How to Play the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata – Part 2 – The Third Movement

Piano Lessons / how to play piano / How to Play the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata – Part 2 – The Third Movement

Welcome back to my two-part series on how to play the Beethoven moonlight sonata. Today we will be addressing a question from Dong about the third movement:

I’m still working on the 3rd movement of the moonlight sonata. I can’t get the measures 7 and 8: the problem is that I can’t do the broken chords while moving up octaves each time fast/ precise enough… can you give me some advice on how I should practice that?

For your reference, here is the section Dong is referring to in his question:

This part of the piece is much different from the ethereal first movement; it comes on fast like a bat out hell!

When you slow this part of the piece down you’ll find that it’s simply a broken minor chord going up by octaves, and then moves on to a diminished chord in the same manner. It is actually not so difficult to play once it is broken down into its component parts.

The secret is hand positions and finger patterns.

As I’ve addressed in previous videos, being over the right keys with each hand position change can make any passage much easier to play and helps to develop confidence in your playing.

In this piece, you simply play to the fifth finger – the C# – and then switch your hand position by placing the thumb on the exact same note you started with (the C#) and play the same sequence again.

In your slow practice – which we’ve addressed in a previous video – you’ll want to play up to and not past the 2nd C# – the one in which you switch hand positions and play starting with the thumb. If you play this correctly, you will end up instantly over the next cord simply one octave higher.

The trick is to position your hand over the chord as soon as you play the second C# with your thumb.

Start by playing slowly and then consistently practice faster and faster until you can get up to speed. Try just starting up until the second C# and get that up to speed, then move on from there to the next chord position.

The good news is that this is not just a technique for this piece or this movement. This hand and finger technique is something you can use in all your music. Being aware of hand position and finger patterns can make any technical challenge very manageable.

I’ve really enjoyed presenting these tips on how to play the Beethoven moonlight sonata and would love to provide some tips and help for other pieces of music as well. If you have any requests for other pieces or questions about this one, please email me at:

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