Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Is it okay to re-divide the hands in piano playing? That’s the question today. There are many schools of thought on this subject. With Beethoven in particular, there are many people who feel that it’s very important to play the music exactly as it is written and not to redistribute the notes between the hands in a way that Beethoven didn’t write. Other people think as long as it sounds good, what’s the difference? Is there a difference? Should you divide the hands or not?

It really depends upon how you execute the music.

The question is, can you make it sound the way it is written while re-dividing the hands, or is it going to sound different? If it sounds choppy then that’s no good. If you know the sound that the composer intended and you divide the hands in a way that sounds the same, but it’s easier to negotiate, in my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that. As long as the integrity of the sound is maintained based upon how the composer wrote the music, there’s nothing wrong with re-dividing the hands to be able to negotiate passages more cleanly and faithfully.

If somebody can hear the difference in the way it sounds, you should avoid dividing the hands.

Re-dividing the hands can be a lifesaver in a lot of instances. It can make the music sound better. It can help you play more cleanly. Just always keep in mind the intent that the composer had in the way they wrote the score. That’s my opinion. Let me know in the comments how you feel about this! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

Is it Okay to Re-Divide the Hands in Piano Playing?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Is it okay to re-divide the hands in piano playing? That’s the question today. There are many schools of thought on this subject. With Beethoven in particular, there are many people who feel

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’ll be sharing two ways to solidify your musical performance. Say you have a piece of music you’ve worked on for a long time. You can play it pretty well, but not every time. Maybe when you’re alone at home, it comes out perfectly sometimes. Then, for no reason you can discern, things fall apart. It’s just not dependably solid. Is there anything you can do about that? Yes! I’m going to give you two completely different methods for solidifying your musical performance.

Take out the score and play slowly with raised fingers.

Whether it’s a piece you’re playing with the music or a piece you’ve memorized, get out the score, put it on your music rack, get out your metronome, take your foot off the pedal, and play slowly with raised fingers. What’s this about raised fingers? When you play with raised fingers, it trains your hands which fingers are down and which fingers are up. Everything is exaggerated. When you play a piece over and over again, after a while, your hands just naturally go to the right keys. But then you’ve done it so many times, you don’t even know what your hands are doing. They’re kind of doing it all on their own! You lose sense of the intellectual understanding of what you’re doing.

When you take out a metronome and you play something slowly with raised fingers, it ingrains the music into your hands and into your ears.

This is a great way to solidify your performance. You would be surprised how productive it is going through your music even once like that. And obviously, if there are any parts that you can’t play perfectly at that slow speed, then it’s going to show up like a sore thumb! It’s like putting your playing under a microscope when you play that slowly and intentionally. Anything that isn’t solid is going to be obvious. So that’s a great way to solidify your musical performance. The other way I’m going to show you is completely different.

Take a piece you can play and play it faster than you usually do.

Take a piece that you can already play and you want to solidify. You can play the piece, but every now and then something falls apart. It seems very random where things fall apart. How do you figure out what to practice? Go through your music faster than you usually do. When you miss something, that is the weak point. Zero in on the ten or twenty percent of the piece that you can’t play at that faster tempo. Those are the weakest parts. Then you’ve just zeroed in on what to practice! A shotgun approach to practicing is not very efficient. You don’t need to practice equally on everything. This is a great way to discover what needs work.

You can practice those trouble sections in innumerable ways.

You can practice hands separately. You can do progressively, faster metronome speeds, starting from a slow tempo and working your way up a notch at a time. You can practice little snippets and put the little snippets together. There are many different ways of practicing. But for identifying where to put your practice time in, this is a great technique!

So to recap, there are two ways you can solidify your pieces of music that you can already play.

One is to play with raised fingers. Use the score and a metronome with no pedal. Really delineate and articulate everything with precision. Sink in and feel every finger. Then there’s the polar opposite. Play everything a little bit faster than you usually do. See what places you can’t keep up and focus your practice on those sections. These are two tips for you! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrin

Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

2 Ways to Solidify Your Musical Performance

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’ll be sharing two ways to solidify your musical performance. Say you have a piece of music you’ve worked on for a long time. You can play it pretty well, but not every time. Ma

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’ll be doing a piano test drive! I have two of the great American semi-concert grand pianos, Steinway and Baldwin. In the past, concert artists had a choice. Baldwin supported concert pianists around the world with their concert instruments. Of course, Steinway won the marketing war. They became the only de facto choice for touring artists, because putting concert grands in every major city in the world is a very daunting task.

In their heyday, Baldwin was making amazing pianos!

I’m going to play a brief excerpt of the Chopin G Minor Ballade. First I will play it on the Steinway Model B from 1981. Then I will play the same excerpt on the Baldwin SF seven foot semi-concert grand from 1967. I’m really interested in your opinions! Leave your comments here at LivingPianos.com and YouTube. I want to know your impressions of these two magnificent American semi-concert grand pianos!

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrin

Steinway VS Baldwin: Listening Test!

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’ll be doing a piano test drive! I have two of the great American semi-concert grand pianos, Steinway and Baldwin. In the past, concert artists had a choice. Baldwin supported concert

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about major scales. What is a major scale? I’m sure most of you probably already kind of know what it is. But for those of you who know what a major scale is, you might want to stop right now and see if you can put it into words. You might find that you’ll be stumbling a bit if you’ve never asked yourself this question. You kind of intuitively know what it is, but how do you define it succinctly?

A major scale is a series of whole-steps and half-steps.

I want to define whole-steps and half-steps for any of you who are searching for this because you don’t know anything about what a major scale is at all. A half-step is any two keys next to each other with no keys between. That’s black or white keys. It can be two white keys, or it can be a black and white key. Two keys together with one key between is a whole-step. A major scale is a series of whole steps and half
steps.

Major scales contain eight notes.

The first and eighth notes are the same. They are spelled diatonically. What does that mean? It means it has all the letters in order without skipping or repeating any. For example, an A major scale would contain some form of A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. It has to have all the letters in order without skipping or repeating. Spelling counts, and there’s a good reason for it. When you look at the music, you see the notes on consecutive lines and spaces. All major scales will go from line to space to line to space, or from space to line to space to line. That’s essentially what a major scale is.

Where are the half-steps?

As I mentioned, there are eight notes. They are all whole-steps except between the 3rd & 4th and the 7th & 8th notes. That’s why on the piano, because you have some white keys that are a half-step apart, the C major scale contains all white keys. All other major scales contain either sharps or flats, but never both.

How can you figure out scales?

You can take any note on the piano, and remember that the notes are going to be in the order of the alphabet. So if you have a D major scale, it’s going to have some form of D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D. It must be spelled diatonically with all the letters in order. But those notes don’t form a major scale because the half-steps are not in the right place. So you use accidentals, either sharps or flats, never both. It just happens to work out that way! You can count the numbers of the notes. Remember to move by whole-steps except between the 3rd & 4th and the 7th & 8th notes. Of course you can hear when a major scale is correct, because you know what it’s supposed to sound like. So that is how you can figure out all your major scales, simply by spelling them diatonically and arranging them with all whole steps, except between the 3rd & 4th and the 7th & 8th notes. You can start on any key on the piano and you can spell a major scale.

It’s not always quite so simple.

I’m going to do a G-flat major scale. We start with G-flat. Then we move up by whole-steps to A-flat, then B-flat. Now we move up by a half-step. You may be tempted to say “B”, but I already said it can’t be B, because you have to have all the letters in order without skipping or repeating any. So the fourth note has to be called C-flat! You might think that’s crazy, but if you saw it in the music it would be much more logical to have all the letters on consecutive lines and spaces. So indeed the spelling makes it more logical visually because a scale will always go alternating between lines and spaces. This is why a C-flat makes much more sense than a B-natural in this case. Having that C-flat keeps it diatonic, makes it easier to read, and it’s more logical. If you enjoy this little tutorial, I can offer you more! If any of you wonder about key signatures, let me know in the comments below here on LivingPianos.com and YouTube.

With music theory the fundamentals must be solid for you to be able to understand more advanced concepts.

This is akin to mathematics. Imagine trying to do algebra if you were rusty on your multiplication tables. Everything builds on everything else. It’s the same with music theory. If you have the fundamentals down, you can get to really advanced harmonic analysis and structural analysis of compositions. It will be as easy as reading notes became for you early on. Everything builds on everything else with such beautiful logic. It also makes your music easier to learn, to digest and to read. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrin

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrinContact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

What is a Major Scale?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about major scales. What is a major scale? I’m sure most of you probably already kind of know what it is. But for those of you who know what a major scale is, you mi

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about what it’s like to be a classical musician in the 21st century. I’m so pleased to have violinist Andrea Cicalese here with me today. I had the opportunity to hear him play in a private concert just a few blocks from here with a dear friend and sensational pianist, Zsolt Bognár.

Robert Estrin:
Welcome Andrea! Good to have you here.

Andrea Cicalese:
Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful show. I am really flattered to be invited and I’m really happy to share some of my stories with you!

Robert Estrin:
Absolutely. I was really astounded going to this concert and I was already very taken with your playing. Not only the technical mastery, but the depth of your musicianship. At a certain point, my wife whispered in my ear that you were 17 years old, and I almost fell out of my seat! Then later on, speaking with you, learning that you’ve only been playing the violin for nine years, I thought, How is this possible? So tell me a little bit about your background and your training. You’re from Italy, living in Germany. You’re making your foray into the United States now. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Andrea Cicalese:

I started playing the violin when I was seven, which was exactly when I moved from Italy to Germany.

I learned violin before German, really. So it was kind of a language for me to learn at that moment. It was a moment in my life where I really needed this, since we left family, friends and everyone to move to Germany. The violin was me comforting myself. Basically, I started lessons with Rudens Turku, also under the guidance of Ana Chumachenco, who is just an incredible teacher. Then I moved to Wuerzburg University of Music when I was 13. I studied with Herwig Zack there. I’m currently, since two years, a student of Josef Rissin, who I just couldn’t be happier with. I think he’s an absolute genius of music. He’s taught people like Daniel Lozakovich, Sergey Khachatryan and Albrecht Breuninger, really amazing people. I think I’m in the right place right now and I don’t really want to go. So that’s my musicianship right now. Then we met in America, as you were saying, and that’s because I was invited to play a recital in Buffalo with pianist Alexander Malofeev, who is, as we all know, incredible.

Robert Estrin:
That must have been quite an experience for you.

Andrea Cicalese:
Absolutely. It was actually my dream to perform with him.

It sounds like a movie when I say it, but that’s just what happened.

I remember sitting on the couch with my father. I was showing him a video of Alexander. I said to him, “One day, do you think I will play with this guy?” He is four years older than me. So it was like a feeling of someone that I looked up to a lot. So, someone still in my generation but older, and here I was two weeks ago, we played in Buffalo. We played Beethoven’s 1st Sonata, Schubert Sonatina in D from Opus 34, and Grieg’s third Sonata. Then encores by Shostakovich. It was just a wonderful experience!

Robert Estrin:
And fabulous! A lot of people would imagine that in order to get to such a level of playing and artistry in such a short amount of time, that you would be spending all day, every day practicing. In talking to you, you revealed to me that you don’t practice as much as some people might think. Tell us a little bit about what your day to day is generally like. Of course, when you’re preparing for a program, I imagine you’re immersed in practicing and rehearsing and all of that. But how do you find balance with travel, practicing, learning new repertoire, rehearsing and all of that? What’s that like?

Andrea Cicalese:
Well, that’s basically, I think, what a healthy life of a musician nowadays should be, what I’m trying to achieve. In my opinion, you cannot practice 7 hours a day without really any reason. Then you’re only in this practice room. A pianist who is practicing 8 hours a day, only in his practice room alone, then suddenly, like in a Hollywood movie, he gets discovered. Then he goes on stage and he’s the best performer of all time! That can happen. Sure.

I believe that to perform well, which is what I try to do, you must have a life.

You must have experiences. You must see nature, art, literature, friends, communication, love, hate. Everything must be there in order to have something to say. Because if you are empty inside, then it’s not really going to go well. After my recitals, it’s usually some of the most lonely moments in my life, because I play and I open my soul to the audience. So I really give them part of me, of my being in that very moment, of my present being. I give them part of me and then I go into the dressing room and I’m empty because I have nothing more to say. That’s when you feel alive in a concert. To quote my friend Daniel Lozakovich, “When you feel alive in a concert, that’s when a concert went well.”

Robert Estrin:
Absolutely. I always enjoy the after-concert, getting together with friends and fans. It’s always a joy and kind of a relief because there is a certain amount of nerves. And that’s a question for you. Tell me about how you handle nerves. Do you get nervous? What’s it like for you getting on stage when there are hundreds or even thousands of people in a hall? How do you cope with that?

Andrea Cicalese:

I’m very lucky because I don’t really have big problems with being nervous.

What I call it is adrenaline. There’s always adrenaline when I play, when I do chamber music, when I perform as a soloist. There is always something there. Nevertheless, my most nervousness actually comes in the preparation of the concert and not really during the concert. For example, in Buffalo playing with Alexander. We are very good friends. But still, he is an important guy. Obviously, nervousness shows responsibility. You want to do well. That’s why you become nervous. You feel a certain responsibility for the audience. I prepare so hard and so well, or I try to at least tofe el very confident about what I’m doing. When I got to rehearsals with Alexander, which we did, I think a maximum of two days of rehearsal for a one and a half hour long program, so really not much time. We were already seeing that things were working really well. We were a good team. We were playing well together and the atmosphere was wonderful. Because although he has this big career, he makes me feel like just a colleague and friend. So we had a wonderful time. When we got on stage we really just had fun together. And also backstage, I mean, it was just a fun moment. We behave like little brother, big brother. Basically that’s our relationship. So I couldn’t feel more comfortable. Generally in my performances, I approach things like a game, but with responsibility.

Robert Estrin:
Well that’s great that you put the nerves at the beginning instead of at the end, as it should be. I know there are different schools of thought as to how to approach performing. For example, at a concert I attended of Ivo Pogorelić, a sensational pianist, the hall was completely black, so you couldn’t see your hands in front of you. He walked out on stage and without even looking at the audience, proceeded to play a brilliant performance. So perhaps his way of coping with the audience is to pretend they’re not there. I may be misspeaking because I don’t know this for a fact, but what I like to do is, in a best case scenario, take that energy, that adrenalin you spoke of, and use it to inspire things that maybe I’ve never thought of doing before. So I’m going to ask you, how much of your program do you leave to the moment, to spontaneity? How much do you try to faithfully reproduce what you did in practice?

Andrea Cicalese:
So there is this violinist, Jascha Heifetz, which I’m about to quote. He’s the most legendary violinist of all time. “When you practice, act like it’s the last time you’re playing, when you play the concerts, don’t give a damn!” But what I mean to say with this is when I practice, it’s all worked out really finely, like every phrase. There is history behind this music. There is a way to play it. Of course, you have to be an individual. But I really program what I want to do, like as a total shape.

Andrea Cicalese:

When I go to the performance, I don’t think about what I programmed to do. I just do it!

And when I just do it, certain things might be different. I think generally when you say this phrasing is good or bad, that’s not really possible. I think it depends on the context. So what came before and what feels right to do in the moment? For example, in the second movement of Schubert, which you heard me play, there is an unbelievably slow and warm thing from the violin, which in every performance I play differently. You can’t really program this. My approach is to feel the energy from the audience and then to reflect it in an amplified version to them. I take my adrenaline and give it to them. That’s super important to me.

An intimate hall where I can connect more with the people is what I personally enjoy the most.

Robert Estrin:
Yes. It was a joy hearing you in an intimate setting. We sat in the first row, so I was maybe five or six feet from you. Growing up with my father, Morton Estrin, I heard him as a concert pianist up close all the time. When you’re in the same room with a concert pianist or concert violinist, the energy and intensity is so amazing! But getting back to this idea of what to do in a performance, I sometimes liken it to a conversation. If you’ve ever had an important interview or something, you might rehearse in your mind everything you’re going to say to the last detail. But once you come to the actual conversation, or in this case the performance, there is a give and take with the audience, and certainly with the musicians you’re playing with. So you can never really predict where it’s going to go. You can never recreate those moments. Even if you do the greatest performance you’ve ever done in your life, you can’t then decide that’s the way you’re going to play it. It’s never going to be the same.

Andrea Cicalese:
You can have an idea of how you want to construct things. You know, here I want to be quieter… But the exact tone, the amount of vibrato, the warmth in the bow that you decide to give or the exact tempi… For example, speaking of pianists, I heard Mikhail Pletnev play all the Chopin Preludes, Nocturnes, Scriabin Impromptu and Beethoven Concerto and it was the most unbelievable concert of my life! I learned so much from that. I’ve never heard such a pianissimo being played on the piano, like nothing, but still with quality. His timing is unbelievable and I cannot believe that it’s always the same. I think that when you become a great master like him, although I hate the word master in music, but when you’re as good as that, I think that’s what you do in a concert.

When I get in a hall, I say out loud to myself, “Okay, so this is my playground today.”

Robert Estrin:
That’s a great attitude. I want to talk a little bit about the way players played in the early part of the 20th century compared to the playing styles of today on violin, on piano and all instruments, I think they’re quite different. You mentioned Heifetz, and there’s Milstein. There were great pianists like Hoffmann, Levine, Rachmaninoff, Horowitz. It seems that there was much more creative diversity in performances then. I attribute this change to technology. My generation grew up with recordings, and now everybody has everything right in their pocket!

You can hear every performance of everybody in the world at the click of a button, and I think to some extent that’s made everybody play more alike.

I was wondering what your feelings are about that. If somebody goes out and plays with a kind of wildly creative expression, would it even be accepted today? What’s your feeling about the general performance practices in the 21st century compared to earlier in the 20th century?

Andrea Cicalese:
That’s a very interesting question. I always change my ideas on this. On the one hand, I love to be able to pick up my phone and listen to unlimited music, which is a gift for us young musicians, to be able to listen to whatever we want. So on the one hand that’s wonderful. On the other hand, you mentioned the common problem. For example, Rachmaninoff. With Rachmaninoff, I always associate Fritz Kreisler, a legendary violinist. They even recorded the Grieg sonata together.

Robert Estrin:
I’ve heard that performance. And of course, it’s spectacular.

Andrea Cicalese:
The way Kreisler plays it, today people in the audience would look around like, “What is this?” But take the second movement, which I’m the most fan of. I mean, the tempi of Rachmaninoff and Kreisler’s tone, vibrato. I mean, you have to get used to it, but I think it’s the best recording of the second movement. But today in any competition you would be thrown out in the first round!

Generally when I play a piece I don’t really listen to recordings.

I listen to recordings before and after I play it, because of the problem that you mentioned. So that’s my reason for myself.

Robert Estrin:
You know what I do? I purposely don’t listen to any recordings until after I have a piece on performance level. Then I go crazy and listen to every single performance! It’s so interesting to hear how different people play a piece, but I don’t want to be influenced before I have my own convictions about it.

Andrea Cicalese:
As you were mentioning in your generation, you were buying CDs from people that you admired. You were spending money on it. So it was an effort to buy them. Some were more accessible, some were less accessible. And so, of course, you would choose the great masters like Horowitz.

I think it’s super important for young musicians to develop good taste.

Because if you develop good taste, then you’re able to listen to yourself practice and decide, okay, this phrasing maybe is more acceptable than this. Listening to the old legends used to be more common. Nowadays people click on the first recording on Spotify, then they listen to 500 things and then they’re confused. So there are pros and cons for us. But from the learning perspective, I think the development of good taste is the most important.


Robert Estrin:

I just did a video recently about the two instruments everybody studies in music conservatory, which are piano and singing. So I was wondering what background you have in other instruments, piano specifically, and any other instruments that you may have studied?

Andrea Cicalese:

With a teacher I have not studied any other instrument. But in my free time I am constantly on the piano.

Mostly I try a little bit of jazz, actually. I love to listen to all sorts of jazz recordings. When I have a phrase in mind, it’s really important for me to sing it or to play it on the piano. Because if I’m playing a piece and I’m singing it, then I don’t care about technical issues because for myself, I don’t really care about how I sing. On the violin I always care about intonation, rhythm, or how I put my fingers. When I sing, I just ignore these things. And then I have a much more clear understanding of what I actually want to do. I can take that and apply it to my instrument.

Robert Estrin:
My daughter, Jenny Estrin is a violinist. She plays with the Mozart players, the opera, the ballet and all of that. But she also performs fiddling and songwriting. So I’m wondering how much crossover you do. You mentioned jazz. Do you do any jazz violin or other styles?

Andrea Cicalese:
I don’t perform jazz, for now. Maybe something within my career can still happen. Take Friedrich Gulda, talking about pianists. After many years in Carnegie Hall concerts, he moved to America and did jazz on what they said was an acceptable level for the serious jazz community in America. I mean that can always happen. Or with conducting, I’m really fascinated. But about jazz, I mean, public performances I have not played. In my free time sometimes I play with my father, who plays the piano. We do certain jazz pieces together. I tend not to do it too much simply because some technical aspects are really different in jazz violin. I want to not ruin my technique for classical music.

But once every two or three days I play some jazz for an hour. It’s super important for me because we classical musicians tend to take the music too seriously.

I see music very differently. I see it like a game that is played. I was asked by Zsolt Bognár, how seriously do we have to take music? And my answer was that my goal is just to learn. I see children from 0 to 7 years old, how much they learn, but how not seriously they take it. That’s what I’m inspired by, essentially.

Robert Estrin:
That’s a great observation. It’s the discovery and curiosity that makes it have a playfulness about it instead of such a seriousness, not to mention the fact that so many people think of classical music as being serious music. Certainly there are some devastating, you know, movements of Shostakovich or Mahler. But then again, there’s playfulness in these composers as well.

Andrea Cicalese:
It’s just a game really.

Robert Estrin:
I know you’re from Italy, living in Germany, and I don’t know how long you’re in the United States. Tell us a bit about your immediate plans and what your long term hopes are for your future with the violin and in life in general.

Andrea Cicalese:
I come from Italy and I always go back to Italy really because I’m still in high school. So here in Germany I attend high school in Munich. I have violin conservatory lessons. Mostly I play here, of course, because more people know me here. I went to America two times to meet with Alexander Malofeev, to be interviewed by Zsolt Bognár and have a wonderful discussion on Living the Classical Life, and to give two recitals in Cleveland and one in Buffalo with Alexander Malofeev. So that’s my experience in America, which was just wonderful. Then I was in New York later, which is just, you know, a big jungle and really exciting for me. About my immediate plans, between the end of January and April I have seven concerts with Vivaldi Winter. Then there is other music to perform with an ensemble. Accompanying me are members from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, which is really nice. We did the same with the Beethoven Concerto once.

The most wonderful thing about it is that it’s for children who want to listen to the music.

They come with their parents and they just listen. And there are these fun interactions later with the children. Yet the music is on a really high level because as I mentioned, the orchestra is Munich Philharmonic members. So it’s just wonderful to make music on a high level. But at the same time, keep in mind that this is for people who have never maybe even heard the violin! Of course, adults are welcome too. We have this short tour in Bavaria. Seven concerts all for children, with Heinrich Klug, first cellist of Munich Philharmonic. He played the Shostakovich Cello Concerto for Shostakovich in Moscow! So he’s a really great guy, a really good friend. That’s my immediate plan.

In the future, apart from soloistic performances, I hope to play a lot more chamber music with colleagues like Alexander Malofeev. We also decided to go on tour with Zsolt Bognár. There’s a lot of things that are yet to come! Of course one day if we stick to America, hopefully we will attend another performance of mine in Carnegie Hall! That’s the big goal.

Robert Estrin:
That would be fabulous! I’m so glad to get to know you and look forward to hearing more of you. Perhaps we can perform together at some point as well.

Andrea Cicalese:
Absolutely.

Robert Estrin:
Growing up in Europe and coming here to the U.S., I’m wondering if you find any qualitative difference between audiences here, the acceptance of classical music in the United States, compared to in Europe, where you grew up?

Andrea Cicalese:
Actually, I find quite big differences. I see that in the United States many classical musicians are also doing more social media, or playing other types of music, or being entertaining with other types of content that is not music. It has great sides, for example, that it’s more accessible for young people in America, I believe. On the other hand, one has to always watch out that it doesn’t get completely away from classical music. Otherwise you’re not making it more accessible, you’re just changing the topic. Also in America, it felt like everything is more possible. There is more opportunity once you’re in a circle of people that want to help you. I don’t know if it’s my perception, but I saw a lot of works with donations in America, while in Europe it’s almost not possible. In America. If there’s someone who believes in you, you’re being pushed much further. On the other hand, I see places like Juilliard or CIM (Cleveland Institute of Music) which have prices like $55,000 per year, which I could not afford. And here in Europe, we have the Vienna Conservatory, the biggest conservatory in the world, probably, with incredible education and incredible teachers, really geniuses of music. I’m paying $300 per semester. So in that sense, that’s more accessible for young people.

Robert Estrin:

In America, orchestras, for the most part, are supported by private donors. Whereas in Germany, for example, they’re state sponsored.

Andrea Cicalese:
The budget that they have in America, it’s just huge! I heard, for example, that a concertmaster in Cleveland can get up to seven figures! While in Munich, it’s much lower because it’s from the state, of course. That has also pros and cons because one can fall down really quickly from private donors. In America, even the streets are bigger! It looks like you can dream more in America, which in some cases is true. But in Germany it’s much more structured, like Germans generally.

Robert Estrin:
I wish you great success in your budding career! I look forward to keeping in touch with you. I want to thank you for visiting here. You can check out more of Andrea HERE.
Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrin

Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sheGUPECZmc&ab_channel=AndreaCicalese

17 Year Old Virtuoso Violinist: Andrea Cicalese

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about what it’s like to be a classical musician in the 21st century. I’m so pleased to have violinist Andrea Cicalese here with me today. I had the opportunity

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about advanced pedal techniques. It’s absolutely not what you would expect at all. I guarantee it! I could talk about half pedaling, which sometimes you do to get a certain sonority. I could talk about combining the una corda pedal, the soft pedal, with the sustain pedal. I could talk about engaging the sostenuto pedal, the middle pedal, to hold some notes when maybe you don’t want to blur everything together. Then you can combine that with the sustain pedal. I could talk about using little dashes of pedal to bring out certain notes. There’s a wealth of pedal techniques that you couldn’t possibly even write in, and even if you could, it wouldn’t be that helpful. Because the piano you’re playing on, the acoustics of the room, not to mention the music you’re playing, all enter into these advanced pedal techniques.

What I’m talking about today are next level pedal techniques.

I will use the slow movement from the Mozart K 545 C Major Sonata as an example. I’m talking about the second movement. I know many of you purists out there might say, “Why use pedal in Mozart at all? Mozart’s piano didn’t have a pedal.” This is true. However, there are two reasons why you might consider using at least some pedal in Mozart. Number one, although Mozart’s piano did not have a sustain pedal, it did have a lever operated with your knee that did exactly the same thing as a sustain pedal. So there was a certain amount of sustain that could be achieved, much like with the pedal. Secondly, when you’re playing on a modern piano, it’s so drastically different from a Mozart era piano that it essentially becomes a transcription for modern piano. The sound, the sustain, and the whole quality of the instrument is so different from what Mozart heard out of his piano. Arguably, you’re playing on a whole different instrument! You might as well take advantage of what the modern piano offers you.

What kind of techniques am I talking about?

I’m not talking about any of the pedal techniques I brought up before. So what am I talking about? In pedaling this, you might be tempted to pedal so that the chords in the left hand get blurred together. Why not simply change the pedal whenever the harmonies change? It’s a very simple technique. The problem with that is when you add the right hand, the right hand notes become blurry. You don’t want the right hand to be blurry. But you want the left hand to be sustained, giving that bed that the melody can float on. Well, here’s the technique. It doesn’t involve the pedal. Not at first.

Use your hands to simulate the sound of the pedal!

In the left hand, you want to hold the bass notes longer. When you do this, the left hand is sustained without having to depend upon the pedal for it. Why is this so helpful? Because then you can use little touches of the pedal to articulate certain notes in the melody, to make the melody more sustained. These touches of pedal on the melody are really subjective. They’re not going to be the same for everyone. It depends upon the room, the acoustics, and the piano. By using little dashes of pedal on the melody while playing the accompaniment with this phantom pedal technique, you can capture the long notes on the melody to make them sing longer.

Simply pedal the long notes in the melody so they sustain longer.

With your left hand, use the phantom pedal technique holding the notes that fall on the beat so that you can use the pedal to enhance the melody instead of trying to pedal the chords to make them sound more lush and sustained. This opens up dramatic possibilities for using the pedal in a more subtle fashion to enhance the melody rather than connecting the accompaniment. This isn’t just in Mozart. This goes for a vast array of musical styles. Try it in your playing. You’ll be richly rewarded with a far more musical performance! You will get a sound that’s cleaner because you’re doing more with your hands. You won’t have to depend upon the pedal to connect what you can connect with your left hand. This opens up great expressive possibilities with the pedal in your piano playing. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrin

Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

Advanced Pedal Techniques

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about advanced pedal techniques. It’s absolutely not what you would expect at all. I guarantee it! I could talk about half pedaling, which sometimes you do to get a

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to stay engaged in your musical performance. This is such an important topic. You can tell when a performer isn’t engaged. You can tell because your mind wanders. You can’t listen to a performer who isn’t engaged in their own performance.

The secret to engaging an audience is being engaged in the performance yourself!

So how do you do such a thing? Think of the challenge. Let’s say you’re playing a piece or a whole program. You’ve practiced for weeks or months on this music. You can play it without even thinking about it because you’ve gone through it so many times. Your fingers just know where to go. That’s the problem! How can you possibly concentrate on something that you’ve done so many times? How can you hear it? How can you really listen to it? The number one key is listening to what you’re doing! Focus on the sound as if it’s the first time you’re hearing it. Now, that’s a hard thing to do.

Are there any things you can do in your practice to help keep the musical score fresh?

Absolutely! What I’m going to tell you right now is the greatest thing you can do if you have pieces you can play, but they just feel kind of lackluster. You’ve finally gotten to where you can play the piece, but you’ve played it too many times. You can play it, but there’s just no spark anymore. You’ve almost gotten tired of it. You’ve lost the enthusiasm. Is there any way to regain that enthusiasm? Yes! It’s so satisfying to play through pieces with all the expression and the pedal and all the nuances. But to regain your enthusiasm for a piece, you have to flip it.

Go back to the score!

Whether it’s a piece you’ve memorized or a piece that you play with the music, either way, put the music up there. Take out your metronome and play without any pedal, slowly and absolutely faithfully to the score. No more and no less. Just play with precision. I’m not saying to play unmusically. You can play musically and still play exactly what’s written. But no shtick! You have little nuances you like to do. Maybe the second time around with a repeated phrase, you play a little softer. Maybe you do other little things that aren’t necessarily written. Get rid of all that stuff and just play exactly what’s written. Just taking your foot off the pedal is going to make you work harder to get a halfway decent sound. Practice this way a great deal. When you finally add the pedal, get rid of the metronome, and free yourself from the score, if it’s a piece you’ve memorized, it’s so refreshing to come back to it. It feels good and it sounds great! You will become engaged in your musical performance again!

I do more of my practicing without the pedal than with the pedal.

I also do a great deal of metronome work. With pieces I have memorized, I constantly revisit the score. Now, this could be extraordinarily difficult, particularly for those of you who are not very good readers. If your sight reading is at a very low level, maybe you have a piece memorized, and you can play it fine, but you go back to the score, and you can barely play it! Well, guess what? You need to play it with the score! If that means going back and playing way under tempo, do it.

You will always learn things from the score.

This process is a way to really engage in the music in a new way. Put the metronome on. Open your music. Play slowly and take your foot off the pedal. Practice that way and when you get to your musical performance, if you have an audience, and you’re nervous, let that energy inspire you to do new things. Listen to the sound of each note. Maybe you’ll hear inner lines you hadn’t noticed before. Particularly when people are watching you, things seem different, don’t they? Go with it! Don’t be afraid to follow a line that you haven’t really paid attention to before in your practice. It may put you a little bit out of your comfort zone. That’s the way to become engaged in your own musical performance and draw in your listeners. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

How to Stay Engaged in Your Musical Performance

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to stay engaged in your musical performance. This is such an important topic. You can tell when a performer isn’t engaged. You can tell because your mind w

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about the most expensive and least expensive musical instrument. There are so many choices! You might think the piano is the most expensive instrument. There was a time when digital pianos didn’t exist and the cheapest piano was about $1,000. But now, you can get an 88 key digital piano for a few hundred bucks.

What are the most expensive pianos?

The most expensive pianos go for $200,000 to $300,000, unless it’s some sculpted work of art. There are some pianos that are worth millions, if they were owned by one of the Beatles or something like that. But generally speaking, the top end is going to be in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, unless it’s an exotic wood or intricately carved or painted or something of that nature. The cheapest pianos may be a few hundred dollars. So pianos might not be the most expensive or the cheapest. You know, you can get a student model clarinet for not that much money. There are a lot of instruments that you can get for less than $1,000. rMany orchestral instruments are not that expensive.

You’ll be surprised to learn that the most expensive instrument and the least expensive instrument are the same instrument!

How can this be? The cheapest instrument you can buy is the violin. Go on Amazon and see if I’m right. Search for the cheapest violin you can find and it will probably be the cheapest instrument you can buy. I mean a real musical instrument, not a kazoo or a penny whistle. Violins are really cheap. You can get one for far less than $100 easily. But Stradivarius and other rare violins can be in the millions of dollars! These aren’t works of art, like pianos that are carved and painted. No, these are just instruments that cost that much.

Any great violin is going to be very expensive.

It’s not just Stradivarius violins. High level violins can be in the high five figures. And for something really high level, you’re going to get into six figures pretty quickly. And like I say, if you want a world class violin, you could easily get into the millions! Yet it’s also the cheapest instrument there is. I bet you didn’t expect that one instrument is the cheapest and most expensive instrument there is. I hope you find this interesting! If you have different ideas about this, leave a comment on LivingPianos.com and YouTube! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrin

Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

What is the Most Expensive and Least Expensive Instrument?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about the most expensive and least expensive musical instrument. There are so many choices! You might think the piano is the most expensive instrument. There was a time wh