Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s topic is about how to approach teaching music lessons online. There are many challenges. I deal with piano, and a lot of you are pianists as well. But this applies to all music teachers and the particular challenges of dealing with younger students is really important. It’s an interesting thing that everybody’s going online now. We’re all interfacing with video chat! One of the great things is that people realize now that they’re not restricted to just their neighborhood teacher. Now, the world is at your fingertips.

Teaching music online, particularly to young children presents uni

Conveying hand position, relaxed shoulders, and even how people sit at the piano can be tough when teaching remotely. Parents can help tremendously in this regard. In addition, kids’ emotions can be a bit fragile at the moment since everything has changed in their lives. It’s important to keep things fun and positive.

Like so many musicians, my daughter Jenny had a packed schedule of performances with orchestras cancelled indefinitely. Fortunately, teaching is one area musicians can still be engaged in. However, it requires an understanding of how to deal with a new medium.

We have a very special guest. I’m incredibly pleased to bring today somebody who has been teaching since she was a teenager. It’s been the whole crux of her career along with performing and composing, my sister Coren Estrin Mino. Hello Coren!

Coren Estrin Mino:
Hi, Bob. It’s really good to see you, although I wish we could be in person.

Robert Estrin:
This is pretty good, actually.

Coren Estrin Mino:
This is amazing. This is so fun.

Robert Estrin:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing virtual visits with more people in the last couple of months than I’ve done in the rest of my life combined.

Coren Estrin Mino:
Yes, this is true. I’m visiting with a lot of people I haven’t seen in a really long time.

Robert Estrin:
It’s opening everybody’s consciousness. We’re going to talk about the unique challenges of teaching music lessons online, because there are people out there trying to figure out how to deal with all this technology. I remember when I first started doing this, I had a friend who I wanted to do a video chat with. I’m pretty adept at technology and my friend happens to be a computer teacher. Even we were struggling for 10 or 15 minutes to get any of the platforms to work! It’s a funny thing, sometimes everything just works seamlessly and other times, nothing seems to work. Tell me about what your experiences have been. Afterall, you’ve been teaching in person for so long.

What have been the challenges for you in getting set up in this whole new world online?

Coren Estrin Mino:
Well, in a nutshell, everything! I am not computer illiterate by any stretch, but this was really new for me and I was really struggling my first two weeks of doing this in March. Terrible sound, just terrible glitches, sound cutting out, a delay between the visual and the audio. There were so many problems! So I was complaining about this to my son, Brian, who helped me enormously. He told me some things I needed to do to improve my setup. The main thing he told me about were these headphones with the microphone. One of the things that was happening to me my first couple of weeks, I was losing my voice because all of us, when we are video chatting, if our headphones don’t have our own voice in them, we don’t realize we’re shouting. There’s a psychological distancing from your device. You feel like you’re far away from people. So you tend to shout. I was getting very hoarse, because if you’re giving 12 to 15 piano lessons a day and you’re shouting all day long, your voice doesn’t hold up. And mine certainly didn’t.

Robert Estrin:
I found the same thing at first when I was doing video lessons. I just used my iPad. I have a nice iPad Pro with a big screen which works great. The audio and the video are fine. But in order to get the piano keys in the shot, the iPad had to be far enough away. So, I had to be shouting. It was really exhausting until I figured out how to incorporate streaming into my studio.

You had talked to me about your issues with the internet. What was your solution for that?

Coren Estrin Mino:
That’s a really good question. Brian recommended that I get an extra router, which is made by a company called, Orbi. That improved the sound. Then, I upgraded my internet service as well. Those changes made huge improvements. There was no longer a delay between audio and visual. One of the things that kept happening was a bubbly sound. It almost sounded like my piano was underwater, and that disappeared completely. The one thing that I will never have any control over is what my students are using, what their internet is, what device they’re doing their piano lessons on. So I have at least improved my situation as much as I can without putting thousands of dollars into it.

Robert Estrin:
There are some other tips that people should be aware of. These video chat platforms are not meant for music. They are optimized for spoken voice. There are all kinds of settings for noise reduction of different types. If you have those enabled, which they are by default, when you first start chatting, when you play anything quiet, the notes sound really weird. I think it’s important for people to understand that there are settings in Zoom and in Skype and in some of the other platforms. We’re using Zoom right now for everybody. And one nice thing about Zoom is that you can record your call, just like we’re doing. That’s how we’re able to share this with you.

We disabled the noise reduction on both ends so that we can play music with no problems. That’s really essential when you’re giving lessons, isn’t it?

Coren Estrin Mino:
Yeah, absolutely. There are some entertaining things that happen on their end, I’ll hear their dogs barking or somebody chatting in the next room. And that actually is a bit of a problem. My headphones pick up ambient noise almost as loud as the sounds I really want to hear, which is my students talking or playing the piano. So, I sent out a message to everybody to please try to keep the noise level down in their homes while the piano lessons are going on.

Robert Estrin:
Now, I know you teach a wide range of students from beginners to advanced adults, but teaching younger children online, I’m wondering how you engage them. They’re looking on a screen, maybe some of them are even on phones. How do you deal with that?

What methodology is there for keeping children engaged remotely?

Coren Estrin Mino:
That is actually a huge issue. Anybody who’s teaching children online, any subject, knows it’s not easy to engage children remotely. The best solution for that is to have a parent sitting in the room with the child.

Robert Estrin:
It’s got to be the right parent though, of course.

Coren Estrin Mino:
Well, I’ve had good luck. The one little issue that comes up with parents sometimes is a parent wants to jump in and answer a question. If the child doesn’t answer right away, they’ll just jump in and tell the child the answer. That’s a natural response. Most parents though let me conduct the lesson and I will say, “Could you please point to measure three?” And they’ll do that. So the child knows where we are. That’s the biggest problem, a child not understanding. If I say we’re on line two, measure three, they don’t respond to that. They don’t understand that. If I stop them to look at a little correction, their default is to start again from the beginning.

Robert Estrin:
That’s a timeless problem with students anyway. I have a video on that subject!

Coren Estrin Mino:
So, you know what I’m talking about. It’s very hard for me to convey where we are in the music. One of the most important facets of my teaching has had to disappear. I play duets with my students, especially the young ones.

Not being able to play duets with my students has been very challenging because it’s one of the best ways to get young students to sense pulse in music.

Robert Estrin:
Also great for sight reading.

Coren Estrin Mino:
And dynamics, or even a music that they have prepared that they are not sight reading, pieces they have actually learned. By me playing a duet with them, I can exaggerate the dynamics a little bit and say, “Copy what I’m doing.” So, they understand how loud is loud, how soft is soft. And I can’t do that now. So, I’ve had to rely on some ingenuity, I guess, in trying to get kids to do things. Plus, I have to always make sure that what they’re doing is what I’m hearing. The electronics make dynamics, tone, and balance very difficult to hear sometimes, especially if they are on devices that are old or not great to begin with. Phones are not necessarily bad. If they have a brand new iPhone, for example, I’m going to get good sound from that.

Robert Estrin:
Right. In terms of the transmission.

I would imagine it’s hard for them to see if you’re trying to show them anything on a small screen.

Coren Estrin Mino:
Exactly. Well, I don’t do a lot of that. Sometimes I will pick up a book and I’ll say, “This is what I’m talking about right here.” I’ll resort to pointing to the place in the score. For a while I had thought of getting a little handheld camera, but my son informed me that even though for people who are way more tech savvy than I, they could go back and forth between the computer and the little camera easily. For me, that was just a step that would have been too time consuming to do quickly in a lesson.

Robert Estrin:
Another thing you can do with some of these platforms like Zoom is screen-sharing. So if you have something up on your computer screen, instead of seeing you, they’ll see what you’re seeing on the computer, and that could be one way of sharing.

Coren Estrin Mino:
That’s a great idea. I’m mostly with my students using FaceTime. Almost all my students have Apple products. I’m also using some Skype and a couple students are using Zoom.

Robert Estrin:
Right. I think that Skype and FaceTime actually have the best video quality, but Zoom is very flexible.

Coren Estrin Mino:
Exactly. So those have been some of my challenges. I did send home a note to parents, to please purchase a tripod for their devices. I’m getting very tired of phones falling off stacks of books or a phone being on the edge of the piano. Whatever end of the piano the phone is on, I’m either hearing way too much bass or way too much treble. So, a little bit of distance from the keyboard makes it so that I can hear a truer sound as well as being better visually. I don’t like when I can see the keys, but I can’t see my student’s face. That’s very uncomfortable for me. With a lot of the phones that’s what’s happening. And I don’t like that.

Robert Estrin:
I’m with you there.

For everybody out there, are you still accepting students?

Coren Estrin Mino:
Yes, I am accepting students, particularly adults, because they can come in the morning. So, yes, so I am more than happy to speak with anybody who is interested.

Robert Estrin:
I know that you always have a packed schedule because you’ve been teaching for so long. When did you start teaching?

Coren Estrin Mino:
I have been teaching since I was 13.

Robert Estrin:
13? Wow!

Coren Estrin Mino:
Yes. I started taking students at 13 and our dad started giving me students when I was about 15. Then when I went to college, you inherited my students.

Robert Estrin:
That’s right. And that’s when I started assisting dad. That’s what got both of us into it from such a young age.

Coren Estrin Mino:
That’s right. I did the same thing with my children. And I know you did the same thing with yours. My children started teaching when they were very, very young, so I think we carried that through very nicely.

Robert Estrin:
So, we’re carrying the torch for future generations! If any of you out there have questions about the technology, you’re welcome to email me. I can tell you what I’m doing and help any of you who are teachers or students trying to figure out how to do all of this. We’re happy to help you, and we’re here for everybody. I want to thank Coren for joining us. And it’s been a pleasure visiting with you virtually.

Coren Estrin Mino:
Yes, it has been.

Robert Estrin:
Coren has had many students go on to illustrious, professional careers as teachers and concert pianists. She’s really good with a wide range of students. So, if you have any questions, address them to me and we’ll help any of you, whatever you’re trying to do with your music! Again, I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource. Thanks so much for joining us here today. We’ll see you next time.

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Coren Mino Estrin
corenmino@msn.com

How to Teach Music Lessons Online to Children & Adults: with Robert and Coren Estrin

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s topic is about how to approach teaching music lessons online. There are many challenges. I deal with piano, and a lot of you are pianists as well. But this applies to all music teach

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’ll be examining the pros and cons of digital pianos vs. acoustic pianos. You might think that my opinion would automatically be in favor of acoustic pianos, and I kind of feel that way. However, it’s not a matter of which is better, but which is appropriate for the task.

In some situations, a good digital piano is a great choice.

I have a hybrid instrument that I am developing. With this instrument it’s possible to interface with music software. With a piano, you can put MIDI sensors under the keys that can do some of that. But obviously there are benefits to digital pianos: having different piano sounds, orchestrations, or being able to play with headphones. There are many benefits to technology. Digital pianos don’t require the same maintenance, and they are much more easily moved. Taking even an upright piano to gigs isn’t feasible. Having a good digital piano, one you can put under your arm, is a godsend. So it’s not that one is necessarily better than the other.

What if you have a limited budget for a piano and none of the benefits of a digital piano are particularly important to you?

In that case, should you just automatically get an acoustic piano? Even then, not necessarily. Because if you have a limited amount of money to spend on a piano, for way under $3,000 you can get some seriously good digital pianos. Looking at acoustic pianos in the $3,000 price range, your options are severely limited. You will likely be limited to short uprights with slower actions than grand pianos, and they will have an anemic sound in the bass. You’re not going to get much of an acoustic piano at that price point. If you are looking for something closer to $1,000, good luck finding any kind of acoustic piano in the used market that doesn’t require a lot of work. Additionally, you’re going to have to spend hundreds of dollars just to get it moved into your home and tuned. At that price point, a digital piano could be a better choice for you.

It all comes down to your personal preferences and situation.

While I love playing my grand piano, I also love technology and what it affords. There are many benefits to each of these. You have to find what works for you and what’s important to you. How you’re using the instrument, where you’re playing it, and what your goals are are all important things to consider. If you want to have a concert grand bass in an instrument that’s the size of an upright, you’re not going to be able to achieve that with an acoustic piano. There is a lot to consider with finding the right instrument for yourself. I hope this has been helpful for you. If any of you have questions about this, you’re welcome to contact me anytime. This is my passion and I’m happy to share it with you!

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Are Digital Pianos Better Than Acoustic Pianos?

Today I'll be examining the pros and cons of digital pianos vs. acoustic pianos. You might think that my opinion would automatically be in favor of acoustic pianos, and I kind of feel that way. However, it's not a matter of which is better, but which

Welcome to LivingPianos.com. I’m Robert Estrin with a personal story about every piano I’ve lived with! I started selling pianos out of my home decades ago. So, I’m not going to include every single piano I have literally lived with, but every single one that was my practice piano. There are a lot of them, so let’s get started!

When I was born, there was a big old Sohmer upright in my bedroom.

Before I studied piano, my older sister studied with my father. He had a studio upstairs in our home. This was in a Levitt house. This is the house where my father taught Billy Joel among many other people. We moved when I was about five years old. That old Sohmer was my practice piano when we moved. It was a good piano, but my father had in his studio in our home a Baldwin L 6′ 3″ grand, as well as a Steinway model S, a beautiful little baby grand his father had given to him in the 1930s. So, I got to play those pianos as well.

Eventually, because my sister and I both studied the piano with my father and had to practice. So, my father bought a brand new Baldwin Hamilton studio upright.

I was about 12 years old. That piano was upstairs, and the Sohmer upright was downstairs. Both my sister and I taught piano also. We would teach in the playroom where that big old Sohmer was. But upstairs, we had the nicer Hamilton to play and practice on.

My father taught at Hofstra University, but he also did a great deal of teaching right in our home. He taught countless hours, but always had an hour long dinner break from 6:00 to 7:00. I would finish dinner by 6:30 and dash downstairs to play the pianos in his studio.

A few years later, my father stepped it up and bought a brand new 7 foot Baldwin SF-10 semi-concert grand. That piano was such a joy to play! At that point, the Steinway baby grand went upstairs, and my parents sold the Sohmer upright. So, then my sister and I had the beautiful Steinway baby grand to practice on, and in the playroom was the Baldwin Hamilton. I was in heaven, especially those 30 minutes after dinner playing that 7′ Baldwin. I absolutely loved it! But practicing on the Steinway baby grand was not so bad either!

When I moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music, my father was nice enough to let me take the Steinway baby grand.

I had that piano in my apartment to practice on. When I moved to Southern Illinois University to study with Ruth Slenczynska, he moved that piano into my apartment there. Then, when I transferred to Indiana University, Bloomington, I took the piano with me. Eventually, I lived with a family in a beautiful house in the country. It was wonderful living with nice people in a gorgeous house, and they had a nice baby grand. It wasn’t as good as the Steinway, but there was no place to put the Steinway. So, the Steinway ended up going to my sister in Ohio, and I practiced on their Schumann baby grand. It was rebuilt, and nothing special. But I had a serviceable instrument to practice on.

Eventually, I moved out of that house and I didn’t have a piano! I had just graduated, so I didn’t have much money. I found a big old Gulbransen upright, not unlike the old Sohmer upright from years ago. It was a nice piano with a good sound. Although, it was only an upright piano. But it served pretty well. Of course, I needed a grand piano for repetition, trills, not to mention the una corda pedal.

After we got married, my wife and I took all the money that we got as gifts and put that toward a brand new Baldwin Model M 5′ 2″ baby grand.

It was a struggle to make those payments. At that time, the interest rate was 18%! Can you believe that? It took five years to pay it off. In the meantime, I was building up my teaching. When people would call me for lessons, the first question I would ask is, “Do you have a piano?” And most people didn’t have pianos! This was before you could buy a serviceable digital piano for a few hundred bucks. They didn’t exist yet! So, I bought an old upright and had my tuner fix it up. If somebody called me for lessons, I could offer the piano for sale so I could accept the student. Then I was brave and I bought two uprights!

Pretty soon we had 27 pianos in our home!

We didn’t have a huge home, but it was built on a hill with a walkout basement. There was also a big picture window where I put my recording studio. We had a lot of pianos and started getting serious with selling pianos. There was such a need for it, because most people didn’t grow up with pianos and didn’t know how to buy a used piano. So, I made it my business to help people to get pianos. Of course, it also helped my teaching business and the recording studio. Everything was working well.

At a certain point, I got a used Baldwin L.

This Baldwin L was a nice piano. So,I decided to put up my Baldwin M for sale along with the L. Even though the Baldwin M was newer and more refined, the L was longer and had a bigger bass. Instead of a 5′ 2″ like my Baldwin M, it was 6′ 3″. So, I put them both up for sale thinking, “Whichever one sells, I’ll keep the other one.” Famous last words! They both sold almost immediately!

And there I was without a piano!

Can you believe this? At that point I had to find a new piano. I found a Kawai baby grand that became my practice instrument. It was a good little piano. Of course, I still wanted something bigger. That’s when I came across a young woman who was helping her father (a retired piano technician) sell his 6′ 2″ Steinway XR grand. So, that became my piano. I also bought a state-of-the-art Kurzweil K250 for my recording studio . This was a full-fledged synthesizer workstation that not only had all the instruments of the orchestra, it also had a beautiful piano sound with 88 real wooden keys. That was in the control room of my studio.

I outfitted my Steinway grand with MIDI. I became a dealer of this technology. I started helping people around the country who wanted to interface their acoustic pianos with computers. This was way back in the ’80s! I could play the Steinway grand and hear the sounds of the Kurzweil. So I could, for example, layer an orchestra with the piano performance. It was great for the recording studio.

Living in the small town of Bloomington, Indiana was great for a lot of reasons.

You could get on your bike and in 10 minutes, you’re in the country. It was idyllic. But at the same time, a town of 50,000 is a difficult place to make a living as a musician. We had a music store and recording studio downtown called, Music House. My wife was traveling three hours away to play with various orchestras. And even though I had a full-line music store, a recording studio, a lesson program, and a piano rebuilding shop, it was still tough to make ends meet. So, we moved to Los Angeles. I sold my Steinway, but I had a lot of new pianos because we had inventory from the store. The piano I brought to California was a brand new 6′ 1″ Wurlitzer. But soon after moving to California, I found yet another 6′ 3″ Baldwin L grand piano in the used market. I got a great deal on it. So, I sold the Wurlitzer to a church that was looking for a piano. They were very happy with it, and I was very happy with my Baldwin L. I had my technician dial it in, and that was it. I was satisfied with my piano.

My piano tuner, who was a master technician, had been a concert technician for years. He owned a 7 foot Mason & Hamlin BB. This piano was his personal piano, and he had babied it. He put new hammers and dialed it in to perfection. It was a Pre-Aeolian Mason & Hamlin from 1929. He wanted to sell it, and I agreed to help him. So, he put it in my studio. But as soon as I played it, I wanted it!

As great as the 6′ 3″ Baldwin L was, to go to that 7′ range, was a whole new ball game.

I asked my technician to give me a chance to see if I could sell my Baldwin so I could afford to buy his Mason & Hamlin. He gave me that chance, and I managed to do it! Then I had the ultimate piano. It was the nicest piano I’d ever played! I loved it! I thought it would be my piano forever.

I had another Baldwin L that I had for sale. It was in my studio along with my other instruments. A concert pianist from San Diego came to look at it. He had friends who were looking for a piano, and they asked him to check out the Baldwin L for them. So, he came in and he played that piano. Then he sat down at my Mason & Hamlin BB. I let him know that that piano wasn’t for sale. But he played it for a long time before eventually leaving. A few days later he came back. He let me know that his friends were interested in buying the Baldwin, but he had to have the Mason & Hamlin. He made me a generous offer I couldn’t refuse. I knew with the money from the sale of the two grands I could replace that Mason & Hamlin. But the only way to go was bigger! So, I went on a hunt for the ultimate concert grand!

I ended up finding an absolutely out of this world 9′ Baldwin SD-10 concert grand.

This piano had sustain, power, clarity, warmth, everything I could possibly hope for. My piano technician had been a master technician in the concert market in Dallas for years. He tuned and serviced countless concert grands for performances. He said that my piano was among the best two or three pianos he had ever come across in his life. I was set! We moved into a big live-work loft with 19-foot ceilings and started a concert series, Art District Concerts, right in our own home. It was awesome! We could fit 80 people comfortably there. And that piano sounded glorious in that room.

Eventually, we moved out of the loft and our new living room was just normal size. Concert grand pianos are meant for large halls. It was just too loud! It had so much volume that I would practice with this piano completely closed with a felt string cover. I decided to sell the piano because it was just too big for where I was living. The good news was, I had several people interested, including two new concert halls that were looking for pianos, and they both wanted this piano. Of course with concert halls there are committees who make these decisions. And as it went through the boards, we were just waiting to see which one was going to get that spectacular piano.

Both parties had agreed to have me play the dedication concert for my piano.

As luck would have it, one Sunday afternoon, an elderly couple came in from the desert. The man sat down and played one piece on my SD-10 concert grand and wrote me a check for my asking price. That was it, just one piece.

The one piece he played was Chopstix!

So, that’s who ended up with my concert grand, the greatest piano of all time. I’m sure he enjoys it.

Right around the same time, I inherited my father’s 7′ Baldwin SF-10, that magnificent piano that I loved so much as a kid.

I had the piano beautifully restored, and that is my personal piano to this day. This SF-10 is a glorious instrument, one of the finest pianos I’ve ever played. In this whole lineage of pianos, I think I ended up with the right one. I remember as a teenager, when this piano came to our house, how excited we all were and how beautiful the tone was. And it’s still producing such gorgeous music after all these years. You can hear a performance of the Chopin E-flat Nocturne, Opus 9 no. 2 I played on this piano.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this personal story about all my pianos, and thanks so much for joining me. Again, I’m Robert Estrin, here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource. We’ll see you next time.

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My Personal Pianos: Chopin – Nocturne in E Flat Major Op. 9 No. 2

Welcome to LivingPianos.com. I’m Robert Estrin with a personal story about every piano I’ve lived with! I started selling pianos out of my home decades ago. So, I’m not going to include every single piano I have literally lived with

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s question is about what makes a pianist’s sound unique. This is a really tough question to answer, but I’m going to do my best!
My wife is a flutist. When she was very young, she studied with some great concert flutists. At one point she heard her teacher play her cheap student level flute. Sure enough, it no longer sounded like a cheap flute. It sounded like this great flutist! With wind instruments, it’s obvious. And it’s most obvious with singers. As soon as you hear a voice, you know who it is.

If you hear Frank Sinatra, there’s no doubt about who you’re listening to.

With piano, it’s much further removed from singing, certainly. It isn’t even like the distinctive sounds of wind and string players. But indeed, there are unique sounds different pianists produce. I grew up idolizing Horowitz and Rubinstein. The whole methodology of their pianistic approach was so drastically different from one another. So, this enters into it. Certainly, physiology has something to do with the sound of the piano as well. A massive man might have a bigger sound compared to a very slight man or woman. But not always. It goes much deeper. How you hear things will affect the way you approach the keyboard, and results in very different sound production.

What are some of those differences? Well, I was trained from a very young age by my father, Morton Estrin, to have the weight of the arms supported by the fingers instead of having limp fingers floating in midair and letting the fingers push down. Now, in very fast passages that’s exactly what you want to do, because you can’t support much weight when you’re going very quickly. But in a slow melody, you certainly want to have a sense of line. And the best way to get that is to use the weight of the arm. Using this method you can produce a fluid line on the piano like a singer. Playing just with the fingers, without supporting with the weight of the arm, results in a less fluid performance. Naturally, how the pedal comes into play also affects the tone tremendously.

There are some pianists who produce such unique sounds that you know who they are instantly!

I find this amazing. With the human voice, you’ve got the whole inside of the body and the vocal cords and the intonation of speech. On a wind instrument, you have the lips and you also have the throat and the vibrations within the chest cavity. There is so much more to identify sound. What do you have with the piano? The tone is produced by hammers hitting strings. How the heck do you achieve a distinct sound? Well, just like I have revealed previously, growing up I had very small, weak fingers, and yet I grew up hearing my father and some of his spectacular students. I always would strive to get that big beautiful sound. In fact, I contorted my body trying to make my spaghetti fingers produce anything close to the sound I heard from my father. But I made it happen in slow music particularly. Fast pieces were a little bit tougher for me having weak fingers, and I didn’t practice a great deal as a young child. But on slow music though, even from the youngest age, I was able to produce the sounds that I heard just from making it happen.

The sound of a pianist comes down to what they hear in their head and achieving that sound.

So that’s the lesson for today. It’s all about the connection of the hands to the ears. And that’s what you want to strive for in your playing so you can express your voice on the piano. I’d love to hear from any of you who have ideas about how to produce a beautiful sound on the piano! There’s a lot more to this subject, and I may produce a whole series about this on my Patreon channel. Thanks to all of you who have subscribed! I’ll see you next time. Again, I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource. Thanks again for joining me.

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Do Pianists All Sound the Same?

I'm Robert Estrin. Today's question is about what makes a pianist's sound unique. This is a really tough question to answer, but I'm going to do my best!

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. Thanks so much for joining me. The question today is how the 80/20 rule applies to the piano. How it applies may surprise you!

So, what is the 80/20 rule? You may have heard this before. The 80/20 rule is, for example, in the piano, how spending 80% of your time on 20% of the score will benefit your practice. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply to the piano exactly. Because I would say it’s more like 90/10!

Really, you’ll learn a piece of music and then spend 90% of your time on 10% of the piece.

There’s just a very small amount that really requires almost all of your time and effort. Of course there is great temptation to always go back to the beginning and play the parts you know, because it’s fun and you want to work on those parts to make them better and better. There’s no end to how well you can play something.

But really laser focusing on the small sections, sometimes spending 98% of your practice time on 2% of the music is necessary. Other days you can have a more fluid type of practice where you’re covering more substantial parts of your piece. Particularly when you’re getting ready for performance, you want to be able to get the sense of playing complete pieces, playing half a program, then playing the whole program is how to prepare for a concert. But certainly in the formative parts of learning music, you want to focus your attention on the parts that need refinement to be productive. I see so many people who spend hours and hours at the piano and don’t seem to accomplish what they are after and this is one way to increase your productivity tremendously. So, in your practice, don’t just keep going through the things you can already play well, even though you can always refine further.

Put your attention where it’s needed early on.

You may feel like you’ll never get through the piece if you spend so much time on a small section. Maybe it’s a four or eight measure phrase, and you’re thinking, my gosh, if I spend an hour or an hour and a half on this, I’m never going to get through the piece! Here’s the epiphany you will have. Spend that time on the front end on some of those hard sections and you will be rewarded because you’ll find that almost all pieces of music have repeats of different themes and technical challenges. And by delving into those sections head-on, you’re going to be able to accomplish so much more as you go further with the learning of the piece.

So yes, the 80/20 rule applies and maybe even it’s even more extreme than that. I’d love to hear from all of you how you feel this applies to your practice and keep the questions coming in. I’m so pleased to have so many subscribers! If you haven’t subscribed yet, you’re welcome to! There’s even more content on my Patreon page. Again, I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPIanos.com , Your Online Piano Resource. Thanks again for joining me.

Robert@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Productive Tip for Practicing the Piano: the 80/20 Rule

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin from LivingPianos.com. Thanks so much for joining me. The question today is how the 80/20 rule applies to the piano. How it applies may surprise you! So, what is the 80/20 rule? You may have heard this before. The 80/20 ru

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about when to listen to recordings of music you are learning. I know a lot of students like to listen to a bunch of recordings of a piece to get familiar with it before they start learning it. Then as they’re learning they keep listening and listening. Maybe they find one performance they particularly like and just listen to it incessantly. Naturally, they’re going to imitate that performance. There are two reasons why I don’t recommend doing this. Listening to performances to see what music you’re interested in learning is great. Of course listening to music is enjoyable and valuable. However, when you want to learn a piece of music, you don’t want to be highly influenced by any one particular interpretation. Also, you want to challenge yourself to see if you can learn something from the written page and see what you come up with. Naturally, there are styles of music where learning by ear is the best approach when the sheet music is incidental to the original performance or recording.

When I start working on a piece, I don’t listen to any recordings at all!

I learn the whole piece until I have it on performance level. At that point I’ve carved out a concept of how to play that piece. That’s when I first listen to recordings. That way when I listen to those recordings, they don’t overly influence me. I get a different take, but I come to my own conclusions about the music, and I think you should do the same thing. This method really helps you to understand how to decipher rhythms, phrasing, expression, not to mention the notes of the music, and to come to an idea of what tempo you like.

Give yourself the opportunity to find your own way.

If after you’ve learned a piece of music you listen to half a dozen recordings and everybody plays it way faster or slower than you do, you might rethink what you’re doing. Maybe there’s some validity to the common wisdom. Maybe there isn’t though. Have you ever heard Glen Gould recordings where he plays tempos that are drastically different from other people? Sometimes that can be enlightening. So, go with your convictions! But the only way to have convictions is to not be influenced before you learn something. So. don’t depend upon recordings to help you learn pieces by ear because you’ll never be able to express your true inclinations of the music if you never give yourself an opportunity to explore them. I hope this is helpful for you!

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
You can join the Living Pianos Patreon to unlock access to exclusive videos and original music! www.patreon.com/robertestrin

Robert@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Should You Learn Your Music by Ear?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about when to listen to recordings of music you are learning. I know a lot of students like to listen to a bunch of recordings of a piece to get familiar with it before th

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about whether you have to analyze a piece of music in order to memorize it. It’s interesting, because in some ways I think that you have to memorize a piece to analyze it! But do you have to analyze a piece at all to memorize it? There are aspects of the composition you certainly need to understand such as the time signature, the key signature, things of that nature. The truth of the matter is, when you’re learning a piece of music you’re absorbing the sound, and you’re absorbing the tactile feel of it. You’re developing a deep understanding of the composition. You should know whether you’re in a transition to a second subject or recapitulation, or a stretto in a fugue. These are all interesting things to observe. But it’s not essential that you understand the inner workings of a composition before learning it.

I think it’s somewhat impossible to delve into a piece and have a deep understanding of what makes it tick without committing it to memory.

If you’re learning a sonata movement you certainly want to understand where the exposition ends and where your themes are. And once you’ve memorized it you can go back and figure things out so you don’t take a wrong turn. You might find that you go to the exposition when you should be in the recapitulation or vice versa. So, some analysis is really important for memorization. But to a large extent, just like you can learn to sing a song without necessarily thinking about the pitches or the rhythms, you just sing it because you can hear it. A lot of music can be approached that way.

Having the intellect to back it up is really important.

As I said, you can take a wrong turn. You might not quite understand something, and once you delve into the score it will make more sense to you and make it easier to remember. So analyze important aspects of the piece you’re working on, but then get to work memorizing the way I’ve described, small chunk by small chunk, connecting as you go. Starting with hands separately, one phrase at a time. I have videos on this subject which you can explore at LivingPianos.com/blog. Analyzing is to your benefit, certainly, but you’re going to understand a piece much better after you learn it! And you will be able to analyze it on a much deeper level after you memorize it. I hope this is helpful for you!

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
You can join the Living Pianos Patreon to unlock access to exclusive videos and original music! www.patreon.com/robertestrin

Robert@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Do You Have to Analyze a Piece of Music in Order to Memorize It?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about whether you have to analyze a piece of music in order to memorize it. It’s interesting, because in some ways I think that you have to memorize a piece to analy

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to establish a slower tempo in your piano practice and performance. This is vital in order to cement a solid performance. You might think that there is nothing to it. But I can tell you from teaching for many years that when students encounter a problem and they are instructed to play slower, most of the time they play at exactly the same tempo! So how do you actually establish a slower tempo?

Slow down your counting!

First, find what tempo you’re actually playing. Count along as you play. Once you can play at that tempo, continue counting without playing. Then you can go slower by saying, “one” then wait for just a moment, then say, “two” and continue at that new rate. By taking a moment after you say the first number, then continuing at that rate, that is the simplest way to establish a slower tempo. (You can also utilize a metronome to accomplish the same thing.) Then, play at that new tempo. For practicing, it’s an essential technique. Because being able to slow down to a workable tempo to think through sections that you’re working on is important for solidifying your music.

Solidifying tempo in a performance is vital for having a successful performance.

This technique is equally important in performance. When you play a performance, you’re naturally going to get excited. The adrenaline flows and if you’re not careful, you might take too fast a tempo. So, always lock in your tempo by thinking of the music and counting at that tempo. Then go back and slow it down by delaying after the first count and continuing at that new rate. Then imagine the music at that rate to make sure that it’s the right tempo. I hope this is helpful for your practice and your performance!

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
You can join the Living Pianos Patreon to unlock access to exclusive videos and original music! www.patreon.com/robertestrin

Robert@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Are You Playing the Piano Too Fast?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to establish a slower tempo in your piano practice and performance. This is vital in order to cement a solid performance. You might think that there is nothing t

This is LivingPianos.com and I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to know when to move on in your practice. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stay with things to solve a problem and when to say, “Enough is enough. I will revisit this later on.” The crux of productive practice is knowing the point of diminishing returns. It can be very easy to give up on learning a difficult passage and say, “Oh, this is just too hard. I’m going to try this again tomorrow.” But, there are many things you can do first before coming to that point. If you can’t get something, slow it down. If you still can’t get it, try hands separately, and revisit the score. There are so many options! Try breaking things down into chords. Take smaller sections and piece the sections together. There are a myriad of things you can try.

You don’t have to stop memorizing just because you can’t get everything together.

The method I use and teach for memorizing music is to take small sections at a time memorizing each hand separately first. Then put your hands together and get a small section memorized. Then go back and connect the sections going back to the beginning. But, sometimes you can’t go back to the beginning. Sometimes you can just go back to the previous phrase and piece together every other phrase. So, you have the first four measures, then you connect them to the next four measures. Then when you connect the next four measures, maybe you can’t go all the way back to the beginning, but you at least connect to the previous four measures. That is one thing you can do to plow through. That’s an example of working past the point of diminishing returns. The next day you can get fluid on the longer sections, and get everything put together. So the general rule is: try to simplify and break things down to digestible chunks.

Eventually, you’re going to come to a point where you’re not making progress.

When you get to a point where you’re not making progress on a technical or musical challenge, and you’ve already tried metronome speeds, you’ve tried taking little sections at a time, you’ve tried different articulations, different phrasing, you’ve tried hands playing separately, you’ve tried everything, and you’ve made some improvement. But it’s not nearly where you want it to be. That might be a good time to work on something else. Then tomorrow, when you’re fresh, you start a notch under the tempo you were playing the day before. Sometimes just sleeping on it will foster growth in your music! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the thing you’d been struggling with the day before now comes much more easily to you. Because when you first learn something, it’s never secure immediately.

Music grows naturally with time as you reinforce your memory and refine your playing.

That’s the lesson for today. I hope this is helpful for you. It is absolutely essential to have productive practice so you know when to move on and when to keep plowing through. And generally speaking, when you run into problems, first, try to simplify by either slowing down, sectionalizing, or playing hands separately, so you’re still making progress. But when you’ve built things to a point and you can’t get any further, move on and don’t feel badly about it. Tomorrow’s another practice day!

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Please feel free to contact me with any piano related questions for future videos!

Robert@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729

Should You Give Up When Practicing the Piano?

This is LivingPianos.com and I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to know when to move on in your practice. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stay with things to solve a problem and when to say, “Enough is enough.