Robert Estrin - piano expert
Music Theory and Piano
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Robert Estrin's latest Music Theory videos
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About Robert Estrin
Robert EstrinRobert Estrin is a pianist who truly lives his instrument. Not only does he play and teach with proficiency and passion, but he also knows just about everything there is to know about pianos - from their construction to their history. Music is "all in the family" for Robert, with his father, Morton, a concert pianist; his sister, Coren, a pianist as well; his wife, Florence, an accomplished flutist; and his daughter, Jennifer, a violinist of great acclaim.

Robert studied piano and French horn at New York City's Manhattan School of Music, and he also received a degree in piano performance from Indiana University. He performs with symphony orchestras, at arts festivals, for music teachers' associations, at museums, and on college campuses. His most unique performance experience, however, is his Living Piano: Journey Through Time. In this creative endeavor, Robert dresses in period costumes and plays historic instruments, from his own collection, to tell the story of the piano over time to a wide variety of audiences - not just piano enthusiasts.

Robert maintains a vibrant online presence, with countless videos on YouTube and through Virtual Sheet Music. His videos, which have been viewed by millions, are engaging, entertaining, informative, and sure to enhance the knowledge, skills, and overall playing experience of pianists from beginners to the most advanced.
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Questions, Comments, Requests:

Alice Borg on May 12, 2021 @8:13 am PST
For playing several preludes, I often look for pieces in the same key. However, after playing a song is minor, starting out with a song in the same key signature sounds different. How do I choose the right key signature for the next piece after a minor piece?
Robert Estrin on May 12, 2021 @10:59 am PST
This should help you identify whether a piece is in the major or the minor: In addition, look for the final chord. Pieces usually end on the key of the piece.
Philip Powers * VSM MEMBER * on April 21, 2021 @7:06 am PST
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Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 21, 2021 @8:32 am PST
Hi Philip and thank you for your posted comment, but I am sorry for your reported issue.

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Please, let me know how that goes. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Elizabeth * VSM MEMBER * on March 3, 2021 @3:11 pm PST
Your mention of a great pianist (Rubenstein?) seeming to play faster because he played each note clearly showed me that I was not playing many notes clearly. I have made an effort to remedy that. This is making a big difference in my piano playing and I thank you sincerely! Alice
Robert - host, on March 3, 2021 @5:49 pm PST
Arthur Rubinstein was such a great pianist! He left a substantial recording legacy worth checking out.
Kathy Przybyla * VSM MEMBER * on February 3, 2021 @6:22 pm PST
I have a hard time hearing the melody of a piano piece when the left hand takes the melody and the right hand does the accompaniment. I'm playing notes, not music.
Robert - host, on February 4, 2021 @8:16 am PST
First, practice hands separately. Then you can try to play the left hand on the piano and the right hand in your lap or on the music rack. Also, try playing the right hand an octave or 2 higher than written so you can hear the left hand melody better.
Barbara Pearce on January 20, 2021 @9:21 am PST
Hi Robert,

I have a real problem with the mathematics of counting! I was never good at maths and had never had a good maths teacher and moved with my father's job a lot. I am a very logic person and things must be orderly and work out tidily. Therefore when the semi-quavers for instance dont tally to a time signature, say 6/8 or even 12 I cannot count it and see how to unless I know the piece of music very well. I play the violin in an amateur orchestra and find this a problem so have to watch and listen very carefully to sometimes guess when I finish a bar. Its really hindered me and that is why I cannot also play to a metronome as it puts me off what I am trying to concentrate on. Have you any help or advice for me to get this nailed so I can actually participate more confidently. When things don't seem to add up I get really agitated - is there something like a Poetic Licence??????? Barbara
Robert - host, on January 20, 2021 @4:11 pm PST
The mistake so many teachers make is moving on before students fully understand a subject. Imagine trying to do algebra when you don't know your multiplication tables! Or adding and subtracting when counting is still not fluent.

The secret to being comfortable with rhythm is cementing the most basic concepts before moving on to something more complex. From there you can build an understanding of rhythm with a solid foundation.

Incidentally, I teach via video chat. You are welcome to contact me if you are interested:
Barbara Pearce on January 21, 2021 @8:17 am PST
Thank you Robert.
Joseph Mccormick on December 30, 2020 @2:17 pm PST
I am struggling with the fingering and technique for the tremulos in Chasse Neige of Liszt. I find getting the termulos even and accurate to be a serious challenge.
Robert - host, on December 31, 2020 @1:55 pm PST
I teach private lessons via video chat. You are welcome to contact me for more information if you like: Have a great New Year!
Jessica Breitbarth on December 5, 2020 @8:59 am PST
Polyrhythms question: I’m working on Fantasie Impromptu. My left hand is perfectly even-it’s my right that sounds off (dotted on the first two 16ths). I’ve tried everything. Including tapping per your video. Suggestions?
Mary Williams * VSM MEMBER * on September 23, 2020 @9:04 pm PST
When should you use the right hand pedal
Robert - host, on September 24, 2020 @12:45 pm PST
The sustain pedal, sometimes referred to as the damper pedal, is utilized for a variety of purposes, primarily, to hold notes down when your hands can't be over them. You should change the pedal when harmonies change so you don't create dissonance. It can also be utilized as a tone enhancement system. If you practice a great deal without the pedal, you will learn to connect what you can with your hands leaving the pedal for expressive purposes (as well as holding notes beyond your reach).
Mary Williams * VSM MEMBER * on September 24, 2020 @8:46 pm PST
Thank you Robert. I am going to play Plaisir D'Amour at a fun talent evening where all are winners' I thought I would arpeggio all left hand chords at the same time use the right hand pedal. I would call it my version of the score. Do you think it would work.?
Robert - host, on September 25, 2020 @11:54 am PST
It should work as long as you clear the pedal whenever there are changes of harmony.
Kenneth Spencer on September 16, 2020 @3:45 pm PST
Good evening Robert.
I was wondering whether it would be possible for you to give us a brief talk and explanation of the concept of "spelling" in musical notation.
Thanks indeed
Kenneth Spencer
Robert - host, on September 17, 2020 @1:50 pm PST
Kenneth Spencer on September 18, 2020 @1:49 am PST
Thankyou Robert.
I have watched those two videos, but I feel that they don't quite explore the topic of note-spelling in musical notation.
I do feel that a video on how to notate an accidental in a score in any given key would be of value - especially in a key which already has many sharps or flats. And to make a comparison of how that same note might be properly notated in a sharp key versus in a flat key.
I am hoping that you might see scope for an interesting talk on the topic!
Many thanks,
Kenneth Spencer
Robert - host, on September 18, 2020 @11:38 am PST
This is a subject that is relatively easy to understand if you have a command of key signatures and major scales. Altered tones (raised or lowered) will require accidentals. These can be sharps, flats or naturals depending upon what is in the key signature.

The essential thing to understand is that scales are built diatonically which means all the letters in the alphabet in order without repeating or skipping any letters. Chords are built in 3rds which means they are spelled with every other letter of the alphabet. This remains true when there are sharps or flats. Sometimes double sharps or double flats must be utilized in order to retain the integrity of chords being built in 3rds and scales being spelled diatonically.

When you are dealing with inversions, things get more complex and require an understanding of how chords must be arranged in 3rds even when the root of the chord isn't on the bottom. This subject in itself would be a good lesson for a video!
Kenneth Spencer on September 19, 2020 @6:42 am PST
Thank you Robert.
I agree that chords and their inversions, especially when they appear in heavily sharp or flat keys would be of interest, in the general topic of correctly representing accidentals across all keys.
Then again, we have the augmented and diminished chords - also sometimes difficulty to read (and write?) in the sharp & flat keys.
I play guitar, piano & organ, but I admit that my reading is quite poor, especially in keys with many sharps or flats. I almost always end up transposing into something more readable!
Anyway, I shall watch carefully for any video you might add on this, and related subjects.
Keep up the excellent work!
Best wishes
Kenneth Spencer
Maggie Copus on September 7, 2020 @6:26 am PST
When you play piano reductions of orchestral music, do you consider using Una Corda pedal to pick out a certain instrument?
Robert - host, on September 7, 2020 @11:25 am PST
Since the una corda pedal affects all the notes you play, it isn't particularly useful for bringing out notes within the score. However, the change of tonal color can be useful for creating the right sound for some orchestral textures.
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