The Playground

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Learn Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

Found in: Tutorials

This piece is hallmark and one of his most recognized pieces. Originally written for a symphony, it has been played as a piano solo successfully and even arranged into a popular rock instrumental in the 1970s called “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy. It was one of my favorite pieces to play when I visited my great grandma in the nursing home. The residents loved it!

Today we are going to look at the first 30 or so measures. In the next issue of The Playground we will continue with tools to master the next section.

This piece is written in the key of C minor, which means that any E will be flatted unless indicated otherwise. If this piece is written around the I, IV and V chords, we can expect to hear C minor, F minor and G minor chords. The flats in this piece are B, E and A.

To begin, we have a pattern of octaves in the left hand. Place finger 5 on a G and finger 1 on the G above it. Your right hand will have finger 5 on the G just above middle C. We are going to play the G’s three times and then jump down to the Eb.

You will repeat this pattern but move down one note so you are playing the F octave in the left hand and F above middle C in the right hand and jump down to the D.

After the dramatic introduction, we move into the next section where the RH plays three notes followed by a two-note chord in the LH. To make it easy, let’s play it like this. RH position one: Finger 1 on G, Finger 2 on Ab and Finger 5 on Eb. LH will have Finger 1 and Finger 3 on the middle C and Eb above it.

We begin with the RH playing three notes followed by a 2 note chord in the LH: RH  GGG LH Cm. From here, we just hold down those LH notes – the rest of the action is all in the RH. We continue through the remaining RH notes of the position, Ab and Eb, played three times followed by a single RH note, G after the Ab and C after the Eb.

imagesPosition 2: RH Finger 1 on G, 2 on Ab and 5 on F above treble C. In position 2, the LH will move down one note so the two-note chord is D and B natural (that’s right, on this occasion the B won’t be flatted). Repeat the pattern that you played in position 1, except that the last RH note will be the D below the F on top.

Position 3: Finger 5 on G above treble C. The new pattern is 5543 coming down through G, F and Eb. Play this same pattern again but this time play finger 2 on the D before playing the 5543 pattern again and ending on the D.

Let’s tackle the LH for position 3. You may have noticed that in the right hand for position 3 the notes moved down.  In the left hand for position 3, the notes are going to move up. In the C minor position with finger 5 on middle C, the pattern is C, Eb twice, then F and G. When you play the G, play the B natural below it with finger 5 for a two-note chord. Just like Fur Elise, the left hand comes in as the right hand finishes it’s sentence – meaning you play the LH C as you play RH Eb. The D in the right hand is played with the LH chord (G and B natural).

The ending for position 3 is a series of chords. Look at your ending position in your left hand. Right now you should have Finger 5 on B natural and Finger 1 on G above middle C. Keep that B, but put finger 1 on it and swing down so you have a B octave in your left hand. Add the G in the middle.

In your right hand, you ended with a D just above treble C. Keep the D but stretch out your hand and put a G above it and a G below it. Play the G octave in your right hand together with the B octave in your left hand. Do this twice.  The third time, bring Finger 5 in your right hand down one note to the F.

Keeping the RH G on the bottom, take the top two notes and bring them down to Eb and C – an inverted C minor chord. In your left hand, pivot up to a C octave, keeping G in the middle.

The right hand next chord will have a C octave with an F# in the middle while the left hand plays an Ab octave with a C in the middle. The final chord in this section has both hands playing G octaves, with an added D in the LH and B in the RH, both played with Finger 3.

Just one more pattern in this section—and it is just like the first pattern that you played but now the notes are Ab and F – three times on the Ab and once on the F. Play octaves in both hands for a big, dramatic sound.

Moving onto Measure 25, we have a new pattern. Put your right hand Finger 5 on Ab. The notes are Ab, F, D and B natural. Your left hand is going play Ab then drop down a half step to G. If you say, “One, two, three, LAND”, this will help you with the pattern. Say “one, two, three” as you play the RH Ab three times, and then you “land” on the F. The next “one, two three” are played by the D and you land on the B natural. The next pattern is played by the left hand on the Ab and it lands on the G. We finish by bringing the left hand down an octave to the next G, doing the “one, two, three” on that note and land on a C and G in the LH and C and Eb in the RH.

This pattern repeats but concludes with some bigger chords. Do you remember the big G octave we made earlier with the right hand? We are going to make that chord again but we are going to pull in Finger 5 so it is on F. The notes are G, D and F and you will play that three times while the left hand plays the G octave with it. Your last chord is C minor in both hands – C and G in the LH and G, C and Eb in the RH.

Download the sheet music here

Until next time!