Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about achieving fast, smooth arpeggios by preparing your thumbs way in advance. You know what arpeggios are. But how do you play them fluently? Scales are hard enough with thumb and finger crossings. But with arpeggios, there is a secret to achieving smooth thumb crossings. In the left-hand you have fourth and third finger crossings. But going down in the left-hand or going up in the right hand, you have thumb crossings. I see so many students moving their whole arms for thumb crossings. They move their elbows in and out which disrupts the sound. It doesn’t allow for playing fast. Many people find it helpful to reach with their thumbs. But by the time they do that, it’s already too late!
The secret is to tuck your thumb under when you play the second finger.
That’s right. When the second finger plays, the thumb tucks under. That way, it’s already ready for the next note. The left-hand coming down does the same thing. You don’t want to wait! If you wait to move your thumb until the moment of the crossing, it’s already too late. So tuck the thumb right when you play the second finger. Then you don’t have to move your arm with your elbow going in and out. You are prepared way in advance.
Slow practice of stretching your thumb under right when you play the second finger is the secret for getting smooth thumb crossings in your arpeggios.
If you’ve never tried this before, try it! Work slowly at first. I suggest 60 beats per minute at one note to the beat because you have to train your hand to do this. It’s not going to do it automatically. But once it does become automatic, you’re going to get smoothness and speed out of your arpeggios like you’ve never had before! This is a really important tip. Let me know how it works for you in the comments on LivingPianos.com and YouTube. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about achieving fast, smooth arpeggios by preparing your thumbs way in advance. You know what arpeggios are. But how do you play them fluently? Scales are hard enough with th
Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to share a tip with you for making corrections in your playing. I’ve discussed so many different techniques, from taking things slowly, referencing the score, playing with the metronome, and playing hands separately. So what could I possibly be bringing to this video that I haven’t shared before? Today I have a tip for you that really helps to make corrections stick. Because that’s the hardest problem, isn’t it? You correct something, but then you make the same mistake again.
The answer is to articulate out loud what the correction is.
Say you’re playing through a piece and you miss something. Well, you have the score handy. You have the patience to find where you are in the score. You realize your mistake and find exactly what the correction is. Then you say the correction out loud, “It’s a fourth finger on F in the right hand. The first time it goes up. The second time, it goes down to the fourth finger on F.” Boom! You verbalized it. Now it’s not abstract. You don’t just say, “I’m going to get that right next time.” You really make the correction omnipresent in your mind. So when you get there, you go, “What was it? Oh, fourth figure F.” Boom! You have that extra bit of information floating in your head just when you need it.
If you’re not 100% sure of what you’re trying to achieve, you’re very unlikely to achieve it.
If you can’t put it into words, you might not really fully grasp what it is you want to do next time. It’s too abstract. You can’t just say, “I want to get that right.” It’s not black and white. It has to be quantifiable and precise. It’s not just the notes. You have to remember every articulation. For example, if you need to remember to play staccato on the repeat of the second section. You say, “Second section, make sure it’s staccato in the right hand.” So you think about where that second section is before you play. You see as you’re coming into it, “Oh yeah. When I get there, I’m going to play staccato in my right hand.”
Articulate it in words!
That’s the tip for today! Among all the other ways of solving problems, make sure you articulate with words specifically what you want to be different in your playing each time you repeat a phrase that you want to correct. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to share a tip with you for making corrections in your playing. I’ve discussed so many different techniques, from taking things slowly, referencing the score, playing
Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about the similarities between the preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier and Bach chorales. If you know the Well-Tempered Clavier you know that these are monumental works. Bach decided to write these preludes and fugues to celebrate the fact that it was finally possible for keyboard instruments to be tuned in such a way as to be able to play in all the keys. Before that, instruments had to be tuned for specific keys. So he decided to write preludes and fugues in every single major and minor key. But there are 48 preludes and fugues, because he did it twice! There are two books of preludes and fugues. The fugues are masters of counterpoint. The preludes are beautiful little gems in their own right.
The four-part writing in Bach chorales is really the basis for the writing of all of Western music, one could argue.
I had the good fortune of studying four-part harmony with my father when I was a child. I really mastered the art of voice leadings, doublings, and all of that. It stays with me to this day to understand the structure of the music I’m studying, as well as for composing, arranging and improvising. You can see the relationship between the Bach chorales, which are the pure four voice writing containing soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, parts, and what he did in the preludes and fugues. Naturally, none of the preludes are based upon strict four-voice writing, but they’re still based upon the same structure of harmony, voice leadings, doublings, and all of that. For example, if you take the famous C Major Prelude from Book 1, what would happen if it were played more like a four voice chorale? If I were to play it with some passing tones and other non-chord tones, it really wouldn’t be so different from a Bach chorale. But what about another prelude that maybe is not as obvious, like the C Minor Prelude, also from Book 1. Well, it really has the fundamental structure of a chorale as well.
Looking at the music of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Shostakovich, and other composers, you’ll see the same foundation of the essential elements of a Bach chorale.
It’s all just embellishment of one sort or another. Did you ever realize that? Everything back then has just grown like a forest of music from the original seeds of inspiration going back centuries! It’s really remarkable how the language of music has grown. And you can hear how the Bach chorale transcends into more complex music. We could go further, whether it’s Beethoven, the second movement of one of his sonatas, like the Opus 10 Number 1, for example. It’s essentially a chorale. It’s broken up, but it’s the same basic structure. It’s remarkable, isn’t it?
I want you to think about your music, whatever music you’re playing. Whether it’s 21st century or 15th century, even. Notice how these same elements have been in music all along, exemplified beautifully in Bach chorales. I hope this has been interesting for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about the similarities between the preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier and Bach chorales. If you know the Well-Tempered Clavier you know that these are monumenta
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I want to tell you about what I learned watching my father, Morton Estrin, practice the piano. It brings back such memories. We grew up in a house in the suburbs on Long Island, about an hour from Manhattan. When we first moved into that house, I was five years old. It was a very exciting time. My father had a studio built. We had a pretty big house to begin with, but the studio was enormous! We had a lot of concerts there, and a lot of fun.
Although my father taught music at Hofstra University, he did most of his teaching right in the back of our house.
He did an immense amount of teaching! But whenever my father had any time free from teaching, he would be practicing piano. I would often go down there to sit and listen to him. I always found it interesting. I want to share with you an extremely personal story about what I learned watching him practice. This was really an epiphany. And I’m going to share something that was kind of a sad mishap that I’ve never really shared with anybody.
My father had an illustrious recording career.
My father started making records in the 1950s. His first recording was the complete Chopin Ballades and the F Minor Fantasie, for Fantasy Records by coincidence. Then he did some recordings of the music of Meyer Kupferman. These were pieces written specifically for him. They were extremely difficult 12 tone pieces that he played all from memory! Then he started making a series of recordings for Connoisseur Society Records. Alan Silver, who was the producer and the owner of the company, was truly an artist. What he was able to achieve both sonically and musically in his recordings was truly astounding! I love those recordings to this day.
It was the first LP of these magnificent works. Wonderful performances! Then he recorded the Rachmaninoff Opus 32 Preludes. He performed the complete Rachmaninoff preludes on several occasions, including in Lincoln Center. It’s a mind boggling task!
There was a time when he was preparing a Liszt record. I remember attending the sessions. Somehow things just didn’t gel. And even though everything was set up and the piano was chosen and the technician was there, they had to abandon the session. It was a really tenuous moment, but that’s what happened. So some time went by and then the next recording my father decided to do with Connoisseur Society Records was a Brahms album. They also had a plan for a series of albums entitled, Great Hits You Played When You Were Young, which sounds kind of corny. But these ended up being really popular. The performances were so magnificent and the recording quality was exquisite. Radio stations just loved these records! They were played constantly all over the world!
In preparation for those sessions, he worked so hard that he ended up recording three records in one series of sessions! It was just a few days. They thought it was going to be the Brahms and maybe one of these discs. He just had so much repertoire at such a high level that he slammed through three complete albums in the one session!
I’m going to reveal to you what I learned from listening to his preparation for those recording sessions.
I remember listening to him practice. He got to a point where he would just be going through everything with no pedal, taking everything a little bit under tempo. Every single finger just fell in place. It was exciting for me to hear him play like that because there was such unbelievable refinement and security in his playing. He prepared so unbelievably for those sessions. It was astounding! There were so many of those recordings that were just the first take. He was that well-prepared. He just went through all of this music. And by the way, you must listen! I’ll have links below for these discs.
You want to get to the point where you have ultimate security in your playing.
I knew from listening to my father practice that the recordings were going to be great. He was so completely prepared, he could play everything accurately in a completely relaxed manner. Most classical recordings have a lot of editing because it saves time. If you have a work that’s 20 minutes long, to get one perfect performance is very difficult. On recordings, if you have just a little cracked note that you might not notice in a live performance, it’s really annoying when you listen over and over again. But he was so well prepared for this that a minimum amount of editing was necessary.
So that’s my personal story for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I want to tell you about what I learned watching my father, Morton Estrin, practice the piano. It brings back such memories. We grew up in a house in the suburbs on Long Island, about an hou
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to tell you about the 3 most important practice techniques. There are hundreds of practice techniques. But the things I’m going to tell you today are quintessentially important. They’re points that I keep making again and again. They need to be cemented in your mind if you want to be productive in your practice. So listen to all three, because they’re all vitally important for taking your piano playing to the next level.
1. When something goes wrong, resist the temptation to go back and start again.
When you’re practicing, sometimes you don’t even have the score. You’re just practicing without the music. But you really should have the score in front of you for reference when you’re practicing. Not that you should play all the time with music. You might want to test your memory to see how things are coming along. But here’s the critical thing: when something does go wrong, resist the temptation to just go back and start again. Maybe it will come out well the next time around, but take the opportunity to check the score! Find your place no matter how painstaking it is.
You may think you could just start back four measures, because it’ll take longer to even find where you are in the music. It will take you longer, but it’s important. Whatever needs to be clarified, you’re not going to be able to understand from just playing the section again. Maybe you will get it, maybe you won’t, but you haven’t really figured out what the issue is. You need to find the solution to that weakness. So when there’s a mistake, study the score! Don’t just try again and hope for the best. By using this technique, whatever confusion you had can be clarified once and for all!
2. Practice slowly.
Any accomplished pianist knows about the importance of slowing down. You must practice slowly, incessantly! Eventually you can get the same level of comfort and security playing at a faster tempo. Playing over and over again just a little bit past your comfort zone only breeds insecurity in your playing. You still want to try things faster to see what they sound like and to isolate the weak parts. It’s very valuable to zero in on the parts that need work. But fundamentally, a great deal of practice is slow playing with the score, reinforcing the memory, and always looking at the score carefully in any place you have insecurities. So read slowly with the music, with the metronome, and without the pedal to cement the performance. This will give you clarity of thought and physiology about what you’re doing at the keyboard.
3. Expand your repertoire!
This is vital! No matter how long you play, if you are just going through review pieces, eventually you’re going to plateau in your playing. There is a vast amount of piano music. Some of the greatest pianists of all time, who learned more music than anyone else, still only scratched the surface. The amount of music that people like Alfred Brendel and Claudio Arrau have amassed is mind-boggling. And yet, it’s only a small fraction of what’s out there. There’s so much great music written for the piano, by composers you’ve heard of and composers you haven’t heard of. So expand your repertoire! You really need to be learning something new every day. You may be bogged down with trying to perfect what you’ve already learned, and that is certainly an essential part of your practice. But take at least a few minutes just to learn something new each day, because you’ll have so much more to show for it.
Why is it so important to learn new music everyday?
Let’s say you want to learn a new piece. But you wait until your current repertoire is perfected before you start, even if it takes weeks. And then all you’re doing is studying a new piece. Do you know how hard it is to learn and memorize something new? There’s only so much you can do at a time before it gets really hard. You get to that point of diminishing returns in how much you can learn in a 10 or 20 minute period. But if you were to do some work each day, when your mind is fresh, you take advantage of that time. Even if it’s only 10 or 20 minutes a day, it’s time that your mind is fresh. You can learn something relatively easily if you’re only learning a phrase or two at a time.
These are the 3 things to remember!
Always have your score handy. When something falters, reference the score. Don’t just try to play it again, study it. Figure out what’s going on. Clarify in your mind and your hands what the correction is.
Slow down. You should be practicing slowly, even with pieces you can play up to speed. From time to time, you must go back and recement the notes, rhythm, fingerings, phrasing, and expression by referencing the score, playing slowly without the pedal, and using the metronome as much as possible.
Be sure to expand your repertoire on a daily basis. You’ll have so much more to show for your work over time if you use these three techniques! I hope this is helpful for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to tell you about the 3 most important practice techniques. There are hundreds of practice techniques. But the things I’m going to tell you today are quintessentially i
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to find the weak points in your playing. You want your practice to be productive. You don’t want to use a shotgun approach, working on all the parts of your music equally. Some parts will already be in good shape while other parts might need work. But sometimes it’s hard to know which parts need work.
How do you isolate the parts of your music that are likely to fall apart?
Obviously, if something completely falls apart, it needs work. But suppose you play through a piece and everything is pretty good. You’ve done various types of practicing. You’ve gone through meticulously with the score. You’ve worked with a metronome. You’ve practiced without the pedal. You’ve played under tempo. Yet when you perform, sometimes things fall apart and it seems to be in random places. I have a tip for you: Play the music faster than your normal tempo! You’ll find that you can play perhaps 90% of the piece at a faster tempo. The parts you can’t play at that faster tempo are the weak sections. You can isolate those sections and work on them in innumerable ways. A great way is to find a tempo at which you can play them cleanly, accurately and comfortably, and play the sections with the metronome at progressively faster speeds.
It’s good to have a reserve of tempo in your playing.
When you’re playing a piece of music, knowing that you can play it a little bit faster and still hold it together is incredibly valuable for a couple of reasons. First of all, in the heat of the moment in a musical performance, a lot of times when you’re nervous, you don’t realize that your whole physiology speeds up. Your heart’s beating a little faster. You’re breathing a little faster. That’s from the extra energy you get in performance. And you may just take your music a little faster than you even realize. If there are parts that you’ve never played at that faster tempo, you could run into trouble. So play your music a little bit over tempo and see what happens.
Romantic period music has a certain amount of tempo freedom.
In some styles of music, you may use a certain amount of rubato, the give and take of the tempo, where you rush forward in certain places, then hold back to make up the time. This adds an element of excitement to your music. That’s totally appropriate for some styles of music. But maybe during a performance you decide to use rubato in a place you’ve never thought of using it before. If you’ve never played the piece faster, you can’t pull it off very well if you haven’t practiced that one little part of a phrase faster before. So play your music a little bit over tempo to prepare yourself to allow for some spontaneity in your performance.
Sometimes you can play a piece dramatically faster and get a whole different feel for the music!
Let’s say you’ve been playing a piece and you’ve always felt the quarter note as the beat. For example, in the first movement of the Mozart K 545, C major Sonata, you’re thinking in four. But if you play it faster you might feel the half note as the pulse and give a whole different rhythmic feel. So there are a lot of benefits to playing your music faster as an experiment. First of all, you’ll find the weak points in your playing. You can zero in on the parts you can’t play at that faster tempo. You also have more freedom in a romantic period piece where you can give a little nuance of tempo. And lastly, you might feel the pulse of music differently, a slower pulse at a faster tempo which can open up a different rhythm and feel, even if you don’t end up playing faster. There are many benefits to taking a faster tempo.
Experiment with your pieces!
See what happens when you play your music faster. You may find that some pieces work at a faster tempo. There are innumerable benefits to this. So try it out! Let me know how it works for you. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to find the weak points in your playing. You want your practice to be productive. You don’t want to use a shotgun approach, working on all the parts of your mu
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about easing performance anxiety by avoiding negative self-talk. You believe what you say! I’ve seen this happen so many times with performers. It’s not just in music, it’s in everything in life. Whether it’s sports, interviews, public speaking, and more. You believe what you say in your head to yourself. So if you tell yourself you’re going to bomb a performance, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you believe what you’ve told yourself. You really have to be careful what you say in your head before and during a performance.
You have to envision a positive outcome.
Imagine yourself at a performance. Imagine the successful outcome in great detail. Live in that moment in your head. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and meditate on that moment. Then when you are at your performance, it feels familiar. You’ve already set yourself up for success. It’s so vitally important! This can work for anything from your piano lessons to job interviews. Imagine yourself having a positive experience. Keep that projection in your head. Once you start telling yourself, “I can do this. I feel good about this.” Then you’re going to bring about a better performance.
Once you start with negative self-talk it’s a spiral that’s really hard to get out of.
Be careful what you say to yourself! It will manifest itself either positively or negatively. It’s really important in musical performances and in life itself to have a positive outlook. I Hope this is helpful for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about easing performance anxiety by avoiding negative self-talk. You believe what you say! I’ve seen this happen so many times with performers. It’s not just in mu
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to give you a really valuable tip for fingering: Always look back, never look forward. If you’re an advanced player, you know that doesn’t make any sense at all, because you have to know what’s coming in order to negotiate a good fingering. That is absolutely true. However, if you’re a student, it’s very different, because the fingering that’s indicated in the score is what you must follow. A good teacher will provide you with good fingering. You must always determine what finger to use by looking back to the last note that has a fingering marked. Put your hand in the position over those notes. Then, whatever finger is over the next note is the finger to use. Because if you look forward, you could run into trouble.
If you want to know what finger to use, always look back to the last printed fingering.
I have a Burgmuller study here called Innocence. It’s a lovely little piece. I want to show you something in the right hand after the second ending. You have your third finger on C, but you have a first finger on the very next C. So if you look ahead you might think you have to have your first finger on the first C. And then the same thing happens again. You have your third finger on E, and then you have another E after that which has the first finger marked. So instead of using the third finger, you may think you need to use your first finger on the first E since the E coming up has a first finger marked. You might think you should use the first finger because you’re going to need it later. But that is not the way fingerings work in music.
So indeed, you would play this passage with the first, second and third fingers, then change your third finger to your first finger on the same E, and then use your second finger on the F. Why? Because the last printed finger was the first finger on E, so you naturally use your second finger on F. You always look back to the last printed fingering to know what finger to use on the following notes. If you look forward, you’ll get fouled up because that’s not the way fingerings are followed in the score.
I hope this clarifies things for you!
If you’re figuring out a fingering because there’s no fingering written, you might want to get a sense of the whole passage to be able to execute a good fingering possibility. But if you’re a student, and you have an edited edition that’s fingered, and your teacher provides additional fingering solutions for you, you must always follow the fingering by looking back to see the last note that had a finger marked. Put that finger on that note and see what fingers are over the next notes instead of looking ahead to see what fingerings are coming. That won’t work. This is something that some of my students have asked about. I hope this is helpful for all of you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to give you a really valuable tip for fingering: Always look back, never look forward. If you’re an advanced player, you know that doesn’t make any sense at all,
Welcome to www.LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about getting the maximum benefit out of your practice time. That’s the way I like to work. I get a lot of people who are really gung ho to learn the piano. They’ll say, “I’ll work hours a day on scales and exercises. I just really want to get better.” But there is a point of diminishing returns with working on technique for technique’s sake. I always believe in working on music. Learning music will help you solve more technical problems than just focusing on technique, and you’ll get more benefit.
How can you maximize the effectiveness of working on technique?
If the primary time you spend daily on the piano involves technical exercises, including fundamentals like scales, arpeggios, octaves, and things of that nature, it doesn’t leave enough time for what’s really important, which is repertoire. You will grow more from learning music than you will from simply playing exercises. Ten minutes a day of really good scale and arpeggio work is a great warmup. You’ll get the maximum benefit with a minimum amount of time.
The secret is consistency.
If you only work once a week on scales and arpeggios, you’re not going to get much benefit. But if you spend a little time each day you will see improvement. Five or ten minutes a day is all you really need most of the time. There may be times you’re having an epiphany and you feel like you’re finally playing arpeggios well. In that case stay with it or you’ll end up with a hump to cross later on anyway. It’s not an absolute science that you spend X amount of time for maximum benefit. But generally speaking, minimize pure technical work.
Use your music as technical exercises.
When you have a part in your score that you can’t play well, figure it out using various practice techniques. You can turn your music into exercises! If you’re playing a Bach prelude, for example, like the Prelude in C Minor from book one of the Well-Tempered Clavier, it lends itself to exercises. It’s most like an exercise in itself. So how could you practice that? Slow practice with a metronome is invaluable. Use raised fingers, delineating every finger that’s down and every finger that’s up. That’s a great practice technique! Another technique is to use different phrasings. For example, staccato fingers. Or you can play one hand staccato and the other hand legato. You can benefit from this because any weakness will evidence itself in your playing. Or you could just do small snippets at a time. You could also play the music with various rhythms, such as dotted rhythms or you can play the music with different accents. There are countless ways you can turn music into exercises. This way you don’t have to resort to mindless exercises that don’t have the benefit of music you can play at the end of the line.
Musical etudes are your best source.
Whether it’s Chopin and Liszt etudes or Heller or Burgmuller studies, these etudes are richly rewarding music that can solve technical problems while offering you great music that you can play and enjoy. So that’s my recommendation! Utilize minimum time and enjoy maximum benefit for pure exercises. But spend most of your time with music and turn problem areas into exercises where necessary in order to improve your technique on the piano. Let me know how this works for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Welcome to www.LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about getting the maximum benefit out of your practice time. That’s the way I like to work. I get a lot of people who are really gung ho to learn the piano. TheyR