Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to End a Piece of Music

A simple answer to a very common question

In this video, Robert answers a question from our listeners, by featuring the finale of Chopin's Prelude in E minor from Preludes Opus 28.

Released on January 28, 2015

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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

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin with with another question answered for you. Today is, how do you end a piece of music? There is really something to this, and I'm going to show you a bit about this by demonstrating it for you. I'm going to use actually the end of the Chopin Prelude in E Minor. It ends with three chords. I'll end it the way I would typically play it first, and then show you some caveats and explain the importance of this subject, how to end a piece [plays piano].

Notice how the mood lingers in the air, even after the sound has stopped. The trick is to be able to get the hands and the pedals releasing very slowly at the same time. This way, any anomalies and damper regulation are minimized because you don't want to have some notes straggling on while others are continuing to hold. You certainly don't want an abrupt ending. Now I'm going to show you the worst way to end a piece. You'll notice students very often... Maybe they'll even play with some sensitivity, and then they get to the end and they kind of ruin it by doing this [plays piano].

The whole mood is ruined. You want to have the mood linger on. In fact, if you've ever been to a musical performance where the piece ends, a quiet piece like that, and for several seconds there's a deafening silence in the audience. It is an homage to the artist, and that silence at the end of a piece is sometimes even written in. Have you ever noticed on some pieces of music, in fact, you will have a fermata on the double bar? That's right, there's no music. It's not even a rest. It's a fermata on the double bar. What is a composer telling you? The composer is letting you know that even after the sound has ended, the mood, the piece is still in people's minds, and that's part of the piece.

Now, you can practice this. You can practice without the pedal first to be able to release, but practice more importantly by releasing together the hands and the pedal. Here's another thing you don't want to do is to rely totally on the pedal, like this [plays piano].

Now in a well regulated piano, it might sound okay, but it's confusing to the audience to even look at such a thing because they hear the sound. Is it over? Is it not over? To a great extent, how you position your hands cues the audience as to what's happening with the piece. For example, if you're ending a piece and there's another movement following, by keeping your hands on the piano, the audience understands that there's more to come and they won't disturb the continuity of the piece with the next movement which is going to follow.

I hope this has been helpful for you in knowing how to end a piece, to linger that mood. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

jjjude1 * VSM MEMBER * on April 8, 2015 @5:14 am PST
Appreciate these videos very much! Thank you!
Cheryl Giles on January 28, 2015 @7:47 am PST
Great reminder of the artistry of performance. When not performing frequently it's easy to get lazy about that sort of thing. Thanks.
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