Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and of course Chopin. The famous etudes. The hours slaving over a piano to get those darn things CLEAN. I wonder if the titles create a mental block against these pieces? If someone were handed a piece by Rachmaninoff and not told it was an etude, would it be less difficult to learn than if they knew? I am fairly certain I would have an easier time of it. I wouldn’t be thinking “the whole purpose of this piece is to develop these specific techniques.” I might notice an etude-like quality to some pieces, or parts of pieces, but I wouldn’t treat it like “an etude.” This seems a worthwhile question to me because, in reality, many of these pieces aren’t that much harder than these composers’ other pieces. They’re concert pieces just as much as exercises, perhaps even more so. I’m certain that if someone played me an etude I didn’t know by one of these guys, I wouldn’t necessarily peg it as an etude. There is more music to them than fingerwork.

Does the title, “etude,” scare you as much as it scares me?


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