How to Start a Piece: The Secret of Lifting

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Welcome to I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to start a piece of music. I’ve talked a great deal about how to create tonal balance between the hands. And I’ve talked about using the weight of the arm, transferring weight from note to note in order to create a smooth line. So, instead of just playing a key and having no support, no weight, you actually support the weight of your arm on each key, transferring the weight smoothly from note to note enabling you to get a smooth line where every note plays, no matter how quiet and delicate. That’s the secret to crafting a musical line. But how do you start that first note? How do you get the sound you want out of it?

What’s the analog of diaphragm support on the piano?

To start notes on the horn, you put the breath under pressure and start with the tongue saying, “tu”. On the piano, it’s a little bit different. On piano, you use the weight of the arm to start notes. If you push a key on the piano and you want a certain volume, how do you get the precise volume you want? How can you possibly be assured of that? Well, if you were to lift your arm and your hand, with your wrist bent upward, then bring your hand down while straightening your wrist, you would be increasing the speed your hand hits the keys. But if you do exactly the opposite, it gives you tremendous leverage! You relax your hand letting your hand hang from your limp wrist. And then, as you go down with your arm, you slowly straighten your wrist. So, as your arm goes down, your hand is coming up as you straighten your wrist. By going two different directions at the same time, you can achieve exactly the sound you want. You can start any note at any volume with total assurance! You may want to watch the accompanying video to see this in action.

That is the secret of how to start a piece of music!

Now, of course, there are some pieces that start heroically. If you’re starting a piece like the Military Polonaise of Chopin, there’s no need for lifting. You can just sail right into it. Because when you’re playing with that kind of volume, it will pop just the way you want it to. But starting something like a Chopin Nocturne, this technique will help you get exactly the sound you want. By lifting, letting the wrist go limp, and as you’re going down with the arm coming up with the wrist, you have total control, no matter what piece you’re starting. Even within the piece, sometimes it’s helpful to lift for new phrases. Much like on a wind instrument, when you’re playing each new phrase, you take a breath, put it under pressure, and attack using the tongue. It’s the same thing. Whenever you start a phrase fresh, use this lifting technique. I want you all to try this and see how it helps you to start with precisely the tonal balance you want, right from the very first notes you play. Let me know how this works for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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2 thoughts on “How to Start a Piece: The Secret of Lifting”


    1. The instrument I have been using in many of my videos is the second prototype modular piano system which provides a virtual concert grand experience. There are many resources for lessons for you. Please contact me so we can set up a free interview for you to answer all of your questions:

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