About Etudes

An étude (a French word meaning study), is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. The tradition of writing études emerged in the early 19th century with the rapidly growing popularity of the piano. Of the vast number of études from that era some are still used as teaching material (particularly pieces by Carl Czerny and Muzio Clementi), and a few, by major composers such as Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy and Charles-Valentin Alkan, achieved a place in today’s concert repertory. Composers of the 20th century variously composed études related to the old tradition (György Ligeti), études that required wholly unorthodox technique (John Cage), and études that required unusually facile technique.

Reprinted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/étude.