Sitting down at a beautiful semi-concert grand can be inspiring! But the challenge of being able to instantly remove all distractions and focus solely on music can be enormous! At first, I wasn’t going to release this video since the video quality
This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com today with a great tip for you about how to memorize music faster. Don’t we all want to be able to learn music faster? Someday maybe they’ll put a chip in your head and you’ll have all the sonatas of Beethoven or the well-tempered Clavier of Bach. Wouldn’t that be great? In the meantime, we’ve got to go through and memorize music. I’ve explained in detail in some of my other videos the process. HOW TO PRACTICE THE PIANO PART 1 – MEMORIZING MUSIC
Today I’m not going to go into all the details about how to memorize. I’m going to show you one incredibly important technique that can save you vast amounts of time:
Practicing in Chords First
Let’s say you were learning the famous Mozart Sonata in C major K 545. As I’ve explained before, you want to learn hands separately first. Start with a little section, something you can digest relatively quickly. You want to be productive your entire practice section instead of taking on a big section that wears you out for the day too early on. Pay attention to the left hand. What is it doing? It is what is referred to as alberti bass, basically broken chords.
It seems like a lot of notes. Or is it? If you think about it, it is really just several broken chords.
The whole first measure can be reduced down to one chord!
This has many benefits for you. You will understand intrinsically the underlying harmony. This is because you see the chords you are playing instead of separate notes. It also enables you to discover the best fingering to accommodate chord to chord instead of thinking separate notes. You’re going to understand the structure of the music better, you’ll find a better fingering, and it is less to learn.
This was a short tip but it can save you hours of work when learning your music while solidifying your understanding of the underlying harmonic structure. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Again, Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time.
This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com today with a great tip for you about how to memorize music faster. Don’t we all want to be able to learn music faster? Someday maybe they’ll put a chip in your head and you’ll have all the sonatas of
This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com with a really interesting question for you: What is an opus? You probably have heard this when you go to concerts and see, for example, a piano Sonata no. 7, opus 10 no. 3 by Beethoven. You may have wondered what this means. You have the number of the piece, the key of the piece, what does opus mean?
Opus numbers started way back in the time of Handel in the 1700s. It is a way of organizing music so generally, lower opus numbers are earlier works, and higher opus numbers are later works. However, it is not quite so simple. If you have sonatas numbered, that already tells you when they were written. Why would you still need opus numbers? Chopin wrote a whole book of mazurkas and an entire book of waltzes. Many of them are in the same key and to be able to identify them, opus numbers can be very handy.
Let’s say Beethoven had three sonatas he wanted to publish. He would go to his publisher with the works. If the last works he published were, “opus 9”, these new compositions would be cataloged as, “opus 10”. If he presents three piano sonatas opus 10, they will be designated as opus 10 no. 1, opus 10 no. 2, and opus 10 no 3. That is a whole body of work. Next time he composes music it will be cataloged as opus 11. It could be piano pieces, string quartets, or a symphony. It depends on what is in that opus. It could be one work or a group of works.
Each opus represents a group of works published together
Here is where it gets a little tricky. Sometimes opuses are out of order. For example, the Opus 49 Sonatas of Beethoven come to mind. He wrote two sonatas that were published pretty late, Opus 49, yet they were written much earlier. While these pieces were composed earlier in his life, he didn’t publish them until later on.
You can’t always go by opus numbers in regards to the date that something was written.
However, they provide a way to clarify what works you are referring to. That is the whole purpose of opus numbers. Why do I bring this all up? It is a little personal story. Years ago, I composed a piece that was a mammoth work for synthesizers, digital pianos, and a whole host of other technologies. I called it “Opus 1” because I thought it was a cool name. I just did an improvisation in my living room after visiting my daughter in Portland, Oregon. I hadn’t touched the piano in a few days and I just came in, hit record, and sat down. I’m calling it “Opus 2” for you.
I hope you enjoyed this brief tutorial on what “opus” means. If you have any questions I’m always here for you: email@example.com I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for joining me again. This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
This is Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com with a really interesting question for you: What is an opus? You probably have heard this when you go to concerts and see, for example, a piano Sonata no. 7, opus 10 no. 3 by Beethoven. You may have wondere
Welcome to LivingPianos.com I am Robert Estrin and I am so pleased to have a return visit from pianist and novelist Jack Kohl. Today we are going to discuss, “Can You Play the Piano with 4 Hands?” Truth be told, I can’t, at least not by myself! However, there is a whole genre of 4 hand piano music. You are going to get a taste of it today and there is a wealth of literature as well as people who specialize in collaborative piano. My sister is a member of the Double Digit Piano Duo and we have also played 4-hand piano music together. The other related genre is 2 piano music. Jack has played 2 pianos some, and I have played 2 pianos as well. In fact, my sister and I played a 2 piano concert together a few months ago! We also did some 4 hand piano music as well. They are markedly different experiences. What makes playing two pianos different from performing 4 hand music? What are the special challenges of 4 hand piano music?
Try listening to the Beethoven Sonata Opus 6 for 4 hands. It is played with one piano with two pianists. You’ll be able to get a taste for what 4 hand music is like with this wonderful piece of music. There are also great compositions for 4 hand piano by Schumann, Mozart, Debussy and others.
I’m sure most instrumentalists would be thrilled if they had as much music in their solo repertoire as there is for 4 hand piano!
There are some challenges pianists face working collaboratively. The secondo player who sits on the left side of the bench handles the pedaling. The primo player who sits at the treble end of the keyboard has to make sure the secondo pianist pedals appropriately for them. You really have to work as a team. Sometimes in four-hand piano music, the hands are actually intersecting. The hands will be nesting between one another.
There are some places where you have to work out getting out of each other’s way. Sometimes you may have to lift off very quickly to get out of the way so that you don’t collide!
Beyond that, there is another aspect that is fundamental to collaborative piano and that is the balance you create. You have to think of your duo as being one big pianist. Normally as a pianist, you are bringing out the melody on the very top as well as the bass on the bottom of the keyboard. But, if you are on the top with a 4-hand piano piece, if you play the bass loud, you’re actually playing an inner voice loud! Likewise, when the secondo is playing, if they bring out their melody with their right hand, that is also an inner voice, not the melody. It just steps over everything.
The secondo player must lighten up their right hand and the primo must play their left hand delicately in order to sound like one pianist creating a beautiful balance. Together, you become one instrument.
There is so much to 4 hand piano music. I want to thank Jack for coming here today and if you haven’t read any of his novels they are pretty amazing. “Bone Over Ivory” has just been released. It is a great read, not too long, and I think it is something you’ll really enjoy. He brings to his literature love and a deep understanding of piano because he is a very accomplished pianist and has done quite a bit of piano performing before he centered his career in creative writing. He has degrees in solo piano performance. Rather than getting knocked out of that world, not being a competition type of pianist with the “fastest fingers in the West”, he decided he wanted to stay in piano by becoming a generalist. He has experience playing in theater pits as well as accompanying. The metaphorical implications of all of that have never been wasted on him. He keeps a journal and writes down observations about piano playing. He has written three novels and “Bone Over Ivory” is a book of essays you can enjoy.
Welcome to LivingPianos.com I am Robert Estrin and I am so pleased to have a return visit from pianist and novelist Jack Kohl. Today we are going to discuss, “Can You Play the Piano with 4 Hands?” Truth be told, I can’t, at least not by myself!
This is Robert Estrin of LivingPianos.com. The question today is “Do you have to keep learning new music on the piano?” If you know about piano repertoire, you know how vast it is. It is the most amazing thing. I have been playing the piano since
This is LivingPianos.com and I’m Robert Estrin with a really interesting subject today: Fast Versus Loud Piano Playing. Some of you may be thinking that I’m talking about contest winning pianists. Some of them play faster than anybody, some play louder than anyone. Often times, that is sadly what it comes down to in competitions because when you have dozens of pianists who all play at such a high level, how do you quantify who is the best? Artistic expression is such a personal opinion after all. This article is not about any of that.
Today’s subject is about how oftentimes students will confuse fast and loud! I was just teaching Clementi Sonatina Opus 36 No. 1 to a student, and wouldn’t you know it, at the point when the music gets louder in the first movement, he started speeding up his playing! It is such a natural tendency. I talked to him about it and he said, “When the music gets exciting and louder you just want to play faster!” This piece starts out forte, then comes down to piano, and then when it crescendos there is such a temptation to get faster.
What is the Secret to Avoiding this Problem?
As with so many rhythm problems, solutions come down to working with the metronome. Have the metronome ticking so you can keep an absolutely precise speed. You will be able to play more evenly and not succumb to the excitement of getting faster when it gets louder.
By maintaining tempo when you get louder you will serve the music better. This is something you have to train yourself to do. It is not a natural thing. You will naturally want to rush the parts that get louder. The metronome is such a handy tool to measure your music until you have it really locked in and you can maintain tempo without the metronome ticking. Interestingly, by avoiding rushing the louder parts, the music is more exciting instead of feeling frantic.
That’s the long and short of loud vs fast. They are two different concepts that you should not confuse in your music. Occasionally they do coincide and that’s fine. But if they don’t, maintain the integrity of your tempo and you will be richly rewarded with a more satisfying musical performance. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.comYour Online Piano Store.
This is LivingPianos.com and I’m Robert Estrin with a really interesting subject today: Fast Versus Loud Piano Playing. Some of you may be thinking that I’m talking about contest winning pianists. Some of them play faster than anybody, some play
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “What are the audition requirements to become accepted at a music conservatory on the piano?” It is pretty standard. You’ll have to look in the catalog online to find for sure exactly their variations on a theme. Most conservatories for undergraduate studies require the following:
A Bach Prelude and Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One or Book Two
Often times they will state the exception of the very first Prelude in C major and some may even have other exceptions. For example, Book One the C minor Prelude and Fugue might not be accepted either because they think it is too easy, even though there is nothing easy about any of the Preludes and Fugues of Bach. Regardless, many say you cannot use those compositions. These are kind of the staples. Some schools may allow you to substitute another piece of Bach or Handel. But, for the most part, a Prelude and Fugue of Bach from Book One or Book Two is a standard audition requirement for conservatories. Most conservatories will require you to play your audition from memory. It is important to be able to memorize music on the piano because with some pieces it’s extremely difficult to play from the score. So, memorization is considered to be an essential technique in solo piano playing.
A Classical-Era Sonata by Mozart, Haydn, or Beethoven
Most conservatories will require something from these seminal composers. Again, there are a couple of exceptions. They generally do not accept the famous C Major Mozart Sonata K 545. The idea is that it is too easy, when really to play it well is not easy. But it is usually the first Mozart sonata students learn. They want to hear pianists who are above that level. They also usually say you can’t play either of the Opus 49 Sonatas of Beethoven, Number 1 and Number 2. Any other Beethoven or Haydn sonata is usually permitted for auditions.
One or Two Contrasting Works of the Romantic-Era or Twentieth Century
Sometimes the requirements will be more specific. But usually, you can play any work of Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Bartók as well as many other composers. You have a lot of freedom in this choice. There is a big difference between playing Stravinsky’s Petrushka or playing one of Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words. This is where you can really show what you can do. You might have a piece to present that is much more difficult than anyone else can play. Sometimes an etude will be specified. In the Classical sonatas, there are some late Beethoven sonatas that are massively difficult as well. Even some Mozart sonatas, such as his last sonata in D major K576, are a handful. So, there is a wide range of difficulty among different classical sonatas as well as Romantic and twentieth century piano works.
All Major and Minor Scales and Arpeggios.
This should be at a fast clip like 144, four notes to the beat for scales, and 120, four notes to the beat for arpeggios playing four octaves up and down the keyboard. Both major as well as harmonic and melodic minor scales are expected. These are staples. This is a way to weed out people who have not had good training. Anyone who is properly trained should have all scales and arpeggios in their back pocket. It doesn’t make sense not to learn them because you depend upon mastering them for developing a solid technique on the piano (or any instrument).
Fortunately, it is very easy these days to check online for audition requirements. There are always exceptions and slight deviations from what I’ve articulated above. This should still give you a pretty good overview of what it is required in a piano audition for undergraduate studies. As far as getting accepted, that is a completely different discussion. There are so many factors beyond your control that you should never feel bad if you don’t get into a school you auditioned for. Sometimes they don’t even have openings! Sometimes teachers at the school have private students they are trying to get in. If you auditioned and you thought you played great but still didn’t get in, don’t give up! That is not necessarily an affront to your abilities. You can never predict auditions no matter how good you are.
Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “What are the audition requirements to become accepted at a music conservatory on the piano?” It is pretty standard. You’ll have to look in the catalog online to find for sure ex
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com with a viewer question. “Can playing the piano cause hearing damage?” You may be concerned about this. You’ve got one pair of ears for your whole life and you don’t want to blow it, right? We all know that rock and roll musicians often suffer from ear damage. You might not know that symphony orchestra players suffer from ear damage as well. It’s a hazard of the trade. Just think what it’s like when you have sixty or so musicians on stage. You might have timpani behind you, or a trumpet section blaring in your ears. It’s a real problem. To mitigate this, there are acoustic baffles made of plexiglass to help with sound while maintaining visibility to the conductor. What about the piano?
Is playing the piano safe for your ears?
Not necessarily. Whenever we help people choosing pianos, one of the first things we ask is where the piano is going. It’s important to match the piano to the room. For example, think of a seven-foot semi-concert grand. It’s glorious to play in a large room with high ceilings. But what if you put a piano like this into a small bedroom? Would it be okay there? Possibly, if you have really thick carpeting, thick drapes, sofas, beds, and other materials that absorb sound. It might sound fine. But with all solid walls, hardwood floors, low ceiling, even a baby grand could be a problem. The voicing of your piano also makes a big difference. Pianos get brighter the more you play them, and some pianos naturally are brighter.
Asian pianos tend to be brighter than American pianos.
If you have a really bright Asian piano in a room where the acoustics are very live, you could indeed inflict ear damage. A lot of it comes down to common sense. One telltale sign that you’ve gone too far is if you ever get ringing in your ears after playing your piano. That is a very strong danger sign. You should back off for a few days because if you experience ringing in your ears repeatedly, you can develop tinnitus. You can have a constant ringing in your ears that never goes away. You also must be careful how you place your piano as well as what room it goes into.
The voicing of your piano by your piano technician can make it louder or softer.
Naturally, whether your piano is open or closed will also make a big difference in volume. Years ago I had the experience of practicing in little tiny cubicles at school. Playing in a room like that makes you feel really powerful because it is easy to generate huge amounts of sound. Then playing in the concert hall even on a nine-foot concert grand piano in such a huge space, you’d feel like you weren’t making much sound at all. It was unnerving because in the practice rooms you could bang out anything. You could overplay the piano because they were played so much they became overly bright on top of playing in a confined space. It was easy to play loud and fast without any trouble articulating everything in that situation. Practicing in a room where things are too loud is not only bad for your ears, but it doesn’t prepare you to play other pianos in better situations.
I hope this is helpful for you and we appreciate the questions coming in! Again, this is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.comYour Online Piano Store. Thanks for joining me.
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com with a viewer question. “Can playing the piano cause hearing damage?” You may be concerned about this. You’ve got one pair of ears for your whole life and you don’t want to blow it, ri
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com with a really interesting topic for you today: Secrets of Piano Voicing. Did you know that the voicing on the piano is intrinsically different depending upon what volume you are playing? The balance between the notes in your hands is different when playing loud compared to playing softly.
Here’s how it works. When you’re putting a lot of energy into playing loud on the piano, you can play everything strong and the melody will come right through for you. When you play softly though, you have to delineate the melody notes or they get lost. In the featured video, I demonstrate with the Chopin 20th prelude, which has fortissimo as well as pianissimo sections. When playing loudly, you can play with equal volume. Yet, you will easily be able to discern the top melody notes. On the accompanying video, I play everything equal volume of all the notes in the chords of both hands.
The next section is quiet. I play softly, but equal volume of all the notes as I did playing forte in the previous phrase. But at the softer volume, the melody gets lost.
While there is more than one way to bring out melodies in piano playing, typically they are found on the top line of music. If you reach with the top fingers, you can delineate the melody. For the sake of this presentation, I am bringing out the melody of the top line while playing quietly.
It creates a beautiful sound! On the next section which is even softer, you will hear the performance first playing all the notes with equal volume. Unlike when playing loud, the melody is lost when playing the notes equal volume at softer volumes. When playing softly and bringing out the top notes the balance is very pleasing.
Now, what’s great about this lesson is that you can try this with all your music and discover the more quietly you play, the more exaggerated the difference between melody and harmony must be because of the natural acoustics of the piano. When you play loud, you can hear everything clearly playing all notes at equal volume.
But the quieter you play, the more focus you must bring to the melody.
I hope this has been helpful to you. This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Thanks so much for joining me.
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com with a really interesting topic for you today: Secrets of Piano Voicing. Did you know that the voicing on the piano is intrinsically different depending upon what volume you are playing? The balance between t