Recently, I have put a lot of efforts in practicing Scriabin's Poem Op.32 No.1 and his Etude Op.42 No.2. But I've found it really hard to master the complex rhythm structures.

In bar 16 of his poem Opus 32 No.1:

enter image description here

I couldn't play this part precisely due to its irregular tuplets structure, but it seems like the problem is not that I can't master 3-5 rhythmic structure (hope this term is precise) but that I was influenced too much by the rests inserted in the tuplet and I really want to play every note precisely. The reason that my analysis to my own problem is valid is because I've already mastered his etude Op.8 No.2 and No.4, both of which focus on the irregular rhythmic structures.

So, how to practice this part in order to achieve my goal?

Besides that, there is a similar problem happened when I tried to practice his Op.42 No.2.

enter image description here

This time I think the dotted note influenced me too much in bar 1 and his special way of grouping notes sometimes changes the accent of my playing, which seems to be incorrect because I've listened to Richter's recordings and found that the left should be played smoothly. So I'm a little bit confused about how to do that.

Thanks in advance for your time and efforts!

  • 1
    Other than suggesting you start by tapping one rhythm with your right hand and the other rhythm with your left hand, and don't try to play the notes (pitches) until that is really solid, it's just tons of practice & training to the point that your fingers do the rhythm without any conscious counting Jul 21, 2020 at 14:03
  • 1
    @CarlWitthoft Thank you for your suggestion. Actually, I've been doing that since June. and now, I'm able to play accurately and smoothly with my right hand (or left hand) alone, but not together. Maybe it's because I need more practice, as you pointed out. (I really appreciate that, thanks again). :)
    – Kevin.S
    Jul 21, 2020 at 14:12
  • Good work so far, then! Maybe try playing one line and adding just the downbeats in the other hand. In any case, I wouldn't try counting to 15 in your head :-) Jul 21, 2020 at 18:07
  • Additional information about the problem with unintended accents in op. 42 no. 2 would be helpful. In particular, on which note(s) does the problem show up, and what fingering(s) are you using?
    – Aaron
    Jul 21, 2020 at 18:57
  • Looking throughout score of op.42 no.2, where the triplet group end and quintuplet group start at the same time....[happens b2, b3(twice), b6, v7(twice), b16 & b19], there is inconsistent aligning of notes (quintuplet group starting before, at the same time and after the triplet group end). It's totally notated incorrectly, completely against how you'd count it.
    – user70304
    Jul 22, 2020 at 7:48

4 Answers 4



As you pointed out, the difference between the rhythms in Scriabin's op. 8 no. 2 and op. 32 no. 1 is the presence of the rests in the latter. Because of those, try counting the two parts as 10 against 6 rather than 5 against 3. That will account directly for the rests rather than requiring you to interpolate them.

A similar approach would be appropriate for handling the dotted rhythm in op. 42 no. 4. Try counting m. 1, from the point where the right hand enters, as 12 against 5.

Accents (in op. 42 no. 4)


From your comment attached to the original question (2020-07-22 13:33:07), the unwanted accents come

Usually, [with] the first or the third note of each group. The fingering I'm using for a group is usually 4-3-1-2-1, sometimes 5-4-1-2-1 or 5-4-1-3-1.

Your fingering looks good. Obviously, it's always worth a double-check if you suspect it could help eliminate a particular accent.

But in light of your comment about the first and third notes in the five-tuplets being problematic, I recommend a re-conception of your fingering. Think of it as corresponding to the bracketed five-tuplets rather than the barred ones.

Consider the first ten left-hand notes. Let's say you play them

[5-4-1-2-1] [5-4-1-2-1]

Musically though, I recommend playing them as

[5-4] [1-2-1-5-4] [1-2-1-x-x] [...]

In that grouping, the right hand notes better correspond to the beginnings of (bracketed) five-tuplets, where the natural accent would be. Plus, it puts your heaviest finger (thumb) on the naturally "heaviest" part of the five-tuplet.

What was previously the third note of the group, now is the first. It can therefore better tolerate the natural rhythmic accents.

Further, the previous first note is now the fourth, which doesn't correspond to a natural accent and is played by finger 4 or 5, which should help de-emphasize it.

Coordination / Relation

Another part of removing unwanted accents is making sure each finger releases any extra energy/effort it's holding before it plays.

To do this, I recommend (very!) slow practice, and as you prepare for a moment when the two hands have simultaneous notes, pay careful attention to releasing/relaxing the left-hand finger about to play. Make sure it's not carrying energy intended for your right hand and also not holding onto any effort/tension from your playing of the previous left-hand note. Even if only one finger is engaged with a note, our whole hand (whole arm) is always still involved. So when one finger plays, the other four fingers still receive some of that effort. The "energy" of each left hand finger at the time of attack should be equal, and should not follow the right hand's lead.


Kevin, are you confident playing 3 against 5 without any dotted notes? I use certain (meaningless) sentences I worked out a long time ago to remind me of the tuplet relationships. Eg. "Who wants a nice cuppa tea" for 5 against 3. The '5 hand' plays "Who wants nice cup tea", while the '3 hand' plays only "Who a pa".

And have you worked out all the difficult note-orders, like the high G# coming after the low one in Bar 1 of the Poem? If I were trying to learn it I would draw dotted vertical lines all over the place showing these relationships.

You're clearly doing very well. Yes - his note-groupings in the Study are very confusing. I can't see what is gained by writing them that way.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm able to play 3 against 5 without dotted note fluently (I think I mentioned that I've mastered Scriabin's Op.8 No.2 and No.4; both deal with 3-5 or 4-5 structure) and I've also realized that in the mentioned part, there are actually three voices appear, the highest one is just what you mentioned. So I have already worked out those properties by both examining the score and listening to others' recordings. Besides, I think your special way of practicing 3-5 is really interesting! Thank you.
    – Kevin.S
    Jul 22, 2020 at 13:38

You might want to check that the edition doesn't have mistakes, especially the cross rhythms (in contrast to classical music that often has many editions and editors per work that have corrected mistakes over a long period of time).

trust your music theory rather than what is written.

Just an example of one of your pieces:

comparing two editions of Scriabin op. 42. No.2

A from 8 Etudes, Op.42. Moscow: Muzgiz, (1924). Plate Г.М. 3245 И.М.
B from 8 Etudes, Op.42. Moscow: Muzgiz, (1948). Plate M. 18995 Г.
(I'd prefer more space between all of the lines I've drawn.)
Highlighted in red are the rhythms that don't count correctly. Your edition is A.


You say "...and I really want to play every note precisely." - but I think this really is the wrong approach. Your ultimate aim (surely!) has to be the obvious one: to produce a beautiful musical effect. In particular, I think that suggestions such as counting "as 10 against 6 rather than 5 against 3" are only likely to make things less musical.

I think the basic key is hand independence. You have to feel the pulse of the music, and both hands entirely apart, play their notes to fit this pulse. So obviously practising the hands apart is a good idea, but the real aim is being able to let your two hands do their own thing, without any central coordination. (Practising scales 2 against 3 or 3 against 4 is also a fun exercise in the right direction, even if it doesn't sound too good.) Then far from counting anything against anything, you just count one beat per beat.

It's clear that Scriabin took a very flexible approach to playing his own music. Looking through my Scriabin box I found some pages from a book by Anatole Leikin, "The performance of Scriabin's piano music". He compares the printed score with a transcription of Scriabin's own recording (piano roll, probably), and there are lots of discrepancies.

I have recently been practising the study 8-4 (Bars 14-15, second page):

Bars 14-15 (second page)

In bar 14, the left hand groups are 5-5-5-6. I want this to sound like a beautiful flow of notes, so I do no calculation, and the last thing I want the listener to hear is a distinct "rhythm" in the last group; this is helped by a very slight rit. going into the next bar. The right hand notes are actually 3-3-4-3, so inevitably notes in the third group will be slightly faster, but I think the aim should be that the listener does not hear any mechanical change.

  • 1
    Yes, I do also have the impression that Scriabine's written scores were simply approximations in standard notation of something in his head, or of something he'd improvised and wanted to keep. So, not absolutely precise, in any case. Even worse examples are attempts to transcribe jazz piano solos of people like Art Tatum... :) Jun 19, 2022 at 4:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.