Fatigue when playing Chopin's Oceanic Etude

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Fatigue when playing Chopin's Oceanic Etude

Post by russellhancock »

Hello Piano Colleagues:

When I play Chopin's "Oceanic" etude (op25#12) I experience fatigue, and it prevents me from delivering clarity clear through to the end.

It is the only piece I have ever played that causes fatigue.

I have tried playing with a lighter touch and lower volume, and the fatigue is still there.

Does this happen to anybody else?

How do I overcome it?


Russell Hancock
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Re: Fatigue when playing Chopin's Oceanic Etude

Post by HullandHellandHalifax »

Hello Russell,
You have a real problem there and I believe the solution that fits one might not fit you, a lot depends on your hand size and what sort of extension you have in the hand. I am also an organist and I remember when learning the Toccata from the 5th Symphony of Widor with its constant use of fingers 4 and 5 at high speed caused a lot of arm strain in the beginning and I only used to practice it at the end of the session otherwise I was fit for nothing else, eventually through persistent practice in this manner my muscles relaxed and i was able to play it without problems, thankfully after so many years I still am problem free with it so maybe it is just a case of grin and bear it. On the other hand I know one pianist who played everything very slowly and very loud so that he literally hammered in the muscle memory, when it came to the performance he had no problems, also a possibility is to look at your fingering, ignore what is in your edition and see if by changing the fingering your hands become more comfortable. It is largely a case of trial and error and find what suits you best, but certainly slow practice in the beginning rotating the wrist keeping the tension low would be the way to start. It is by the way my favourite of all the Etudes in Op.25 and I remember i played it with a light touch and changed the accents until my hand felt comfortable, you can always put the correct accents in later when your hands permit. Don't worry about the volume play too loud if that relaxes your hands. Hope this helps in some way.
good luck
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Re: Fatigue when playing Chopin's Oceanic Etude

Post by MichalSzcz »

... okay, I want to throw out some questions in the open. When you play loud, do you keep adding pressure when the key is down? I like to take a strip of paper and place it between your finger and the key. When you play the note covered with the paper and if the paper refuses to move, you're pressing into the key bed and therefore creating friction. This is true regardless if you play loud or soft.

There's a great explanation and exercise by Tobias Matthay in this book. I'm thinking of the Throw-Off exercises specifically. They're not lame Hanon type drills where you go ad nauseum, but rather, they are drills designed to teach a physical movement which you apply to your music. Truth is, the whole book is great and worth reading.

https://imslp.org/wiki/Relaxation_Studi ... 2C_Tobias)

... secondly, is your hand locked into the position of the chord? Playing the piece solid is wonderful for learning the notes. But very often people lock their hand into a claw shape and force their way through the piece. I personally use a rotation touch and I let my hand open and close as I move through the positions. [also, if you ever get to playing op 10-1, very helpful in maneuvering the big chords. And I have have long fingers/thin palms]. I've seen some people make little circles with their wrists, like 25-1 but small. Rotation works better for me, but try both, because why not? In both cases the fingers release and return to the hand. Extensions are about reaching AND about letting go.

... related to the previous point, how's your thumb?

Let me know if any of this helps,
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