This Étude is really painful for the right hand. Difficulty comes from medius, ring and little fingers playing chromatic scales while thumb and index fingers punctuate.

The thumb cannot be used as a pivot while playing it. After a single execution the muscles are painful, because we are not accustomed to producing legato with only fingers 3, 4, and 5.

Is there a hand position that can help? I have heard that Asians have a different hand morphology that can help them for that piece, is this true?

Link: score (Public Domain) on IMSLP.

  • Not posting as an answer because it's kind of ridiculous: I looks like you could cross your arms and play the hands reversed, if your arms aren't too short. That might introduce many other problems, but it would move the part in question to fingers 1-3.
    – user28
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 16:00
  • @Matthew Read: I am sure you would be successful in a concert :) Still, doing fourth intervals with ring and little fingers is maybe a bit difficult.
    – Benoit
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


I don't know why anyone hasn't brought this up. Buy the Cortot edition of the Chopin etudes. Cortot was one of the great interpreters of Chopin and each etude is prefaced by a large number of preparatory exercises. Make sure to combine this with another edition, because the Cortot is notorious for having misprinted notes.

I don't have the score in front of me, otherwise I'd cite some examples from the text. It's definitely worth the investment though, if you have the money.


The only advice I can give is the same advice I'd give for any piece that's painful while playing; take it slow, and speed up as it stops hurting. The stretches to get the 3rd to cross over are a little uncomfortable, so practicing those sections slowly and holding the stretches will help you gain the flexibility to make those transitions without tensing.


Ascending: shift slightly forward (toward the fall board) when crossing over from a white key to a black key.

Descending: shift slightly backward (away from the fall board) when crossing under from a black key to a white key.

An example executing the first notes.

1. The hand starts out here.

start position

2. Now finger 3 must cross finger 4.

2A. The painful way.

Attempting to move the hand in a directly lateral motion requires the most extreme crossover of the 4th over the 3rd finger. The problem is that finger 3 is blocked by the near edge of the B to its right.

bad position top view bad position detail

2B. The comfy way.

Shift the hand very slightly forward and toward black key, leaving finger 3 in place by allowing it to curl a bit. This gives the clearance needed and, with a tiny rotation of the hand, brings finger 3 easily to its destination.1

good position top good position detail

3. All the rest of the notes

This strategy will work with 3 over 4, 3 over 5, and 4 over 5 when ascending. When descending, reverse the process, crossing the relevant finger under its neighbor: so 5 under 4, 5 under 3, and 4 under 3.

1As a general rule, twisting motions should be avoided. In this case, however, it is a very small movement, and necessary.

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