How Do You Maintain a Musical Repertoire?

 

A musical repertoire is one of the most important things a musician has. A repertoire is a demonstration of your accomplishments and provides the foundation for you as a musician, so it’s important to have music that you can play at any time which defines you. It’s important that you select pieces to add to your permanent repertoire, think of it like a resume for a job.

 

You can study an instrument for many years and if you only work on the pieces you’re currently studying you will eventually forget your old pieces you have learned and have a limited amount of music you can play. Let’s be realistic though, if you tried to keep every piece you’ve ever played fresh in your mind it would be an insurmountable task – just imagine trying to practice every piece you’ve ever learned every day; it’s impossible!

 

So how do you build a good repertoire and maintain it over the course of your lifetime?

 

Practice the pieces you want to maintain in your repertoire. Play through these pieces on a periodic basis. (It doesn’t require practicing at every session.) Try to keep these pieces fresh in your mind and never too far away from performance level.

 

Refer back to the original score. This is something that many people might not consider but it’s essential. Over time, no matter how often you revisit your pieces, mistakes and inaccuracies will creep in. By going back and referring to the score you can ensure that you are playing the pieces correctly and as originally intended. You might be surprised when you go back and revisit the score and play slowly with the score that you will see things you never noticed before. This helps you not only to maintain your repertoire but to master it.

 

Re-study pieces you really enjoy. It’s always personally rewarding to go back over a piece you particularly love and re-learn it by studying the score carefully and getting everything you can out of it. The pieces you re-learn and study again and again will become a part of your permanent memory and form a very strong part of your repertoire.

 

Thanks so much for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions or comments about this subject or any other subject please contact us directly: (949) 244-3729 or email: Info@LivingPianos.com

  A musical repertoire is one of the most important things a musician has. A repertoire is a demonstration of your accomplishments and provides the foundation for you as a musician, so it’s important to have music that you can play at any time which defines you. It’s important that you select pieces to add to your permanent repertoire, think … Continue reading How Do You Maintain a Musical Repertoire?

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Advanced Memorization Techniques

 

I have a video I made quite a while ago about How to Memorize Music which describes a technique I learned from my father Morton Estrin. www.MortonEstrin.com One of the first things I ever learned as a child sitting down at the piano was how to memorize.

 

My original technique includes a very simple process of taking one hand at a time with very small phrases. You practice each hand until memorized and then combine the two hands until it’s smooth and memorized. Once you have completed that, you move on to the next phrase connecting phrases as you learn them until you complete the piece. This is a system that has worked phenomenally not just for me, my father, and my sister, but all of our piano students and their students over many years!

 

This technique holds up for nearly any style or type of music but in some cases the music can become so complex that it can become incredibly difficult to memorize. The system may be inadequate when you have music that presents a middle voice that is distributed between the two hands such as in a Bach Fugue or a Scriabin Etude. It becomes very difficult to learn only one hand at a time in this situation. Luckily, there are some techniques you can use to work through these challenges.

 

In the case of the middle voice, try practicing only the middle voice (using both hands). The important thing is to get through each individual phrase and do your best to combine them. It may be incredibly difficult to combine the phrases and you might find yourself struggling to do this. The best thing is to keep working: learn a phrase, learn the next phrase, and then try your best to power through them. Even if you can’t combine them in a fluid way, don’t stop; just keep advancing through the phrases of music. This might sound counterintuitive to the process I described earlier, but if you wait until the phrases are smoothly connected, you limit how much you can learn in one sitting. Then when you practice the next day you can combine phrases to get a more fluid connection. You still may not be able to connect all the phrases, but you can break it down in the following manner (or something similar depending upon the context):

 

Day one: Learn 2 measure phrases and connect each 2 measure phrase to the adjacent phrase.

 

Day two: Learn 4 measure phrases.

 


Day three:
Connect all the phrases!

 

You can continue working in this manner in each successive section of the piece.

 

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

  I have a video I made quite a while ago about How to Memorize Music which describes a technique I learned from my father Morton Estrin. www.MortonEstrin.com One of the first things I ever learned as a child sitting down at the piano was how to memorize.   My original technique includes a very simple process of taking one … Continue reading Advanced Memorization Techniques

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Why Would You Buy an Expensive Piano?

 

You might wonder whether or not it’s a frivolous expense to spend $60,000, $80,000 or more on a piano when you can buy a decent Asian production piano for a fraction of the cost. Are expensive pianos worth the price or are they merely status symbols? Let’s examine this in detail.

 

Yes, there is a sense of status when owning an expensive piano. Having the name Steinway, Bosendorfer, Fazioli or other esteemed brand across the fallboard of your piano makes a statement. It’s a lot like owning a designer handbag or luxury car. There is pride of ownership of a fine piano. However, beyond the name across the fallboard, what are the benefits of buying a top-tier, handmade instrument?

 

Fortunately, showing off the name on your fallboard is not the primary benefit of owning a high-end piano!

 

Beyond the status of owning an expensive instrument, the resale value of the piano will be much higher than a cheaper production instrument. The value of Steinway, Mason & Hamlin and other top-tier piano brands is very high and they retain their value unlike some production pianos which can be practically worthless in a few short years.

 

Think of it this way, if you buy a $10,000 production piano, when it wears out you probably wouldn’t invest to rebuild it. This is due to the fact that the cost of rebuilding is more than what the piano is worth or even the price of a new one. When it comes to top tier instruments, the cost of rebuilding is justified. So, the piano has lasting value.

 

If you’re looking for a piano that you can pass down from generation to generation, a high-end piano is the obvious choice.

 

What’s the difference in how a cheaper piano plays compared to a top-tier piano?

 

For the majority of players a cheaper production piano may be adequate. For a young child just starting out, an adult who likes to play occasionally, or someone who is looking at a piano primarily as a piece of furniture or even as an entertainment piece with a modern player system, you may not require anything greater than a decent production piano in your home. It can last several years with moderate use and proper maintenance.

 

What about for serious players?

 

Years ago I had a brand new, grand piano from a respected Asian manufacture that I was using as my personal practice piano. I am a serious player and practice hours every day I found that about every six months the piano required major regulation just to keep it in decent playing condition. I even had to rebuild the pedal lyre more than once because it couldn’t withstand the intense use the piano was getting. I was spending a small fortune to maintain the instrument and it was simply not worth the investment. Eventually I found a top-tier American concert grand piano from the 1970s that I still currently use and it’s been a phenomenal experience owning this piano; it can withstand my rigorous practice sessions and requires only minimal regulation on a much more occasional basis because of its stability.

 

Another thing to consider is that the vast majority of Asian production pianos don’t have the range of expression that top-tier pianos offer. Any serious pianist knows how to instantly adjust to the instrument in front of them. For example, if I’m performing on a concert grand Bosendorfer, Mason & Hamlin, Steinway or other top brand I can let myself go and not worry about how much energy I put into the piano. If I’m performing on a cheaper instrument I will temper my performance limiting the energy I exert to avoid unpleasant sounds out of the piano since it can’t handle my range of expression. I would relate this to turning up a cheap stereo too loud – it can create distortion and become very unpleasant to the ears.

 

What about if you’re playing a piece that requires quiet playing with multiple, simultaneous lines at different volumes? This is a technique that really only high level players will be able to achieve on a top-tier piano in great condition. Yet it’s something that any serious pianist absolutely requires.

 

These issues are not really a concern for most players or students. Unless you are a really accomplished player you probably won’t encounter these types of issues. However, if you find yourself limited in your performance because of your current instrument then it might be time to upgrade your piano to something more substantial. Even if it isn’t required, you may appreciate the quality of sound and touch and enjoy and instrument you can keep for the rest of your life.

 

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

  You might wonder whether or not it’s a frivolous expense to spend $60,000, $80,000 or more on a piano when you can buy a decent Asian production piano for a fraction of the cost. Are expensive pianos worth the price or are they merely status symbols? Let’s examine this in detail.   Yes, there is a sense of status … Continue reading Why Would You Buy an Expensive Piano?

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The RIGHT Way to Practice Music

 

Today we are going to talk about why it’s crucially important to practice your music thoroughly as opposed to just quickly. You might think if you can practice something quickly it would be a big benefit to you but that’s not always the case.

 

I am actually someone who is very much in favor of short cuts wherever they can work. I’ve talked about methods in the past such as The Band-Aid Approach to practicing music that is a method in which you focus on the trouble spots of your performance in order to save time. This is not to say that this method isn’t a form of thorough practice; it’s just incredibly efficient focusing 80% of your time on 20% of the music which needs most of the work. I once had a student whose former teacher told them to play an entire piece through at a slow speed with the metronome and then speed it up one notch at a time playing through the entire piece again and again. This is definitely thorough practice but it wastes your time since only sections of the piece may require this kind of approach.

 

So what do I mean by thorough practice? Sometimes you’ll be learning a new piece and it’s not up to the level you want. You might find yourself jumping into random spots and trying to fix problems – this can be a mistake. Instead of moving on, go to the first spot you have difficulties with and stay focused on it. Stay with this section and keep working on it until you have it absolutely dialed in, perfect and reliable. If you stay with a section until you have it mastered as described above, you will find yourself playing it correctly even after time has elapsed. Even more importantly, the techniques you learn in that section will help you throughout the rest of the piece. There is rarely a piece of music you will encounter that doesn’t contain a repetition of ideas, techniques, harmonies and textures. So, the thorough work you do on one section will translate to other parts of the piece.

 

As you move through the piece perfecting trouble spots, you will find that your practice becomes incredibly productive. As opposed to just going through the piece and working on random trouble spots, find the origin of your problems, start there and practice it so completely that you can play it accurately with ease.

 

To recap, work on the difficulties you encounter early in a piece of music and you will be rewarded later in your practice. Thorough practice is what will make you a more accomplished musician. It is so gratifying to perfect a small part of a piece and continue on that path than to plow your way through without refining your work.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions or comments about this video or any other subject please contact us directly: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Today we are going to talk about why it’s crucially important to practice your music thoroughly as opposed to just quickly. You might think if you can practice something quickly it would be a big benefit to you but that’s not always the case.   I am actually someone who is very much in favor of short cuts wherever … Continue reading The RIGHT Way to Practice Music

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How Do You Play the Piano with Your Mind?

 

While this might sound silly, learning to play music mentally is one of the best practice methods. All practice is mental practice. While the action of playing an instrument has a physiological component, learning and practicing is much more of a mental experience than anything else. In fact, recent brain scan tests have found that there is no difference in brain activity between someone playing an instrument or just thinking about playing an instrument!

 

In college I had come down with mononucleosis when I was scheduled to play a solo recital. I had become very weak but was determined to play the program. An hour and half a day is about all the practice I could handle – and that was about how long the program was. Needless to say, this was not enough time to practice. Determined to succeed despite my physical ailment, I tried something new. I ended up taking all my scores into bed with me and I practiced mentally. To my surprise, the performance ended up being the best I had ever had by far! But how can this be?

 

Don’t hop into bed with your musical scores just yet! You have to develop technique and playing your instrument is essential. However, you should continue practicing even when you are away from your instrument. Imagine the performance in great detail, every sound and action. By doing this you will be able to hear the music exactly how you want it to sound so you can develop your performance. Learning your music mentally away from your instrument will help you identify problem spots you didn’t know existed before. You may be depending upon tactile memory on some passages and you may realize that you don’t actually know the music as well as you thought.

 

Here is a great exercise for you: Take a piece you are very familiar with, remove the score, and try and play it mentally. Play as far as you can go without stopping and when you have to stop, refer back to the score and start again until you can play the entire piece from memory away from your instrument. If you do this, you will have mastered that piece of music better than any other piece you’ve played before. Whenever I play a recital I play my music in my head constantly before the performance. I make sure I can get through difficult sections again and again until things are totally clear. There is great reassurance in performance when you know your scores on this level.

 

Thanks again for joining me, Robert@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729

  While this might sound silly, learning to play music mentally is one of the best practice methods. All practice is mental practice. While the action of playing an instrument has a physiological component, learning and practicing is much more of a mental experience than anything else. In fact, recent brain scan tests have found that there is no difference … Continue reading How Do You Play the Piano with Your Mind?

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What is a Straight Strung Piano?

 

This is an interesting topic that many of you might not be familiar with. Recently we had an amazing instrument come into the store – an 1875 Erard Concert Grand Piano. What made this piano so unique is that it’s one of the very few instruments surviving today in good condition that feature a straight strung scale design.

 

 

Around the 1880s it became much more common for pianos to feature cross stringing – which is what you will see in pretty much any piano designed and built in the modern era. Also referred to as being “overstrung” this design of crossing strings over one-another allows them to be longer and fit into a smaller frame.

 

 

Before the advent of cross stringing, pianos would have to be larger in size to produce a vibrant tone. The strings of a modern baby grand piano are generally longer since the crossing allows for longer string length for much of the piano. This is one reason why small baby grands were impossible to design before the advent of cross-stringing.

 

Other than the placement of the strings, the location of the bridges on the soundboard also differs dramatically between a straight strung and a cross strung piano. Modern pianos with cross-stringing allow for placement of the bridges closer to the center of the piano for more of the notes. You may wonder how the sound of earlier straight strung pianos differs from modern design instruments.

 

Playing one of these straight strung pianos is truly an experience. As you play you’ll hear the same type of tone production that Chopin and Liszt experienced in their day for the most part – it really transforms you back in time to a different era. It’s an exhilarating experience to hear and play their music as they heard it – a punchier, more percussive sound.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions about this topic or any others please contact us directly: (949) 244-3729 or email us: Info@LivingPianos.com

  This is an interesting topic that many of you might not be familiar with. Recently we had an amazing instrument come into the store – an 1875 Erard Concert Grand Piano. What made this piano so unique is that it’s one of the very few instruments surviving today in good condition that feature a straight strung scale design.   … Continue reading What is a Straight Strung Piano?

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