Robert Estrin - piano expert
Music Theory and Piano
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Robert Estrin's latest Music Theory videos
Robert Estrin's latest piano videos
About Robert Estrin
Robert 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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wayne russell * VSM MEMBER * on October 11, 2017 @3:30 am PST
Is it OK to warm up with pieces you have learned before instead of boring exercises?
Robert - host, on October 11, 2017 @12:08 pm PST
Absolutely! As long as you warm up with sensible music, you can certainly play music to limber up your hands.
Lynn * VSM MEMBER * on October 6, 2017 @6:26 pm PST
I absolutely love your videos and am learning so much. Although I have only been taking piano lessons for 2 month. This week my piano teacher has given me Chopin.. Waltz in A minor.. it is beautiful...Thank you for all you do for us!
Robert - host, on October 9, 2017 @11:50 am PST
Good going on learning the Chopin Waltz in A-minor - enjoy!
André * VSM MEMBER * on September 21, 2017 @9:54 am PST
Hi Robert, could you give some tips on how to play trills? My arm and fingers always tend to cramp up and the trills sound to heavy and slow. Thanks!
Robert - host, on September 23, 2017 @11:50 am PST
Here is a video on how to play trills on the piano: You can search among hundreds of free videos and articles with key words here:
Elie ZIADE on September 20, 2017 @2:27 pm PST
Good evening Sir.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge in music.
Could you please give a hint for identifying inverted chords by ear in their first and second inversions?
Ive been struggling with this since a while.
Ive already mastered major, minor augmented and diminished in their root but im finding difficult to identify the root and the first inversion for example.
Thank you again.
Robert - host, on September 20, 2017 @4:17 pm PST
If the chords are played with only 3 notes (not voiced with doublings) an easy way to identify inversions is by listening to the top notes. A Major triad in 1st inversion will have the tonic on top. (C-Major chord in 1st inversion has C on top.) A second inversion chord has the 3rd on top. (A C-major chord in second inversion will have E on top.) That might be easier to hear than listening for the bottom notes.
Elie ZIADE on September 21, 2017 @11:06 am PST
Good Evening again Sir,
The exercise i've been given are randomly generated chords via a software and not following a certain Tonality. Perhaps, and if not mistaken the method you have mentioned could help if we are within a certain tonality where we can always evaluate a note with respect to a tonic.
However, being randomly generated leaves us with only the option of identifying the chord by its sound quality. Is there any hints at this point? Please correct me if i'm wrong or if i misunderstood the method you have mentioned.
Thank you so much again.
André Van haren * VSM MEMBER * on August 30, 2017 @2:52 am PST
Hi Robert. From the first time I studied piano in 1983 and all the way through Conservatory, I have had the problem that my long thin fingers end up playing on their nails, it’s some kind of reflex I must have developed, maybe because there’s isn’t enough space for my long fingers between the black keys. So as a result there is always my nail ticking sound and less control of the performance because of lack of a good contact with the keys. Do you have some suggestions how I can solve this?

Robin on August 23, 2017 @12:56 pm PST
Hi Robert,
I have a question about the Waltz in Aminor from Chopin. I now play this piece after 2 years of piano experience and have two problems, which are about trilling with the fingerings 3,4 and 2,4,3
At the first one, I'm too slow, because my hand starts to get tired and I play very irregular. The Problem with the 2,4,3 trill is, that I am too fast for the first key to get up again.
It would be really nice to see a video about techniques like this, especially in chopin pieces like his Aminor Waltz.

with kindest regards,
Robert - host, on August 26, 2017 @4:33 pm PST
Fingering is a deep topic, not just for trills. I suggest you seek out several authoritative fingered editions for reference. In addition, a great teacher can be invaluable.
Robin on August 28, 2017 @3:28 am PST
Thanks for the reply, I'll definitely ask my piano teacher about that problem, when she comes back from summer holiday.
Peter Borgia on August 16, 2017 @7:30 pm PST
COMMMENTARY: We recently had a QRS PNO3 system installed on our Steinway L by the local Steinway dealer. I got interested in having the system after I learned that virtually the entire library of piano roll music made from about 1910 to the early 1930's is available as midi files that available for free on the web. Initially I was interested in the popular music of that time since it included much of the “great American songbook”’. I soon discovered the richness of classical and romantic period music pieces that were produced for rolls from 1905-1930's. The repertoire of solo piano recorded was extensive and favors the romantic period. Moreover, the absolute top concert artists of the era recorded rolls. I’m looking down at a playlist of Chopin and Liszt pieces that I assembled and among the pianists are Hofmann, Lhevinne, Levitzki, Rachmaninoff. Paderewski, Godowsky, Busoni, Cortot, Rubinstein, Horowitz and many other well known pianists. It’s really quite amazing! These performers recorded for the Welte, Duo-Art, and Ampico “reproducing piano” systems that recorded dynamics. The rolls were commercially viable at the time due to the popularity of player pianos and the lack of contemporary recording technologies that could rival the sound of a genuine piano. In the last 20 years enthusiasts have created roll scanners and software to convert rolls to midi files that can be played on a computer, keyboard, or modern player piano. The scanned roll files are available on the web with some minor detective work. The majority of the files are free and collecting them is much more cost effective and the repertoire more extensive than the music libraries available from the companies that make the modern player systems. In addition, these modern libraries don’t usually use eminent pianists and the repertoire is not nearly as extensive as the scanned roll files.

Playback of the scanned midi files on a piano has some limitations compared to live performance. Some files need to be played at or near “full expression” (loud) to appreciate the nuances of the performance. Some people claim that the files sound “artificial” but I don’t perceive that. I find these limitations to be minor compared to the benefits. The sound quality is outstanding and markedly superior compared to CD’s or MP3 files played on a quality stereo system, computer or hand-held device. The experience of 600-800 pounds of wood and metal vibrating in your living room to music ”played” by Paderewski is probably impossible to duplicate despite all the advances in recording and playback technology. No modern speaker can rival the sound of a high quality piano. The biggest problem with the files is going through the thousands available to separate the wheat from the chaff, listening to them and organizing them into playlists. I’ve spent many hours reviewing about 10,000 files but it has been worth the effort. It’s a good thing that I am retired.

I thought that I should write this to alert your viewers/readers of the existence of these resources. Keep up your great work and enthusiasm!
Robert - host, on August 18, 2017 @3:52 pm PST
You have discovered a wealth of virtual performances by some of the greatest pianists from 100 years ago! It's amazing to realize that this technology existed so long ago dating back to the late 1800's with the advent of the vorsetzer which was a machine that had 88 fingers and sat over the keys and recreated performances painstakingly edited to match the original performances.

You may also enjoy the wealth of high resolution MIDI files of e-Competition winners performing on Yamaha Disklavier systems. They play back on any MIDI piano or reproducing piano.
Peter Borgia on August 18, 2017 @6:39 pm PST
I have found the Yamaha Competition files and they are quite good also. It is just unbelievable that you can have the performances of the pianists from 85-100 years ago playing on a good piano in your living room. The sound is sooo much better than listening to modern recorded solo piano that I have temporarily at least stopped listening to my more modern recorded collection. Thanks for your reply and I am pleased that you seem to agree with me. If I still lived in Santa Ana I'd come by your shop and say hi, unfortunately I now live in Florida.
Jeff on August 5, 2017 @7:59 am PST
I'm curious about the use of the lid on a grand piano. Is it used only for volume, or is there practical use for tonal variation?

I'm a 57 year-old beginner on the piano, and I really enjoy the depth and breadth of what you share. Listening and watching you play and teach is a real treat. Thank you.
Robert - host, on August 5, 2017 @2:46 pm PST
How you position the lid effects the volume and the tone. When the piano is completely closed, the tone is more muted. Generally, the fly lid (front part of the lid) is folded over to allow the music rack to be used. This opens up the sound considerably in regards to tone and volume. Raising the lid to the short stick and long stick increases volume and projection.
Peter T Borgia on August 3, 2017 @6:32 pm PST

Did you inadvertently miss my question of July 30?
Andreas Schloesser on August 3, 2017 @12:55 am PST
Dear Robert,
thank you for your beautiful expert videos. I watched each of them for a year.
Especially your last video ‘How to Sight Sing Intervals’ reminded me of my childhood. That time I’ve been instructed playing akkordeon, singing, and music theory for kids. Additionally I was a child opera singer in Berlin (The Magic Flute, Albert Herring…). We leanrned about syllables (system Do Re Mi Fa …, as well as system bi to gu su la fe …) in our theory lessons but we never used them in singing, even not in the opera training.
Now I have a granddaughter of 10 years playing clarinet and she uses syllables only. She has serious problems understanding me when I say: “please, play Fis instead of F.” Her clarinet teacher is French. So I am a bit confused.
My question and proposal for one of your next videos is:
When are syllables better to use than the C D E F G system? And do prefer different countries different systems?
I never heard about a sonata or symphony written in Mi major or su minor even not by French composers.
Best greetings from Germany
Andreas Schloesser
Robert - host, on August 3, 2017 @4:16 pm PST
You are right. In different areas of the world notes are either referred to by letter name or by solfeggio syllables. There is no fundamental difference between these systems.
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