Burgmüller’s Op. 100: The Complete Series

I am delighted to announce my series on Burgmüller’s 25 studies, the Easy and Progressive Études, Op 100 is now complete and available as a full set.

In my Online Academy series on op. 100, I take each étude in turn. You will find a detailed teaching note and a video walkthrough highlighting the learning outcomes, with advice on the technical aspects as well as how to practise. 

When it comes to studies at the intermediate level, there is of course a wealth of material available. For me, Burgmüller’s Op 100 is among the best. Each étude is short and to the point, with a descriptive title to stimulate the imagination. The technique always serves a musical goal, and because they are so well written each is useful as a way to learn about harmony, as well as form and structure.

In my previous two posts I looked at a handful of these études, with a brief video excerpt of what to expect from the full one. I will continue now, focussing on Nos. 10 – 13.

10. Tendre fleur (Tender Flower)

Tendre fleur (Tender Flower) is all about pastel colours, sensitivity of touch and mood, and delicate expression. Marked p delicato, we discover two-note sighing slurs in arpeggio patterns that rise then fall, meandering quaver (eighth note) lines and sparse harmonies. The harmonic language is extremely simple – tonic and dominant harmonies alternate with each other in the home key of D (A section) and then in the dominant key of A (B section). Here I am noodling around with a few ideas to bring out the sweetness of the music.

11. La Bergeronnette (The Wagtail)

La Bergeronnette (The Wagtail) depicts a genus of bird that constantly moves its tail; Burgmüller captures this flickering, fluttering movement by the prevailing rhythmic figure we hear right at the start – two semiquavers and a quaver under a slur. It is important that the first note of the slurred group is lightly stressed, and the last note released without an accent. Make sure to retain this strong-weak emphasis even in the crescendos (from bar 19, and from bar 26), where each three-note group is stronger than the previous one. Here I explore some possibilities for choreography in the right hand, and notice note lengths and harmonic colouring in the left.

12. L’Adieu (Farewell)

L’adieu (The Farewell) tells the story of a departure, perhaps of a close friend or family member, and the resulting feelings of sadness and anxiety. The only respite from the turbulent emotions is to be found in the B section (from bar 17) – in C major, but even then this brief moment of warmth and respite is tinged with regret (the Ab in bar 24). The form of the piece is ternary (ABA) with an introduction and coda.

The main technical problem posed by this étude is how to play the triplet quaver patterns at speed – with dynamics and shape, but without tension. While the use of rotary movements of the forearm will be more obvious in the LH Alberti basses (bar 13, 17 – 24, etc.) success in the RH triplets depends on finding ways to keep mobile by calling on rotations and micro adjustments in the wrist to assist the fingers as they execute what will feel more like a leggiero touch than a legato. There are two ways of practising the triplet quavers; at a slow tempo with a finger staccato, and faster in different rhythms (in groups of 3 then groups of 6 notes). Return to these methods regularly in your day-to-day practice.

13. Consolation

The thirteenth étude, Consolation (Comfort), returns to the familiar key of C major. Marked dolce lusingando (sweetly and caressingly), it calls for careful control of tone as we balance melody and accompaniment not only between the two hands, but also within each hand. There are many beautiful, expressive moments in this etude that we need to enjoy and savour as we play them. The harmonic progression in bars 5 and 6 that enhances chord ii in what would otherwise be a standard sequence of chords is one example, the modulation to E minor (bars 14-15) another.

The full versions of these videos along with walkthroughs featuring other works from Burgmüller’s Easy and Progressive Études are available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber.

For my blog post on Nos. 1 – 5 click here (La candeur, L’arabesque, La petite réunion, Innocence)

For my post on Nos. 6 – 9 click here (Progrès, Le courant limpide, La gracieuse, La chasse)

Many editions of op 100 make significant changes to the text (mostly with regard to phrase and articulation markings). In my opinion, the very best edition is the Wiener Urtext edited by Naoyuki Taneda. 

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Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum Complete! – Practising the Piano

After a few years in the making, we’re delighted to announce the completion of our Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum! Created by Ken Johansen and derived from his experience in teaching the subject to piano majors at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, the curriculum provides a unique, structured approach to developing the key skills that underpin a good sight-reading ability.

It consists of an extensive collection of annotated scores dealing with every aspect of sight-reading, together with detailed suggestions on how to practise, covering everything from training the eyes to read more efficiently, to recognising patterns, simplifying complex textures and mastering difficult rhythms.

advanced sight-reading curriculum part 3

Playing by Ear

The last instalment in the curriculum explores the subject of playing by ear. Playing by ear might seem to be the opposite of sight-reading, the very name of which emphasises the visual aspect of decoding musical scores. But in reality, we read with our ears as much as with our eyes. The inner ear, allied to our musical experience and memory, helps us to navigate a new score, to predict what is coming, and to improvise when the eyes haven’t had enough time to absorb everything.

Content & Features

The four modules of Part III provide opportunities of different kinds to become aware of, and strengthen, this intuitive role of the ear in sight-reading:

  • Missing Melodies – A collection of famous pieces in which the melodies have been removed provides a starting point for giving more attention to the left-hand accompaniment and playing the right-hand by ear.
  • Missing Inner Notes – Using pieces where only the outer parts are given requires use of our ears and harmonic instinct to fill in the middle voices. At the end of the module this technique is extended to study full open scores of vocal and instrumental music.
  • Missing Accompaniments – A series of well-known Classical pieces in “lead sheet format” i.e. the melody written out but with only harmonic symbols provided for the accompaniment encourages playing harmony by ear to keep the line going and improvising details where necessary.
  • Improvisation – The last module brings together several activities enabling you to spontaneously invent parts of the musical texture within a given harmonic or rhythmic framework.

These four modules can be studied consecutively, as a self-contained course in playing by ear or combined with related modules from other parts of the curriculum. In addition to improving your sight-reading ability, they will help you develop your overall musicianship, enabling you to feel feel less bound to the details of musical notation and more free to rely on your ears and musical instincts.

Other Parts

The previously published parts of the curriculum are as follows (a full index of all parts and their respective modules is available here):

  • Part 1 Eye Training – Sight-reading begins with sight. Before the inner ear can begin to imagine the sound of a score, before the mind can start to decode the patterns it detects, and before the body can translate these sounds and patterns into physical gestures that transform written notes into music, the eyes must take in all the information that is presented to them. We therefore begin our Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum with several modules that help train the eyes to move more efficiently and consciously as we play music at sight. Click here to view.
  • Part 2 Flexibility – To give an interpretation of a piece we have never seen before requires flexibility and demands a willingness to accept wrong notes, technical stumbles, and botched details, in the greater interest of maintaining rhythmic cohesion, following the broad outlines of the score. The second part of our Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum is comprised of a set of modules to help you recognise patterns, see harmonic progressions, improvise where necessary and keep going in difficult passages. Click here to view.
  • Part 4 Rhythm – Rhythm is perhaps the most important element in sight-reading and is the subject of the fourth (next) part of our Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum. Using simple, effective practice methods and carefully-selected pieces with annotations and guidelines, we work on keeping a regular pulse while tackling challenges such as recognising underlying rhythmic structures, subdividing the pulse accurately, handling polyrhythms and negotiating the sometimes confusing visual impression given by different kinds of meters. Click here to view.

How to Access?

All four parts of the Advanced Sight Reading Curriculum are available with an Online Academy subscription or for once-off purchase from our store via the following links:

  • Part 1 (Eye Training) – Click here to purchase for £7.99
  • Part 2 (Flexibility) – Click here to purchase for £7.99
  • Part 3 (Playing by Ear) – Click here to purchase for £7.99
  • Part 4 (Rhythm) – Click here to purchase for £7.99
  • Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum (Complete) – Click here to purchase all four parts for £24.99.

Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here to find out more about subscription options.

Other Sight-Reading Resources

  • Read Ahead – A curated collection of carefully ordered sight reading examples and exercises from the elementary to intermediate levels. Click on one of the following links to view on the Online Academy:
  • Teaching & Developing Sight Reading Skills – A collection of free articles by Read Ahead developers Travis Hardaway and Ken Johansen on the Online Academy
  • Preparing for an Exam (Sight Reading) – In these new videos from our collection of piano examination resources, Graham Fitch gives some tips and ideas for incorporating sight-reading into lessons and daily practising.
  • Online Workshops – Our online events programme has also featured several sight-reading workshops. Access to recordings, presentations and other resources from these events is available via the following links: