Latest Videos

How to End a Piece of Music

 

This is a very overlooked topic for many pianists. Ending a piece correctly is extremely important and is crucial to a great performance. While there is no one solution to the challenge, I will provide some tips on how to make your endings memorable.

 

For the example in the video above I use the Chopin Prelude in E Minor. The ending of this piece has three chords. It’s a simple ending but it can be a very powerful one with the right technique. You’ll want the music to linger in the air even after the sound has stopped.

 

The trick is to release the hands and pedals very slowly at the same time. This way if you have any issues with damper regulation on the piano the effects are minimized. You don’t want certain notes sticking out and being louder than others and you certainly don’t want an abrupt ending.

 

Many students will end a piece very abruptly and then take their hands and slap them down on their lap and act like it’s a relief to be done playing! Nothing sucks the mood out a room more than someone displaying negative emotions onstage.

 

When you hear great performances in concert halls there might be a few seconds of absolute silence after a piece. It’s a powerful tool to let the music and the emotion seep into your music. Sometimes music will actually end with fermata on the double bar even when there is no music. What is the composer telling you in a situation like this? They are visually representing what we have discussed here – letting you know that even though the music has stopped, the mood should linger in the air for a few moments. In this case it’s an actual part of the piece.

 

Another mistake that some people make is to rely completely on the pedal at the end of a piece. On a well regulated piano it might sound OK but taking your hands off the keyboard early will make the audience think the piece has ended – even if it technically hasn’t. This is true for changing movements as well. If you keep your hands on the keyboard it will let the audience know that there is more to come.

 

Thanks again for joining me, If you have any questions about this topic or any others please contact me directly: Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a very overlooked topic for many pianists. Ending a piece correctly is extremely important and is crucial to a great performance. While there is no one solution to the challenge, I will provide some tips on how to make your endings memorable.   For the example in the video above I use the Chopin Prelude in E […]

Read More

How to Play the Left Hand Softly in the 3rd Movement of the Moonlight Sonata

 

This question comes from a viewer and while this is a very specific example, the solution is something that will help you with a wide range of music. The problem with negotiating this example is that from measure 21 to measure 40, there are a lot of fast notes in the left hand that need to be played quietly. This can be a huge challenge because it’s extremely difficult playing fast and light on the piano. So how do you overcome this challenge?

 

Utilizing the weight of the arms and the position of your fingers right above the keys is the way to play this section with fluidity. For this specific piece there are a lot of broken chords in the left hand and I have a suggestion for you on how to practice this effectively. Start with the first two notes of the section and play them together. They are written separately but for now play them together. You want to achieve the same level of volume with your pinky and your thumb. This is a great challenge because the thumb is so much stronger than your pinky, but you must achieve a balance in the sound between the two notes. Once you have them equal in volume go ahead and break those notes ever so slightly like playing the bottom note as a grace note. Once you feel comfortable with this, add another note and continue adding notes in this manner.

 

Every time you start a new group of notes you should approach it as a separate passage. Prepare yourself mentally for each section and practice each section individually. Don’t consider this one long passage of notes. Instead, break it down into digestible chunks you can play in a relaxed manner. Then work on connecting these groups of notes.

 

This lesson really boils down to keeping your body and arms at the proper position to achieve power with the correct hand positions and finger patterns. These are all lessons I’ve taught in the past that are relevant to so many pieces of music.

 

If you have any more questions please contact me directly: Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This question comes from a viewer and while this is a very specific example, the solution is something that will help you with a wide range of music. The problem with negotiating this example is that from measure 21 to measure 40, there are a lot of fast notes in the left hand that need to be played quietly. […]

Read More

How to Read Ahead in Music

 

This question comes from another viewer who asks how to read ahead in music to improve their reading. So how do you achieve this and is it a good technique?

 

Well the truth is, reading ahead is actually not exactly how it works. Instead, it is a matter of looking at chunks of music instead of reading note by note much like reading text. When you first learn how to read a language, you must sound out each letter forming words. Eventually you recognize words and even phrases. It is the same with reading music. You begin to recognize chords and progressions instead of just individual notes.

 

So instead of reading ahead in the music, it’s best to digest your music into chunks. If you break your music into these sections you will be able to absorb them much more easily and you will have an understanding of the structure of what you are playing helping the fluency of your reading.

 

You can even apply this same technique to sight reading. Instead of just reading all the notes and hoping for the best, the more you begin to break down your music into small chunks you will begin to recognize similar patterns. After awhile this will become almost second nature and you will be able to read and digest all your music much more easily.

 

Thanks again for joining me and if you have any more questions please contact me directly: Robert@LivingPiano.com (949) 244-3729

  This question comes from another viewer who asks how to read ahead in music to improve their reading. So how do you achieve this and is it a good technique?   Well the truth is, reading ahead is actually not exactly how it works. Instead, it is a matter of looking at chunks of music instead of reading note […]

Read More

How to Play One Hand Louder Than the Other on the Piano

 

This is a very important topic and a fundamental part of playing piano. I have another video about how to play louder with notes in the same hand but this video is going to cover how to achieve this with different hands.

 

This can be a real challenge when you have slow notes that have to be louder than fast notes. Why is this so difficult? On a piano, the longer a note holds the quieter it becomes. So when you have a slow melody against faster notes it presents a challenge to make the slower notes stand out.

 

In the video example above I play the beginning of the Chopin Prelude in E minor and play the two hands with equal force. You will notice that the right hand melody is completely covered up by the chords in the left hand. So what can you do?

 

It’s actually a very basic principle that’s based upon the human voice. To get a singing quality on the piano you have to translate the power of the breath to the weight of your arms. But how do you practice such a thing? My father Morton Estrin would demonstrate this to me by playing on my arm. What I noticed was that it wasn’t just the beginning of the notes where I could feel the pressure, it was the entire time he was playing a slow melody. I could feel the downward force throughout the entire melody! By doing this, the weight of the arm translates from note to note and creates a constant musical line – much like singing.

 

You should also keep in mind that if you are replicating the human voice when playing the melody you should build up to the middle of the phrase and decrescendo to the end of the phrase for a natural sounding musical line. This is achieved by using your arm weight to build up the sound and volume of the notes until you reach the climax of the phrase and slowly bring the phrase down in volume by decreasing the arm weight. This is how to make the melody “sing” like a voice.

 

But how do you control the volume of your other hand? You should touch the keys gently and use minimum motion. That way the melody notes in the other hand will project well.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a very important topic and a fundamental part of playing piano. I have another video about how to play louder with notes in the same hand but this video is going to cover how to achieve this with different hands.   This can be a real challenge when you have slow notes that have to be louder […]

Read More

Extraneous Movements During a Musical Performance

 

This is kind of an odd topic because I’m sure many of you have experienced both extremes in performance. Sometimes you will see someone who barely moves at all during a performance and looks robotic. Other times you might see someone who is very demonstrative and animated in their movements. So is there a right or wrong way to move during a musical performance? How much attention should you give this subject?

 

Sometimes this can actually be part of the act and can bring people into the performance. Lang Lang is a pianist who is extremely demonstrative during his performances and he will often motion and smile to the audience while he is playing. You get the sense he is enjoying his performance and for many people that draws them in making his performances more engaging. He is also very good at giving the audience cues as to when the exciting parts are coming and when they should be feeling certain emotions. Some people might scoff at this technique and think that eliciting emotions in this manner from the audience might be a superficial way of maintaining their attention. But it works well for him and isn’t necessarily a gimmick; it can be considered an integral part of his performance.

 

Sometimes motion can actually be a detriment to the artist. Some musicians let themselves go too much and actually affect their performance in negative ways. Glenn Gould for example would sometimes even create sounds while playing so they had to place a screen between him and the microphones during recording sessions. If they didn’t, the noises would be captured in the recording. In a concert hall you probably wouldn’t hear these sounds but in recordings it could become distracting.

 

So how does this happen? At some point a performer develops mannerisms while playing and their teacher never stopped it! They continued to play this way and eventually it developed into something beyond their control. An extreme example of demonstrative playing is Keith Jarrett. He stands up and gyrates around the piano during performances! People seem to love or hate it – it gets a reaction.

 

Motion in performance elicits some sort of reaction from your audience. The bigger the motions the more polarized the reactions will be. Is this something you should control during your playing? It’s really up to you. While I’m sure you don’t want people being overly critical of your motions and find them distracting, but you don’t people to feel you are lifeless if you sit completely still either. It’s a delicate balance and you must decide what’s right for you.

 

I’m very interested in your opinions on this topic. Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is kind of an odd topic because I’m sure many of you have experienced both extremes in performance. Sometimes you will see someone who barely moves at all during a performance and looks robotic. Other times you might see someone who is very demonstrative and animated in their movements. So is there a right or wrong way to […]

Read More

When is the Best Time of Day to Memorize Your Music?

 

This is a very good question and it can be different from person to person. However, there are some general guidelines that apply to all of us that can be helpful to everyone.

 

Personally, I like to start memorizing music early in the day while my mind is fresh. After I get up in the morning and have a nice meal, I like to warm up and refresh the music I worked on the day before. After that I will delve right into memorizing music.

 

This is not to say that this is the only time to memorize music. In fact, studies have shown that if you memorize things right before you go to sleep you will retain more information. Your mind will assimilate what you’ve memorized as you sleep!

 

This is not to say that either method is correct or incorrect because one size does not fit all. Some people might have their minds working best in the evening while others will be scattered and unfocused later in the day. Personally I can work late into the night as easily as early in the day, but starting early allows me to assimilate more.

 

This brings us to the subject of how much you can attempt to memorize during the course of a day. You really can’t overload yourself with too much information at once. For example if you were moving your household, if you attempted to take all the boxes and furniture at once without stopping you would become completely exhausted and probably wouldn’t finish the job. However, if you were to take your time and take frequent breaks in between you would be much more capable and productive. The same thing is true for your mental work. Learning to pace yourself and work a little bit at a time is much more beneficial to you than trying to cram it all into one session. I recommend working a bit on your memorization and then taking a break by doing something completely different. Keep coming back to it throughout your practice and you will be amazed at how much more you are able to retain over time.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a very good question and it can be different from person to person. However, there are some general guidelines that apply to all of us that can be helpful to everyone.   Personally, I like to start memorizing music early in the day while my mind is fresh. After I get up in the morning and have […]

Read More

Can You Replace Just One Ivory Key on Your Piano?

 

This is a question I get frequently. People with antique pianos often wonder what they can do when one or more ivories are chipped or missing. This can be a real annoyance particularly when it’s in the middle of the keyboard.

 

In our last video about ivory keys we discussed the legal status of Ivory in the United States as it pertains to pianos and other items. If you haven’t watched that yet you may want to get yourself familiar with this important issue.

 

The answer to the question as to whether or not you can replace one missing ivory is, maybe. Some tuners carry around spare ivories taken from pianos that had to have the ivories replaced with plastic. It’s great to be able to reuse ivory on another piano. However, this is not as easy as it sounds.

 

Ivory is an organic substance that comes from elephant tusks and as a result no two keys are exactly alike. Finding one that fits is a great puzzle that can’t always be solved. One set of ivories might have a different pattern, size, or color than others – finding a match could take dozens or more different ivories.

 

This could all change in the near future as the laws pertaining to ivory are tightening and the transport and sale of any items containing ivory may become illegal. It’s a good idea to keep yourself updated on this topic and rest assured that we will provide any new information pertaining to ivories and pianos as things develop.

 

For the most part, if you have an ivory key or just a few ivory keys that need to be replaced, your tuner may be able to find matches. Sometimes they can fill in chipped pieces with compounds much like a dentist filling a tooth with white enamel. However, if there are a larger number of chipped or missing ivories, you will probably have to replace them with a set of plastic key tops. It’s really not a big deal and you will probably be better off that way than having a worn set of ivories. Here is a video I made that highlights the different benefits of ivory versus plastic key tops.

 

If you have any questions or comments regarding ivory keys or anything else about pianos please contact me directly Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a question I get frequently. People with antique pianos often wonder what they can do when one or more ivories are chipped or missing. This can be a real annoyance particularly when it’s in the middle of the keyboard.   In our last video about ivory keys we discussed the legal status of Ivory in the United […]

Read More