Robert Estrin - piano expert
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How to play staccato on the piano

Step-by-step instructions to master a very important piano technique

Released on December 4, 2013

  
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Video Transcription

Welcome to virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com. I'm your host, Robert Estrin. Today's subject: how to play staccato on the piano. That's right. You've heard it. When you hear short notes on any instrument, oftentimes these are staccato. We're going to address the techniques of how to play staccato in two ways: how to play single staccato notes and how to play slurs that end in staccato notes.

All right. I've chosen the last movement of the A major K331 sonata of Mozart, the famous Alla Turca movement. I'm going to play just the beginning part for you then explore a little bit the techniques involved in getting a nice crisp staccato. It's a beautiful sound with real elegance.

What are the techniques involved? Well, the most important technique for staccatos is generally using the wrist. The reason why this is so important is the arms are very heavy and big. And if I tried to play the staccatos using the arm, you'd get a sound like this. Sounds like a limp biscuit, doesn't it? It doesn't have that snap. The arms are just too big and ponderous.

Now, how do you approach the staccato from the wrist? Well, if it's single notes, you go over the keys and then simply use the wrist. Notice only my wrist is moving. I am not using the arm but only the wrist. You can get great speed and fluidity by using the wrist.

From the very beginning, though, there was a two-note slur in the left hand. How do you address slurs with staccatos? Slurs that end in staccatos are done as one motion. It's a down for the first note of the slur and then up for the staccato, as follows. Down up. That's all there is to it. And so, in the case of the beginning of this sonata, it would be down up, down up, down up, down up. This is true of all staccatos. For example, in the right hand we have five notes that are slurred and the last one is staccato. So, it's down on the first one and up on the last one. This happens again and again, as you'll see.

Notice how the wrist goes up, it goes down to the start of the slurred note and up on the last notes. This gives a beautiful architecture to the phrasing. Once again, when you put it all together, I'm going to play it slowly so you can see how the wrists are working in both hands, both the down up, the quick down up for each individual staccato as well as the down and up for the extended notes of a slur ending in staccato.

And that is the secret. You'll get great speed. More than that, it actually has the perception of being faster when you play very articulated. So you may not have to play as fast a tempo to make it have a lively feel in your music. This is something that translates not just for Mozart but all period styles of music.

Now, of course, staccatos don't always mean short. Staccatos technically mean detached. Sometimes in a slower tempo, staccatos are not short at all but are executed in an entirely different manner. For today's video, playing staccatos generally in a faster tempo, this will work great with you. Just remember to use your wrist. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com.
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Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on December 10, 2013 @1:15 pm PST
Thank you, Robert. I need to practice more staccatos!
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