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


Nocturne_siteHi guys! I have a surprise for you 😀 – 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 Google + (and now also on Pinterest!) to get instant updates, support and motivation! ;)

If you enjoyed this free online piano lesson, here are some other piano learning and practice topics you’ll like:

Chopin – Nocturne in C Minor, op. 48 No. 1. Detailed Piano Tutorial

Chopin – Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp Minor, op. posth. 66. Detailed Piano Tutorial

Chopin – Impromptu No. 1 in Ab Major, op. 29. Piano Tutorial

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No piano? How to practice anywhere

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21 Responses to “Chopin – Nocturne in C sharp Minor No. 20, op. posth. Detailed Piano Tutorial”

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  1. George Wang says:

    This is great. Chopin’s Nocturne in C# Minor is my most favorite piece. I always want to learn this piece. However, this is a very difficult one too. Your project will be very helpful for me down the road. Love your teaching style.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi George!

      Thank you – I’m really happy that you enjoyed this tutorial! 😉

      Have a great Sunday and a very inspired practice! 😀

  2. Jeremy says:

    Hey Ilinca, have you thought of making the timings into hyperlinks to the specified time of the video? I know it’s a little tedious to do that (so many timings!), but it will really be so useful for all of us here! 😀

    I’ve only skimmed through a bit of the video and I like it. I’ll be watching it tomorrow most probably.

    Anyway, I hope all’s been well with you. 🙂

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Jeremy!

      Yes, I certainly though about transforming timings into hyperlinks – the only problem is that such links take you directly to YouTube, not allowing you to watch the video here on the site. For this reason, I simply created such ‘clickable’ timings in the YouTube description itself LOL,


  3. Roosevelt says:

    Thank you very much for the wonderful video tutorial.

  4. Ray Unseitig says:

    It is very kind of you to put this detailed tutorial together to share. It is very interesting and touches on some nuiances and subtlies that I was not aware of.

    Ray- still trying to figure out which notes are what? 🙂

  5. Bernard says:

    Hi Ilinca,

    Great tutorial. Do you have one for Beethoven sonata No. 15 (Pastoral)?

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Bernard!

      Thank you! 😉

      No, I haven’t designed a tutorial about Beethoven’s Sonata op. 28 yet – maybe in the future! 🙂

      You can watch excerpts from all the other Masterpiece tutorials that are currently available on at the end of the video above. You can also find the Complete List of Tutorials available for the members of my Piano Coaching Program here (it includes many hundreds of titles, besides the Masterpiece Lessons mentioned above): Piano Career Academy – Complete List of Tutorials.


  6. Prasana kumar says:

    Hi Ilinca madam,
    I really enjoyed this tutorial.Since it is in step by step manner it is easier to understand.You are a very great teacher.The tips you have provided are helpful.Thanks for sharing.You are also a teacher to me.The practice guide tips are helpful.You are my role model.You have a very depth knowledge.

  7. Sean Damon says:

    Thank you, Ms. Vartic, for all the help you have provided me through your highly instructive videos. Although I do not play the piano, as a composer I have benefited by your guidance, especially regarding use of the sustain pedal. If you are interested in hearing what I have produced as a result, you may hear it at this address:

    Sean Damon

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Sean!

      I’m really happy that you enjoyed this tutorial – and I wish you lots of good luck with all your composing projects! 😀

      Thank you and have an awesome week! 😉

  8. George Candreva says:

    Hello, Ilinca;
    I was wondering if you are familiar or would have a comment to share about artists such as Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington and other “Jazz” piano masters?
    Do you compose your own music and/or explore the art of free improvisation as part of your Holistic approach? Do you have any jazz tunes in your repertoire?
    I have one quick observation about approach that has always caught my eye when watching the afore mentioned players perform. That is how absolutely different they all approach and use technique, particularly with their hands, to achieve such marvelous results. Ellington’s flat-finger style, Hancock’s soft hands, Corea’s percussive finger style and Keith Jarrett’s more flexible style. Obviously, their theoretical knowledge of all types of music is truly remarkable and their personalities are vastly different, too. Some have rather large hands and others not so big.
    How about a tutorial on the concept of the illusive art of tonal extraction
    from the pianoforte sometime soon. I will stay tuned!

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi George!

      Yes, there is a big difference between the classical piano technique and the movements used by modern jazz pianists – but this topic is definitely too complex to be covered in a short reply! 😛

      You will find detailed answers to your questions about composition and improvisation in our FAQs at (answers No. 25 and 26).

      In the Members Area of my Piano Coaching Program you will also find many detailed video tutorials about the “elusive art of tonal extraction” :D.


  9. idenir says:

    querida Ilinca

    Muito obrigada por compartilhar com tanto carinho seus conhecimentos.

    Minha interpretação desse preludio melhorou muito….

  10. Elise says:

    Thank you very much for your tutorials. But my maternal language is not the english one, so the parameters or settings of the video generally allow me to read the text while I am hearing you, and that is a help for perfect understanding what you are saying.
    But unhappily, in this video, there is no possibility to read the text, so I do not understand all you are saying. Is it no possible to integrate in this vdeo the possibility to add the text to parameters or settings ? Thank you for all.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Elise!

      Sadly, my overloaded schedule does not allow me to manually create captions for my YouTube videos. Yes, most videos have automatic captions (generated by YouTube’s voice recognition software) – but my tutorial focused on Chopin’s Nocturne in C# Minor doesn’t seem to have them for some reason (and there is no way to turn them on). Sorry about that!

      • Elise says:

        Thank you for your answer !
        I am resolving the problem in this manner : I reduce the speed (by acting through the settings below the video), in order to understand better your explanations, but it is not perfect… I know that others videos have the text which helps very much the understanding.
        Thank you again for your highly detailed videos !

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