What are the Easiest Chopin Etudes?
Itâ€™s not easy finding that answer on the internet. I looked for a one stop answer page, but found none. This is my attempt to create one. As a disclaimer, I donâ€™t pretend to be an expert- I cannot play all of the etudes myself. Most of the info presented here is based on ratings and opinions of more experienced pianists. At the end of this article you will find a partial list of sources I used to compile this information.
Chopinâ€™s Etudes are truly marvelous pieces. Likely you have heard at least some of them. The Waterfall, Tristesse, Torrent, Revolutionary, Winter Wind, and Ocean etudes are some of the most popular and recognizable. (The links are to performances by Maurizio Pollini, who seems to be the most acclaimed performer of Chopinâ€™s etudes.) Hereâ€™s a complete recording; though itâ€™s not the best performance out there, itâ€™s very good, and one of the only complete recordings available online as a single video.
Ranking the Etudes by Difficulty
Absolutely none of the etudes are easy, but some are relatively easier than the others. Iâ€™ve ranked all twenty four into four separate classes. Even in this very generalized format, there is room for debate- as there is hardly any objective standard we can use. Pianistsâ€™ opinions are influenced by their unique tastes, styles, and hand sizes, among other things.
Group One (Hard)
10/3, 10/6, 10/9, 25/1, 25/2, 25/7
Group Two (Harder)
10/5, 10/7, 10/11, 10/12, 25/3, 25/4, 25/8, 25/9, 25/10
Group Three (Even Harder)
10/1, 10/4, 10/8, 10/10, 25/5, 25-12
Group Four (Hardest)
10/2, 25/6, 25/11
Note: Each etude within a group is ranked numerically and not by difficulty.
A few more things to mention:
- I chose not to do a linear ranking for a couple of reasons. First, there is absolutely no consensus among pianists on this subject; almost everyone has a different opinion; itâ€™s much easier for us to agree on the groups. And second, Iâ€™m simply not experienced enough to make those judgments. However, in reading dozens of opinions, I can say with fair confidence that 10/6 is generally considered the easiest, with the hardest possibly being 10/2.
- The list primarily focuses on the technical aspect of the etudes, not the difficulty of proper interpretation. That would probably merit another separate ranking.
- Large hands are major asset in playing the Etudes. For instance, 10/1 and 10/11 are much more difficult for those with small hands- some find them nearly impossible.
- Most pianists recommended that the preludes and nocturnes be reasonably mastered before moving on to the etudes. Chopin himself only allowed his advanced students to play the etudes.
- Some pianists don't even think the question is worthwhile to begin with, and they may be right. This article is mainly to help beginners who naturally ask what turns out to be an extremely complex if not impossible question.
- Here are free .pdf scores for Opus 10 and Opus 25.
I cannot conclude without mentioning a notable project by Paul Barton. In addition to some exceptional performances of the etudes, Mr. Barton has kindly uploaded multiple, wonderfully edited tutorials on You Tube. The following is a list of tutorials, with some of the performances also linked in the title of each etude. Tutorial links are in bold.
Iâ€™ve heard we can look forward to more tutorials on the other etudes soon. Links will be added as they become available.
Add Your Opinion
Iâ€™m not aware of any fellow Gather.com members that play the etudes, but for those who are not members Iâ€™d encourage you to join and comment with your feedback. This ranking may need slight modification. I particularly expect most of the disagreements to be in the second vs. third groups.
For those that do not play the piano, Iâ€™d be interested in hearing if you have any particular favorite(s) among these 24 etudes.