Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to keep children engaged in music lessons and practicing

Being engaged during performance must not be overlooked.

In this video, Robert gives you practical tips to engage children in music lessons and practicing so they'll keep learning while having fun.

Released on November 13, 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

Hi, and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin, your host, with a viewer question. Today's question is why must a performer be engaged in their performance? Well, it seems like an obvious enough thing. You'd want to be engaged, otherwise what the heck are you doing on stage playing if you're not even engaged? But, it goes deeper than that.

I can tell you years ago when I lived in New York City I was going to school there, and I went to a lot of concerts. There were occasions I'd hear some young, up and coming pianists who played brilliantly and had great reputations. Yet, I would find my mind wandering sometimes during performances. I was wondering what's the matter with me. More often than not when this would happen, there'd be a memory slip by the artist. I would think, "Oh, they were not engaged."

Here is a secret. If you want your audience to be engaged in the performance, you must also be engaged. The big challenge is a piece that you played hundreds of times, maybe thousands, working slowly, building up speed, breaking things down, putting them together, something you just live with so long, how can you be fresh and see it as a unique event? This is the challenge of the artist as a performer. You have to somehow get there, and at that moment have that adrenaline. Hopefully, the adrenaline goes to positive use to inspire something that you've never seen in the music before that you can bring to the audience, so it becomes a unique expression that moment creating something new. Keeping yourself engaged pulls your audience along with you, and that is the long and short of it and the importance of staying engaged in your musical performance.

Thanks for the great viewer questions. I am Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on May 11, 2016 @1:15 pm PST
Robert, very welcome and enlightening. You have an excellent attitude towards tutoring.
Lynn Tilton * VSM MEMBER * on May 11, 2016 @10:16 am PST
I'm 74 now. After three years, I'd only made it to Lesson 8 in the second level manual. I recalled your video about outgrowing your teacher. The lady, who has years of experience, but never taught how to teach piano, had low rates. She came to our house, so convenience was not a problem. But stagnation was that and her bending performance expectations to keep Jacob playing helped me early last December to call and tell her we would no longer be taking lessons.

Between that and the end of April, the piano became more and more a piece of furniture. That's when I knew if I were to ever learn to play I needed an experienced instructor. I found one in 20 minutes. He has a masters in how to teach music, has been for 20 years, a music minister for a local church, is the President of the local musicians organization. His in-home studio is just 12 miles from home.

When we got together to discuss whether I should become a student. I knew it was the right decision. He has a Yamaha baby grand as well as a high-end electronic piano so his students can get their practice in on the type of piano they have at home.
He plays the major home assignment on a voice tablet and emails that to his students so they can listen again and again just how to play that piece. I keep mine on the piano next to the opened manual and practice playing along with his recording. He also writes the list of assignments which I check off each day.

What a difference that makes in progress. He's also a stickler for correct practice and uses the five pencil rule for practicing a difficult passage to perfection. Another wise concept is he has the student pay in advance for a set number of sessions. Those are hallmarks of a truly professional instructor.

Now, I'm finally making decent progress.

Lynn Tilton

PS. Want you to know your weekly emails have helped me to keep playing. The piano's vacation is over it has been rescued from becoming merely a piece of fine furniture.

Before I met him in person I asked whether he takes students my age. "Yes, I have three right about your age."
Peter Shankey * VSM MEMBER * on January 28, 2014 @12:49 pm PST
I am amazed at musicians such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. How in the world can they do the jumps of the fingers from octave to octave without missing? Any technics of doing moving from octave and have the fingers come down on the correct keys while not looking would be most helpful.
Robert Estrin - host, on January 29, 2014 @6:43 pm PST
This is a great subject for a future video!
Eileen Sephton * VSM MEMBER * on November 15, 2013 @12:40 am PST
Ooh, well said, all of the comments! I'd like to build a bonfire with cheap and nasty violins that are impossible to tune and sound horrible. Having said that, new student models are much better than old ones so buy new rather than second hand. Purple ones seem to be especially popular with my young girl students.
margie nelson on November 14, 2013 @11:21 am PST
How about keeping adults engaged? I'm trying to learn piano at age 58.
Robert Estrin - host, on November 15, 2013 @4:22 pm PST
Get the best instrument and teacher you can, and play music you love! Try to make a routine of practicing every day and play for family and friends, or even events at church or elsewhere to keep it fun! You can also accompany other musicians when you get some proficiency. Stay with it - it's not too late!
Linda K Wilson * VSM MEMBER * on November 14, 2013 @9:33 am PST
This was great info for any parent. As a strings teacher myself, it would be good to have a mention of the importance if an experienced teacher in teaching correct hand position and technique for beginners, too.

Love these videos. Keep them coming!
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