How to Play the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata – Part 1 (The 1st Movement)

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Welcome the first in the two part series of how to play the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata. This lesson will cover how to control voicing in the famous 1st movement.


Learning to balance the hands is one of the most challenging aspects of learning to play the piano. It gets even harder when playing the Moonlight Sonata because you have two different parts in one hand and you want to play one part louder than the other – using only one hand. This is truly a challenge and will definitely take some practice to master.


I’m going to provide some techniques to help you practice this part of the Moonlight Sonata but this is intrinsic information when it comes to piano playing; you can use these techniques for all your music!


(If you are not familiar with the first movement of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, you should be able to get the score on line.)


In this particular part you have two parts with the right hand – triplets on the bottom and a slow melody on top. The difficulty is compounded because the longer melody notes fade out while the accompaniment triplets keep repeating and are therefore naturally louder; so how do you balance the two?


If you try and play some notes louder than others you might not be able to achieve this at first. You might wonder how you would ever be able to practice something like that. There is a great technique to remedy this!


Instead of just practicing louder and softer with the right hand, practice with two completely different articulations. Play the melody legato and play the accompaniment part staccato (from the fingers); this will give you control.


By practicing in this extreme manner it will help to identify the feel of the melody compared to the accompaniment. Practice playing the accompaniment very lightly and play with just a touch of the fingers, not the wrist.


When you do play the piece as written – with the legato triplets on the bottom – feel that you are reaching for the melody notes on top and you will be able to control the sound from the fingers.


It is very important in your initial practice to not use the pedal; so you can accomplish the independence of your fingers from one-another and hear the voices clearly. The pedal is literally the last thing you add.


This is a technique you can use in all your music to bring out melodies. I’m very interested to hear any input or advice you might have regarding this technique. Thanks again for watching.