When my teacher first suggested I start working etudes after my Nocturne, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. Heck, I barely knew what etudes were. Sure as a girl I’d heard the awesome Revolutionary Etude and so I knew the word but didn’t really know how these pieces were special in any other way.
Etudes are now, in a sense, special pieces to me. When I began working on Chopin’s op. 10 no.9 it didn’t take me too long to realise that the piece was on a whole different level than I was used to. In a nutshell, etudes are pieces that offer specific technical challenges but are also musical pieces in themselves. In this way, they differ from the daily “excercises” that are all technique and have no real musical side.
Here’s what I mean when I say that etudes are completely different beasts. In the beginning, it really did seem to be all about fingers. In the case of op.10 no.9, the technical difficulty of simply spanning a fifth with just your fourth and fifth fingers seemed quite mind boggling to me. However, in contrast to all the preludes, fugues and other pieces I’d played before this one, that little finger difficulty was just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s my take on the challenge of learning, and why after all of that, its still worth it.