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 […]

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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 […]

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When to Use the Soft Pedal on the Piano

 

The soft pedal is something that every pianist must learn to utilize effectively. While it’s commonly referred to as the “soft pedal” its actual name is the una corda pedal. Today we are going to discuss when and how to use the soft pedal effectively in your music.

 

Una Corda actually translates to “one string”. On older pianos there used to be two strings for each of the notes. By pressing the una corda pedal you would move the hammers over so they would only strike one of the strings. New pianos are a bit different as they have three strings for each note for most notes of the piano. So, when you press the soft pedal it will move the hammers over and they won’t strike the strings in the middle of the hammers, so it produces a mellower tone.

 

True una corda or soft pedals only exist on grand pianos. An upright – even with a third pedal on the left – does not truly simulate the effect of an una corda pedal. You can see this because when you depress a true una corda pedal, the keys of the piano will shift slightly to the right. On upright pianos the soft pedal does different things, but typically it brings the hammers closer to the strings changing the touch, not the tone.

 

In the video above I demonstrate the effect of the una corda pedal by playing the Chopin movement from Schumann’s Carnival. I provide an example with and without the una corda pedal. You will notice that not only is the music softer but the tone is a different color.

 

When used properly, the soft pedal is an extraordinarily expressive device that can add new color and depth to your music. So when do you use it?

 

In the example I play from the video, the same theme is played twice in a row. When I repeat the theme and use the soft pedal it creates a new and different sound. It’s a really beautiful way to highlight certain sections of your music.

 

But using the soft pedal really is not that simple. While the example above is a good spot to utilize the soft pedal, its effect won’t be the same on every piano. This is because not all soft pedals are the same. Every piano will have a different response when using the soft pedal. Some pianos might not produce much of an effect at all while others will produce a very dramatic change in tone. It’s very important to get to know the effects of your soft pedal whether you are playing your piano at home or performing on another piano. Room acoustics, audience noise and many other factors can determine whether or not the soft pedal is appropriate. Many times I have performed on pianos that were a bit too bright and border on having a harsh tone. When faced with this problem I might use the soft pedal a great deal to sweeten the tone and produce a better sound out of the instrument. Sometimes you might encounter a piano that is too mellow and you might want to use the soft pedal very sparingly.

 

It’s important to remember that the soft pedal is not something you can simply write into your music and play at the same point on every piano. This pedal is something you should employ at times when a tonal change is suitable. As you grow and progress as a pianist you will find yourself using the soft pedal when it’s appropriate and being able to make these judgment calls for yourself.

 

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

  The soft pedal is something that every pianist must learn to utilize effectively. While it’s commonly referred to as the “soft pedal” its actual name is the una corda pedal. Today we are going to discuss when and how to use the soft pedal effectively in your music.   Una Corda actually translates to “one string”. On older pianos […]

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The Psychology of Musical Performances – Part 3: How to Avoid Stress

 

Thanks for joining me in the third part of my series on the Psychology of Musical Performances. In the first part we talked about How to Balance Your Emotions and last time we talked about Learning to Forgive Yourself. Today we are going to talk about How to Avoid Stress.

 

There are actually ways to incorporate relaxation into your practice routine. And this doesn’t involve putting down your instrument but actually relaxing yourself while playing.

 

I like to find a few small sections of the piece I am working on that I am completely comfortable playing and continually go back to them to keep my playing relaxed. Hearing and feeling yourself get through passages you have mastered can help you relax.

 

If you hit a trouble spot in your practicing take a quick breath and examine yourself. Take a minute to mentally and physically reset yourself. Examine your posture; make sure you are sitting at your instrument correctly and comfortably. I’ve had students in the past who would tense up in times of difficult practice. Sometimes simply putting a hand on their shoulders and reminding them to relax can really help; it’s only practice and there is no need to stress yourself out!

 

The other component to relaxing yourself is not something you can learn in an instant. As you progress in your playing you will develop more and more strength and proficiency on your instrument. With this strength will come comfort – especially when you start tackling virtuoso music; the more you have played your instrument, the more relaxed you will become while playing.

 

Relaxation is key to developing yourself as a musician. You must become comfortable with your instrument and be able to relax while playing and practicing. So, in your daily practicing and playing, be aware of how you feel and take the time to adjust yourself to a comfortable playing position and consciously relax. As you develop more strength, over time relaxation will become second nature.

 

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

  Thanks for joining me in the third part of my series on the Psychology of Musical Performances. In the first part we talked about How to Balance Your Emotions and last time we talked about Learning to Forgive Yourself. Today we are going to talk about How to Avoid Stress.   There are actually ways to incorporate relaxation into […]

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What is “Subito Piano” in Beethoven?

  If you’ve played Beethoven you might be familiar with this term. It permeates throughout his music and it’s a very important but sometimes misunderstood term. Many people might overlook its importance but we are going to discuss this today and I will offer some insights to help you achieve a true subito piano to great effect!   Subito Piano […]

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The Psychology of Performing – Part 2: Forgive Yourself

 

Welcome back to our multi-part series on the psychology of performance. Last week we covered How to Balance your Emotions, this week we will be covering something that a lot of performers struggle with; forgiving yourself.

 

If you’ve ever performed you know that the element of chance always permeates a live performance. You can practice to develop consistency, but sometimes things happen and circumstances can immediately change. You could walk into the performance hall and realize the piano is completely different than you anticipated, the room could be filled with people changing the acoustics. Any number of things can present themselves and completely alter your performance.

 

The worst thing you can do to yourself is start to think in a cyclical pattern. If you make a mistake and you dwell on it during your performance you are more likely to make another mistake. Once you take your mind off the performance and start thinking about yourself performing your mind will start to play tricks on you. The best thing you can do is simply move on with the performance and never look back (until after the performance when you can reflect in practice).

 

This might seem easier said than done but it’s possible to achieve. If you put yourself into the right state of mind you can avoid these negative thoughts from creeping in. You have to remember, this is a musical performance, it’s not a life or death situation!

 

You must train yourself to stay in the moment. You can’t think ahead or behind when it comes to playing, just stay in the moment and get through it like you know you can. You can’t let doubt creep into your performances – that is when things can go wrong. Forgive yourself for not being perfect and enjoy the music!

 

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

  Welcome back to our multi-part series on the psychology of performance. Last week we covered How to Balance your Emotions, this week we will be covering something that a lot of performers struggle with; forgiving yourself.   If you’ve ever performed you know that the element of chance always permeates a live performance. You can practice to develop consistency, […]

Read More