Robert Estrin - piano expert

Schumann: Scenes from Childhood, part 1

First part of of an extensive piano lesson on famous pieces by Schumann

In this first video, Robert approaches the famous Scenes from Childhood by Robert Schumann (also known as "Kinderszenen".) A real treat!

Released on April 23, 2014

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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 to and I'm Robert Estrin. Today, we've got some tips on playing Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood", or "Kinderszenen"

This is a wonderful collection of movements that are suitable for piano students just progressing past the intermediate level. Wonderful works that I think anybody would enjoy to listen to or play. So, I'm going to try to show you some tips for several of the movements here for you, starting with the first movement, "From Strange Lands and People." Now, these works are kind of a reflection of Schumann's life. Many of his works, in fact, are multi-movement works, where there's "Papillons," "Carnaval," or "Kinderszenen," a bunch of little gems. What's great about these pieces is that, once you progress past an intermediate level, sonatinas and such, these are accessible, yet they have great depth of expression. So, let's dive right into the first movement. This is a gorgeous work. I'm going to go ahead and play a little bit of the first section for you and then show you some ways of approaching this beautiful music.


Gorgeous writing. Lush harmonies. Now, you really do have, basically, kind of like a chorale, except the inner voices, the notes under the melody, are staggered in triplets. So, the first thing to realize is what are the harmonies? And, the best way to figure that out is to kind of practice in chords. Now, you may not be able to reach the chords, but you want to kind of flesh them out, so you can get a grasp of the harmonies. It will help you both to learn the sound, and understand the harmonic structure, and also to find fingering that can enable the best legato. Watch what I mean.


I always suggest, by the way, when memorizing music or practicing music, anytime you can reduce notes to chords, do so. The benefits are many. You'll understand the underlying structure of the music, and you will find fingering that accomplishes the connection much better. Now, once you have learned and you understand the harmonies, you have good fingering, the next step is, how do you practice to bring out the melody? Because, here's how you don't want this piece to sound. You don't want all the notes to be equal. You want the melody to rise above these faster triplets. This is the wrong way to play it.


If you've heard students play this, sometimes it will sound that way. And, how do you get it to sound like this?


You hear the melodies coming through, yet everything is soft. Everything is piano, yet the melody's above the accompaniment. Well, it's very difficult to quantify loud and soft because it's so subjective. How loud? How soft? Yet, you can practice with different phrasing, different articulation. First, that delineates in your hand the difference between melody notes and accompaniment notes. So, I'm going to play the melody legato, and I'm going to play the accompaniment staccato. Now, I will bring out the bass notes a bit and hold those a little bit longer because you notice, it's a counterpoint. You really have three lines going on. You have this.


Those are two lines right there. The bass and the treble. And, you have the inner line divided between the hands, which are the triplets, which is this.


What makes it tricky is the fact that the inner triplets are divided between the two hands, and you have two other parts going on. The bass and the treble. It's a lot to digest. So, of course, learn the parts first. Understand the harmonies, and then practice playing the inner lines, the triplets staccato from the fingers like this.


This way, you get the feel of what is melody and what is accompaniment. Your hands can learn what parts to bring out. Then, of course, you don't perform it this way. This is just a way to train your hands to understand which notes are the melody notes to be brought out and which are the notes to be played gently. So, you can go from that to just playing those inner triplets softly, rather than staccato from the fingers, and you'll have the capability of bringing out the voicing beautifully.

So, that's a way to approach the first movement of "Scenes from Childhood" of Robert Schumann, a delightful work. And, thank you so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Gloria Athanasatos on February 16, 2018 @10:30 pm PST
Thank you Mr. Estrin
This tutorial was absolutely wonderful, you really make it crystal clear, and easy to understand how to approach learning a piece of music. These are some of my favorite and look forward to part 2 of this tutorial.
Robert Estrin - host, on February 18, 2018 @3:11 pm PST
So glad you appreciate these tutorials. There are more to come!
paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on February 14, 2018 @1:31 pm PST
Yes great pieces, and most of within the reach of my technical skills, be it with a lot of practice. I find the real challenge is mental indeed, understanding what each hand and each finger has to play, and how to play it. You provided a nice entry point to get into this some deeper than I could until I saw your video.
Robert Estrin - host, on February 14, 2018 @6:30 pm PST
Glad I could provide some insights for you on how to approach this music.
Doris Wiess * VSM MEMBER * on April 23, 2014 @2:09 pm PST
Has my membership for the year expired or not?
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 23, 2014 @3:06 pm PST
Hi Doris. I see your Membership expires in a few days. You can renew your Membership at any time from your Control Panel below:

Otherwise, just wait until it expires: you'll receive an invitation to renew automatically to your email address. Please, let me know if you have any further questions. Thank you for your continuing support and interest!
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