How to Play Unmeasured Cadenzas on The Piano (Chopin, Liszt)

Piano Lessons / how to play piano / How to Play Unmeasured Cadenzas on The Piano (Chopin, Liszt)

You’ve probably seen this in a lot of Chopin and Liszt compositions. Instead of having measured notes, there are a ton of very tiny notes that on the surface might not make much sense at first. You’ll have ridiculous combinations like 11 notes against 6 – which simply can’t be divisible in any precise way. So how do you play these passages and what do they mean?

In the video example above I use the beginning of the B-flat minor Nocturne of Chopin. Right at the start of the piece (the second statement of the theme) has a section just like I’ve described above. There are a whole bunch of notes (11 against 6) that are not divisible. So how do you play these passages?

The best way to practice these sections is to try to find the closest measured way you can play it. The first thing you should do is divide it out as close as it mathematically can work. If you play it as measured as possible – trying to find places where you can put in the extra notes – you will start to get a better feel for the passage. You might notice that playing these passages measured will result in a passable sound but it’s not exactly accurate and it may not sound very fluid. When played correctly, these unmeasured cadenzas are almost like improvisations and that’s the feel and sound you want to achieve.

The next step after you’ve broken these passages into a measured approach is to loosen it up a bit. Get used to playing these cadenzas measured and from there you can start to break them up and make the sound a bit more fluid. The final product doesn’t have to be mathematically perfect; the goal is to create a musical feel. The left hand should maintain the pulse and the right hand should be able to play with freedom – like an improvisation. Keep working on this until you get a result that sounds natural.

If you have any more questions about this topic or any topic at all, please contact me directly. Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin (949) 244-3729.