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A Secret Octave Technique for Piano

September 10th, 2014

We have addressed octave techniques in a couple of past videos: It’s all in the wrist and Piano Exercises - Octaves, among countless other videos in which I talk about certain techniques I will address in this video as well.

This video is quite unique. A couple weeks ago a good friend of mine named Jeffrey Beigel (who studied with my father Morton Estrin) was touring through Southern California. We had time to catch up and even film an extended interview (which you will see on the website and YouTube very soon).

I had mentioned to Jeffrey that I was playing the Liszt B-minor Sonata which contains numerous octaves sections. He immediately went to the piano and started playing parts of the Liszt Sonata and said, “Curl the second finger”. I had never heard this before and I started incorporating it into my octave technique.

In case you are unfamiliar with my video on octave technique, it involves playing from the wrist – as the arms are not fast enough to get the job done in many cases. Jeff’s suggestion was to simply curl the second (index) finger. It works wonderfully by relaxing the hand which allows you to play your octaves more easily.

Thanks again for joining me and I look forward to sharing more of these techniques with you in the future. Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

Can You Teach Your Kids How to Play Music?

September 10th, 2014

For me this is a loaded question. My sister and I were taught piano by our father Morton Estrin, so you might assume that I would simply say, “Yes.”, and move on. The answer though is not that simple.

It certainly worked in my family but there are lots of other cases where this simply doesn’t work. When I was growing up my father had a very busy career recording, performing and teaching. He would have no time during the week to give us lessons. Instead, every Sunday after we would eat brunch he would give us our lessons. My sister and I would always fight for who got their lesson first but no matter what we would always have our lessons for an hour each.

When I was growing up I would think about this method with a little bit of jealousy. After all, this was my father, why would he treat me like every one of his other students? In hindsight I realize that this is the secret to success; treating your children like every other student!

It might sound contradictory but if you treat your children differently and special in any way it becomes very difficult to maintain. There could be exceptions like homeschooling your children which is a circumstance in which you have complete control over their learning and schedule. If you are proficient in music then this could potentially be beneficial. For most parents however, a single lesson once a week for an hour should do just fine.

I’m sad to say that I didn’t actually follow this advice with my own children. I did not schedule out a time every week to give them lessons. Instead, we simply had lessons when we had time and that would often mean cancellations and random scheduling that would result in fewer lessons than if we had simply scheduled it out beforehand. As a result of this, my children are accomplished on other instruments – they are both very proficient on piano but it’s not their primary instrument.

Another aspect to my father’s teachings that was unique was the way he handled time between lessons. My mother would always be the one to make sure we practiced and to watch over our musical routines. My father would be completely uninvolved after the lesson – again treating us like we were his students and nothing more when it came to music. This is smart because if he was listening to us all the time and watching over us it could create a conflict in our development; it would also take up a lot of his time. I highly recommend this method for teaching your own children and if I had to do it all over again with my kids I would follow a similar format. I welcome your input on this topic and thanks again for watching - I’m Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

The Art of Pedaling on the Piano - Part 2

September 3rd, 2014

Welcome back to our multi part series on the art of pedaling on the piano. Last time in part one we talked about the damper pedal and clearing the pedal on the downbeat of new harmonies. This week we are going to be covering some nuances of pedaling.

For this example, I use the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata. In the example, I demonstrate playing the piece without the pedal. When it comes to performing the piece you will want to use the pedal, but you should learn all your music without the use of the pedal first so you can hear the connection of notes that good fingering provides. This helps you to understand where to apply the pedal in your music as well as avoiding the bad habit of using the pedal as a crutch to connect notes in difficult passages.

Another way to enhance your music with the pedal is like what we talked about in the first video. This is achieved by putting the pedal down as soon as the harmonies change. Sometimes you might want the clarity of the notes to shine through in certain passages,. In these instances it’s a good idea to not hold down the pedal for the entire beat like we did in the first video. Instead, we will be using touches on the melody and for the passages that you can’t connect with my fingers alone.

This might give you an idea as to why pedal markings are not written into the score most of the time. If you tried to write down everything I was doing in the example video above it would create chaos on the page! Many other factors from the acoustics of the room, to the quality of the piano, to the size of pianist’s hands all factor into when to use the pedal.

The best thing you can do is to practice without the pedal and learn your music completely that way. After you feel confident playing the piece without the pedal, slowly go through and add the pedal where you think you need it – either to connect difficult passages or to enhance the harmonies or melodies of your music.

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

5 Tips for Improving Stage Presence - 1 Talk to the Audience

September 3rd, 2014

Welcome back to our final installment of Improving Your Stage Presence. So far we’ve covered: Taking Your Time, Making Eye Contact, Not Showing Your Mistakes and Taking Time between Bows. Today we will be discussing Talking to The Audience.

This is not typically done in classical performances, but it’s certainly something you should think about incorporating. Talking with your audience creates a strong personal connection that can be invaluable in cementing lasting memories of the performance.

When I was growing up, my father Morton Estrin played large venues all over the world, from Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall to Europe and elsewhere. One of his trademarks was that he would talk to the audience. Taking a brief moment during the performance to break the ice and introduce himself as a performer and a person would allow the audience to form a personal connection and enrich their experience.

If you are performing in a more relaxed setting – like a restaurant or a club – it’s imperative that you make contact with your audience and talk with them every now and then. You shouldn’t talk too much but you should briefly speak to them every now and then to make a genuine connection. It can be thrilling for the audience!

It’s even more unexpected in larger concert halls. Even if you feel nervous and unsure about making contact this way, try announcing your encore pieces clearly so everyone can hear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to concerts where the artist never talks at all and the audience becomes confused and frustrated trying to figure out what encore pieces are being played.

I hope this series has been helpful for you. Be on the lookout for more topics and videos just like this one. Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

Orange County Piano Sale

August 29th, 2014

 

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PLEASE CALL: 949-244-3729

SALE TERMS:

  • All pianos include professional delivery anywhere in the United States. (Flights of stairs may incur some additional cost.)
  • Cash, Check, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express and PayPal are accepted.
  • Financing and Layaway programs are available.
  • Trade-in value of pianos previously purchased from Living Pianos applies to regular price, not sale price.
  • No Sales Tax except in California.
  • Benches are included with all pianos.
Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano
Company: Mason & Hamlin
Model: A
Serial #: 85178
Original Price: $15,500
SALE Price: $13,950
Build Date: 1979
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 8″
 

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Steinway A3 Stretch A Grand Piano
Company: Steinway
Model: A3
Serial #: 219752
Original Price: $27,500
SALE Price: $25,995
Build Date: 1921
Color: Fancy Mahogany
Size: 6′ 4″
 

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1982 Kimball U.S. Made Grand Piano
Company: Kimball
Model: Grand
Serial #: D27998
Original Price: $8,500
SALE Price: $5,900
Build Date: 1982
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 9″
 

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2001 Steinway Model L Grand Piano
Company: Steinway
Model: L
Serial #: 561687
Original Price: $34,950
SALE Price: $29,500
Build Date: 2001
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 10.5″
 

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PLEASE CALL: 949-244-3729

Baldwin Model L Artist Series Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: L
Serial #: 249911
Original Price: $27,000
SALE Price: $18,500
Build Date: 1982
Color: Walnut Satin
Size: 6′ 3″
 

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Steinway Model B Semi Concert Grand Piano
Company: Steinway
Model: B
Serial #: 295084
Original Price: $34,500
SALE Price: $29,995
Build Date: 1939
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 6′ 10.5″
 

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Young Chang Grand Piano
Company: Young Chang
Model: G185
Serial #: 16168
Original Price: $15,900
SALE Price: $9,995
Build Date: 1985
Color: Ebony Polish
Size: 6′ 1″
 

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1990 Samick Ivory Baby Grand Piano
Company: Samick
Model: SG155
Serial #: IJFG 0307
Original Price: $8,350
SALE Price: $5,350
Build Date: 1990
Color: Ivory
Size: 5′ 1″
 

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FOR INSTANT APPOINTMENTS
PLEASE CALL: 949-244-3729

Baldwin Model L Artist Series Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: L
Serial #: 225599
Original Price: $18,500
SALE Price: $17,995
Build Date: 1978
Rebuilt: 2014
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 6′ 3″
 

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Steinway Model M Louis XV Grand Piano
Company: Steinway
Model: M
Serial #: 483745
Original Price: $33,950
SALE Price: $28,750
Build Date: 1983
Color: Walnut Satin
Size: 5′ 7″
 

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Baldwin SD-2 Concert Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: SD-2
Serial #: 74941
Price: $29,950
Build Date: 1935
Rebuilt: 2014
Color: Satin Black
Size: 9′
 

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Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano
Company: Mason & Hamlin
Model: A
Serial #: 21822
Original Price: $20,500
SALE Price: $17,500
Build Date: 1913
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 8″
 

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Knabe Baby Grand Piano
Company: Knabe
Model: Grand
Serial #: 102920
Original Price: $10,500
SALE Price: $8,995
Build Date: 1927
Color: Satin Mahogany
Size: 5′ 2″
 

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1989 Estonia Grand Piano
Company: Estonia
Model: L190
Serial #: 4703
Original Price: $20,750
SALE Price: $14,995
Build Date: 1989
Color: Ebony Polish
Size: 6′ 3″
 

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Steinway Model A Art Case Grand Piano
Company: Steinway
Model: A
Serial #: 126132
Original Price: $25,900
SALE Price: $23,995
Build Date: 1907
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 6′ 1″
 

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1980 Baldwin Model R Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: R
Serial #: 237614
Original Price: $14,995
SALE Price: $9,995
Build Date: 1980
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 8″
 

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US made Weber Semi Concert Grand Piano
Company: Weber
Model: Semi Concert Grand
Serial #: 19502
Original Price: $10,350
SALE Price: $8,995
Build Date: 1881
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 7′ 3″
 

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PLEASE CALL: 949-244-3729

Knabe Grand Piano
Company: Knabe
Model: Grand
Serial #: 111677
Price: $15,950
Build Date: 1917
Color: Ebony Semi-Gloss
Size: 5′ 10″
 

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Rebuilt Bush & Gerts American made Grand Piano
Company: Bush & Gerts
Model: Grand
Serial #: 53756
Original Price: $12,500
SALE Price: $7,500
Build Date: 1914
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 7″
 

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Baldwin Model E Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: E
Serial #: 18940
Original Price: $14,500
SALE Price: $11,995
Build Date: 1912
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 8″
 

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Baldwin D Concert Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: D
Serial #: 63985
Original Price: $25,000
SALE Price: $19,950
Build Date: 1930
Color: Satin Ebony
Size: 9′
 

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Steinway Model M Grand Piano
Company: Steinway
Model: M
Serial #: 213191
Price: $24,500
Build Date: 1922
Rebuilt
Color: Mahogany Satin
Size: 5′ 7″
 

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Baldwin Model R Grand Piano
Company: Baldwin
Model: R
Serial #: 199409
Price: $14,500
Build Date: 1972
Color: Ebony Satin
Size: 5′ 8″
 

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How to Hide Mistakes in Your Musical Performance

August 27th, 2014

Everyone practices a great deal to avoid mistakes but we are all human and sometimes mistakes just happen. I don’t care who you are or how accomplished a musician you are, there are a myriad of reasons that could create a mistake. There could be a problem with the instrument, there could be a distraction in the audience, a finger could slip, your memory could fail for a moment; the list goes on and on of potential problems that could lead to a mistake.

The best thing you can do as a musician is to play with continuity. Let’s just say there is a really big train with a lot of cars. If the train derails, there would be utter chaos – the cars would go everywhere and you would have a huge mess. But if instead of the train derailing, it simply slipped back onto the track and kept its course, while the event might be scary, it would not lead to disaster; instead the train would simply chug along almost as if nothing ever happened. This is how you need to think about a musical performance. It must keep moving along!

The worst thing you can do as a performer is to stop and dwell on a mistake. It’s absolutely crucial that in the event of a mistake you continue to maintain the proper time of the piece and make sure that you don’t stop playing. If you make a mistake that is jarring for the audience, everyone will notice no matter what level of musical sophistication they have. Just like if you are watching a movie and the frame skips even a few seconds forward or back, it is much more jarring than if there is a moment of blurriness or garbled audio.

The most important thing is to keep the music moving. This is essential when you are playing with other musicians because you will not be playing together if you lose or gain time! Even if you miss a note or crack a note you must keep moving; don’t let a mistake slow you down or stop you mentally. If you pull this off correctly nobody in the audience will be offended by the mistake. You just have to keep the flow and the time of the music intact and everyone will enjoy the performance even if it’s not perfect.

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

What is the Largest Piano in the World?

August 27th, 2014

In past videos we have covered the different sizes of Upright Pianos and Grand Pianos. Today we will be covering something a little different; the biggest piano in the world!

The largest production piano in the world is the Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand which is nine and a half feet long. Is that the world’s largest piano? Not by a long shot.

The biggest piano that I’ve actually played is a twelve foot piano that was made by David Rubinstein. He has built two pianos – an eight foot piano and a twelve foot piano. Both of these are remarkably good pianos – especially considering these are the only pianos he has ever built. Both instruments were custom built – he did not use any parts from existing manufacturers. However, even the twelve foot piano is not the largest piano in the world.

An architect from Poland named Daniel Czapiewski created a piano that is 6 meters long – almost 20 feet - and weighs over two tons. Now is a piano this big going to be any better than a piano of only 9 feet long? Not necessarily. There is a lot of physics involved in creating sound with the piano and there is only so much energy your fingers can impart to a hammer. You could easily pass a point of diminishing returns and create something that is more of a novelty than an actual instrument. Now I have not had the opportunity to play this piano so I will have to reserve judgment for now but I am very interested to try it out one day.

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

Getting Back Into Piano after a Long Absence

August 15th, 2014

I talk with people about this subject often. Any time you take a leave of absence from a musical instrument there is going to be some extra work involved in getting back into top playing form. I’m going to provide a few tips here to help you get back into good shape to play.

Luckily, the piano is one of the easier instruments to pick up after a long absence. I also play the French horn and I can tell you from experience that picking up a wind instrument after even a short absence is a big challenge. In the case of a wind instrument, your lips will become fragile after being away from your instrument, and playing too hard right away can blow them out – making it so you can’t play again for a while. It’s a very delicate process and you must build up slowly.

When it comes to the piano, your hands and arms matter most. If you’ve battled with tendentious, arthritis, or any other types of ailments you should definitely ease yourself into playing a bit slower. Even if you haven’t experienced any of these problems, you should still be careful. Jumping right in with some advanced repertoire could lead to injury.

The best thing you can do is simply play. Start with easier pieces you know and work your way back up. More important that just picking the right repertoire is simply playing again. Practicing will help you develop strength and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get back into shape. Specifically pick some pieces that allow you to stretch the fingers and stay away from pieces that are percussive and hard at first.

You can play exercises – like scales and arpeggios or some of the one’s I’ve mentioned in previous videos – but the best thing you can do is simply start playing music again. Starting with something slow is your best bet and simply work your way up to faster and more complex music.

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

5 Tips for Improving Stage Presence - #2 Take Time Between Bows

August 15th, 2014

Welcome back to our ongoing series of Improving Your Stage Presence. So far we’ve covered: Taking Your Time, Making Eye Contact, and Not Showing Your Mistakes. Today we are going to talk about something you don’t even do until after your performance - taking time between bows.

Now this is definitely related to the first subject (Taking Your Time) but it’s equally important. I have seen countless performances where the performer will simply pop up and down very quickly bowing – almost like a machine. It’s an awkward gesture when it is performed this way and makes the performer look robotic.

Really to understand why bowing is so important we must discuss why we bow in the first place. Sometimes when you teach youngsters how to bow they feel really uncomfortable – almost like it’s showing off. In reality, bowing is the exact opposite of showing off. Bowing is a way of thanking the audience for the applause. A bow is a humbling gesture to the audience that allows you to demonstrate your appreciation for them. It should never be considered an egotistical type of gesture.

It’s equally important to look at your audience between bows. Look into the eyes of the crowd, let them see you, and let you thank them for the applause and their attention. If you take your time it can be a great way to connect with your audience and leave a lasting impression. Remember, this is the last thing the audience will see when you are onstage – it’s after the performance – you should always leave them with a good impression of yourself.

Whatever you do, don’t continue to bow up and down repeatedly. It looks awkward and machine-like and it looks much better to simply take your time and make that personal connection with the audience between bows.

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

How to Adapt to Room Acoustics in a Musical Performance

August 12th, 2014

This is a very common problem for many performers and it can be a challenge to overcome. Learning the correct playing methods for different room acoustics can be tough but I’m going to give you a few tips to help you out.

I performed a concert recently at the Laguna Beach Art Musuem. The room was incredibly loud – it was in a museum gallery with wood floors and a tall ceiling. The sound reverberates incredibly well in that room and with too much volume it can be overwhelming to the audience. So how do you cope with something like this?

The general key to adapting to room acoustics is that the more “live” (echo and reverberation) a room is, the more clean and detached you’ll have play. For example, if you are performing the Schumann Sonata in G minor in a loud room, you will want to limit the use of the pedal and delineate the notes to make things clear. You don’t want to play too legato in a loud room, it will muddle the notes. If you are in a quieter room with carpet and dry acoustics you will want to use more pedal and play legato; it will produce a better sound for the environment.

The ultimate way to test this is by playing in the environment in which you will perform. If you have the opportunity you should get to play and test out the piano in the room before performing. A big challenge is that once people are in the room the acoustics change because the bodies absorb sound! If you are unable to get into your performance space early and get intimately familiar with the room, just follow the general guidelines listed above.

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