Chopin’s Etude Op. 25 No. 1 is great for practicing arm relaxation. However, the entire piece is long and difficult to get through for a lot of us so I adapted it to make the key elements easy to practice. The wide range of the broken chords can be easily reached if we learn to use our elbows effectively by constantly moving them outward and inward. The beginning of each beat should be played with the elbows out and then, as the hands move toward the center of the keyboard, the elbows should move close to the torso, to change the angle of the forearms. This video illustrates the proper motion. As your elbows move steadily, the arms have no choice but to relax to accommodate this motion. It’s amazing how useful this exercise is for learning the key to Chopin’s sound: unless your entire arm is relaxed, the melody will never “sing.” Please remember: all exercises and especially this one need to be played VERY SLOWLY at first. Check the sensation in your elbows, wrists, and shoulders and make sure they are all loosened, achieving a relaxed and fluid motion.
For more on relaxation and correct posture, here is another tip: