What is an ETUDE?

Darius Soodmand/Unsplash

Age Range: Elementary, Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will learn about a kind of piece called an etude and hear some examples.

ENGAGE students

ASK. “What does a person have to do to learn to play an instrument well?” (Pause for answers.) “That’s right, practice! Practice is how we learn to do anything, including playing an instrument. In order to play an instrument well, there are certain techniques, or skills, a player needs to work on and develop.”

EXPLAIN. “Sometimes composers write pieces called "etudes" to help a player develop, or study, a certain important skill. The word ‘etude’ means ‘study’ in French!”

EXPLORE sounds

EXPLAIN. “Today we will listen to five etudes- each for a different instrument. As you listen, think about what skill each etude might help develop.”

DISCUSS. “What skills do pianists need?” (Discuss as a group.) “One skill pianists need is to be able to move all ten fingers independently and with precision, sometimes fast!

WATCH. “In this Etude by Frederic Chopin, the pianist must work on a very specific skill - playing double thirds, or a bunch of every-other note pairs in the right hand. Be sure to notice the pianist's fingers in this video.”

WATCH. “Guitarists must learn the skill of playing ‘free strokes,’ or free flowing notes that skip around a bit. Listen and watch the free strokes in Estudios Sencillos No. 6 by Leo Brouwer.”

WATCH. “J.J.F. Dotzauer wrote 113 etudes for the cello! He made sure to cover every skill that cellists need to master. Here is just one of the 113 etudes, No. 14. Notice that the cellists must play a number of double stops, or two notes at one time.”

WATCH. “The snare drum seems like an instrument that you just need to hit, but a great deal of technique or skill is required to play it well. Watch this Etude No. 9 by Jacques Delecluse. Notice how the drum sticks move to make changes in the dynamic level, or how loud and soft the sound is. Notice the height of the drumstick from the drum head affects the sound.”

WATCH. “Finally, listen and watch an etude for a wind instrument. Woodwind and brass players must learn to develop breath control to help make a good sound. Here is Concert Etude No. 49 by Goedicke.”

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