“Clair de Lune” by the French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy is one of the defining pieces of classical piano music. The piece is instantly recognizable, evocative, and powerful. Conjuring images of the luminescence of the moon, the subtleties of the night sky, and a strong feeling of melancholic nostalgia, “Clair de Lune” is a must-learn piece for many pianists.
With Skoove, you can learn how to play Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” This week, we will take a look at the history and key features of this piece so that you can decide if it is the right time for you to learn this important part of piano history!
When did Debussy compose “Clair de Lune”
Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” was originally composed around 1890. However, the piece was not released until 1905. The piece was originally part of a larger work of music titled Suite Bergamasque. “Clair de Lune” is the third movement of the suite and has since become one of Debussy’s most popular compositions.
“Clair de Lune” piano facts
- Originally inspired by the poetry of Paul Verlaine
- Debussy actually composed three pieces with the same title. However, the piece from Suite Bergamasque is the one most often referred to.
- “Clair de Lune” was originally composed in the key of D♭ major and in a compound time signature
Listening to what Debussy wanted
Fortunately for all of us, we actually have a recording of Claude Debussy performing his composition, “Clair de Lune.” This means that we can glimpse into the inner ears of the composer and really hear how he intended the music to be performed.
What bits of information can you glean from this recording? Listen to the performance style of Debussy.
For example, do you hear the gentle sway in his piano playing? How it seems to float back and forth like a cloud across the moonlit sky? How can you use observations like this in your own piano playing?
How to play “Clair de Lune” on piano
Like many other popular pieces of classical piano music and easy piano songs, there are many versions of “Clair de Lune” available for students. From easier versions to more advanced versions, arrangements of “Clair de Lune” can be learned by just about any piano student.
Is “Clair de Lune” hard to play on the piano?
The original “Clair de Lune” notes are difficult to play on the piano. The composition is in a difficult key signature and has advanced rhythmic concepts that are challenging for beginning students.
However, with Skoove you can learn how to play “Clair de Lune” piano sheet music that is adapted for beginning to intermediate piano students! By following along with Skoove’s interactive sheet music, you can be sure that you are practicing the piece accurately and efficiently! You could even just practice the “Clair de Lune” chords and notes separately!
Can a beginner play “Clair de Lune” well?
Yes, of course a beginner can play “Clair de Lune” well. If they practice a simplified version of the piece, perhaps in a simpler key, a beginner should expect a modest challenge that will be quite rewarding in the end.
How many pages are in “Clair de Lune”?
It depends on the version of “Clair de Lune” you are learning. The interactive sheet music version from Skoove is not very long. Simplified versions of the song can last anywhere from 2 to 3 pages. However, the original, advanced version of “Clair de Lune” is usually 5 to 6 pages in length! Knowing how to read piano sheet music is necessary to tackle that challenge!
What grade is “Clair de Lune”?
If you are studying a formal piano-course, then “Clair de Lune” is surely one of the more challenging pieces. However, as we have learned, there are many simplified versions of the piece that beginners can learn and enjoy. So don’t despair! There is generally always an simplified arrangement of these more advanced piano pieces!
What techniques are used in “Clair de Lune”
Playing “Clair de Lune” makes use of several important piano techniques. The first is playing in diatonic thirds with the right hand. Playing melodies in intervals of thirds is a beautiful way to harmonize piano notes. This relatively easy technique will make you sound like a more advanced pianist in no time.
The second important piano technique is the use of ties and other more advanced rhythmic concepts. Learning how to count through ties and perform passages in compound time is likewise a worthy challenge for intermediate piano students. Remember that compound time means the pulse is divided into groups of three, instead of groups of two like in simple time.
More fun facts
- “Clair de Lune” was originally intended to be included in the classic 1940 Disney film Fantasia.
- Several large-scale arrangements for orchestra have been made of “Clair de Lune” as well as a techno-influenced arrangement that was performed as part of the closing ceremony at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
- The majority of established composers around Debussy’s day were highly critical and resistant to Debussy’s “new” style of music and rejected it. However, Debussy refused to conform to old harmonic rules and eventually his style inspired other French composers including Gabrielle Faure and Lily Boulanger.
Summing the piece up
Claude Debussy’s iconic piano composition, “Clair de Lune”, is a must-learn piece for any serious piano student. While the original version is more advanced and not suitable for beginning piano students, there are simplified arrangements that are accessible to most every piano student.
With Skoove, you can access interactive sheet music to practice “Clair de Lune.” This is a huge advantage to you as a piano student. With Skoove’s interactive piano sheet music, you know you are getting the correct notes, accurate rhythms, and proper feel. You can play along with the sheet music and receive feedback in real-time. If this sounds like fun to you, check out a free 7 day trial this week!
Author of this blog post:
Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.