Learn To Play A Beethoven Sonata

by Allia Vidmer on January 20, 2010

When you hear the name “Beethoven,” you likely imagine an eccentric looking man in a high ruffled collar with crazy white hair. However, if you are a pianist, you will likely also think of some of the greatest music ever composed in human history. For piano players, Beethoven represents the gold standard in musical achievement. Virtually every one of his works is a masterpiece, and his vast catalog of expressive sonatas has made his music intensely popular with pianists. The prestige and raw emotional power of his music has made it an absolute necessity for every pianist to know how to play a Beethoven sonata. Luckily, if you don’t currently know one, there is a wide variety of online resources available to help you with this musical rite of passage.

Beethoven composed sonatas throughout his musical career. They’ve been hailed by music historians and musicians alike for their individual genius as well as their achievement as a whole body of work. To everyone who knows Beethoven, his group of sonatas provides a snapshot into his compositional career and shows his development from a young composer to the legendary musical figure he became. While all of his sonatas are famous among those in the musical know, many of them have become ingrained in pop culture and well-known in their own right. For example, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is often used in film and television productions and is easily recognizable to even the most uneducated listener. Similarly, the Pathetique Sonata has become synonymous with emotional distress, confusion, and angst.

It is because of this powerful reputation and position in musical history that all classical pianists endeavor to learn at least one Beethoven sonata. While there are a variety of excellent traditional mediums available to help you learn how to play some of these pieces, such as music instruction or instructional texts, a new and still underutilized resource is the Internet. There is an incredible wealth of information and instruction available online not only for Beethoven’s sonatas but for just about every piece of piano music you can think of. These websites give users access not only to instantly download the sheet music to thousands of pieces but also to audio instruction, instructional videos, and user forums that offer advice and strategy to aspiring pianists around the clock. These websites are wonderful because they can help you not only understand how to physically play a piece but also the musical theory and history behind the piece. Furthermore, the utilization of the resources available on such websites are altogether less expensive than just one lesson with an instructor.

When you learn how to play a Beethoven sonata, you are not just playing another piece of music but a piece of musical history. Beethoven was a true visionary and musical revolutionary. He took the sanitized and impersonal court music popular in his lifetime and infused it with something intangible and utterly intoxicating: emotion. His work shocked his contemporaries and baffled his friends for its ability to showcase and explore basic human feelings like violence, anger, joy, and rapture. He paved the way for every expressive musician that followed him, both in the classical sense in the modern sense. Every pianist needs to know how to play one of his sonatas not just as a party trick but as a way to say thank you to such an amazing musician by continuing to play and showcase his work. Who knows what the evolution of music would’ve looked like without Beethoven, but surely it would have been a lot less passionate, raw, and inspiring.

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