Hi, this is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. Today’s subject is, “Five Signs You Have the Wrong Piano Teacher.” Choosing the right piano teacher for yourself or your children can be difficult. Today I will tell you five things to avoid when choosing a teacher.

1. They teach on a spinet piano.

Spinets, those very small upright pianos, don’t have the greatest sound because the strings are so short and the soundboards are small. But there’s more to it than that. Spinet pianos have an easier action than other pianos. Therefore, somebody who practices on a spinet is not really prepared to play a grand piano because a grand piano is so much harder to play. One of the nice things about going to a lesson with a teacher who has a nice grand piano, is that even if at home you only have an upright or even a spinet or digital piano, at least once a week, you see what it’s like to play a more formidable instrument. This prepares you for contests and concerts. That’s one tip. It’s not a deal breaker, but a clue that maybe they aren’t a high level teacher.

2. They babysit their kids during lessons.

You might think that would never happen but it absolutely does! Maybe the kids are in the next room watching TV or maybe they’re fighting with each other and the teacher is really not 100% focused on the lesson. Or worse yet, they babysit neighbors’ kids during lessons! This sounds like a joke, but you would not believe the kind of things that go on.

3. They call themselves piano teachers without any significant piano training.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some great dedicated piano teachers out there. We appreciate them so much! But there are some who just put ads out and start taking students. Maybe they don’t really have the background or the inclination to really care enough. They’re trying to make money teaching piano without considering the best interests of their students.

4. They hit your hands with a ruler when you miss notes!

This one is a deal breaker. It’s hard to believe that this happens at all, but I have heard of this from many people. I believe it’s sick to inflict pain on students, especially children. You want a teacher to be nurturing and supportive in order to connect with you on a personal level and get you to practice and understand what it’s all about. Certainly inflicting pain is the furthest thing from anything that would be helpful, in my opinion. If any of you have had that kind of experience, I’d love for you to share it in the comments below.

5. They don’t teach you how to practice.

This last one is the most important thing. If a teacher doesn’t show you how to practice, even if they’re spectacular pianists, your progress is going to be hindered tremendously. You only go to a lesson once a week. But imagine a teacher who shows you what to do the other six days of the week. You are going to improve exponentially with a teacher who shows you step-by-step exactly what you should be doing at home. This is the most critical thing and maybe not the most obvious thing to look for in a teacher. If any of you have teachers and you get home and you have no idea where to even start, the teacher really isn’t giving you the tools you need. You want a teacher who will show you step-by-step how to practice. This way you can be productive without them, so eventually you won’t even need a teacher! You can practice on your own and accomplish great things.

I hope this has been helpful for you. I welcome your viewpoints in the comments below!
Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Five Signs You Have the Wrong Piano Teacher

Hi, this is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. Today’s subject is, “Five Signs You Have the Wrong Piano Teacher.” Choosing the right piano teacher for yourself or your children can be difficult. Today I will tell you five things to

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about how you can develop a huge range of tone on your musical instrument. This isn’t just about the piano. This is about all instruments.

I want to start with the original instrument of all time, which is the human voice.

We all have this instrument with us. For millennia it was the only instrument, until people started banging on things and blowing through things. Eventually we invented a whole range of instruments. But it’s really important to remember that it all came from the human voice, and that’s how we express things.

With a wind instrument, or the human voice, how can you develop control?

My wife, Florence Estrin, is a concert flutist. www.florenceflutist.com She has remarkable control in her playing, from the very softest to the loudest, with purity of sound on all notes in all registers. How is such a thing possible? Well, I’ll tell you her secret. Every day, with very few exceptions, she goes through what are called long tones. What are long tones? It’s going through every single note on the flute, one by one, starting as soft as possible with a slow swell to very loud – then a slow swell to very soft, creating a long tone of expression, keeping the pitch the same, which is very difficult on wind instruments. She does this in octaves, making sure the pitch is coherent from octave to octave. She even has a flute that she can take on vacation that’s not so expensive. She can take it out at the hotel at some point, she’ll go through at least a few minutes. Now, why would she go through the pains of long tones on vacation? It’s because with a wind instrument like the flute, the tone production of the lips is so intrinsic to the instrument, that even taking one day off you lose a little bit of that muscle tone. So, it’s not worth taking several days off, because then it takes several days to get back on that high level.

How do you do such a thing on a piano?

On the piano, what we have is the arm weight. How do you utilize the arm weight to get a good tone? Well, if you were to play something on the piano and not use your arm weight, there’s no way to really control your playing. It becomes very calculated. I’ve talked about this before. Sometimes, you have to use the entire arm when you’re playing big chords. For example, the beginning of the Tchaikovsky, B Flat Minor Piano Concerto. If you play those big chords without the arms, you get a harsh sound, compared to playing utilizing the arm weight. What do I mean by the arm weight? By putting your fingers right on the surface of the keys, and then releasing the whole weight of the arms all at once to the bottom of the keybed you can achieve a beautiful sound.

Use arm weight as the analog of the breath.

Now when playing melodic lines, the entire arm doesn’t have to impact each chord or each note. Instead, you lean into the entire line, leaning heavier with more arm weight in the middle of the phrase, creating the line. Just like in speech, it goes up in the middle of the sentence and comes down at the end. Your music has to do that too. You will get a beautiful sound because you have the analog of the breath with the weight of the arm transferring from key to key, rather than playing each note with no weight of the arm, which creates a calculated performance. This is how you develop a huge range of tone on the piano where you don’t get that ugly harshness. You have the support of the arms, much like the support of the breath for a singer or a wind player. It creates that beautiful sound and control.

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Developing a Wide Range of Tone on the Piano

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about how you can develop a huge range of tone on your musical instrument. This isn’t just about the piano. This is about all instruments. I want to start wit

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com and today’s subject is, “Why Crying is Essential for Your Musicianship.” You might think I’ve gone off the deep end with this subject. Crying and music? What does crying have to do with music? A lot.

What is music about?

There are a lot of different styles of music. There’s dance music, there’s electronic music, there’s Gregorian chant. There’s a wide range of music, but ultimately I believe music is primarily a way of expressing emotions – emotions that are impossible to express any other way. Let’s say you have had some really tragic experiences in your life. Everyone experiences tragedy in this world. Nobody is sheltered. I know from the outside it looks like some people have that glorious lives of perfection. If you look on social media, everybody’s having a great time doing the greatest things. But the reality is that it’s just a front. Not just on social media, but even in person. Everybody is guarded, keeping their emotions at bay, not revealing too much for fear of getting caught by somebody who has spurious intentions.

Why do you need to cry?

Why can’t you just go through your life and just ignore those tragedies and the pain? Well, if you’re trying to express emotions honestly in your music, but you haven’t even reckoned the emotions you’re feeling, it’s all but impossible to be genuine in your music. You need to feel things in your life, not just the joyful things, but the tragic things as well. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t experience pain in your life by crying, at some point it’s going to come out inappropriately and it will also affect the other side.

How can you feel joy if you don’t feel sadness?

You have to feel. So you must work through your emotions so you can honestly express beautiful music, sad music, happy music. This is a lesson for life as well as for music. And if you have repressed emotions, it’s going to be all but impossible to really have the poetry, and the vision, and the experience that you want to share with others.

I encourage all of you to be honest with yourself and others about your pain.

It’s important to feel your emotions and work through them. It could be what you’ve been looking for to be really expressive in your music. I’d love to hear from any of you out there who’ve had this experience and share it in the comments below.

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Why Crying is Essential for Your Musicianship

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com and today’s subject is, “Why Crying is Essential for Your Musicianship.” You might think I’ve gone off the deep end with this subject. Crying and music? What does crying ha

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com. Today’s topic is “Technique vs Musicality” There will be a lot of opinions about this subject. But truth be known, you can’t really separate technique from musicality completely.

What is technique?

In its most abstract form, you might think of technique as being the physical capabilities, how fast, how loud, the control, trills octaves, etc. But in its essence, technique is being able to produce on the instrument what you hear in your head. Being able to create something in the outer world from your inner world. Ultimately, that is the secret of technique.

Is technique more important than musicality?

Pretend for a moment that somebody out there just wants technique. They don’t care about the musicality. They’re just making it into a sporting event. Can you really achieve something with that? You might think that if somebody could play faster and louder, or slower and more delicately, and every nuance of touch on such a high level, that they would probably have a career because they’d be so phenomenal. But the truth is, having tremendous technique on the piano is very common. Believe it or not. I know most people haven’t met concert pianists, but there are so many concert pianists around the world who you’ve probably never heard of. If you heard them, you’d be astounded thinking that they’re greatest pianists in the world because they can play so well.

Now let’s talk about musicality.

Can you be musical without technique? Well, just imagine if you considered yourself to be a writer. You’ve got great stories, but you can’t really write and you aren’t a good orator either. You have to have a command of language in order to be able to express anything in writing! It’s the same thing with music. You can’t have musicality abstracted from technique. It takes a technique to be able to produce music. Here’s the good news: The repertoire for piano is so vast that someone who is a relative beginner, if they have a natural emotion in their music, if a teacher guides them with appropriate level of music, it’s possible to play musically even with a very basic technique.

Even beginners can play with musicality.

There’s a piece by Cuthbert Harrison from the book, “ABC Manuals” that I loved as a kid and taught countless times. Because I taught this piece so many times, I heard a lot of kids play it and nobody did what I did with it, which was to play it very slowly. Usually with kids, the more they get to know a piece, the faster it goes. But so much can be done with this relatively simple piece of music that doesn’t take very much technique. You can achieve a great deal of musicality just with the voicing of the notes.

Technique and musicality are both necessary for any musician.

So, if you want to explore musical possibilities and total control, the secret is choosing a piece of music that you can have total command over. I know many of you want to play certain pieces of music you’ve heard for your whole life and that you love so much. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you spend all your time with music that is above the level at which you can play what you hear in your head and achieve it on the instrument. Start with that premise. And you will develop a technique in service of the music, which is what it’s all about! You can’t really separate technique and musicality. You need to have both in order to achieve greatness on your instrument. And that’s the lesson for today!

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Technique vs Musicality

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com. Today’s topic is “Technique vs Musicality” There will be a lot of opinions about this subject. But truth be known, you can’t really separate technique from musicality comp

Welcome to LivingPianos.com. Today’s question is “Why is it So Hard to Sight-Read Ragtime Music?” Ragtime music is so much fun to listen to and it’s fun to play as well. But it’s extraordinarily difficult to sight-read! And you might wonder why. To give you an example as to why it is so difficult to sight-read ragtime music, I’m going to compare it to something that is as far removed from ragtime as you can get, which is Bach.

Baroque era music can be played without your hands jumping around the keyboard.

Even though the music is complex, you don’t need to look at your hands because it’s all right there under your fingers. The hands don’t leap around like they do in ragtime. Music which has octaves alternating with chords in the left hand, which is very typical of ragtime music, is all but impossible to play without looking at your hands. So if you’re reading the score, how do you look at your hands and the score? It can be maddening! There’s a lot of music that falls into that category where you just need to look at your hands to handle the leaps. But here’s the good news: if you go to the trouble of memorizing ragtime, it’s not particularly difficult to play! There’s a certain technique that’s required. It’s the same technique utilized in pieces of Liszt, such as the end of his 6th Hungarian Rhapsody. The left hand goes all over the place!

Leaping back and forth from octaves to chords makes sight-reading nearly impossible.

That’s why ragtime or any music that has fast leaps is extraordinarily difficult to read. Even some relatively simple accompaniments, like some works by Fritz Kreisler. They’re absolutely glorious works and they have very simple piano parts. But the left hand has leaps in several sections making it very hard to read. There are two ways you can approach this. One way is to have the score memorized. The other way is to work on practicing those leaps without looking. I love to be well prepared when I have an accompaniment like that so I can either choose to look down at the hands or follow the score. I like to practice keeping my eyes on the score and get it to the point where I can do it just by feel. Now think about this. There are some sensational blind pianists out there. So, it is possible to be able to sight-read music that has leaps, but it’s extraordinarily difficult.

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Why is it So Hard to Sight-Read Ragtime Music?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com. Today’s question is “Why is it So Hard to Sight-Read Ragtime Music?” Ragtime music is so much fun to listen to and it’s fun to play as well. But it’s extraordinarily difficult to sight-read!

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com. Today the subject is “How Richard Wagner Led To Atonality In Music.” If you’re familiar with Wagner’s music, you might be thinking of Ride of the Valkyrie, the Meistersingers, and so much more. It’s as tonal as you can get! So what am I talking about? How could Wagner be associated with atonality?

As counterintuitive as it may seem, it’s a fact that the whole trajectory of music in the late 19th century with Wagner and then Richard Strauss into the 20th century, tonality had constantly shifting key centers. It modulated so often that there was total ambiguity as to what the final notes should be. Usually, you hear a piece and you know where it should end! Not so with Wagner. Certainly in later Wagner, like in Tristan and Isolde. Listen to the main theme. You’ll hear how there’s no key center, even though it’s tonal. Listen to this and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The implications that this brings to music are profound. But what do gorgeous, rich harmonies like those have to do with atonality? Well, If you have more and more shifting key centers, eventually you don’t even have a center of pitch anymore. And that’s exactly what happened.

The 12-tone system

Arnold Schoenberg, another great German composer, is credited with inventing the 12-tone system. That’s where instead of basing a composition on major or minor scales and chords, a tone row was created, putting all of the 12 possible notes in a specific order referred to as a, “tone row”. The whole idea of a tone row is to methodically avoid any kind of preference for any one note over any other note. They are all equal. Whereas in tonal music, there is a pull to certain active tones which must resolve to resting tones. The whole idea of tonality is, some tones are resolved and others must be resolved, not so with atonality.

Wagner pushed the boundaries so far that there was nowhere else to go other than the complete disintegration of tonality.

Listen to early Arnold Schoenberg, for example, his First Chamber Symphony, and you’re going to hear rich, lush, late romantic tonal music that is evocative of Wagner or post-Wagner. And so, Schoenberg himself finally broke through and just eliminated tonality from his music and then Berg and Webern followed suit. That led to a whole other style of atonal music, which truth be known, can be extremely difficult to listen to because the harmonies clash instead of blending. It takes a sophisticated listener to be able to decipher what you’re even hearing because the intervals are not very closely related. You know when you play a fifth, those are related in the overtone series. That’s a subject a little bit too deep for me to get into in this video, but the fact of the matter is, when you have a random arrangement of the 12 tones, you’re going to have music that is generally much more harsh. Which is great for certain styles of music. And I particularly like it when composers utilize elements of atonality in their music. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire piece has to be atonal. It’s a tool like anything else, and it can be used to craft wonderful music.

I hope this has been interesting for you. I’d love to hear your comments about this! And any of you who have different perspectives on this, I welcome them in the comments and you’re always welcome to contact us at info@livingpianos.com, We really appreciate bringing these to you and there’s lots more to come.

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

How Richard Wagner Led To Atonality In Music

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com. Today the subject is “How Richard Wagner Led To Atonality In Music.” If you’re familiar with Wagner’s music, you might be thinking of Ride of the Valkyrie, the Meistersing

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. Today’s question is, “Should You Lock Your Piano?” You might notice that some pianos have little keyholes on them. Oftentimes, when we sell restored vintage pianos, people ask if we have the key. I’m not talking about the 88 keys you play, but they want the key for the lock! So the question is, should you lock your piano?

Will locking your piano protect it against vandals?

You might think that there are some times when it would be really important to lock your piano. For example, let’s say you have a piano in a school or a church and you’re worried that people will abuse the instrument, so you want to lock it to prevent any damage. Well, the fact of the matter is, the locks that are built into pianos are not very robust and they’re easily jimmied open. So it doesn’t adequately protect your piano in a situation like that. What about at home?

Will children damage a piano left unlocked?

Maybe you have kids banging on your piano and you think they’re going to damage the instrument. But kids, even if they use their fists, are not going to damage a piano! When a concert pianist is playing, the energy they exert is much greater than a child is capable of even with their fists. Children are not going to damage your piano by doing that. (Just make sure they don’t approach your piano with any metal objects.) So locking your piano for that reason is pointless. Now there might be one good reason to lock your piano.

Locking your piano keeps people from playing it.

If the sound of your kids banging on your piano is driving you nuts and you can’t get them to use their fingers on the piano appropriately, then maybe there’s a good reason to lock it. Otherwise, I think pianos should be open for people to play. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is for me if I find a piano somewhere and it’s locked. I am always heartbroken. I think pianos are meant to be played!

How do all of you feel about this. Do you lock your piano? You can leave your comments and we can discuss further about this.

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Should You Lock Your Piano?

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. Today’s question is, “Should You Lock Your Piano?” You might notice that some pianos have little keyholes on them. Oftentimes, when we sell restored vintage pianos, people as

Robert Estrin Dresses Up: Scarlatti on the Harpsichord

One of the greatest composers for the harpsichord was an Italian composer by the name of Domenico Scarlatti. He wrote over a thousand sonatas! I cherry-picked three of the most glorious sonatas to perform on the accompanying video. These are not sona

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com with a question for you: “Is Classical Music Relaxing?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked somebody if they listen to classical music and they respond, “I love classical music. It’s so relaxing.” There certainly are pieces that are relaxing, such as Clair de Lune by Debussy. But you know what? That is just one side of the spectrum of emotions that classical music explores. You certainly wouldn’t consider the Scriabin Etude in D-sharp minor from the Opus eight to be relaxing. That’s anything but relaxing!

Classical music explores the entire spectrum of emotions

Classical music can be humorous or angry or melancholy. There’s a tremendous range of emotions in classical music, and if you think that it’s just relaxing, you’re missing the whole point. Just like literature isn’t all relaxing, some of it is agitating, some of it can be profound, enlightening. There’s a whole range of emotions that classical music and other styles of music explore.

Not all classical music is meant to be relaxing

So is classical music relaxing? The real answer is yes, sometimes. Certainly some classical music is relaxing, like the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata. But music is not always meant to be relaxing. Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Is Classical Music Relaxing?

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com with a question for you: “Is Classical Music Relaxing?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked somebody if they listen to classical music and they respond, “I love cla