I've almost completed John Field's Nocturne in B♭ Major that I've worked with for around 3 weeks but I cant seem to get this passage done. I've intentionally skipped this part as I cannot figure out how it works :(

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The last part there where I have to fit in a descending scale leaves me a big question mark. I have tried playing this slowly with both hands but there is no way I can make this sound right in 12/8.

This is a modified version of the song I think, which you can find in the book "The Library of Piano Classics". There are no live plays of this modified version on YouTube (from what I can find).

The three notes for the left hand isn't enough to make the descending scale fit in if I'd play it in Tempo 1 (Andante, ♩. = 66 BPM) unless I do the right hand in a really fast motion.

Does anyone have any advice how I can get through this? I won't be able to contact my teacher until Monday next week unfortunately. My knowledge isn't very wide as I've only played piano for 6 months! If there are more things that you might need to know then don't hesitate to ask!

  • 5
    You mean "12/8" for the meter. The rhythm does actually fit, you just have to choose the right tempo and learn to play the notes fast enough. Try practicing the right hand figure in groups, where you play each group of four notes quickly, but pause between them. Gradually make the pause between shorter, or increase the number of notes in each group. Feb 17, 2016 at 22:51
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    From looking online it's a dotted quarter for the beat, so that makes these 32nd notes being played at a rate of over 13 per second. That's quite high, but should be manageable with practice -- for an intermediate-level player. I would not expect you to be able to play this after 6 months. What speed are you currently playing scales at?
    – user28
    Feb 18, 2016 at 2:46
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    In addition to patience and practice, you have to be disciplined in your technique. I couldn't play this at tempo but I know I would have to fight the urge to drop my wrist when doing the 1-3 and 1-4 fingering changes. Practice very slowly until you can play it perfectly, relaxed, and with correct technique. Then just slowly speed up that metronome (by "slowly" I mean over the course of weeks to months). Also, don't forget to include landing on that D in the next measure as part of your practice. Feb 18, 2016 at 13:59
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    @MatthewRead Regarding the speed.. I can go down the scale in time down to the D in the next measure if I put the metronome on 115 BPM. (I wasn't sure how to explain it). 13 notes per second is sure a lot and I can barely hit 7-8 notes in a second. I suppose it can't be avoided than to split this into sections and take it slow and steady whilst increasing the tempo bit by bit. I was hoping there'd be another way of getting through this. Thanks for the advice nonetheless!
    – Nadfee
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:02
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    Usually if the question is "what shortcut(s) can I use to learn this?" the answer is "there are no shortcuts". To me there's an upside to this maxim: The only thing we can do to improve our musicianship is practice, but at the same time, all we have to do is practice and our musicianship will improve! I take it as a message of hope. Also, I see "practice" as actually "playing" and therefore it's fun. So I have fun every day for three months and then I realize I'm better than I was three months ago. Feb 18, 2016 at 15:09

3 Answers 3


To get a feeling of how it should go, sing it. "Doo doo doo....da diddleiddle diddleiddle diddleiddle". Play the RH seperately, slowly, WITH THE INDICATED FINGERING. Yes, it feels a bit odd, doesn't it? But come to terms with it, and don't increase speed until it's absolutely fluent at the slower tempo. Now both hands, slowly. Never fluff it, just to get up to speed - you'll just be teaching your fingers how to do it wrong. It WILL come, I promise you! But if you've only been playing for 6 months, it's very impressive that you're attempting this piece at all. Maybe you'll just have to wait a bit until your technique catches up with this challenge. (Do you play your scales at the speed of this figure? Perhaps you should.)

  • Thanks! Used your method by singing how it sounds and yes, it actually helps a lot because the "diddleiddle" part divides the descent into parts. I'll pick up the whole B flat scale for both hands and work my way from there. I've previously done the C scale already and I realized not long ago that it is essentially the same 1-3 ~ 1-4. I'll give my fingers a few and steady weeks(or months) to increase my tempo then! Thanks again.
    – Nadfee
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:34

Here's a little secret about this style of music: you can use a certain amount of rubato. By that I mean you can slow down the hard parts and if you do it right you will sound like a very expressive performer. In fact, if you play those fast notes in a perfectly metronomic fashion it will sound awful.

First, imagine you are an opera singer and this is your big aria. Without playing, sing the right-hand part the way an opera singer would. Note how you slow down the F's, linger on the high C and make your way down the scale at a rate that seems natural.

Now do the same thing, pretending that you're also the conductor helping the musicians follow the singer. Conduct 8th notes with a 3/4 pattern. Note how you slow down to follow the singer and then go back to tempo in the next measure so the singer doesn't run out of breath on the long notes.

Now do the same thing but play the left-hand part to accompany your song. This will give you good sense of how a melody line can really sing with feeling by slowing down and speeding up. The pulse is very flexible but the left hand tells the listener where the beats are so it all makes musical sense.

Finally play it with both hands, recreating the feel of singing the melody. You'll find you don't need a really fast motion.

Also, listen to recordings of great pianists playing similar pieces by Chopin, who was inspired by John Field's music. You'll find similar passages. Listen to singers singing songs by Schubert, Chopin and Liszt too.


In terms of interpretation a believe the sudden pianissimo in bar 2 provides a clue. Instinctively the first thought would be that giving emphasis to a passage or group of notes requires louder playing. However a sudden pianissimo can achieve a similar purpose. Here the markings are unusual in that the second F in bar two is accented albeit at a pianissimo level and this occurs with a leap to high C - destination notes following a leap also are naturally emphasised. Here I agree with M Lutton that a certain give-and-take is required with an almost imperceptible lingering on the high C and the following notes being taken almost as a single gesture leading to the first D in bar 3. Of course in aiming for this over- sentimentality should be avoided.

I share the surprise of others here that you are playing this after only 6 months. I would expect a pupil to be playing this at or after about 2 years. I would describe such progress as precocious if true...

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