Welcome to the second part in our series on Piano Exercises. Last week we discussed The Broken Triad Exercise. This week we will cover a very unique practice exercise that might sound a little crazy but is highly effective in developing your skills as a pianist.

If you’ve ever played complex counterpoint like Bach fugues or other selections you will find yourself having to use complex fingering that’s not very intuitive. Normally you will want to find fingering that would be easy to achieve – like avoiding using your thumbs on black keys (unless on octaves and chords) – and most of the time you will have the luxury of breaking down fingering to make it as simple as possible. This is not always the case and you must prepare yourself for having to deal with more difficult passages.

One great way to practice this type of non-standard fingering is by playing all major scales using the fingering for the C major scale. In the video provided with this article I demonstrate this technique using the D-flat major scale using the fingering of the C major scale!

While this might look and feel silly it will really help you develop strength and flexibility in your hands and fingers.

Thanks again for joining me and stay tuned for the next piano exercise. Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

The Best Piano Exercises (Part 2) – Playing Major Scales with C Major Fingering

Welcome to the second part in our series on Piano Exercises. Last week we discussed The Broken Triad Exercise. This week we will cover a very unique practice exercise that might sound a little crazy but is highly effective in developing your skills a

Welcome to my multi-part series of piano exercises. This is a great exercise I learned in conservatory that provides a wonderful way to build strength in your technique.

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to practice but you want to get the maximum amount of production out of your time – this is great exercise for this exact situation. It’s something you can easily do with just a few minutes every day.

Rather than playing an entire series of scales or arpeggios and without having to learn an entire etude, you can perform this exercise – which is based on a pattern of chords – relatively easily and frequently as a great way to improve your strength.

The exercise goes from a major triad, to a minor triad, to a diminished triad, to an augmented triad. If you’re unsure of what these mean we will have a series of videos explaining them in the near future.

The best way to learn this exercise is to watch the video included with this article, if you can’t watch I’ve included a link to download the exercise right here.

When you start with the C-major triad, you simply play the top two notes in the right hand and the bottom two notes in the left hand. From here you simply go back and forth through the scale notes. You’ll want to use all five fingers – this is a crucial step for the exercise as it’s all about building strength.

After you play the major, you simply move on to the minor, the diminished, and finally the augmented. When you actually perform the exercise you will want to go in a seamless line between each form of the triads and you will do this is every single key moving up chromatically.

This whole exercise takes only a few minutes and it’s an incredible workout for your fingers. There is no phrasing or dynamics to worry about; it’s simply a way to improve your strength. Over the years I’ve found this to be an incredibly helpful exercise and something I can do when I simply don’t have the time to sit down and practice for an extended amount of time.

Thanks again for joining me, there will be a couple more exercises for you in the next coming weeks, so stay tuned! Robert@LivingPianos.com

The Best Piano Exercises (Part 1) – Broken Triads

Welcome to my multi-part series of piano exercises. This is a great exercise I learned in conservatory that provides a wonderful way to build strength in your technique. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to practice but you want to get the max

You wouldn’t think that it would be tough dealing with a new piano. You would expect that you would simply set it up in your home and enjoy it. But it isn’t that simple. Caring for your piano is an important process and today I am going to offer a few tips to help you settle your piano in your home and prolong the enjoyment of your instrument.

First things first, you’ll want to make sure you are purchasing the right size piano for your home. I have a separate video that specifically addresses this situation:

Where to Place the Piano

There are all sorts of questions associated with placing a piano in a room: should you put it near a wall? How about placing a piano near a window? etc.

While there are a number of questions associated with placing a piano in a room, there is a simple rule to follow: if it is a place you personally would be comfortable sitting day in and day out, it’s probably a good spot for your piano!

Thing’s You Want to Avoid

Direct Sunlight

This is one of the most common problems with pianos in homes. People love the idea of placing a piano near an exposed window because it’s typically a nice spot for the instrument. This might actually be the worst spot in a room for a piano because the sun can cause an incredible amount of damage to the case of a piano sometimes in just a few weeks.

I can’t tell you how many people contact us with pianos they want to sell or consign that have significant sun damage. When you keep a piano in a room with the fly lid folded over the case and let it sit that way in direct sunlight you, your piano can become two-toned like this:

Luckily you can fix this but it’s not cheap and requires very specialized furniture work from a professional.

Avoid Air Vents and Keep a Consistent Environment

There is no quicker way to ruin an upright piano then placing it in front of a hot or cold air vent on a wall, or placing a grand piano over a vent blowing hot or cold air. Cold air return is not really a problem since it is pulling the air in, but keeping a piano near a vent blowing hot or cold air can damage your piano.

FInd the place in your home that has moderate temperature and humidity. Around 45-50% humidity is the ideal environment for your piano.

Excessive humidity can lead to rust on metal parts including the strings, and affect the tuning stability of the instrument.

Excessive dry environments can dry the wood, leather and felt parts – causing cracks in the soundboard, action issues and noise, along with other problems.

Luckily there are ways to tell if your piano is in the right environment. You can purchase an inexpensive humidity gauge to get an idea of the internal environment in your home. You can add humidifiers or plants to a room to add humidity to a room or get a dehumidifier or air conditioner to remove it.

Keep in mind, that enjoying your piano is important but it shouldn’t negatively affect your home. If you live near the beach you may want to keep your windows open. Fortunately there is a solution for you. A Dampp-Chaser system will be able to control the temperature and humidity of your piano’s soundboard. This is something you can have your piano technician install for you.

How Often to Tune

If you are buying a new piano or a piano that has just been rebuilt it will require more maintenance than other pianos in the first couple of years of ownership. The piano has to settle into it’s environment and it will require more frequent tunings as the strings stretch so it can stabilize.

You’ll probably want to have the piano tuned as the seasons change because the different temperatures and environments will affect the tuning of the instrument. At the least you will want to tune it two times a year when you go from heat to air conditioning and then back again. Even if the piano sounds OK, it might actually shift down or up and you might not notice. If you allow it to lose pitch over time, it can lead to more work for your piano tuner as they try and get it to hold a tuning at the standard A440 pitch.

There are applications you can get on your phone to see if your piano is playing at A440. Just load up the app, play A above middle C and see if your piano is in the range of A440. If it’s off by more than a couple of cents (438, 437, etc.), it’s certainly time to call your piano tuner.

Ask Your Tuner or Technician

Even if your piano seems fine, ask your tuner what maintenance it might benefit from such as lubricating the action, minor regulation, etc. – because these small things can add up and require major work in the future if you don’t keep on top of it.

Just getting a piano technician in your home can be an expensive task, so once they are there you should have them do any of the work that’s necessary since the extra amount they charge is often well worth it. Plus, you get to enjoy your piano on a higher level!

It’s also important that you find the best piano technician you can. The most expensive is not always the best, but you certainly don’t want to find someone who isn’t qualified to do the work needed – a piano in the wrong hands can be disastrous. A good idea is to look for local concert series or local symphony orchestra and see if you can find out who tunes their pianos – they probably utilize higher level piano technicians than average.

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.

How to Deal with a New Piano

You wouldn’t think that it would be tough dealing with a new piano. You would expect that you would simply set it up in your home and enjoy it. But it isn’t that simple. Caring for your piano is an important process and today I am going to offer

While there are people who are supposedly tone deaf and have difficulty trying to match pitch, there are people who have an innate problem with even keeping a beat and clapping along with a song. So, is there any way to develop this? Or is it something you are born with?

There is a certain amount of talent that is simply “born” into some people and they are able to keep a beat well on their own, but it’s not a skill that can’t be learned. If you find yourself rhythmically challenged, here are a few exercises that can help you develop a sense of beat.

Traditional methods include clapping along with a beat or a metronome but sometimes these methods simply don’t work. You might encounter students that even with this type of practice still can’t keep a beat. Don’t give up on them, there is hope!

Simply listening to music will help develop a sense of beat a great deal. All sorts of music, rhythmic music, jazz, classical, rock, anything you can listen to will help develop a sense of beat. Beyond listening you should try moving with the music.

Dance is a natural way to learn to keep a beat by following the beat of the music but something as simple as even walking around a room and singing to your music or even walking around the room and timing your steps with the beat can help you develop a better sense of rhythm. Incorporating movement into your music will greatly improve your ability to keep a beat; there is actually a whole discipline called Dalcroze Eurhythmics that explores the relationship between motion and the beat of music. When you walk down the street you will most likely be keeping a steady step. Try adding in some music and you will probably find yourself naturally stepping with the beat of the music.

If you find yourself unable to keep a beat don’t give up. Anyone can learn this skill but like many other things in life, some people will naturally be better. Don’t get discouraged and keep trying. If you have any more questions about this or any other topic please contact me directly Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

How to Develop a Sense of Beat – Music Lessons

While there are people who are supposedly tone deaf and have difficulty trying to match pitch, there are people who have an innate problem with even keeping a beat and clapping along with a song. So, is there any way to develop this? Or is it somethi

If you’ve shopped for a piano you might be familiar with these terms. As you might expect, the answer to which one of these types of hammers is preferable is not so simple.

Cold Pressed Hammers

Cold pressed hammers are typically found on American and European Pianos. The felt is typically softer than hot pressed hammers found on Asian pianos and they lend themselves more to the warm tone appropriate for much classical music.

Cold pressed hammers can actually be a bit too soft in some instances – like on many new Steinway pianos where hammers have to be treated with chemical agents such as lacquer in order to get the felt to harden up a bit to make the piano sound bright enough.

Hot pressed Hammers

Typically found on Asian pianos, hot pressed hammers contain felt that is already hard and produce a nice bright tone right out of the box! For certain styles of music this is the type of sound you may be after. In rock or pop settings the piano will cut through a mix better than a Steinway! This is why Yamaha is the preferred piano for many rock and pop artists.

If the hammers are a bit too hard for your liking and produce a sound that is too bright and brittle, you can sometimes have a technician needle them to soften the felt and get good results.

Time and Play is a Big Issue

Whether you have cold or hot pressed hammers, over time the felt will harden with continued play. As the hammers continue to strike the strings of the piano they will become grooved:

When the felt on the hammers becomes grooved like this, the felt becomes more compacted and harder over time with continued use.

Sometimes you can get new life out of worn hammers by filing to get the egg shape essential for good tone. Needling them can make the tone more mellow as well. Eventually there isn’t fresh felt to work with and new hammers are required.

The Choice Depends upon You

Like many aspects of the piano, the choice of the right type of hammers for you depends largely on the style of music you play.

If you are a classical player and you practice a great deal, hot pressed hammers could be problematic as they will get harder faster and need to be needled more often. But no matter how many times you needle them they might not be able to be brought down far enough to produce the softer tone you may be looking for. So, in this case, cold pressed felt may be more suitable.

However, if you play classical music but have a softer touch, you might prefer the sound of hot pressed hammers since you can get brilliant sound with less energy. If you don’t find yourself playing with a great amount of force on the keys, the hot pressed felt will help produce a louder and more distinct tone that can cover up for the lack of force at which the hammers strike the keys.

The same thing is true for rock and pop music. Hot pressed hammers may be a great fit, but if you are an extremely powerful player, you may want the cold pressed hammers so the tone doesn’t become crunchy and distorted at higher volumes.

So much depends on the type of music and style in which you play and your personal preference in tone. As with most decisions with your piano, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to hard or cold pressed hammers.

Just keep in mind these simple truths when it comes to hammer felt:

Cold pressed hammers = softer felt – mellower tone

Hot pressed hammers = harder felt – brighter tone

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.

Cold Pressed Versus Hot Pressed Hammers

If you’ve shopped for a piano you might be familiar with these terms. As you might expect, the answer to which one of these types of hammers is preferable is not so simple. Cold Pressed Hammers Cold pressed hammers are typically found on American a

This is an interesting question because a lot of times people get into studying instruments because they are enamored with certain pieces of music. It may drive them to a certain instrument and they wish to recreate the sound and music they’ve heard before. But is it a good idea to fill your repertoire with well-known pieces?

There are a few things to keep in mind when learning any new piece. One of the biggest is the familiarity of famous pieces versus lesser known works. When it comes to learning a piece you’ve heard dozens or hundreds of times before it can become a crutch – you know what it sounds like and you will naturally emulate what you’ve heard in the past.

When it comes to pieces you haven’t heard before it may be much harder to learn them on your own. It’s actually quite an accomplishment and something you should definitely undertake in your musical development to learn music you’ve never heard before. Don’t listen to it at all while you are learning it. Simply figure out the music as written and use your knowledge as your guide. Once you feel confident with the piece and can play it well, listen to some recordings of it. You might be pleasantly surprised at different interpretations of the same piece and you will certainly be taken with how much of a unique spin you have put on your own version of the piece!

When it comes to public performances, is it better to play pieces the audience will be familiar with? There is such a wealth of music available and much of it is unknown to a lot of people. After all, Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas and only a handful of them are really well known. On the one hand, you might be worried that by playing famous pieces you will be compared to other musicians and you will be expected to perform at a certain level. This is not always the case.

A lot of times choosing a famous piece can be a safe bet for a performer. Orchestras constantly play the same symphonies and concertos over and over again because people really want to continue to hear the music they known. The audiences will show up time and time again to hear these pieces because they are well known and loved – just the thought of hearing them again makes them happy.

One of the best things you can do for your programming is to use famous pieces as a hook to get people interested and generate an audience. Once you have them there, play the famous pieces you promised but also mix in some lesser known works – you will expose them to additional music and they will love you for it. It’s a great idea to pepper your repertoire with famous pieces and lesser known ones as well.

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

Should You Play Famous Pieces of Music?

This is an interesting question because a lot of times people get into studying instruments because they are enamored with certain pieces of music. It may drive them to a certain instrument and they wish to recreate the sound and music they’ve hear

Console and Spinet Pianos can look almost identical from the outside case but what lies beneath separates them a great deal from one another.

Both spinets and consoles are upright-style pianos that are typically very short The fundamental difference between the two types of pianos are the actions.

Spinet Pianos

Spinet pianos have what’s called an indirect blow action (or drop action). The instruments are so small that they have to change the way the action works in order to fit them into the piano.

Compared to a typical piano action, spinet pianos have shorter keys and they have rods that connect each key to the rest of the action. This is why they are called indirect blow actions, because you don’t have a full length key that interacts directly with the action. Instead it drops down to the other part of the action.

Console Pianos

Whether it is short or tall, a console pianos have a regular style upright action where the key is much longer and connects directly to the action:

Pianos Today

Nobody makes spinet pianos anymore. At some point they lost favorability with consumers and have since been replaced by less expensive consoles that don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the actions.

Despite spinets having different actions, there were some higher quality models – the Baldwin Acrosonic being a classic example – that were decent pianos. The inherent limitations in console and spinet pianos lies more in the size of the pianos more than anything else. With a smaller soundboard and shorter strings, the pianos are limited in the amount of sound they can produce.

Generally console pianos are superior to spinet pianos because of the regular style actions and the slightly taller size of the instruments which offers a more rewarding sound.

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.

What’s the Difference Between a Console or Spinet Piano?

Console and Spinet Pianos can look almost identical from the outside case but what lies beneath separates them a great deal from one another. Both spinets and consoles are upright-style pianos that are typically very short The fundamental difference

Today we are going to present a very important topic for all pianists out there: The Challenge of the Thumbs. The thumbs are your strongest fingers yet they propose one of the biggest challenges when it comes to playing the piano. We are going to talk about this today and I will offer some solutions for how to deal with these sometimes cumbersome, strong fingers.

If you place your hands side by side you’ll see that your thumbs are in the middle and your smaller fingers are on the ends.

This matters a great deal in piano playing because your thumbs are your strongest fingers and your fourth and fifth fingers are your weakest. Despite our anatomy, you want to delineate the melody on the top and the bass on the bottom which means that your weakest fingers must produce the most sound!

Without balancing your hands and letting your thumbs dominante you will get a muddy sound. This really is a cruel trick of nature since you want to bring out the melody and bass but we are stuck playing them with your weakest fingers. So how do you compensate for this?

There are a few ways to practice and train yourself to compensate for the strength of your thumbs. I recommend practicing with different phrasing by making the top and bottom notes legato and playing the inner voices with a light staccato from the fingers. This is a tricky thing to do but it’s something that you can apply to almost all your music helping to delineate melody and bass. Training yourself to play this way will certainly help you bring out the top and bottom notes on the melody and bass without having the thumbs dominate the sound.

Try practicing the melody and bass separately. Practice the outer notes with your pinky and fourth finger and playing them legato and then practice playing the inner melody with your thumb and inner fingers with a light staccato. If done correctly these can really improve the control in your piano playing.

I’d love to hear from everyone and learn your thoughts on this subject. Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

Piano Lessons – The Challenge of the Thumbs

Today we are going to present a very important topic for all pianists out there: The Challenge of the Thumbs. The thumbs are your strongest fingers yet they propose one of the biggest challenges when it comes to playing the piano. We are going to tal

These are two terms that have major similarities but they also have distinctly different functions.

Transposition is simply changing the key of a piece of music or section of music to another key.

Modulation is changing keys within a piece of music, often times coming back to the original key. There can be many modulations within a piece of music.

In the video provided with this article you will hear an example of modulation, where I go from C major, modulate to G major, and then back to C major. This is used frequently in pieces of music to add harmonic interest. Since most pieces end in the keys they started in, often times there is more than one modulation within a piece or movement of a larger work. Modulation is a compositional technique which is written into the score; it’s not something you would generally choose to do with a piece of music.

Transposition on the other hand is used to take something and then play it in a different key. For example, if you were to take a series of chords and then play them again just transposed up a half step, a whole step, or anywhere you would like. This is transposition. If you have ever heard a choir warm up, they might sing a group of notes transposing the series of notes up by half-steps to help the group warm up. This is a classic example of transposition.

Another real world example of transposition would be if you were playing piano with a singer. You want the singer to be comfortable singing in a particular range. Sometimes the songs are available transposed into different keys to put the music in a comfortable range for the particular singer. There are even keyboards now that have a transposition functions that make it simple to transpose your playing into different keys at the push of a button!

Modulation on the other hand is a compositional technique that allows a free flow of tone centers within a piece of music.

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.

What is the Difference Between Modulation and Transposition in Music?

These are two terms that have major similarities but they also have distinctly different functions. Transposition is simply changing the key of a piece of music or section of music to another key. Modulation is changing keys within a piece of music,