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

How to Find a Good Piano Tuner

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 d

How do you get a good sound when you’re playing the piano loudly? This really is much tougher than you might think. If you have ever been around someone who is banging on the keys of a piano you know the sound can be incredibly harsh. Even the most glorious of instruments can sound horrible when played incorrectly. So what’s the secret?

The first thing is learning what not to do. You must be aware the piano is incredibly sensitive to how you approach the keys. If you merely slap the keys, you’re going to get a harsh sound. A piano is not like most instruments. Most instruments have a direct access to the production of sound – especially when it comes to woodwind or brass instruments as well as string instruments. The tone you get out of a piano relies on how you approach the keys.

The proper method is to caress the keys; like a masseuse (with deep energy) it will create a beautiful and warm sound. How do you achieve this? The secret to getting a good tone is to always strike from the surface of the keys. If you strike from above, you will get a harsh sound.

A lot of times you will see pianist throwing their hands up and down and it looks like they are banging on the keys; it’s all an illusion. This is purely for show. If you look at a great pianist, like Arthur Rubinstein playing the Ritual Fire Dance, he would throw his hands up and down as part of the performance but when it came to actually playing the piano, he would strike from the surface of the keys.

The best method is to simply place your hands on the keys and then drop all the arm weight and pressure directly to the bottom of the keyboard all at once. Try this at home. Put your hands over the keys, don’t press them down at all, and then drop all the pressure and weight at the same time – you will produce a clear and beautiful sound no matter how much energy you exert on the piano.

The exception to this is rapid staccato chords or octaves in which the wrists are called into play for a combination of speed and power.

I hope this technique is helpful for creating rich, fortissimo piano playing for you!
Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin. Please feel free to contact me about any piano questions at all:

Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

Piano Lessons – How to Play Loud! Playing Loud on the Piano

How do you get a good sound when you’re playing the piano loudly? This really is much tougher than you might think. If you have ever been around someone who is banging on the keys of a piano you know the sound can be incredibly harsh. Even the most

If you have ever seen a conductor score you know that it looks extremely complex. For a lot of musicians, you simply have one staff of notes to deal with in a piece. As a pianist you have two staffs of music (generally bass and treble) and an organ might have three (bass, treble, and foot pedals). A conductor score is filled with every part – strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion; if it’s a part of the composition, it’s in there!

The string players will double the parts, so you have a number of first violins playing one part and second violins playing another part, and then there are the cellos, violas, and basses playing their parts (and often doubling, tripling, or even more).

The woodwinds and brass generally have their own parts – so the conductor score is often filled from top to bottom with musical staves!

The question is, how do you make sense out of all of this? Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s actually quite a bit more complex than that!

A conductor score has more than just treble and bass clefs – viola has its own clef, there are C clefs which can occur on different lines (and they often change within the piece), and the same thing can be true for other instruments as well. And to make matters even more complex, many of the instruments are not pitched in C – they are transposing instruments. A great example of this is a clarinet or trumpet (which are usually pitched in B flat) or a French horn which can be pitched in nearly any key, often changing keys for each movement of a work!

So this means when a conductor sees a C written for a French horn in F, he needs to know that the absolute pitch is actually an F. In other words, a conductor has the incredibly tough job of transposing music instantly – all the different clefs and keys – and make sense of it.

How is this even possible?

I’ve seen a number of conductors who can look at a score, reduce it down to the piano at sight, and see the absolute pitch of all the parts of the score instantly. They usually become very adept at fixed-do solfeggio so they know absolute pitch on a score and they are able to communicate with the rest of the orchestra. This way they can tell each of the instruments which notes to play and understand when there are wrong notes.

To get fluid with this you will really need to become comfortable with all your clefs and transpositions; this can take years to master.

But for most people, you can approach it like this. If you look at a conductor score you can understand that the string parts are going to be in C, and if you have other instruments they may transpose. This way you can get a general sense of the score without necessarily absorbing all the details.

I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with the score of the piece you are playing; whether they are orchestral works you are playing a part in, chamber music, or pieces with piano. Knowing what is going on with other instruments is essential to be able to play your part in context.

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

What is a Conductor Score? Musical Scores (Part 2)

If you have ever seen a conductor score you know that it looks extremely complex. For a lot of musicians, you simply have one staff of notes to deal with in a piece. As a pianist you have two staffs of music (generally bass and treble) and an organ m

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

How to Approach a Score – Musical Scores (Part 1)

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 w

There are occasions you will encounter four “F’s” or four “P’s” in your musical score and you might wonder how loud or soft can things possibly get?

You will never see markings like this in early period music. In Baroque music there are rarely any dynamics at all and in the few occasions they exist, they are typically just forte (F) and piano (P). Does this mean that early period music was less expressive? There is some truth to that, but there are notable exceptions like George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, certainly later Beethoven Symphonies, and even pipe organ music from the Baroque era since the organ was a fully developed instrument at that time.

The reason for the change in dynamic markings relates partly to the evolution of the instruments. In the Baroque era the piano didn’t even exist. The Harpsichord was the primary keyboard instrument at that time. The harpsichord has a very limited range of expression because there is no touch sensitivity for dynamics. The only way to alter the dynamics on a harpsichord is with a series of stops that engage different sets of strings. Consequently, dynamic markings were severely limited.

Other instruments in the Baroque era had similar limitations to their dynamics. The French horn at that time had no valves. So, the only way to change the pitch of certain notes was by sticking the hand in the bell “stopping” the notes. This too limited dynamic range.

Another element to this is that during the Baroque and Classical eras the orchestras were much smaller. There might only be a couple dozen members in an orchestra during the Baroque era and the early Classical orchestra was only slightly larger.

When you get to the late Romantic period there were huge orchestras sometimes over a hundred musicians. You can only imagine the dynamic range possible in this expanded ensemble. This is where markings like FFFF and PPPP were born as there were substantial capabilities in the dynamic range of the instruments and the orchestra as a whole.

In general, you must consider the style of the specific piece beyond just the era of the work using your judgement on what is appropriate and how the dynamic markings effect the sound of the piece.

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

How Loud is Fortissississimo FFFF? How Quiet is Pianissississimo PPPP?

There are occasions you will encounter four “F’s” or four “P’s” in your musical score and you might wonder how loud or soft can things possibly get? You will never see markings like this in early period music. In Baroque music there are r

Welcome back to our continuing series of piano exercises. Today we will be focusing on developing your octave technique.

I remember growing up as a kid and watching my father Morton Estrin mortonestrin.com and being enthralled by the way he played octaves – I wanted to develop my technique to play like him and my other inspiration, Vladimir Horowitz. At the time my hands were simply too small to achieve the results I wanted but I kept practicing.

My hands even as a full grown adult never became very large. I’ve struggled my whole life developing strength in order to play octaves and large chords well. Today I’m going to share a few tips for how to improve your strength and octave technique.

If you can’t reach an octave I’m afraid this lesson wont be much help to you. You might grow into it over time. The good news is that if you can reach an octave at all, this lesson will help you develop stronger, faster octaves!

The secret to this technique, and octaves in general, is the hand position. The key is to develop an arch between your pinky and thumb equalizing the strength of your weaker pinky to your stronger thumb. Your other fingers should be up and out of the way. If you have time to watch the video included with this article it shows an excellent visual representation of this technique. The goal of this position is to generate an equal amount of force between the thumb and pinky finger – which will help greatly in developing strength to play octaves.

For octave technique you will want to rely on the arms to place the hands over the keys, not for any up-down motion. All up-down motion should come from the wrist. I have explained this technique a number of times before and it’s explained in detail in the video included with this article.

To perform the exercise, set your metronome to 60 and then play a C major scale at one note to the beat in octaves and play the notes only from your wrist using the arms to guide your hands over the correct keys. This might seem like an easy exercise but it must be done correctly in order to be effective.

As you progress through the exercise and feel more confident you can play two times on each note for each beat. As you become comfortable, add one extra note each to each beat until you reach your limit. As you play faster, be sure to keep your hands closer to the keys and lighten up to help increase your speed.

Play through this exercise every day and you will develop brilliant octaves!

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

The Best Piano Exercises (Part 4) – Octaves

Welcome back to our continuing series of piano exercises. Today we will be focusing on developing your octave technique. I remember growing up as a kid and watching my father Morton Estrin mortonestrin.com and being enthralled by the way he played oc

Welcome back to our ongoing series of piano exercises. These are meant to be quick techniques you can practice with just a few minutes each day to help develop your strength. The first part in the series dealt with a Broken Triad Exercise and the second was Practicing Major Scales with C Major Fingering. This week we will be covering Broken Seventh Chords.

As long as you know all your seventh chords, you can play them in all keys as arpeggios. Why would you just play major and minor triads as arpeggios? Not only is this is a wonderful way to develop your technique but when you come across broken seventh chords in your music you will already know how to approach them.

The order I play them is:

– Major seventh chord
– Dominant seventh chord
– Minor seventh chord
– Half diminished seventh chord
– Diminished seventh chord

Why this particular order? If you play them this way, there is only one note that has to change between chords. Simply keep playing the chords one by one and go through all twelve of the keys. The video included with this article will show you a great example of this.

Here is the key on how to transition from chord to chord:

– Major seventh chord: Lower the 7th a half-step
– Dominant seventh chord: Lower the 3rd a half-step
– Minor seventh chord: Lower the 5th a half-step
– Half diminished seventh chord: Lower the 7th a half-step
– Diminished seventh chord: That’s it!

Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

The Best Piano Exercises (Part 3) – Broken Seventh Chords

Welcome back to our ongoing series of piano exercises. These are meant to be quick techniques you can practice with just a few minutes each day to help develop your strength. The first part in the series dealt with a Broken Triad Exercise and the sec

If you play the piano you have probably heard octave tremolos and were taken with how they sound. Today we are going to talk about how to approach these with the “Alla Turca” movement of the Mozart K331 Piano Sonata in A Major.

The secret to playing broken octaves – or octave tremolos – is first learning how to play octaves properly. One of the biggest secrets is using the correct fingering. You’ll want to use the first finger (thumb) and the fifth finger on all white key octaves – and thumb and fourth finger on black key octaves. This might seem like a small thing but it’s incredibly important to developing your octave playing by dividing the load between the fourth and fifth fingers which makes it much easier to play them quickly.

When you play octaves you will notice that the first finger (thumb) is much heavier than your fifth and fourth fingers. This is because your thumb is much stronger than your other fingers and you will have to learn to balance the weight of your hands. A great way to practice this technique is to play the top notes (fourth and fifth fingers) legato while playing your first finger (thumb) staccato. This might be tricky at first but keep practicing it because you will produce much more power on the top notes and your thumb will do it’s job with minimal weight.

The other thing that is essential is avoiding tension. One way to alleviate that problem is to practice in note groups. In this particular piece you can practice the first three notes of the broken octaves and relax your wrist and arm. If you feel yourself getting fatigued you should rest your hands and come back to it a bit later in your practice. Never put unnecessary strain on yourself and make sure you are keeping your hands, arms and body relaxed. As you develop more strength in your hands you will be able to practice for much longer periods of time. Your best bet is practicing octave tremolos for short periods of time throughout the day. That way you will develop strength and avoid injury.

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

How to approach Octave-Tremolos on the piano

If you play the piano you have probably heard octave tremolos and were taken with how they sound. Today we are going to talk about how to approach these with the “Alla Turca” movement of the Mozart K331 Piano Sonata in A Major. The secret to play

The question today is whether you should major in piano if you want to play in an orchestra. This is an interesting question because while you might see piano in an orchestra every now and then, it’s actually not that common. So would studying piano help your chances to play in an orchestra?

Most of the time when you see a pianist performing with an orchestra they are actually not part of the orchestra. They are typically a guest artist who is touring through and soloing with the orchestra. Very rarely does orchestral repertoire call for a piano part. There is typically one keyboard position – and it’s not always full-time – where they might cover piano, harpsichord, synthesizer, organ and even celeste. Many orchestras without full time seasons will often times utilize subs for these parts.

If it is your absolute passion to play in an orchestra, piano might not be the best choice for you. The great thing about the piano is that its solo repertoire is unmatched. It is larger than all other instruments combined! More than that, nearly all the solo pieces for other instruments such as violin, flute, clarinet, or nearly any other instrument have accompanying piano parts; so the piano is an intrinsic part of playing with other instruments. From piano trio to piano quintet, the piano is an important part of many types of music and it has an immense repertoire.

If you want to play in an orchestra what is the best instrument to study? Orchestras are mostly composed of string players, so that is a great choice. However, with any instrument, the work involved in becoming an accomplished player, much less a professional, is so formidable that you should really choose an instrument you genuinely prefer. You want to play something you love and if you have a passion for it you will be driven to practice more and as such you will be more successful and fulfilled.

Getting a position in an orchestra is incredibly difficult and picking an instrument with more potential job openings is never a safe bet. Landing a position with any orchestra will require massive amounts of practice and some luck.. You are best off finding an instrument that makes you happy and something you love playing.

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

Should You Major in Piano if You Want to Play in an Orchestra?

The question today is whether you should major in piano if you want to play in an orchestra. This is an interesting question because while you might see piano in an orchestra every now and then, it’s actually not that common. So would studying pian