I’m Robert Estrin from Livingpianos.com. Today’s topic is, “Reinventing Yourself as a Musician”. You may wonder what I am talking about. In life, not just in music, there’s an illusion that you can have total stability. Of course this is impossible. Everything around you is constantly changing. Even things that appear consistent are in a constant state of flux.

Each performance is unique.

Let’s say for example you perform a piece and it goes exactly the way you want it to. The next time you perform that piece, can you recreate the performance? Even though you’ve done it once before, it’s never going to be the same. You’ll never be able to perfectly recreate that performance, any more than you could recreate a conversation you had with someone. After you have a great performance, you are in a different mental state about that piece. You’ve experienced something new that adds to your repertoire of performances. If you start chasing things you’ve done in the past, you’ll never move forward. You will never reach the same heights as before by trying to imitate something you have done in the past.

How can you reinvent yourself musically?

Studying music that you’ve never played before is a tremendous way to enrich yourself. It can add to your musicianship and help you to see things in a different light. Learning a new piece of music not only offers you the possibility of playing new repertoire, but it can also change your outlook on pieces you’ve previously studied. For example, if you’ve studied several early pieces of Beethoven, and you venture into a later piece of Beethoven, you might have a better understanding of Beethoven and how his mind worked.

You might even delve into a completely new style of music.

Maybe you’ve never played jazz before, and you start learning some jazz! If you go back to your classical pieces, you will find similarities. For example, a cadenza in the G-minor Ballad of Chopin is not dissimilar from a jazz riff of something improvised. We can think of these little cadenza passages as what Chopin might have done while improvising. It’s more spontaneous and can give us a glimpse as to how Chopin played the piano.

Each instrument can show you something new

If you’ve been practicing on the same piano all the time, and then you have an opportunity to play a nicer instrument, it can change your whole outlook on music. The sounds are different, the touch is different. Your connection is different! Having different instruments to play on is unbelievably valuable. For pianists this is especially true because you generally can’t bring your personal piano with you to performances. With Living Pianos, I’ve had the opportunity to play so many great pianos, which has helped me to grow as a musician.

You must reinvent yourself as a musician all the time.

I remember my father, Morton Estrin, would always learn new pieces his entire life. Into his eighties, he was learning mammoth new works, and when he would see colleagues from years ago performing “the same program they played when they were at Julliard 25 years ago” he had no patience for that. Musicians who keep recycling the same music over and over again oftentimes stop growing. It’s important to expand your repertoire and your playing experiences. If you’ve always played recitals, maybe do chamber music. If you’ve rarely performed solo recitals, maybe you’ve done concertos a great deal, then you should try solo performing or something completely different. Always expand your outlook. It’ll keep you fresh. It keeps your music compelling, and it’s the secret to growth, not only as a musician, but in every aspect of life. You must give yourself new experiences all the time in order to keep life fresh and vibrant.

I hope this has been a good lesson for you! I’d love to hear from you, and how you feel about your music and reinventing yourself. Is this something you have done, and how has it worked for you? I’m Robert Estrin at Livingpianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Reinventing Yourself as a Musician

I’m Robert Estrin from Livingpianos.com. Today’s topic is, “Reinventing Yourself as a Musician”. You may wonder what I am talking about. In life, not just in music, there’s an illusion that you can have total stability.

I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Today’s topic is, “Why You Must Underestimate Yourself When Practicing the Piano”. Why would you ever want to think less of yourself? You might be thinking it would be harder to figure anything out if you underestimate your intelligence. It’s actually quite the opposite, particularly with adult beginners. It can feel as though things are harder than they should be sometimes. Why is that? The fact of the matter is, people who play at a high level have figured out how much they have to break things down in order to achieve desired results. It’s really important that you don’t overwhelm yourself.

If you accept your limitations, that’s when you can be truly productive!

You’re always better off taking smaller sections, or taking a slower tempo and really perfecting something. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, because that’s the surest way to get discouraged. If you’re learning a piece of music and you focus on a section that’s just a bit more than you can absorb, you’ll keep working at it, but you may leave the piano feeling dejected. So, instead, you might try going to the piano and focusing on sections half as long. You may slow down the tempo and learn just one hand at a time. Then, you can really nail things down. It is extremely satisfying to get something perfected, even if it’s just a small part. By taking small sections and building them up and taking slow tempos and gradually getting faster, you will develop tremendous security in your playing you won’t achieve by overestimating what you can do.

How do I practice?

I have a video on how to approach a new piece on the piano in which I take Chopin Mazurka at random. I literally flipped through the book and started memorizing a piece.

Here is the link:

HOW TO LEARN A NEW PIECE OF MUSIC ON THE PIANO

You’ll see how many times I go over even the smallest sections to learn them. I treat myself very gently in my practice. I don’t over exert my mind. I try to just give myself something I know I can accomplish in a short amount of time and repeat that process again and again. This is how to sustain a long, productive practice.

Know your abilities.

So remember, when you sit down at the piano and think, “Why can’t I do this?” Try something simpler. Try a smaller section, maybe even a simpler piece. Maybe you’re working on the last movement of the Moonlight Sonata when you should be working on a Bach minuet! You’re much better off learning a piece suited to your skill level and being able to play it on a high level than butchering a harder piece of music.

Keep yourself humble.

That’s the secret, not just to piano playing, but in life itself. Don’t overestimate your abilities. Give yourself a break. We’re all human. You have certain things that you’re going to excel at and some things that will take longer for you than other people. If you can accept that one basic fact, you can be very productive. Just give yourself what you can master at that moment, and you can sustain a long practice. This method is much more satisfying.

I hope this is helpful for you. Any of you who are beginners or just feel your practice isn’t going well and you think something’s wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just hard! You’ve got to realize that. So break things down and put things together. You will be rewarded with much better performances and the satisfaction of doing something really well.

I’m Robert Estrin, thanks for joining me here at LivingPianos.com.

Submit your own questions to:
info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Why You Must Underestimate Yourself When Practicing the Piano

I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Today’s topic is, “Why You Must Underestimate Yourself When Practicing the Piano”. Why would you ever want to think less of yourself? You might be thinki

Welcome to livingpianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s question is, “Are musicians antisocial?” I know that seems counterintuitive to what music is all about. After all, musicians often play together, whether it’s a symphony, orchestra, chamber music, or even a rock band. And it seems like being a musician is all about being social. When you play with other musicians, you have to sense each other and give and take. So how could music possibly be antisocial?

Practicing is a lonely endeavor.

In order to play at a high level on any instrument, whether it’s piano, violin, trumpet, etc., it requires countless hours of solitary practice. Some musicians practice upwards of 8 hours a day! So you have to strike a balance in your life as a musician because you’ll never develop the technique and the repertoire to be a virtuoso without spending a lot of time alone.

How do you bring the love of humanity and friendship to your music?

Do you care about your audience? All too often, people spend too much time practicing and don’t balance that out with personal relationships. When playing in a musical organization, whether it’s singing in a choir or playing in a band, you don’t get the same type of relationship that you have with close friends. So, as musicians, we have to remember to get out of our practice rooms and be social! After all, you have to care about people in order to be a great musician because you can have all the repertoire and technique in the world, but if you don’t care enough about your audience to share something meaningful, then what is it all for?

Find a balance between practice and relationships.

As a musician, remember to balance your intense practice with relationships and you’ll be richly rewarded. It’s okay to take time for yourself. Your instrument will still be there when you come back. And your playing will be inspired by your experiences. Remember why you are doing this. You have to care about your audience. So spend the time to nurture your relationships with friends and it will all come back to you in your music. Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at livingpianos.com, your online piano store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Are Musicians Antisocial?

Welcome to livingpianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s question is, “Are musicians antisocial?” I know that seems counterintuitive to what music is all about. After all, musicians often play together, whether it’s a sym

This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. There are so many times that I improvise on the piano and I have recorded quite a number of them for you. It is fun to do, I love to improvise! I have music going on in my head all the time. Sometimes it is music that I memorize like Beethoven, Chopin, Listz, or Debussy. Other times it is the equivalent of musically doodling. Mentally I am always creating something in my head. It can be hit or miss but is inspired by whatever is going on in my head at the moment. Sometimes I play without anything in particular on my mind, and the sounds of the piano inspire something new.

When you improvise on the piano, you may have no idea what will come out, but you might be surprised by what you can come up with. I encourage you to try improvisation and see where the music takes you. It is always fun bringing these to you, I hope you enjoy them. Be on the look-out for our live videos, we have many more coming your way in the future. Again, I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Can You Create Music Out of Thin Air?

This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. There are so many times that I improvise on the piano and I have recorded quite a number of them for you. It is fun to do, I love to improvise! I have music going on in my head all the time. Sometimes it i

This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Today’s subject is surfing on the piano. You might be confused by the title, wondering what this is going to be about? I’m not talking about playing the piano while you are surfing, although that would be quite a trick! What I’m talking about are the implications of the mentality of surfing and the mentality of playing the piano.

Are there parallels between playing the piano and surfing?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in California for so long that this thought even occurred to me, but there are times when I am playing the piano and I feel that sense of going in and out of “the wave”. Or rather, “the zone”. I’ve never surfed, so I may get this wrong, but to be able to ride a wave there are times when you have to be able to make a snap decision as to how you are going to negotiate what is in front of you. You can either push the limits or try to play it safe. You have to be able to instantly make decisions. For example, if I’m playing a piece that has a lot of technical challenges in it, I might want to push the limits a bit while making sure I stay in control so I don’t wipe out.

Ride the musical wave!

Say you are playing the B-Flat Minor Scherzo by Chopin. Ask yourself, “How far can I take this?” You’ll want to try to push the envelope just a bit. You’ll tax yourself going for it, but also holding back just enough so you can ride the wave. A great piece of music like this has it’s own momentum. You have to challenge yourself or you might lose the musicality, but you have to hold back enough that you can keep it going.

Try it out for yourself

See if you can push the limits without wiping out. Practice playing it safe first, then go back and challenge yourself once you feel comfortable. You’ll find that there are aspects of each version that you’ll like, so you’ll want to aim for that balance between the two.

Sometimes playing it safe can be detrimental to a performance

You’ll find that there is nothing wrong with the safe version, though you may find that in some ways you are in less control. If you are trying to ride a wave safely, you might not keep going. You’ve got to take risks at the right moments so you’ll land in the right places. That is the parallel with surfing. Think instantaneously and strive to be in the zone.

I’d love to talk to any of you surfers out there, particularly those who also play the piano. You must be able to get into a certain zone where you aren’t even thinking in words, you are just in the moment controlling what is around you and trying to stay on top of everything. Be it a wave or Chopin, it is all the same mental state that you must achieve in your music and in life. Thanks so much for joining me. Again, this Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Surfing on the Piano

This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Today’s subject is surfing on the piano. You might be confused by the title, wondering what this is going to be about? I’m not talking about playing the piano while you are surfi

I’m Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. Today’s question is, “Can playing the piano ease depression?” Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and the information in this article is anecdotal. I would not suggest playing the piano as your only treatment if you have a serious mental or emotional condition. However, I will say this; I can’t even imagine living in this world if I didn’t have the piano to play!

How can playing the piano affect your emotional health?

What’s great about the piano in regards to emotional health is that you get a chance to completely occupy yourself. Playing music requires intense focus thereby quieting the mind. It’s almost like a form of meditation. Studies have shown meditation can reduce depression and anxiety, and even help people manage chronic pain. But there are other benefits to playing the piano in regard to how it makes you feel.

The beauty of music can connect you to the beauty of life.

Imagine playing a transcendentally beautiful melody like the F-Sharp Major Nocturne by Chopin, and how that makes you feel. If you were depressed and you played that piece, it might make you feel some joy! When I play that melody it fills me with very warm feelings. So you have the benefit of taking your mind away from everything in the outer world, as with meditation, while also experiencing the soul and emotions of people who lived hundreds of years ago who had something special to say. So it fills you with the emotions that they were feeling during their lives.

It can be cathartic to play music that explores deeper emotions

The beginning of the B-minor Scherzo of Chopin has such anger and hostility, it might actually help you release some of your pent up feelings. So, there can be a cathartic quality to playing the piano since there is a soothing calmness you can experience with music of great beauty. All the while, you can become detached from the day-to-day issues and frustrations that we all face in life.

I want to know how any of you feel about playing music. Does it help to keep you emotionally stable? Does it help you to overcome sadness and even depression? I’d love to hear from any of you out there who knows more about this subject. Put it in the comments. Let us know here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Can Playing the Piano Ease Depression?

I’m Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. Today’s question is, “Can playing the piano ease depression?” Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and the information in this article is anecdotal. I would not suggest playing the piano as yo

This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. Today’s subject is augmented reality in concert halls. It sounds futuristic and a little bit scary! What are we talking about here?

Designing a concert hall is very difficult.

If you build a concert hall that has beautiful acoustics for an orchestra, will it have the right acoustics for solo piano? If you bring in a jazz ensemble, will it have the right acoustics for that? What about rock bands with amplifiers and digital reverb? It is impossible to have one concert hall that will serve all of those purposes. With depleting budgets for classical music, having a hall dedicated to just classical music is rare. But the fact is, the acoustics in a hall designed for an orchestra might not be right for other performances.

There are new technologies that can customize acoustics in concert halls.

For example, the symphony hall in Indianapolis, Hilbert Circle Theater, has technology where the hall itself is acoustically somewhat dead. But they have built into the hall a microphone and speaker system that creates the ambiance artificially. You might think this sounds like a terrible idea until you actually hear it. They do an absolutely splendid job of creating beautiful acoustics electronically!

You can have a hall where the ideal acoustics can be dialed in for whatever ensemble is performing there.

For example, if you have a group that is playing amplified music, there is nothing worse than having a hall with rich reverberation that creates a wash of sound, making everything muddy. Worse yet, if there is a speaking engagement in the acoustically live hall, it can be impossible to understand speech. Just imagine being able to dial in the reverb at your will. For example, you could have a dry sound for speaking, and a reverberant hall for classical music ensembles.

There are new types of reverbs that use impulses of samples from actual halls.

These convolution reverbs allow you to take the acoustics of Carnegie Hall, for example, and create that space acoustically on recordings or possibly even live. You can make a small hall sound like a medium or large hall. You can dial in whatever hall you want! This isn’t the future, it is happening right now.

Many halls now utilize digital technologies in order to create ideal sound in spaces with acoustic compromises.

Even with the best intentions and all of the best scientific data available, some concert halls are built, but once completed, it becomes apparent that they didn’t get the acoustics quite right. To remedy this they would have to rip everything out and put in new panels with different reflecting patterns and baffles to get the hall’s acoustics dialed in. Some halls actually have mechanical panels that can be moved to alter the acoustics of the hall. Segerstrom Hall in Orange County has this sort of technology. That’s a great situation! It is also very expensive. Once a hall has digital acoustics installed, it is just the beginning. You can experiment with an unlimited number of acoustic possibilities all at the push of a button!

Augmented reality in concert halls, what a fascinating subject! I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Once again, this is Robert Estrin of LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store

info@LivingPianos.com

949-244-3729

Augmented Reality in Concert Halls

This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. Today’s subject is augmented reality in concert halls. It sounds futuristic and a little bit scary! What are we talking about here? Designing a concert hall is very difficult. If you build a concert hall

This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store with a great subject today: The fundamental importance of arm weight for producing a good tone on the piano. You might wonder what I’m talking about. Before I get into that, let’s discuss the piano as a unique musical instrument.

What was the first musical instrument ever?

The first musical instrument was obviously the human voice! Every other instrument imitates the human voice to one extent or another. Wind instruments, for example, have a clear connection with breath, flow of the phrase, natural progression from note to note, and the smoothness of the line. This is intrinsic not just to vocal performance, but also all wind instruments. String instruments have the bow to create the sense of line like the breath in singing.

What is the analog for the breath on the piano?

You might think, since phrases naturally ebb and flow like ocean waves, that you can simply calculate playing each note louder and louder towards the middle of the phrase, then gradually softer and softer towards the end of the phrase. However, if you try that, you’ll end up with a calculated performance. No surprise there! The secret of creating a smooth line at the piano is, gradually increasing and decreasing arm weight by transferring smoothly from note to note, growing toward the middle of the phrase, and diminishing toward the end of the phrase.

You can try it for yourself!

Play a phrase once while calculating each note getting progressively louder, then progressively softer. Then try playing the same phrase but using the continuous arm weight that ebbs and flows. You’ll find that no matter how much you try to craft the line based upon your musical inclinations, the first version will sound calculated. That is, after all, exactly what you are doing! When you play the phrase again, remember to use the concept of the breath by utilizing the natural weight of your arm. Instead of pushing down more, just support the weight of your arm with your fingers. Lean into it the keys even after initially playing them. Lean more toward the middle of the phrase and less toward the end. You’ll find that this creates a completely different sound. There is something engaging about imposing upon a phrase the idea of the breath and letting the notes flow naturally with that overarching concept. It creates a singing line that belies the reality of the percussive nature of the piano.

I’m interested in your impressions of how this works for you. If any of you have different ways of achieving the same sound, I’d love to hear from you! Once again, this is Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

How to Get Good Tone on the Piano

The fundamental importance of arm weight for producing a good tone on the piano. You might wonder what I’m talking about. Before I get into that, let’s discuss the piano as a unique musical instrument.

This is Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com. Today we are going to talk about the importance of walking around a concert hall. What am I talking about? If you ever get the opportunity to play a concert and you have the chance to go to the hall beforehand, there is no better experience than to get someone else playing the piano in that space while you walk around the hall. You will learn so much.

No matter how fine of a hall you are playing in, the sound you will get in the front row compared to the last row, the left to the right, and the balconies can be dramatically different.

Unless you have the opportunity to hear music in the hall on the instrument you play, there is no way that you can really be sure of what you are projecting.

I had the opportunity with my father Morton Estrin who played in so many different halls, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, to walk around and listen. You get to understand that in some halls you might want to alter your touch or tempo of what you are playing because things can become muddied in certain areas of the hall. Other halls might be overwhelmingly loud in some sections and soft in others and you might want to be able to moderate your expression to be able to suit the hall.

This isn’t just for concert halls. Anywhere you play you’ll want to listen in different parts of the room. Imagine you are having an in-home concert and the piano is opened up, and you go in the room and people’s ears are getting blown away because you don’t realize how loud it is! You’re probably just playing at your regular volume that you always practice at. You want to make sure that you are playing appropriately for the space.

There is no better way than to get another person to play so you can walk around and listen.
That way you’ll know exactly how to create the sound you are after. If you don’t have the luxury of a second person to play:

If you have a good quality portable recorder you can try recording from different sections of the hall.

You can listen back and get some idea of what you are getting. But, there is really no substitute for being there live. One of the coolest things is if you have a recording system on your piano. You actually play in the hall on the piano, play it back, and walk around the hall. That’s an ideal situation! Short of that, get a friend to play for you, listen to what you are getting, and pepper your performance to make sure it is ideal for the space you are playing in.

Thanks again for joining me, I’m Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

The Importance of Walking Around a Concert Hall

This is Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com. Today we are going to talk about the importance of walking around a concert hall. What am I talking about? If you ever get the opportunity to play a concert and you have the chance to go to the hall bef