Chopin as Teacher

I recently attended the convention for the Colorado State Music Teachers Association.  One of the sessions I especially appreciated was entitled “Chopin’s Pedagogy”, and was presented by Dr. David Korevaar, associate professor of piano at the University of Colorado. The session was very informative, and the music Dr. Korevaar played to illustrate his points was breathtaking.

Here are some of the highlights I learned about Chopin as a teacher:

1.  Emphasized sound first, technique second.

2. His teaching was his main source of income beginning in 1832.  He stopped concertizing altogether in 1835 because he did not believe you could hear completely beautiful music at a concert – too many nerves involved.

3.  He believed in “music as a language”.  We use sounds to make music just as we use words to make language.

4. Encouraged short practice sessions.

5.  Believed the C major scale should not be introduced first.  The right hand should first be taught B major, the left hand should first be taught Db major.  These are the most natural scales for either hand.

6. “You should only teach what you need to know”.

7. The second finger is the center of the hand.  Triads are better played with fingers 1-2-4 or 1-2-5. Many of Chopin’s etudes are predicated on second finger problems.  Examples” Opus 25 No. 3 and Opus 10 No. 3.

8.  Trills should be played with fingers 1-3 or 2-4.

9.  Concerning rubato – accompaniment stays in strict time and the melody plays around the steady tempo.

10.  The slur he described as a “breath of the hand”.  The beginning is articulated, the ending is lifted.

11.  Some of the pieces/composers Chopin taught:

Moscheles Etudes

Beethoven Opus 26

John Field Nocturne in AbM (Chopin loved the key of AbM)

Clementi Preludes and Exercises

Cramer studies


Reserved his own pieces for more advanced students