal is to remain released and mobile in the fingers; the tendency will be to tense up.
2.) Breath control. Again, because this is a full page of 16th notes, you will need to be economical with your air and plan your breathing out ahead of time in order not to get winded halfway through the etude. Remember to exhale fully before taking another breath. The tendency will be to take "sips" of air to make sure you don't run out, but this is counterproductive; when you're constantly topping up on air, you never fully exhale the old, used-up air. You end up winded even though you feel like your lungs are full, because you've used up all the oxygen you took in and need to exhale the carbon dioxide you've created.
3.) Dynamic control during fast technique. It's easy to ignore changes in dynamics when you're trying to play something that requires a lot of finger work. However, the dynamics are what lend interest to an etude that would otherwise be maddeningly repetitive. Work slowly and pay attention to the dynamics as you go. Remember that the audience (or your teacher) won't be able to hear as much contrast as you can, so really bring out the changes.
4.) Creating a sense of syncopation through accents. The exercise below shows how the placement of accents on certain beats creates the "short-long-short" sense of a syncopation. The melody created by the accented notes should always be present in your mind as you practice this etude; it will help keep you from getting bogged down in the repetitive technique.
Click any of the images below to download the full 4-page exercise.