How to Remain Motivated as a Musician

 

I get this question all the time. It’s a hard thing to put yourself out there as a musician, for every success there is an equal or greater amount of criticism and potential failure to deal with; it’s enough to make anyone second guess themselves. So in the face of criticism and potential failure, how do you keep yourself motivated as a musician?

 

Music is a subjective experience and not all music is for everyone. I’ve had times where audiences are very sophisticated and engaged in the performance and other times when the audience might be talking and aren’t fully engaged in the performance. Do I take it personally when an audience isn’t paying attention? While it can be frustrating, I remind myself of the reality of the situation.

 

It’s taken me a long time and lots of performances to get an understanding of how people react to and appreciate what you are providing; it’s not all about you. People have other things on their minds and different frames of reference and your performance is not the only thing going on in their lives at that moment.

 

When it comes to auditions it can be equally frustrating. Maybe you keep winning and winning and then all of a sudden hit a big losing streak. Or maybe you haven’t won anything yet. How do you remain motivated at times like this? I know it’s much easier said than done, but if music is your passion, you shouldn’t give up and you must keep your focus on the big picture. If you look deep down in yourself you might find that it’s not about your performance but more about the random elements of auditioning and performing.

 

You are not the only one who has faced adversity. It’s sometimes comforting to read stories about hugely successful musicians and see that they experienced the same amount of struggle and conflict in building their careers. Lady Gaga was told time and time again that she would never succeed and that she was not good looking or talented enough to be successful – do you think anyone tells her that now?

 

If music is your passion then you shouldn’t give up. Obviously you have to find a way to make a living doing something, but you should always keep your passion alive and find ways to embrace your creative side. If you keep at it, will you become the next superstar musician? Probably not. However if playing music is what makes you happy, then sharing your art should be something that fulfills you; you must be creative finding ways of monetizing your art.

 

Failure is an essential learning experience. It should not define you and it should not deter you from reaching your goals.

 

Thanks again for joining us, if you have any comments about this subject or any other subject please contact us directly: info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  I get this question all the time. It’s a hard thing to put yourself out there as a musician, for every success there is an equal or greater amount of criticism and potential failure to deal with; it’s enough to make anyone second guess themselves. So in the face of criticism and potential failure, how do you keep yourself … Continue reading How to Remain Motivated as a Musician

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How to Prepare for a Piano Exam

 

This has been a common question for me; many students have asked me what I would recommend to help them prepare for upcoming piano exams. I remember my days in music conservatory preparing for piano exams in preparation for recitals. In case you aren’t familiar, piano exams consist of sitting in front of a jury who generally spot check the music. This can be a daunting process!

 

The tests consist mostly of being asked to play certain selections from your current recital program. You may be stopped abruptly in the middle of your playing. This can happen throughout the exam and become very disconcerting if you don’t know what to expect. You might feel that they think you are playing badly but this is just part of the procedure and there is nothing to worry about.

 

But how do you prepare for this? The best thing to do is to practice like you would for a recital. While you might only be playing certain selections from your music, you should be prepared to play the entire program since it’s impossible to predict what they will ask for, just like any audition.

 

An essential practice technique is practicing without the pedal – this can be incredibly beneficial because you will hear more detail so your hands and fingers zero in on corrections quickly. You should also practice with the metronome and also combine these two techniques. These are essential piano practice techniques that will solidify your playing.

 

More than any physical technique, you will want to live with the music inside you. Play the music mentally away from the piano. Making yourself play the music away from the piano will better prepare you when you actually play on the piano. In order to play the piece in your head without even moving your fingers or looking at the keyboard, you have to be incredibly familiar with the score. It can be very reassuring to get the music mastered on this level. No matter who you are or how well you are prepared, mishaps can happen to the best concert pianists. In the event of a mistake, you must recover quickly and keep the music flowing. Knowing your scores enables you to keep the flow of the music going no matter what happens.

 

You may learn your scores so well that you literally play them in your sleep! When you sit at the piano you will want the music to come out of you with minimal effort. However, you will not want to play your music on autopilot. You should constantly stay focused on what you are doing and where you are in the piece instead of relying on tactile memory.

 

When preparing for an exam or a recital, performing a practice run through in front of family or friends is absolutely essential. If the first time you perform your music it is in a high pressure situation, you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Try working with your colleagues testing each other through mock piano juries! Have them stop and start you abruptly – have them even critique you in a stone-faced manner. These techniques will benefit you when the time comes for your actual exam.

 

Remember that auditions are not necessarily satisfying musical experiences. The judges may have listened to dozens of students before you even show up. They may be tired and hungry. They are simply getting a job done. Their demeanor doesn’t necessarily reflect upon you. Remember that they are not there for the same reasons you are – they are simply there to test.

 

Prepare the best you can and test yourself with informal performances and mock auditions and you should do just fine on your piano exam. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin – Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This has been a common question for me; many students have asked me what I would recommend to help them prepare for upcoming piano exams. I remember my days in music conservatory preparing for piano exams in preparation for recitals. In case you aren’t familiar, piano exams consist of sitting in front of a jury who generally spot check … Continue reading How to Prepare for a Piano Exam

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How Much Does it Cost to Tune a Piano?

 

Tuning a piano cost different amounts in various regions. Some remote places have no piano technicians! So, when tuners come through, they are in incredible demand and command high rates for tuning. In metropolitan areas with lots of tuners, the going rate is usually around $100-150 – some areas are higher than others. And top notch concert level tuners can cost substantially more.

 

But this is only half the story! Because it also depends upon several other factors:

 

  • How often the piano is tuned
  • How much the piano is played
  • Stability of the environment
  • Quality of the piano

 

 

Pianos that are played a great deal such as in schools or pianos owned by serious players who practice a lot will require much more tuning than pianos that are not played much.
A place that has wide swings of temperature and humidity will cause a piano to become out of tune more readily than in a more stable environment.

 

A higher quality piano will hold its tuning longer than a lower quality piano. Newer pianos and newly rebuilt pianos will also require more tuning and adjustment as strings stretch and the piano settles.

 

So, there is much to be considered when servicing your piano. There is almost always at least some additional adjustments necessary when getting your piano tuned. So the cost of having a piano technician visit can vary a great deal. $100-$150 would be an ideal amount to spend if you have a high quality, broken in piano tuned on a regular basis, kept in a stable environment and played minimally. In most instances the cost will be greater.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this subject or any subject at all please contact us directly info@livingpianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Tuning a piano cost different amounts in various regions. Some remote places have no piano technicians! So, when tuners come through, they are in incredible demand and command high rates for tuning. In metropolitan areas with lots of tuners, the going rate is usually around $100-150 – some areas are higher than others. And top notch concert level tuners … Continue reading How Much Does it Cost to Tune a Piano?

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Keeping Kids Engaged in Music Lessons

 

This is a very tough subject. Many times I have seen parents get down on their kids for not wanting to practice even though they are paying for music lessons. In a perfect world, everyone would take music lessons and know from experience how difficult it can be to practice. It’s a tough task to keep adults engaged in learning music – so you can imagine how difficult it is for children. This article will offer some tips to keep kids engaged in their lessons and excited to learn and motivated to practice.

 

While playing a musical instrument is fun, it takes a lot of work to learn how to play well. It takes a tremendous amount of mental and tactical skill in order to be successful. With children you will be walking a fine line of keeping them engaged and interested and becoming disenchanted and wanting to quit. How can you avoid having them simply give up?

 

One of the most important things is making sure that they aren’t playing on inferior instruments. It might sound silly to have your child learn something they might not stick with on a nice instrument, but it can be pointless to have them practice and learn on an inferior product. Many times music teachers will recommend certain instruments and parents will simply go for the cheapest alternative – setting their child up for failure. If you have them performing on an instrument where the sound produced is bad and the keys stick, they probably won’t want to keep playing it. One of the best ways to discourage someone from playing an instrument is handing them a bad instrument.

 

Another thing that is critical is getting the best possible teacher right from the beginning. It’s a huge mistake to think that going with an inferior teacher is O.K. when starting a musical instrument. If an experienced player learns from someone great and then moves on to someone not so great, they will immediately be able to tell they aren’t geteting what they need from them. This is not possible when you start lessons – there is no frame of reference. Not only will their development be much quicker with a better teacher, chances are they will be more motivated to learn if they are experiencing a tremendous amount of progress. Bad teaching risks not only a potentially worthless experience, but they could potentially develop bad habits causing injury.

 

Now if you have a child who is working hard and practicing every day, you need to find ways to encourage them. A good idea is having them play in informal and nurturing settings for friends and family. Encourage them to perform but make sure you don’t pressure them too much or put them in an awkward situation. Having them play for people will help to build self-esteem as well as get more encouragement to know that all their hard work is building to something.

 

Another thing to do is play music for them. Take them to concerts. Show a general interest in what they are doing. If they see your interest and enjoyment for their musical achievements, it will only help to build their confidence and interest in continuing to learn and play. If the children are very young, maybe it’s a better idea to take them to outdoor concerts where they can be in a more informal setting. I’ve seen many times where parents will take very young children to formal concerts only to have them be ridiculed by other members of the audience for not sitting completely still or being quiet. This can be a horrible experience for any young child and can turn them off to music. It’s not a great idea to bring a four year old to a sophisticated classical concert – they can’t comprehend the level of complexity involved in the music and most likely won’t enjoy it as you intend them to.

 

It’s a lot like getting your kids to do anything that you need them to do – doing homework, brushing their teeth, cleaning their room, etc. Practicing their instrument should be a part of their daily routine. While you don’t want to beat them up over not practicing, you should encourage them to continue playing and to do it every day. A huge problem with children learning instruments is never practicing outside their lesson – this is only going to set them up for failure.

 

A big thing that many parents and even teachers do is not let kids play what they want. Children should be allowed to play any music they want, whether it’s classical or popular music. Forcing them to only play a certain type of music – specifically one they aren’t interested in may cause them to become disinterested much quicker. Encouraging them to play all sorts of music can enhance the experience of learning an instrument.

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

  This is a very tough subject. Many times I have seen parents get down on their kids for not wanting to practice even though they are paying for music lessons. In a perfect world, everyone would take music lessons and know from experience how difficult it can be to practice. It’s a tough task to keep adults engaged in … Continue reading Keeping Kids Engaged in Music Lessons

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Living Pianos Podcast – Episode 01- Introduction – Music Conservatories and Auditions

 

 

 

Welcome to the first episode of the Living Pianos Podcast.

 

Welcome to the Living Pianos Podcast with your hosts Robert Estrin and Mike Wood. On this podcast Robert and Mike will discuss everything and anything piano as well as general music questions. In the future we will present interviews with musicians and luminaries in the piano industry as well as inside information about the piano industry.

 

Robert and Mike have been producing videos for years on their successful YouTube channel and are now bringing the show to a longer audio format with this podcast. This is a great opportunity to interact with our viewers and answer their questions directly. If you have any questions or comments for us, please send them to info@livingpianos.com.

 

On this episode they discuss the challenges of getting into a music conservatory and the audition process for schools and orchestras. They also cover opinions on digital pianos as well as emerging technologies in the world of analog and digital music, a completely carbon fiber piano and a question about how to prepare a room for a piano.

 

      Welcome to the first episode of the Living Pianos Podcast.   Welcome to the Living Pianos Podcast with your hosts Robert Estrin and Mike Wood. On this podcast Robert and Mike will discuss everything and anything piano as well as general music questions. In the future we will present interviews with musicians and luminaries in the piano … Continue reading Living Pianos Podcast – Episode 01- Introduction – Music Conservatories and Auditions

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Piano Lessons – The Burgmüller Studies – Part 1

 

Welcome to the first in our series on The Burgmüller Studies. Burgmüller was a wonderful composer who wrote pieces that are accessible to less advanced students, yet offer absolutely wonderful musical content. I always encourage students who have progressed beyond the most basic level to explore these pieces because they are beautiful compositions that can help you further your development as a pianist.

 

Today we are going to discuss the first piece in this series: La Candeur (or as it translates to English, “Frankness”).

 

What are the challenges in this piece? You might notice by listening to it that it has a very lyrical, sustained melody. This piece doesn’t require using the pedal but the challenge is getting a smooth line throughout which requires learning to play legato. This is a great skill for any pianist and particularly good for young students just getting into more advanced music. You’ll also want to support the line with the weight of your arms – VIDEO: Arms Equal Power and Depth.

 

The secret to getting a sustained and beautiful tone is to have the weight of your arms supported by the fingers. You’ll want to transfer the weight from finger to finger to create a long and beautiful legato. You don’t want to apply pressure just at the start of a note but during the entire phrase. If you were to play on someone else’s arm they would feel a constant pressure from the weight of your fingers and arms pressing down, not just at the start of the notes.

 

If you were to calculate the volume of each note louder and louder to the top of the phrase, then quieter and quieter, you would end up with calculated playing, not a smooth line. Using the weight of your arm – almost as if it were the breath in music – to get louder during the middle of a phrase and softer towards the end of a phrase, you will create a very dramatic and pleasing tone throughout. You want the piano to mimic a wind instrument or a singing voice in it’s tone.

 

In another part of the piece you have a section which almost sounds like it could be written for two different instruments in the right hand:

 

 

On the top you have these half notes:

 

 

And on the bottom you have a completely different voice:

 

 

It’s important to leave the top (half notes) down while you play the other notes. How can you achieve this? By practicing the long notes legato and the short notes staccato from the fingers. This creates independence of the fingers to assure delineation of the two lines. Without doing this you might end up holding down all the notes or not holding the half notes for their full value – which would be incorrect.

 

Thanks again for joining me, I look forward to our next lesson on Burgmuller. If you have any comments or questions for this topic or any topic at all please contact me directly: info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Welcome to the first in our series on The Burgmüller Studies. Burgmüller was a wonderful composer who wrote pieces that are accessible to less advanced students, yet offer absolutely wonderful musical content. I always encourage students who have progressed beyond the most basic level to explore these pieces because they are beautiful compositions that can help you further your … Continue reading Piano Lessons – The Burgmüller Studies – Part 1

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