Chopin – Nocturne in C sharp Minor No. 20, op. posth. Detailed Piano Tutorial


Nocturne_siteHi guys! I have a surprise for you :D – a detailed video tutorial dedicated to Chopin’s amazing Nocturne in C# Minor! It will help you to analyze, understand, decipher and practice this masterpiece in a step-by-step manner, so that you will be able to perform it with professional ease, bringing out its entire expressive richness!

This tutorial is part of my project Piano Masterpieces – Detailed Video Lessons for All Levels (more details in the video below!).

Before starting – don’t forget to download the score by clicking on this link:
Chopin – Nocturne in C# Minor



Chopin wrote the Nocturne in C# Minor in 1830 – dedicating it to his older sister, Ludwika Chopin,  with the statement: “To my sister Ludwika as an exercise before beginning the study of my second Concerto“.

The piece, also called Reminiscence by some editors, was first published 26 years after Chopin’s death – that’s why nowadays it is known as opus posthumous, which means ‘published after the composer’s death’.

Many musicologists consider that in this Nocturne Chopin is saying goodbye to Constantia Gladkowska, his first love – and to all the hopes and dreams connected with this youthful feeling. However, as you will learn from the tutorial below – there’s much more to the artistic concept of this Nocturne than meets the eye at first glance! :P

One more interesting ‘technical’ detail: there are actually several versions of this piece (and nowadays we have several editions, with a few noticeable differences between them). This is explained by the fact that Chopin was not simply expressing his feelings through this Nocturne: he was also using it to popularize several Themes of his 2nd Concerto (more details in the tutorial! ;D) – returning to this piece many times, modifying and polishing it to bring it closer to his artistic vision :).

For our tutorial, I chose the edition that is usually used in the Russian piano school (the same one that you can hear in these two recordings by Valentina Lisitsa and Vladimir Ashkenazy).

And one more important thing: below the video you will find detailed video highlights that will help you to go directly to any fragment of the tutorial (also giving you a very clear understanding of its structure) – so make sure you check them out before/during watching! ;)

Chopin’s Nocturne in C# Minor. Musical Analysis and Detailed Practice Guide.

Video highlights:

00:44. Introduction.

02:42. Detailed analysis.
03:00. Identifying the artistic concept behind this piece. The emotional power of Chopin’s music.
04:59. The tempo and character indication; the tonality and time signature.
05:18. The form of this Nocturne. The Introduction.
05:54. The first part of the piece. Analyzing the first phrase. The difference between articulation and phrasing.
07:13. The next phrases of the first part.
08:00. The accompaniment and its layout.
08:11. The middle section of the Nocturne.
08:44. The first fragment of the middle section and its phrases. The main atmosphere and the quotes from Chopin’s Concerto No. 2.
09:42. The 2nd fragment of the middle section and its ‘unexpected’ dancing character.
10:16. The Reprise.
10:49. The Picardy third – ending a minor piece with the major equivalent of its main tonality. Its expressive purpose.

11:22. The structure of the musical text. The accompaniment and the melody.
12:14. The main difficulty in performing the melody.
12:46. New patterns in the middle section.
12:56. Discovering hidden polyphonic treasures! :)

Practice Guide.
13:22. The most important thing is HOW we practice!
14:05. The Introduction: main character and an important pre-practice mental ‘checklist’.
14:59. My tempo recommendations for this Nocturne.
15:36. Creating an illusion of continuity in the Introduction. Important phrasing secrets: using micro-dynamics for emphasizing the ‘layout’ of the phrase.
17:31. Voicing recommendations – emphasizing the upper voice in the RH.
18:50. Two pedaling versions for the Introduction.

20:54. Practicing the main Theme: be aware of the tempo!
21:37. Voicing secrets: Playing the melody with a deep singing sound that has to ‘shine’ above the soft accompaniment. The singer and the accompanist.

22:38. Let’s master the accompaniment first! Detailed practice tips for creating the needed effortless flow in the LH.
25:13. Understanding the underlying harmonies behind the accompaniment – the fastest way of assimilating (mindfully!) the musical text :).
26:04. Practicing the LH without pedal – a very useful exercise. Pedaling recommendations for the accompaniment.
27:00. A few words about the ‘magnifying glass’ practice method and its super-powers.

28:03. Working on the melody. Touch, sound character and phrasing recommendations.
31:07. Practicing the trill. 10
32:17. The importance of applying the ‘magnifying glass’ practice method to the remaining of the piece – like I have demonstrated until this moment :).

32:40. Integrating the elements of the puzzle in the bigger structure. Practicing the 1st phrase both hands together.
33:54. Practicing the 2nd phrase.
34:20. Emphasizing the middle voice in the LH.
35:10. Practicing the 3rd phrase. Preparing the culmination. Analyzing the structure of the passage in bar 15.
37:08. Playing the cross-rhythms (and the transition from 8th notes to 16th notes) in a natural, flowing, non-mechanical manner.
38:43. Jeu perle. Detailed practice tips for achieving clarity, stability and brilliance in this passage.

40:39. Practicing the 4th phrase (starting in bar 17).
42:08. Some more useful tips for playing expressive melodies.

42:50. The ‘story behind the music’ in the middle section.
43:29. Practice recommendations. Achieving a good balance between the melody and the accompaniment.
44:16. Practice tips for the dotted-rhythm intervals in bars 23-34. Overcoming two little technical challenges. Rhythm and voicing.
46:20. Working on the 3rd and 4th phrases of the middle section.
47:21. Practicing bars 29-32.

48:28. The 2nd fragment of the middle section (starting in bar 33): the ‘story behind the music’ and the resulting character.
49:01. Anticipating the tempo and character of this fragment while still playing the previous bars. Applying them from the very first note!
49:16. Practicing the LH accompaniment in a very thorough manner, by having a clear understanding of the artistic concept.
50:25. Common mistakes students make in this fragment – and their main cause.
50:54. Practicing the RH.
51:20. Making a very gradual diminuendo starting with bar 37.
51:44. The ending passage of the middle section – bar 45.

52:13. Where to find the Practice Guide for the Reprise?

52:38. Other tutorials from the “Piano Masterpieces” project that you can find on

54:17. Conclusion.

Get access to the final part of this tutorial (where I analyze the Reprise of Chopin’s Nocturne in C# Minor) by becoming a member of my Piano Coaching Program at! ;)

In the Private Members Area you will also discover many other Masterpiece Video Lessons – and hundreds of exclusive piano playing tutorials focused on a new approach to piano playing that will transform your expressive & technical skills and bring them to a whole new level!

And now it’s practice time – and I hope that you’ll enjoy every step of the way while polishing this masterpiece!!! ;D :P


P.S. Many new articles and video tutorials are coming soon on! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or (and now also on Pinterest!) to get instant updates, support and motivation! ;)

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