There has been a huge response lately to my videos. So many people are contacting me with pianos they want to consign, that I decided to clear out pianos at bare bones cost to allow for some of these additional pianos.
If you have been on the fence about getting a piano, you will want to look at these prices. It’s only for one week then prices go back to my normal, low prices.
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 are accepted.
While PayPal is accepted, these low prices are not being offered on my Ebay store.
Financing and lease to own programs are available.
Layaway any piano with 20% down.
Trade-in value of pianos previously purchased from Living Pianos applies to regular price, not sale price.
No Sales Tax except in California
Full purchase price applies to the purchase of any piano of equal or greater value at any time in the future.
There are many different types of scores – piano scores, violin scores, entire orchestral scores. If you are working on a piece that has multiple instrument parts in it – like chamber music or orchestral music, it can be very helpful to see the whole score to understand how your part fits in.
One of the most important things to do before starting to play a new piece is to figure out the key and check out the time signature. Also make sure to note any changes (key, tempo, time signature, etc.) that occur within the composition. Also, go through to make sure you are aware of any repeats, D.C., D.S. or codas. Some music can be like a puzzle just figuring out what comes next!
If you’re looking at an orchestral score you should note the different groups of instruments and when they start and stop playing (as well as any other major changes that occur).
If you are playing a piece with other musicians you will want to know when they are playing within the composition and know how your part fits in. Some knowledge of the music before rehearsal can be invaluable. Try listening to a recording of the work making notes as you go along. Sometimes when playing a new piece of chamber music or concerto, it can be helpful to play some of the other parts. That way you will be more adept at integrating your part when playing together.
Next week we will be discussing how to approach an orchestral score in more detail. Thanks again for watching: Robert Estrin – Robert@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729
Learning to play softly on the piano is really a challenge and a skill of fine art. It is very challenging to master but when it’s executed well, the results can be amazing. So this article and video will provide some tips on how to improve your playing.
I want to mention first that you will need to have your piano regulated and voiced on a very high level to achieve consistent, quiet playing. If the notes don’t respond mechanically or sonically in a uniform fashion, you simply can’t achieve pianissimo playing since some notes will drop out.
I was very lucky growing up with my father, Morton Estrin. who is a concert pianist. We had several fine pianos around our house and in his studio, and I also got a chance to try out concert instruments when he was selecting pianos for performance and recording.
He has a reputation for being able to fill even the largest concert halls with tremendous sound; in fact smaller halls were sometimes not big enough to handle the sound. However, while he was known for his massive strength, he had incredible skill for pianissimo as well. This is a skill that is really daring for most pianists; as playing quietly really demands the audience’s full attention – even ruffling your feet can disturb the sound of the piano. However, playing like this can open up worlds of expression in the music.
But how do you achieve this? How do you play quietly and still maintain control in your playing? My father would describe pianissimo playing like this: think of the energy of the sun. Now imagine blocking it all out except for one single pinhole. The energy that flows through that one pinhole; that is what pianissimo playing is about. There is an intensity even at very low volume.
When it comes to playing quietly on a wind instrument or a string instrument there is the breath and the bow which provide continuity. So what can you use on the piano to get the smoothness of line in very soft playing?
You could try calculating each note successively louder, then softer trying to get a smooth phrase. However, if you use this approach it will sound calculated! You will not achieve a singing line.
The secret is to use the weight of your arm and to transfer the weight from finger to finger smoothly. When playing pianissimo you will also want to stay as close to the keys as you can making sure they aren’t depressed at all. Use minimum motion. The arm weight provides the analogue to the breath of the human voice! It provides a continuum of energy creating the illusion of a singing line.
Keep in mind that the piano is technically not capable of a true singing line since all notes are fading away as soon as they begin. Yet, by utilizing the weight of the arm, you can achieve smooth, pianissimo playing with great control.
Last week we discussed the importance of sightreading and why it’s a required skill for many musician. This week I will offer some helpful tips and tricks to improve your sightreading!
As a personal note, as a child I progressed to a fairly high level on the piano. By high school I was playing Beethoven Sonatas, Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies, Chopin Ballades; overall very advanced music. However, even though I progressed to a high level, I always had something holding me back as a musician; I was not a very good sightreader.
My sightreading was on such a low level in high school that when the choir director came to me with a stack of music to accompany his choir when his pianist was unavailable, I had to decline. He probably thought I was being rude. But I simply didn’t possess the skills to get this done – I would have had to memorize all the scores and there simply wasn’t enough time!
So how did I change this? It really came to me in an “Aha!” moment. My father, Morton Estrin was set to perform the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor piano concerto at Carnegie hall and he needed to play the concerto with someone playing the orchestra part at the second piano. He handed me the score – which if you’ve ever seen, is a very thick book. I told him I couldn’t read it and I would end up missing half the notes.
I opened up the score to face a swarm of black notes splattered all over the pages; it was going to be a challenge for sure. I realized immediately that if I looked away from the page I would definitely get lost. So I decided to put my fingers at the starting keys and simply play what I could but never look away from the score. I counted like crazy staying with the party as best I could. We went through the entire concerto, all three movements, and I never got lost! Although I missed tons of notes, to my surprise it didn’t seem to matter. All my father needed was to run the concerto and that we did.
I learned something incredibly valuable that day. Keeping your eyes on the music and keeping the music flowing in time is critical to your sightreading success. But even more important is playing with other musicians and sight reading with them is essential for developing your reading. It will greatly improve your sightreading capabilities to perform as a group. Sure, you can practice every day by yourself (and you should) but it’s not until you actually start playing with other musicians that you will be forced to keep the music flowing.
With complex music sometimes it’s necessary to approach the score like a skeleton and flesh out the music. As your sightreading develops, you will realize more substantial elements of the score over time.
What’s more important than actually playing all the notes when sightreading is to keep the general character of the music going, keep the nuances of expression and timing; all of this is much more important than just playing all the notes. Especially when you are in a group setting, it’s more important to have a coherent, unified sound.
Practicing this way will enable you to become a much better sightreader over time. Practicing every day, playing with other musicians, and especially staying in time with the music will enable you to develop your sightreading. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin at VirtualSheetMusic.com
This really is a great topic to cover and there is a ton of information for you. There are two distinctly different types of repeated notes: slow repeated notes and fast repeated notes. I’m going to cover both of these techniques this week.
Let’s start with fast repeated notes. The easiest way to handle a fast note played over and over again would be to use two hands. However, for most music this is not going to be an option. Most of the time you will have to learn how to handle fast repeated notes with one hand, and the only way to achieve this is by changing fingers. You MUST change fingers in order to play the notes fast enough.
The most important thing is finding a fingering that works for you. Typically, 3-2-1 is a very good fingering for playing fast repeated notes. In the video above I demonstrate this on one of Scarlatti’s sonatas. I provide some additional instructions specifically on how to approach this; if you have time to watch, you may appreciate this.
Another thing to keep in mind when approaching fast repeated notes is that upright pianos will not be able to handle it. Not all grand or baby grand pianos can even handle the high level of repetition needed but it will need to be regulated well in order to play fast repeated notes.
So how is it done? It is absolutely essential to keep your fingers right over the keys. There isn’t time to make any motion beyond what is needed, so keep your fingers hovering very close over the keys. Also, keep your hand relatively stable, curve your fingers (keep them rounded) and try to hit the middle of the key. It’s best to practice slowly, with a metronome, and work your way up to speed slowly.
When it comes to slow repeated notes there are different schools of thought on how to approach them. I have a bias in the technique I use, however, the method I use is also used by many great pianists.
In the video I demonstrate these techniques on a Mozart Sonata. If you have the time to watch I would definitely recommend it.
Make sure that slow repeated notes are played as smoothly as possible. The big problem with the piano is that no matter how hard you try to connect repeated notes of the same note, they will always be detached in some way. This is because the dampers will always end the notes when they are released.
The trick is to not play the notes with one finger. Just like playing fast repeated notes, if you play with a finger pattern (like 3-2-1) you will be able to get a much better legato. Now the one problem with this is that if you if try and play the notes slowly with different fingers, you may find that a note doesn’t play. This is because the weight of your arm will most likely have your finger pushed down too hard for repetition. The trick is to keep the hand floating above the key putting minimal arm weight into playing. Having a high release of each finger allows the next finger to play the key again. If you do this, you will produce a stunning legato.
Make sure to practice the above technique without the pedal and try to achieve the smoothest legato you can.
Sightreading is an incredibly important skill for any musician. Being able to take a piece of music you have never seen before and play it at sight; it’s a pretty amazing skill to have.
I remember as a child I progressed in my piano playing but for a long time I was terrible at sightreading. I used to see other musicians, like my father, who could sightread nearly anything! I have developed my sightreading to a high level, but it took a long time and a lot of work to achieve this skill; and it’s something that continues growing with your musical experience.
But why is sight reading so important? There are a number of reasons.
As you study an instrument you only get to study a limited number of pieces which require a great deal of work to get to a performance level; usually committing them to memory. And really, there are only a certain number of pieces you can learn in a year – and really only a finite number you can master over a lifetime. But who wants to be familiar with only a limited number of pieces? Most people will want to be able to play a broad spectrum of music and get the opportunity to try out other pieces just to see what types of music they want to learn.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to sit down and try a piece out to get a sense of it; to see if it’s worth studying? This is where sight reading can be incredibly useful. If you continue practicing sightreading on a daily basis, eventually you should be able to do this.
Another huge benefit to sight reading is playing with others. Meeting with other musicians informally and sightreading music together can be a rewarding experience; exploring new music with others offers a huge benefit to improving your playing and may even open new opportunities for your performances.
A huge benefit to learning how to sightread is the ability to spot trouble parts in music you are learning. If you can make it through a piece you will undoubtedly be able to tell which parts will require more practice than others. Being able to sightread a piece and go through it a few times will help you tremendously in figuring out what parts to focus on in your practice.
Really there are countless reasons why sight reading is important. It is something that every professional musician should be able to do on a reasonably high level. It’s also great fun exploring a wide range of music and being able to play with other musicians without necessarily practicing hours in advance.
Next week I will provide some tips on how to improve your sight reading skills. Thanks for joining me Robert Estrin here at VirtualSheetMusic.com
This really is not as easy as it sounds. Just like finding a good dentist or mechanic, finding a good piano tuner can be a great challenge. Luckily, there are resources available in finding the right piano tuner for you.
It might seem that the best decision would be to simply pick up the phone book or Google the cheapest piano tuner you can find. However, tuning a piano – and especially working on them for more advanced jobs like voicing and regulation – is a very important part of keeping your piano playing its best. You shouldn’t just trust anyone to do this job. If you find a great piano tuner your piano will actually stay in tune longer than if you use someone who is less experienced or gifted. So finding a highly skilled piano technician could actually save you money! The perspective that an experienced tuner offers can also help guide you through important decisions required in the upkeep of your piano.
As with most service professionals, one of the best resources is to contact close friends or relatives who you know have fine pianos. They will most likely have a tuner they trust and would be willing to share information with you. Another great resource is to inquire at a local University that has a performance space. They will most certainly have a piano technician they use on a regular basis. Performance venues (local symphonies) will very likely use a great piano tuner because the piano must perform on a high level for visiting artists.
Another great resource is the Piano Technicians Guild. http://www.ptg.org They are an organization that has been around for years. They have tuners and technicians listed in nearly every part of the country; they can be a great resource in finding a tuner right near you. Keep in mind that there is still a wide range of skills that registered piano technicians possess. I’ve met and worked with many tuners who are part of the guild and they are fantastic people with a passion for the piano.
Something you should be aware of is that a piano tuner is different from a piano technician. All piano technicians are piano tuners, but not all piano tuners are technicians. A technician will specialize in more advanced work like regulation, voicing, fine tuning, and other things while a tuner usually specializes in tuning and may have limited additional skill sets.
The most important thing is to find the right person for the job. If you are located in the Southern California area I will be more than happy to share my contacts with you – I also have connections in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin: Robert@LivingPianos.com. These videos are brought to you in part from our sponsor – VirtualSheetMusic.com
I love to watch your videos. My question might be difficult to answer.
At my piano school, I play on a Remington grand and at home, I have a yamaha upright p22.
When I play my pieces at home, I don’t have any problem, but at school, I am unable to play softly and the action is not very responsive.
Also, the weight of the keys on the two pianos are almost the same. Is the source of this problem the Remington, my Yamaha or me?
Thanks for your answer to my question.
- Youtube Viewer
Thank you for contacting me with this very good question. It is typical for pianists to feel much more comfortable on the instrument you practice on daily since you become so familiar with the response. One of the biggest challenges facing pianists is the fact that unlike other musicians, we can’t take our instrument with us. So, being able to adjust to many different pianos is part of being a pianist. It is important to have a practice instrument that provides a base line for other pianos you play on. For any reasonably advanced player, a grand piano or baby grand is essential to continue progressing. There are many reasons for this, but primarily, even the best upright pianos have sluggish actions because the hammers travel sideways instead of up and down as in a grand piano. As a result, they don’t have gravity working for them and they are slower in response. You can watch my video on the subject:
While upright and grand pianos have fundamentally different actions, this may not be the only issue facing you in trying to adjust to the piano at school. Remington is a lower line, Chinese made piano. These instruments are difficult to keep in a high state of regulation. That coupled with the intensive institutional use the piano undoubtedly gets at school, and there is the possibility that the piano is not performing on a high level.
So there are 2 issues here: the adjustment from an upright piano to a grand piano, and the possibility that the school piano isn’t up to par. I suggest you experiment playing on as many different pianos as possible, both uprights and grands so you can get a feel for what different pianos are like. This can be an invaluable experience and may solve the mystery as to why you have such ease at home and difficulty playing at school.
Your video on pedal use with Moonlight Sonata was very helpful. I noticed you used the left pedal (Una Corda?) as well. And, I think you kept it down continually as you played. If so, why?
Thank you for the huge amount of time you’ve devoted to helping us all learn to play better,
You are very perceptive! Since the entire first movement of the Moonlight Sonata is quiet, the una corda pedal is appropriate for this movement. However, the una corda pedal has dramatically different degrees of tonal change on various pianos. So on some instruments it may be necessary to use the una corda only in some sections.
First, a disclosure is in order: I grew up with a concert pianist, my father Morton Estrin who taught piano in our home. He was my piano teacher as well. He still teaches in the house where I grew up on Long Island! My sister Coren Mino is also a pianist. My life is centered around the piano and always has been, so my viewpoint is definitely focused on the piano!
If you are serious about studying music, piano can be an essential tool for developing a deep understanding of music theory. If you attend a music conservatory, a minimum level of piano proficiency is required of all music students from composers, conductors, performers, teachers – everyone is required to learn to play the piano. What is so important about the piano?
One reason is that the piano is one of the only instruments in which you can easily play multiple notes at the same time. Most instruments can only play one note at a time. In fact, all brass and woodwind instruments are monophonic. (However, there are alternative techniques to get around this usually involving singing.) The piano is also quite different from other instruments because there is a vast repertoire of music which requires no other musicians to be complete!
The piano lends itself to fostering a deep understanding of the structure of music. On the piano you can not only see the chord but you can hear it (with absolute certainty) as well. For example, assuming the piano is in tune, if you play a C, it will be a C. If you try and play a C on another instrument – let’s say a French horn – there are a lot of different fingerings that can get very different notes; a piano will play a note with certainty as well as visual feedback. For singers, it can be invaluable having a piano nearby to check pitches of vocal parts.
Another point is that playing a note on a piano is incredibly simple. Even a young child can walk over to a piano and play a note on the keyboard. Just try and do that with an oboe or a flute; you will need substantial study of embouchure (lip position) breathing, fingering and more just to get a sound!
The piano is a wonderful instrument for everyone even if they don’t have formal training. I personally know people who have never had a lesson in their lives but still enjoy playing the piano. There are even professional musicians who have never taken piano lessons but have been able to play by simply watching people around them and learning by ear. This is particularly true of styles of music involving improvisation such as rock, pop, country, new age and even jazz.
The piano truly is a universal instrument. Unlike other instruments relegated to being closed up in a case in a closet, the piano is a substantial piece of furniture in people’s homes beckoning to be played!