Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An etude (from the French word étude meaning "study") is a short musical composition designed to provide practice in a particular technical skill in the performance of a solo instrument. For example, Frederic Chopin's etude Op. 25 No. 6 trains pianists to play rapid parallel chromatic thirds, Op. 25 No. 7 emphasizes the production of singing tone in a polyphonic melody, and Op. 25 No. 10 covers parallel octaves.
Musical studies have been composed since the 18th century, most notably by Carl Czerny, but it was Chopin who transformed the etude into an important musical genre. Chopin wrote 24 etudes in two sets of 12 etudes each (Op. 10, Op. 25), plus three more, for a total of 27. Other noted composers of etudes are Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Alexander Scriabin, Claude Debussy and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Etudes for other instruments have been written as well, for example Rodolphe Kreutzer's etudes for the violin.
Chopin's etudes tend to stress a specific aspect of performance difficulty; Liszt's etudes tend to stress mastery of performance as a whole.
The etudes that are most widely admired are those which transcend their practical function and come to be appreciated simply as music. For example, Chopin's etudes are considered not just technically difficult, but also musically very powerful and expressive. In contrast, Czerny's are only technically difficult. Thus Chopin's etudes are continually performed before appreciative audiences, whereas Czerny's are confined to the practice room.
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