I’m trying to learn the 1st Gymnopedie from Eric Satie from this sheet music: http://hz.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/a/ac/IMSLP136037-WIMA.8862-Satie_Gymnopedie_1.pdf

While the first page is rather easy to read and remember, I’m really struggling with the left hand on the second page. I can’t read fast enough to keep up, even at a slow tempo, and I can’t see a pattern to make it easier to remember.

I tried finding a relation to the intervals, or anything related to the key (it’s in D major, right?), to no avail.

Is there anything I’m not seeing that could help me remember the chords?

EDIT: I get it that it’s important to learn how to read. But I’m just starting out, so please accept that I may have difficulties reading the piece at speed. Surely you also were a beginner at some point. Also, while reading is nice, eventually I’d like to be able to play pieces without sheet music with me. I believe remembering is as important as reading.

  • 3
    In the long run (and even in the short run) it might be better to learn to read faster, rather than trying to memorize everything you want to play. Let's face it, this piece isn't anywhere close to being "fast" or "having lots of notes to read!"
    – user19146
    Oct 7 '17 at 17:54
  • 1
    @alephzero Agreed on the reading, although with Satie it’s not the speed so much as the unconventionality of his harmonies that make it tough to read. They’re not super difficult, but they’re complex enough to throw an inexperienced reader. At least this isn’t one of the Sarabandes, where he deliberately used difficult key signatures. Oct 30 '17 at 20:50
  1. A very simple (but hard solution) is, to learn the notes without piano. Sit down for half an hour and try to remember each little dot on the sheet and imagine how you play it on the piano.

  2. Learn each voice independently from the others. You can also try to sing the different voices. For the voices in the chords: Most of them have three notes. Thus these chords can be seen as three voices, which in total gives you 5 voices.

  3. Try to figure out how many different chords are there in total. A lot of the chords are the same. This means, the problem probably lies in the particular sequence of the chords, and not so much in the notes themselves.


I had a similar problem wrapping my head around that portion of Gymnopedie #1. The left-hand chords are quite complex if you think of them as single chords full of inversions and extensions. Instead, I recommend approaching the left hand as slash chords instead – analyze the bass note separately from the rest of the harmony. That helped me greatly in seeing the functional harmony and voice leading, which then makes it much easier to chunk the information and remember it.


Ultimately, just play it a lot. Your brain will remember 'how it goes', your fingers will get used to doing it. But if you can't read 'Gymnopedie', what CAN you read? This is what needs working on, not finding a complicated excuse to avoid reading the notes!

  • I’m not finding excuses. I’m just a beginner having a hard time reading stuff fast. Maybe you’re a seasoned musician, and you now have no trouble reading anything. But surely you started somewhere too.
    – aspyct
    Oct 30 '17 at 21:03
  • Yes, of course. And if your musical journey is going to include music like 'Gymnopedie', reading is the name of the game. An exclusively rock or jazz player may be ok with rudimentary reading but a good menory. YOU need to make reading a priority. There's just SO much great music out there waiting to be read! Nov 1 '17 at 18:18

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