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It has always been a childhood dream of mine to play well the piano piece Fantaisie-Impromptu. Unfortunately, I was not able to learn the piece with my piano teacher while I was learning the piano.

Recently, as an adult who is almost 20 years removed from piano lessons, I decided to try to learn the piece, and I noticed that the piece is fairly difficult. As explained by Wikipedia:

[Fantaisie-Impromptu] uses many cross-rhythms (the right hand plays sixteenth notes against the left hand playing triplets).

It's fairly easy for me to play the right hand part and the left hand part separately, but I find it very difficult to keep the correct rhythm when I try to play both hands together. In addition, most performers seem to play the piece very fast!

How should I practice this difficult piano piece?

Note: I do think that this is a piece that I should be able to learn with a reasonable amount of practice, as it was very easy for me to pick up easier pieces such as The Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Rondo Alla Turca.

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    One thing to note is that when you put your hands together, slow way down. Even if you have the rhythm between the hands down, this song especially needs to go slow when putting hands together. When I learned it, I played at less than half the speed with hands together compared to hands separate – Justin Apr 10 '17 at 16:26
  • Alternatively, speed way up before you combine the hands. Before you can perform the polyrhythm correctly, you have to shift one of the rhythms (preferably the left hand) from conscious control entirely to muscle memory (and that is much easier at high speed than at low speed). Then you can reserve your entire conscious focus for playing the right-hand melody. – Kilian Foth Apr 10 '17 at 20:58
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You could start by practising the cross-rhythms just as five-finger exercises, for example enter image description here

Use a metronome to keep the main beats even. Don't try to space out all the notes "mathematically", just make sure the notes on the beats line up, and the ones in between are even. And don't try to practice this too slow - start at about MM 80 or 100. Going slower makes it harder, not easier.

When you can do that without too much effort, try playing scales and arpeggios using the same idea.

You might like to try the first few exercises here as well: http://imslp.org/wiki/51_Exercises,_WoO_6_(Brahms,_Johannes)

Then go back to the Chopin!

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Fantasie Impromptu contains polyrythms. A "Polyrythm"is the use of two different rythms playing together, and the Fantasie Impromptu also has a Polyrythm. The right hand plays semiquavers, while the left hand plays triplets. This piece is quite similar to both his Etude Op.25 No.1 and No.3.

You can take one part of these two pieces and practice it. So first you have to be comfortable with the rhythm, practice, practice, practice. From slow to fast. You can mark highlight notes from the treble and bass clef that are on the same beat. So every time you come across those notes, you can stomp your feet to indicate an accent. That goes to the rest of the piece.

Fantasie Impromptu is a fairly hard piece to learn just after learning a few Mozart pieces? Well that's a huge jump, I wish you all the best!

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I am doing this piece, and have "finished" the piece within 5 months (1h/day) and am right now polishing it. This is how I attempt most pieces. Note that this post is not a "for dummies" guide.

(Note 1 : Keep in mind that what makes this piece sound beautiful is that throughout the chaos of all the notes, there is an accented melody throughout the piece. )

  1. Go slow! Correctness is more important than speed. However, do not go ridiculously slow, otherwise the piece ironically gets harder.
  2. Practice the polyrhythm a lot. While playing, you can tell yourself "together, right, left, right, left, right, (cont...) "
  3. As you get to the section where there there are high notes and notes an octave lower, know that the accents will be easier to play when the piece is faster.enter image description here

  4. At this point, hopefully, you are somewhat proficient in the first section (the song is in an A-B-A format). Aim to speed up the first section until you can hear the accent/melody. Add whatever dynamics in :)

  5. Work on the part B; that is, the coordination easiest part of the song. This song requires a significant amount of endurance so your fingers don't die. Use this section as a rest period (but remember, there are occasional trills).
  6. Again, the second section is just like the first, but this time, the polyrhythm is gone at the end.

Remember to add the following when you feel that you are ready:

  • dynamics (gradual volume changes and the pp and ff)
  • slurs
  • bring out the accent/melody
  • tempo changes
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The first thing you should do is practice each hand separately and begin trying to feel the "pulse" of the half notes.

Then I would try to split up the tempo. Notice that the time signature is written in cut time. Try to play it in 4/4 time (with a triplet per beat). Start at quarter note = 80 and make your way up to quarter note = 160 (your goal) so that you have an easier time exploring the rhythm. And when this rhythm is played slowly, it's astonishingly beautiful.

There is a caveat with this as well. You will have a tendency to emphasize the third note of the triplet instead of emphasizing the entire group of six notes in the left hand like I did when I first played the piece when you play in 4/4 time (in reference to playing to 4/4 time, your emphasis should not be on beats 2 and 4 but on beats 1 and 3).

Once you have mastered 4/4 time, try going back to cut time. This will help you with the caveat I mentioned earlier. Your goal is to reach half note = 80, but if needed you can play slowly at first.

Lastly, when you have the technique and the notes are mastered and memorized, your final goal is to add your personality and rubato. At this point, I would take a short break from this piece if you have been practicing every day nonstop. You need time to contemplate the piece (and also at this point you would be sick and tired of the piece and it would be essentially impossible to play expressively).

Enjoy!

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I had a teacher tell me to use "this is very easy". I would say that as I slowly played the section with the 4 against 3 rhythm. As you learn the notes and get used to the pattern eventually it should flow. I found a YouTube link with the rhythm. If you say this is very easy to it that should give you the idea.

I went about as slow as that video too when I started. It's great using those words too since you repeat over and over how easy it is.

To find the video I looked up polyrhythm and this is very easy I think. Don't think I even added the 4 against 3.

Oh right I also practices the rhythm away from the piano or while sitting at the piano but by hitting the keyboard or my lap. I probably did it at random throughout the day too.

That's great playing again. I keep thinking about it too. I've gone more than a decade now with hardly playing.

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I am just now wrapping up this piece, and have my recital in a month. I am not a professional musician by any means, and I have a day job, so I can only get a few hours of practice per week. I've always loved Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu, but honestly thought I would never be able to play it. However, after asking my teacher about 18 months ago, he said it could be done.

So, 18 months later, I can tell you, it CAN be done, but it takes a LOT of practice. The polyrhythm you refer to in your question took me several weeks to get right. It is not easy, and I've played several Chopin preludes, nocturnes and waltzes before. The other answers have already covered the things you need. Basically, practice the rhythms with metronome again and again. Focus on hitting the first of the semiquaver groups and first of the triplets exactly on the beat.

Also, this Youtube video from "BachScholar" is really good, and it explains precisely how to practice this:

Once you "get" this polyrhythm, though, you have the foundation for the rest of the piece, since 80% of it is based on that. However, that doesn't mean the rest is easy. There are a lot of "blind" jumps on the left hand, uncomfortable (at first) right hand stretches, as well as non-stop music, so you have to build up your endurance. The B section is really good for resting your fingers, but it too has some quirks so you have to pay attention. The last page/section is also pretty hard, and then you have to pay attention to dynamics, accents, etc.

In the end, it's totally worth it. It's probably the piece I've spent the most time on in my entire life, but I'm ecstatic I'm now able to play it. That being said, I don't think I would have been able to do this without having a piano teacher, so I'd highly recommend paying for some classes if you're able to.

  • Learn from this video that 'rushing' will be your main enemy! Hear how even this skilled player is often having to pull himself back, just a little, to avoid getting in front of the click. – Laurence Payne Dec 20 '18 at 14:05
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As addition to the other answers, this is how I learned to play those polyrythms on the piano:

Nr.1a You focus on the triplets in the left hand and start with only two 16th in the right hand:

enter image description here

Nr.2a Then add the third 16th to the right hand:

enter image description here

Nr.3 and finally with the whole set of four 16th:

enter image description here

Another approach is starting with all 16th and build up the triplets like this:

Nr.1b enter image description here

Nr.2b enter image description here

Then Nr.3

It also is a good exercise to reduce it to the rhythm and tap it only with left and right hand on your knees. Like this you can practice the rhythm without sitting on the piano.

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for playing the fast notes (so basically all of the notes), hit the key at the upper end of the key so this way you don't have to reach fingers to the accidentals. you'll also want to hit the notes using as little effort as possible so your hands won't get cramped.

NOTE: Make sure to use a real piano. Weighted keyboards will work but it's preferred to use an actual piano, so this way you don't develop a habit of always having unweighted keys.

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