What are Etudes? Music Theory Lessons – Musical Etudes

 

If you’ve played music for any length of time you may be familiar with etudes. What they are exactly is a two part answer, because there are fundamentally two different types of etudes. Even though they are both called etudes, these two different types are radically different from one-another. So let’s explore this topic and explain the differences in etudes and how they relate to your music.

 

Etude comes from the French word meaning, “study”. Etudes generally focus on overcoming specific technical challenges. One type of etude is strictly an exercise. There are famous Czerny and Hanon etudes that are famous exercises, but they aren’t pieces people generally perform. Their main purpose is to develop technique on an instrument.

 

Most Hanon etudes are simply a series of repeated note patterns. They are valuable for younger students to develop strength. Hanon Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises also contains the standard fingering for all major and minor scales and arpeggios, a staple for serious pianists. Brahms and Czerny also have etudes that are used for developing technique as opposed to necessarily providing great musical compositions. However, some Czerny etudes are quite enjoyable to listen to.

 

The other type of etudes are musical etudes. Chopin, Liszt, and others have created masterful pieces of music called etudes. These etudes explore different technical issues such as double thirds, sixths, octaves and other unique challenges. Yet, they are masterful works of music.

 

Musical etudes from Chopin, Liszt, Moszkowski, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and others are sometimes extremely complex and can be daunting for intermediate students to attempt to play. But the good news is there are some musical etudes from composers such as Burgmüller that are very nice pieces of music which help develop technique, yet provide intermediate level students with richly rewarding music to play! There are musical etudes that range from student level to virtuoso. Mastering a musical etude can greatly benefit your development as a pianist and give you music to perform as well.

 

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

  If you’ve played music for any length of time you may be familiar with etudes. What they are exactly is a two part answer, because there are fundamentally two different types of etudes. Even though they are both called etudes, these two different types are radically different from one-another. So let’s explore this topic and explain the differences in … Continue reading What are Etudes? Music Theory Lessons – Musical Etudes

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How to Sight Read Part 1: Why Sightreading is Important

 

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

  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 … Continue reading How to Sight Read Part 1: Why Sightreading is Important

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Can You Compose Music Without Being Able to Read Music?

 

The short answer is, yes! While we will definitely dive deeper into this subject in this article, reading and writing music is not necessarily a requirement to be a musician – although the type of music and what you’re looking to get out of your musical experience are important factors.

 

There are many styles of music in which people don’t read music at all and they can still be very successful. A lot of folk music and rock music is composed and played without the need to write or read music in a traditional way and it doesn’t hurt the overall experience.

 

With the advent of technology there are tools that have been developed for composers who don’t necessarily write things down. For example, when someone is scoring music for film or TV it might not require writing any music down. A musician could use a keyboard connected to a computer to simply improvise music and play any instrument sounds imaginable with certain programs. They might even use sound design elements that are incorporated into their music that aren’t even musical instruments at all – which would make it impossible to write down “notes” for something like that.

 

Sequencing programs on computers allow you to plug a keyboard in and they will record everything you play. Whether you are playing with a piano sound or different instruments, everything is recorded in a raw format that allows you to revisit it later and change the sound, instruments, or even the notes however you want. You can achieve all this without knowing how to read music. It can definitely be helpful in the editing process to use notation, however, there are other ways of dealing with notes such as piano roll representations which can be manipulated on the computer screen.

 

There are some limitations to composing without knowing how to read a score for certain types of production. For example, if you want to add acoustic instrument tracks to your score, being able to flesh out a part, put it on staff paper and having a professional musician come in and record that part would be much more time consuming without the ability to work with musical notation. However, there are workarounds even for this, such as recording the part on a keyboard and having someone learn it from the recording – or having someone transcribe the part to written form for you.

 

Another possibility is using shortcut notation – such as lead sheets. In Jazz and other improvised styles of music, lead sheets are how musicians generally communicate with each other.

 

The further your progress in your music, the more important learning how to read and write music may become. It’s not a necessity to get started but it can open up possibilities for your musical creations and collaborations.

 

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

  The short answer is, yes! While we will definitely dive deeper into this subject in this article, reading and writing music is not necessarily a requirement to be a musician – although the type of music and what you’re looking to get out of your musical experience are important factors.   There are many styles of music in which … Continue reading Can You Compose Music Without Being Able to Read Music?

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How to Sight Sing Intervals – Music Lessons

 

This is a very interesting topic that someone asked me about the other day. It’s not that hard to sight-sing scales and it can be very beneficial to gaining a deeper understanding of your music. But the question is, how do you practice sight-singing intervals? Other than sight-singing a wide range of music, how is it possible to become better at sight-singing intervals that aren’t just one note apart as in scales?

 

You will see a demonstration in the video that accompanies this article that may help you achieve comfort in singing all of your intervals! I highly encourage you to watch the video for a thorough understanding of these techniques.

 

The first exercise (that I actually learned as a child) is based upon the notes of a major scale going up by a third and down by a step over and over again until you reach the octave above. Then go backwards going down by a third, up by a step on and on until you are back on the starting note an octave below. This is extremely helpful in hearing and singing thirds.

 

Later in life I wondered why stop at thirds? So (with some prompting by my father) I expanded my horizons to other intervals! First, try going up by fourths, down by thirds again and again as before – then reaching the top and going down by fourths and up by thirds which brings you back to the starting note. This is a challenging exercise which is very helpful in understanding other pitch relationships. If you are brave, you can go through all of your intervals in a similar manner. It gets progressively harder – wait until you try sevenths!

 

At first this will be a great challenge. But eventually, you will become fluent with all of your intervals utilizing these exercises. You will get to a point where you will begin to comprehend the notes of music you hear because you will have mastered all diatonic pitch relationships.

 

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

  This is a very interesting topic that someone asked me about the other day. It’s not that hard to sight-sing scales and it can be very beneficial to gaining a deeper understanding of your music. But the question is, how do you practice sight-singing intervals? Other than sight-singing a wide range of music, how is it possible to become … Continue reading How to Sight Sing Intervals – Music Lessons

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Can You Start Playing Piano without a Teacher?

 

The short answer is sure; why not? However, you really need to ask yourself what your intentions and expectations are. You should also be aware of the style of music that you would primarily want to play.

 

For example: if you want to play some blues or honky tonk piano or maybe you want to play some pieces you make up or sing too, you might be just fine on your own. You might be able to find some good online resources and develop as a pianist and musician on your own.

 

When it comes to classical music however, you will be at a severe disadvantage without the help of a teacher. The complexities of reading a score, the traditions developed over hundreds of years, advanced techniques, there are a number of roadblocks that would be incredibly difficult to overcome on your own. Even if you are a genius, you will progress at a much slower rate than someone who has assistance from an experienced teacher.

 

If you are interested in other genres of music – jazz, rock, country, etc. – you can try and sit down with other musicians who are better than you and gain a lot of knowledge and experience from these types of “informal lessons”. Some of the greatest musicians in these other styles of music are not traditionally trained.

 

If you are serious about becoming a musician – really in any style of music – you will greatly benefit from one on one instruction a great teacher can provide.

 

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

  The short answer is sure; why not? However, you really need to ask yourself what your intentions and expectations are. You should also be aware of the style of music that you would primarily want to play.   For example: if you want to play some blues or honky tonk piano or maybe you want to play some pieces … Continue reading Can You Start Playing Piano without a Teacher?

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Why is slow practice so important? Piano Playing Techniques

 

Practicing slowly is essential in order to develop and maintain a high level of piano playing. There are actually several different components I’m going to discuss when it comes to the magic of slow practice. Even pieces that you have polished and are on performance level will benefit from the reinforcement of going through slowly. This means playing the piece slowly and definitely looking at the musical score, using no pedal and most often using the metronome. Practicing like this will help solidify your memorization and your fingers. I find this is the best thing to do in the final practice for a performance you are well prepared for.

 

There is another form of slow practice that you might not have heard about before. I find this to be incredibly important; in fact, I discussed this with my wife www.FlorenceFlutist.com and she had the same exact perception of this concept. Let’s say you sit down to practice and have a whole piece to work out. Perhaps it is partially learned but the piece is not up to performance level yet. You could try to power through and keep working trying to improve it. However, a much better approach is to not worry about the whole piece at all at this point. Simply start at the beginning of the piece; the first phrase. Play it slowly – slower than you are used to – until you have complete comfort and satisfaction with that section.

 

If you do this you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time working out that first section. You will probably wonder how you will even get through the whole piece learning so slowly! You will be very tempted to move ahead to the next section before you should. However, if you stay with it, the results will be remarkable.

 

Continue working slowly on the first section of the piece until it is absolutely perfect and it feels very comfortable. Then begin working up the tempo with the metronome one notch at a time. The good news is that most sections of the piece will not require such intense practice and you will get them on a high level without spending much time at all. However, there will be a few sections that will definitely benefit from this slow practice routine. It comes down to the 80/20 rule:

You should spend 80% of your time on the hardest 20% of the music!

 

Most pieces are not written with equal difficulty throughout. By taking sections that are difficult and practicing them slowly until they become comfortable (and then increasing the speed), your practice sessions will become much more productive. Slow practice is an incredible tool to advance your piano playing. Just practicing a piece slowly and definitely without incrementally speeding it up will be tremendously beneficial. Try these techniques out and see how it works for you. I would love to hear your comments.

  Practicing slowly is essential in order to develop and maintain a high level of piano playing. There are actually several different components I’m going to discuss when it comes to the magic of slow practice. Even pieces that you have polished and are on performance level will benefit from the reinforcement of going through slowly. This means playing the … Continue reading Why is slow practice so important? Piano Playing Techniques

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