Beethoven's Fifth

Question: I really hate to bother you with something so trivial, but I am trying to play a game and I’m stuck since I don’t know anything about music. I need to know what keys to press. It’s the first page to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I have 10 white keys and 7 black ones. Could you please help me? Thank you.

– Teresa Mitchell (Texas, USA)

Albert’s reply: Rather than giving you the answer outright, let’s make a little exercise out of your question. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in C minor, the first five notes of which are C, D, E-flat, F and G. If you’re just finding your way around the piano keyboard, make sure you look at the Piano Key Chart. Then you’ll be able to find these keys easily.

Placing your right hand on these keys, the finger numbers in this instance happen to correspond to the scale degrees: C is scale degree 1, and your thumb is also finger number 1. D is scale degree 2, and your index finger is finger number 2, etc.

Now start on G (with your pinky finger, finger number 5) and try to play the opening motive of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony using these five fingers. Actually, you’ll only need four of them. Here’s a hint: you won’t reach C for the famous opening.

What’s not obvious from this theme – perhaps the most famous theme in all of classical music – is that the first note is not metrically accented. This means it’s not accented according to the prevailing rhythm since that note is an offbeat. Instead, the second note of each group gets a slight emphasis:

G G G Eb

F F F D

(Note that Eb is an abbreviation for E-flat.) And now you have your answer!

P.S. I hope you win your game. 😉

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