Saving Time in Your Piano Practice: Interlocking Phrases

Piano Lessons / music theory / Saving Time in Your Piano Practice: Interlocking Phrases

Welcome to I’m Robert Estrin. I have a tip for your practice that can save you vast amounts of time! The subject today is the secret power of interlocking phrases. I’ll explain what I mean, but first I’m going to give you an idea of how I practice the piano and how I teach others to practice the piano.

There are many different skill sets in practicing the piano.

For example, if you’re accompanying and reading, that’s one type of skill. If you’re improvising, that’s another skill. But if you are memorizing music and you want some tips about that, you’ve come to the right place! Taking a small phrase at a time hands separately and mastering all the elements of the music is the way I’ve been taught to memorize music from the time I started the piano as a young child. My father, Morton Estrin, taught this method. It’s so powerful!

Let’s say you are learning the famous Mozart Sonata K. 545 in C major. Of course you’d want to read through it first to get familiar with it. But then my suggestion is to get right to work and start learning it rather than playing it over and over again. It’s almost impossible to absorb all the thousands of details in the music, because you don’t just have the notes and rhythm. You have to figure out fingering, phrasing, and the expression as well. There’s so much information to digest; which is why you want to learn small chunks at a time, hands separately at first, putting together each phrase, then connecting sections as you learn them.

Taking smaller chunks is great because you’ll never work yourself too hard, which enables you to sustain a longer productive practice.

Let’s say you just take the very first phrase, right-hand alone. You get that memorized. You get it fluid. You check your work. Then you take the left-hand, and you get that perfect. Then you put the hands together, slowly at first. Then you go on and learn the next phrase one hand at a time. You get that memorized hands together. Now you think, great, I’m going to go back to the beginning and connect the phrases. You play the first phrase, which you’ve gotten up to speed. You start slower at first to give yourself a chance to connect the phrases smoothly. But when you reach the end of the first phrase, you feel lost. The tip I’m going to give you is going to make this a fluid process. You will be able to connect your phrases like a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit together perfectly right from the get-go!

Go one note beyond so you have a common note between the two phrases.

So, as you learn the right hand, take the first phrase plus the first note of the second phrase. That is the connecting note. You do the same thing with the left hand. And when you put the hands together, you will play through the first phrase landing on the first note of the second phrase. When you learn the next phrase, you do the same thing. This makes it a seamless process to connect phrases as you go. The hardest part about learning music is putting the hands together, which is why you want to solidify each hand separately first, getting them up to tempo, fluid and repeatable. This gives you half a chance of being able to put the hands together to get them memorized. The next hardest thing is connecting phrase to phrase in a smooth manner. By using interlocking phrases this way, where each phrase is going one note beyond, you have that connection note!

This is a great tip that I want all of you to try out! Let me know how it works for you! You’ll find this will save you a lot of time in your practice as you connect your phrases. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel!

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

6 thoughts on “Saving Time in Your Piano Practice: Interlocking Phrases”

  1. By the way, that Mozart that you played is one I used to play. It is always more fun when you use a piece I already know as an illustration. I was unable to spend much time on the piano for many years for various reasons, so I just sat down to play that piece again, and I still have it in my fingers somewhat, even after decades of not playing it, so I will have to hunt up the music and refresh the piece. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

four × four =