Satie - Gymnopedie No 1


Erik Satie, originally named Eric Alfred Leslie Satie (1866 - 1925) was a French composer and pianist. He studied at the Paris conservatoire.

Satie was something of a character, who played at the Chat Noir cabaret in the town of Montmartre.

The three Gymnopedies were published in Paris beginning in 1888. They comprise three short, atmospheric, slow tempo pieces in three-time, sharing a common theme and structure.

The first and the third Gymnopedies were orchestrated by Satie's friend, Debussy.

Pupil Match & Suitability

This piece requires a beautiful singing tone to carry the melody, with the ability to make confident LH leaps with accuracy. The chords must be carefully balanced, with all three notes neatly coordinated.

An ability to create a range of subtle tonal variety is needed to shape the phrases and add colour.

If you like this piece you will love the other two Gymnopedies. Here is the third one played by Ciccolini:

Style & Tempo

Like the Gnossiennnes by of Satie, the music has a hypnotic quality. Phrasing needs to be carefully shaped using tempo rubato to emphasise the phrase definition.

Dynamics should be subtle, coloured by a variety of tonal levels, following the composer's directions carefully.

The tempo should remain slow overall, with a settled feel for the sustained pace.


The melody must show a beautiful, singing tone in this piece, with the dynamics contoured to give phrasing shape.

The most significant technical issue is probably that of maintaining a controlled tone in the LH despite the continuous leaps from bass note to chord.

The chords need to be precise in co-ordination - a ragged effect is unacceptable.

A good hand position, in which there is a straight line down the Finger 5 side of the wrist as far a possible will help.

Ensure that the student is using a large area of Finger 5 in the LH to cover the bass note securely - using the tip of the finger can result in anxious fluency.


Pedalling goes with the bass notes, which should be sustained through until the next bass note.

It will rarely be necessary for pedalling to be any more complicated than this, as long as the melody line is well defined, since the chords tend to stay the same until the bass note changes.

Legato pedalling may therefore be practised with just the LH at first.

Some Grade 6 students are still unsure about pedalling technique, so check to ensure that the pedal comes up as the new bass note is played, to be depressed again before the finger leaves the note.

Final Performance

Satie's Gymnopedie No 1 is performed here by Philippe Entremont:

Here are some alternative versions of Satie's Gymnopedie No 1.

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