Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Band-Aid approach to practicing music

The most efficient way to practice music

In this video, Robert gives you a practical and efficient way to practice any kind of piano repertoire.

Released on August 28, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome. I'm Robert Estrin at and, with a technique video for you, the Band-Aid approach to practicing. All right. What is the Band-Aid approach? You may have never heard of it before? Well, that's very likely because I made up, and it's actually a great technique. You know, when practicing, I really strive for efficiency. I want to get as much done as I possibly can in the time I have. You know, I wish I could practice all day long, but my schedule doesn't always permit it. Before concerts, sometimes, I'll get, that opportunity, but things get crazy. And I try to get as much done every moment. Now there's many valuable techniques. Of course, memorization is a staple for any pianist, and other instrumentalists might memorize as well. There's technique, there's scales, there's arpeggios, there's refinement. There's a whole host of different types of practice technique.

Well, what is this about the Band-Aid approach, and why is it so special? And why does it improve the efficiency of your practice? Well, I'm going to tell you all about that. Here's the way it works. If everything was linear in life, then this would have no validity. In other words, if you had equal problems with all parts of your music, then there'd be no reason for this. But the fact is you want to have some way to zero in and be able to practice everything effectively. I remember talking to somebody, as a youngster, who thought I could learn anything just by starting the metronome at the slowest possible speed, playing everything from the beginning to the end and raise one notch at a time, and you could master any piece of music that way. Well, this is true. But it would take an incredibly long amount of time to be able to master a piece going through everything painstakingly slowly. Now here's why that is not efficient and where the super-efficiency of the Band-Aid approach comes in.

There might be whole, large sections you could already play up to tempo just fine after learning it. So why go through the tedium of practicing everything equally? So how do you zero in? Well, here's how it works. And I'm going to demonstrate by using the first moment of the Children's Corner suite of Claude Debussy. And this is the Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum. Let's say you were playing this piece, and you got to a certain part and you had a problem. I want to play this piece and see, hopefully I don't have a problem. I haven't played it in a while, and now I'll demonstrate. If I don't, maybe I'll create one for you, all right? So here's a little bit of Debussy.

And you notice right there, I missed a note. I don't know if you could hear it. So what is a Band-Aid approach? Do I start, "Okay, let's get the metronome out, start from the beginning." No, I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to go right to where that problem was.

I'm putting a patch right on the problem.

Now, once you put the bandage on and you have it totally ironed out and you can play it many times effortlessly, you can play it even faster than it goes and you're totally comfortable, remember you must always put your corrections in context. The next step would be to go back, not only to the beginning because that's not efficient either. Because if there's a problem connecting the phrase, you want to start, maybe, a measure or two before the patch you just made. Make sure the patch is in there. Once it's fluid, starting the phrase before, and you can do that a number of times, then finally go back to the beginning of the section or the beginning of piece in this case, and make sure that your bandage sticks, all right? So that's the Band-Aid approach. You can use this any time you have a piece of music. For example, if you're restudying a piece you haven't played in a long time. Do you have to relearn everything? Well, maybe not. You might go through and find you can play large sections without a problem.

As soon as you get to a part that's a problem, that's the part to zero in. I like to use the Band-Aid approach when I'm learning music to accompany or chamber music. Because, with chamber music, it's not required or even desirable to memorize the music because you're playing with other musicians. You want to see the score. So there are large sections I can read just fine. So I get to a part where I can't, I practice that one part then I go back a little bit, make sure I can get through from starting just before then I go back to the beginning of that section or the beginning or the movement, make sure it's there until the next place that needs a bandage and patch that one up. So try this Band-Aid approach in your practice, see if it can save time and you can maximize the efficiency of the time you spend practicing your instrument.

Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on July 22, 2015 @7:05 am PST
Exactly how my mother made me "fix" problem spots. And I am still doing it! Thanks.
Pixie * VSM MEMBER * on September 12, 2013 @9:57 am PST
I have been doing this method for many years as an amateur pianist. what a great name for it. I always put a large bracket on the difficult bit to remind me when I practice the piece. Great to know I was doing the right thing. Thanks Robert.
eaclark on August 28, 2013 @7:43 pm PST
I've been doing this as a teacher with students and now I have a great name for it. This made me feel good that I'm doing things right. Thank you, Robert.
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on August 28, 2013 @4:20 pm PST
That was interesting Robert. Your theory also applies to stringed instruments of course: I do much the same when I practice both for orchestral music and chamber music, and it works!
Andree Rouse * VSM MEMBER * on August 28, 2013 @12:20 pm PST
Thank you, Robert, I love these videos! They are so helpful in many ways... Do you have an online class? I would love to have you as a teacher.
Robert - host, on August 29, 2013 @12:26 pm PST
There indeed is a piano class in the works, but it will take some time to put together. Please send me an email so you are sure to receive information about it.
Ingrid Sterckx on July 22, 2015 @3:50 am PST
Wow!! This is great indeed. I also love your videos and learn a lot about it. Can you please send me information about the piano class to? I would very appreciate it. My email adress is

Thank you Robert for all the tips you gave me with your videos. They are very helpfull when I study.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on July 22, 2015 @11:38 am PST
Ingrid, if you receive our Newsletter, you'll get a notification from us as well as soon Robert's lessons will be ready on Virtual Sheet Music. Enjoy and stay tuned!
Andree Rouse * VSM MEMBER * on September 10, 2013 @10:35 am PST
Wow!! This is great news. my email address is
Thank You!!
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