Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Burgmuller's Studies - Part 1

Learn a basic approach to the Etude No. 1 by Burgmuller

In this first video of a multi-part series, Robert teaches you how to approach the Etude No. 1, titled "The Candeur", from the 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Op. 100 by Friedrich Johann Franz Burgmuller.

Released on May 4, 2016

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Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. Today we have a wonderful first in a series of tutorials on Burgmuller studies. Burgmuller was a wonderful composer who wrote pieces that are the simpler side yet wonderful compositions.

I always encourage students, once they are beyond the very beginning level, rather than just work on etudes that are just exercises, you can explore some great music like these Burgmuller pieces.

I'm going to start with the very first one. I'm going to go through the whole thing with you. This is sometimes called "Frankness." It's from the French, so you may see different titles for this first of his etudes. I wanted to play the whole piece for you with repeats and everything so you get a sense of what the piece is about first. Then I'm going to go back and break it down and show you how to work out the various sections.

It's a little gem of a piece, isn't it? And the beautiful thing is that younger students and people new to the piano can enjoy such wonderful music.

Well, what are the challenges in this piece? For one thing, you notice it's a beautiful, lyrical, very sustained, connected melody. This piece does not require the pedal. In performing it just now, I did not use any pedal whatsoever. So to get the smoothness of the line requires a real legato.

More than that, you want to be able to support the line with the weight of the arm. Much like the breath, which I've talked about before, other instruments like the human voice, which is evocative in all instruments, has the breath as the wind instruments. And of course, bowed instruments like a violin or a cello, you have the continuity of the bow, which is the analog to the breath.

On the piano, we utilize the weight of the arm to get that same sense. So for example, the beginning, you could play one big crescendo and decrescendo by gradually getting heavier and heavier with the arm.

Now, how is this done? Basically you got to realize that your arm has some natural weight. So if you were to put it on the piano and just let it drop and have the weight of the arm supported by your finger. And then as you play the next note, the weight continues. And that is the secret to getting a sustained beautiful legato line on the piano is to let the weight transfer from finger to finger.

So for example, if you were to play that passage on your own arm, using the weight of the arm, or onto somebody else, they would feel a constant pressure, not just a poking at the beginning of notes. And this is critical, because if you were to calculate every note louder and louder and softer and softer, you'll end up with a calculated performance.

But listen to the sound that's possible by using the weight of the arm getting heavier and heavier towards the middle, and lighter and lighter towards the end of the phrase.

Now, without doing dynamics, it would be flat and lifeless like this.

In contrast, once again, starting using the weight of the arm, which increases to the middle of the phrase and decreases to the end of the phrase. And as you're going to hear, the same thing happens in the second phrase, the rise and the fall.

Now you have the next section after the double bar that has a very similar type of dynamic structure until you get to the place with two different lines on the right hand. You may have noticed. Now this almost could be written for two instruments on two different staves, because on the top you have the half notes...and another it's important to leave the top notes down, the half notes, the G and the F sharp while the other notes play.

How can you practice this? One great technique is to play the long notes legato and just for practice play the quicker notes with finger staccato. This assures that you're holding only the half notes, because there's a danger of, two things can happen, either you don't hold the half notes at all, and you end up with this...

Or maybe all the notes stay down and you end up with kind of dissonance. Neither one of those is correct. The correct approach is for the G and the F sharp to continue sustaining.

And that's why practicing with the different phrasing it's going to identify in your hand the two lines from one another. And that is intrinsic not only to this piece but a technique you can utilize in all of your music.

These are just some pointers for you for this Burgmuller study. Look forward to more Burgmuller here at

Again, I am Robert Estrin. Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Marie-Therese Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on November 6, 2019 @10:23 pm PST
I truly appreciate Robert's short but most informative video clips. As a pianist who is trying to get back into the art it is helping me very much. Thank you!
Robert - host, on November 7, 2019 @10:20 am PST
Glad to help! There are over 1,000 videos you can search with keywords here:
Meshail Rasmy on April 19, 2019 @5:07 am PST
Hello Mr.Robert how are you doing?
I was wondering if there is a routine or a study plan (including names of books or methods) you would recommend for someone who got the basics & can play a little (works like moonlight sonata 1st mvt , Bach 2parts inv. No 4 , Chopin prelude no 4 )
My goal is to achieve all what I can in piano playing but I can't afford a teacher so I'm looking for your advice
Thank you.
Robert - host, on April 19, 2019 @8:10 pm PST
I would suggest early works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and other great composers. There is a great deal to check out right here on VSM!

Bach 2-part Inventions, Chopin Preludes, as well as other works of Chopin such as his Mazurkas and some Waltzes may be quite approachable for you.

You can also look into Schumann Album for the Young as well as Scenes from Childhood.

We are fortunate on the piano to have such a wealth of great music on every level!
Tommy on January 12, 2017 @2:38 pm PST
Thanks for posting this, very helpful! Just starting the Bergmüller studies, your insight on them much appreciated.
Rodrigo on November 26, 2016 @9:15 am PST
Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing it.
Regards from Brazil!
Antonio Mendoza. on May 11, 2016 @6:04 pm PST
Thank you.
Antonio Mendoza. on May 11, 2016 @6:03 pm PST
Excellent presentation.
paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on May 4, 2016 @1:27 pm PST
Burgmuller, that's a nice surprise. I have some of his pieces in my "├ętudes" among other works. Your video might very well improve the way I tackle them. They're easy enough, yet doing them really right will make studying them again worthwhile, and like you say, they are lovely pieces.
There are many others, like Duvernoy ...
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