Why You Must be Engaged in Your Musical Performance

 

This seems obvious enough. What would you be doing on stage if you weren’t engaged enough to give a performance? This topic has profound implications.

 

I remember when I was going to the Manhattan School of Music and I attended many concerts at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. I would hear many emerging pianists and while most played brilliantly, sometimes I would find my mind wandering during some performances. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me until I noticed that often times, there would be a memory slip by the artist just at the point that I would lose my attention. I began to understand what the real problem was.

 

The performer would become disengaged from their performance and it would cause them to have a momentary memory lapse. Beyond their mistake, the audience would become less involved in their performance and their brief slip indicated a loss of concentration. I began to understand the importance of staying engaged in your performance and staying focused.

 

It might be difficult to find enthusiasm for a piece you have practiced countless hours and played on numerous occasions. Sometimes a piece of music may become stale and your excitement for it has waned. So how do you keep yourself engaged and your audience excited?

 

When I perform a piece I have played hundreds of times before I try to find a new expression and find something in the music I haven’t discovered before. I bring new life to something so that it isn’t a routine run through but a fresh experience. This is something that gets me excited and raises my energy and focus during a performance. In doing this I am bringing a new level of excitement to my performance and engaging the audience in the process.

 

Keeping your audience engaged and entertained throughout your performance is something you must master; it’s one of the most important aspects of becoming a great performer and not just a great pianist.

 

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

  This seems obvious enough. What would you be doing on stage if you weren’t engaged enough to give a performance? This topic has profound implications.   I remember when I was going to the Manhattan School of Music and I attended many concerts at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. I would hear many emerging pianists and while most played […]

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How to Play Bach’s French Suites – (Part 1) Allemande

 

Johann Sebastian Bach did very little traveling in his life. Despite him having a wide range of music that spans many cultures, he never actually traveled to France or very much outside of Germany.

 

The Bach French Suites are based upon music Bach heard in concerts of musicians traveling from France. Bach was known for being able to imitate nearly any style of music and compose music that would be considered some of the best for each particular style.

 

The French Suites are based upon dance forms and while people might not have been dancing to his performances at the time, they do have a certain flavor and style that imitates popular dance music from the time.

 

In this series we are going to cover the 5th French Suite in its entirety. Today we will be dealing with the first movement, Allemande. I want you to notice that I don’t use the sustain pedal – I’m playing everything with only the fingers. Why is this? There is a good case for this since Bach played mostly on the clavichord, harpsichord and organ and had very limited experience with early pianos which had no sustain pedals anyway. As a result, it’s not necessary to utilize the sustain pedal while playing Bach’s music.

 

Pay special attention to the counterpoint (VIDEO: What is Counterpoint?) and how the lines intertwine with one-another. Also intrinsic to the style is the ornamentation which is indicated with various markings in the score. (VIDEO: How to Play Ornamentation).

 

You may notice that in all the French Suites the music is in A – A, B – B form. Meaning that you have a section that repeats and then a second section that also repeats. All the movements in the French Suites have a similar structure. The second section tends to be a bit longer than the first section but sometimes they are about the same length.

 

There is no phrasing or dynamics written into the music. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include any dynamics or phrasing, it means that it’s up to you how to approach the music. You must decide how to delineate the notes deciding how the notes are attached or detached and how to bring out the separate lines of music dynamically.

 

For example, in this particular piece I play the 8th notes staccato, which allows for delineating the lines. Without doing this it’s hard to tell which line is which – they all blend together! You should also embellish the music with the free use of ornamentation. For example, in the beginning of the piece I include some trills to liven up the music; without it the lines sound a little dull. Everything about the Baroque era has ornamentation. It’s a product of the time and is evident in the music, art, architecture and even the clothing style.

Thanks again for joining me and make sure to be on the lookout for the other parts in this series on Bach’s 5th French Suite.

  Johann Sebastian Bach did very little traveling in his life. Despite him having a wide range of music that spans many cultures, he never actually traveled to France or very much outside of Germany.   The Bach French Suites are based upon music Bach heard in concerts of musicians traveling from France. Bach was known for being able to […]

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Is it Harder to Play the Piano Left Handed?

  This is an excellent question and it’s something that many people wonder about but might be afraid to ask.   You might think that so much is dependent on the right hand that there might be some truth to this. Although, I have people ask me all the time about whether or not it would be easier to play […]

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What is the Russian School of Music?

  Maybe you’ve heard of this before. It is sometimes referred to as the Russian School of Piano Playing, Violin Playing or just the Russian School of Music. Each culture has different aspects and the Russian’s are no exception. The Russian culture is known for their intense emotionalism which certainly reflects in their music. They often perform with a great […]

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The Last Living Student of Sergei Rachmaninoff

Here is a performance of the spectacular Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodie #6. I just performed this at the 90th birthday celebration for the great pianist, Madam Ruth Slenczynska, the last living student of Sergei Rachmaninoff.     Read more about Madam Slenczynska  

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Can You Ruin a Piano Finish by Touching It?

 

This might sound like a crazy question but it’s surprisingly important and if you own a piano there are a quite a few things you should know about the various types of finishes. Refinishing a piano is an enormous expense and something that can be avoided with proper care and maintenance.

 

The classic American finish of a piano is a satin hand-rubbed lacquer finish. It’s an extremely popular type of finish but it’s also very important to know how to maintain properly. You might notice that when you place your hands on your piano you may leave fingerprints. If you use light cleaning products you can wipe these off but you’re leaving yourself open to a larger problem down the road. These types of finishes are porous and if you use cleaning products, they will eventually soak into the finish and will have to be professionally removed later on.

 

So how do you clean a classic satin finish to avoid additional costs later on? The best thing to do is to use a soft cotton cloth rubbing in the direction of the hand-rubbed lines. If you have fingerprints that have gotten deeply ingrained into the finish, then you should use a slightly damp (not wet) cotton cloth and again, rub in the direction of the hand-rubbed lines. This is the best way to clean a finish like this to avoid damage. And it’s all you need to do to maintain the finish in most cases.

 

The newer type of finish popularized a few decades ago is the high-gloss polyester finish. When these finishes were first introduced, people thought they would be fragile. To demonstrate their stability, companies at trade shows years ago lit them on fire to show their strength! So, can you destroy this type of finish with your hands? While they might show more fingerprints than a satin type of finish, you can’t easily damage this type of finish with your hands because they are plastic! They are sealed so they aren’t porous so the oils in your hands don’t seep in.

 

That’s not to say that high gloss finishes aren’t without their problems. If you were to take a music book and toss it onto a high gloss lid of a piano when it’s closed, it can cause scratches and lines in the finish that are impossible to remove except by an expert refinisher. So each of these two types of finishes can be damaged in different ways.

 

Cleaning a high-gloss finish is rather simple. You can actually use a damp cloth or even Windex to clean any fingerprints or dirt off the piano.

 

There is another way in which you can damage the finish of a piano and that is by simply playing it! Any serious pianist who plays a good deal will eventually scratch their fall boards and a lot of the times it can go all the way down to the grain of the wood. My father Morton Estrin (mortonestrin.com) had a Steinway his father gave him years ago which my sister now owns, and you can see the deep indentations in the fall board exposing the wood as a result of years of practice. You may think that you don’t scratch the fall board of your piano, but if you look closely, you will see at least gentle lines if you play a good deal. The good news is that the fall board is fairly inexpensive to refinish when the time comes. I have had the fall board on my piano refinished a couple of times!

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729. If you have any other questions please contact me directly.

  This might sound like a crazy question but it’s surprisingly important and if you own a piano there are a quite a few things you should know about the various types of finishes. Refinishing a piano is an enormous expense and something that can be avoided with proper care and maintenance.   The classic American finish of a piano […]

Read More