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Learn Beethoven’s 5th, Part Two

Found in: Tutorials

We are going to head into the next section of Symphony No. 5 in C Minor by Beethoven. If you are using the version from Free Scores, it is going to be more complex than what I am demonstrating here. The book I am working from is

The World’s Greatest Classical Music: Beethoven published by Hal Leonard.

This new section is rather complex and we are going to look at a few approaches to process the next 25 measures.

In the first section, you may remember that we finished with a C minor chord in both the right and left hands. In the right hand, that C minor chord was inverted so that the C is in the middle, Eb on top and G on the bottom. We are going to start the first position of the new section using that as a starting point.

Lets take that original chord but invert it again so that you have just two notes, the Eb on the bottom and the C on top. Play the G alone once and now play the Eb and C chord twice.   This is our set up for the new section.

The next 10 measures have a lot going on and within each measure there are three distinct patterns. I want to pull them apart and show them to you. If we can see what is happening piece by piece, it will help us navigate the passage. Let’s start with the left hand.

We are going to begin by playing a C octave. The octave is bass and low C. We play this octave four times and then rest. We do this a second time and then we move the octave up so the bottom note is what we call “Bass C.” Get your left hand in an octave position but bring your thumb down to the B. You will keep finger 5 on bass C for a long time but the top note or notes will be changing.

Let’s look at this section. You are going to move down a number of steps beginning  with B natural, then Bb, and Ab. Lets try that playing bass C along with each of those notes. Great! When we play the Ab, lets add the C above it so we are playing a chord. The next event is a C octave. Keep the Cs that you have already in your fingers but add an E natural so you are playing a C chord. The next step is right back to that C octave but with the Ab again. We are going to end by playing a big chord using what you are already playing but add an F. The notes are C octave with F and Ab.

Now lets take a look at what is happening in the treble clef. We are going to be playing a series of chords but I find that seeing the patterns that make up the constantly shifting landscape can make sense of what is happening. Lets start by looking at the bottom notes of each measure. Do you know what a Eb scale looks like?  In Simply Music we don’t play scales but in this case, knowing what notes belong in the Eb family will come in handy.

Let’s take a little side road for a moment. If you are a Simply Music student, you will know what the I, IV and V chords are for the key of Eb. Let’s play them. We have Eb, Ab and Bb. If you were to play each of those chords and make a list of what notes were in each chord, you would know every note that belongs in the key of Eb. Pretty cool! So lets look at those notes. We have Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C and D.

In this section of Beethoven’s 5th, we are going to move up these notes using our right hand finger one, from the Eb just above middle C to the Eb just above treble C.

Let’s look at the next pattern that is happening above that lovely ascent. We are going to play a pattern that repeats as we move through this section. Basically, the pattern is  “play the note, then the note above it and below it.” Start with finger 5 on treble C. Play C, the note below it (B natural) and then above it, which is D.

Do you see the pattern? Lets keep going. Play D, the note below and the note above (D, C Eb—per the key signature). Next, is Eb, D and F, then F, E natural and G. Moving on we have G, E natural and Ab. Now we have Ab, G and Bb and then Bb, Ab and C. We finish with high C, B natural and D.

Okay, let’s put it together. Do you remember playing the Eb scale a few minutes ago? We are going to play one of those notes with each of the “play, below, above” patterns that we just learned.

Here is the first right hand chord: It is the C minor chord we finished the last section with. The top note starts the pattern of “play, below, above” so play C, B natural and D. In your left hand just plays a C octave right after you play the C in the right hand. Play that C octave three times in a row and then play the B natural and the D in the right hand with one more C octave. When you play the next right hand pattern do it the same way. Play D in the right hand followed by the C octave in the left hand three times and then play the C octave one last time when you play the note below D.

Take your left hand and move it into the new position that we talked about a few minutes ago.  Finger 5 will be on Bass C and finger 1 will be on B natural. We are going to move through each of those positions and with each one we will play the “play, below, above pattern.”

Once you have mastered that, I want you to play the “below” note twice with each position.    Your last position for this section will have you playing a full C minor chord in the left hand with a C minor chord in the right hand. The correct position for the right hand will be thumb on Eb above Treble C, finger 2 on G and finger 4 on High C. This is the new position for the start of this final section.

So, here we are. We are going to stay on this big C minor chord in the left hand for three measures.