Robert Estrin - piano expert

Fast Versus Loud Piano Playing

Learn about this important aspect of piano expression

In this video, Robert shows you how to manage speed vs loudness in your piano playing.

Released on July 17, 2019

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Video Transcription

Hi, this is, and I'm Robert Estrin, and with a really interesting subject today, which is fast versus loud in piano playing. Now some of you may be thinking I'm talking about contest-winning pianists, some of them playing faster than anybody, some playing louder than anybody. And oftentimes that's what it comes down to, sadly, in competitions, because when you have dozens of pianists who are playing at such a high level, how do you quantify who's the best? Artistic expression is such a personal thing after all.

But this video is not about any of that. That's a very touchy subject that maybe I'll encounter at some point for you. Today's subject is talking about how oftentimes students will confuse fast and loud. I was just teaching this afternoon the Clementi Sonatina Opus 36 number one to a student, and wouldn't you know it, at a point at which the music gets louder, he started speeding up, and it is such a natural tendency. And I talked to him about it, and he said, "Yeah, you know, when the music gets exciting, when it gets louder, you want to go faster."

I'm going to demonstrate so you can see what I'm talking about. It starts off forte, then comes down to piano, and then when it gets crescendo, gradually getting louder again, there's such a temptation to get faster. And I'm going to play it kind of the way he played it, so you can see what I'm talking about. And you'll hear after it gets quiet and it starts to get loud, I'm going to speed up, because you kind of want to do that. But I'll show you how it sounds without doing that, after it. First listen to it by getting faster, and the parts that get loud.

Well, you can already see that coming back to the beginning, the repeat, then where are you? So you've lost time. So what is the secret to avoiding this problem? As so many rhythm problems, solutions come down to working with the metronome. Have the metronome ticking so that you can keep an absolute precise speed, and then you will be able to play it like this. And tell me how you like the difference, not succumbing to the excitement of getting faster when it gets louder. And you can hear the difference for yourself.

So you could hear that by maintaining tempo when you get louder, it is much better, it serves the music better. And this is something you have to train yourself to do. It is not a natural thing to be able to not succumb to the excitement of the music and rush the parts that get louder, which is why the metronome is such a handy tool to measure your music until you have it really locked in, and you can maintain tempo even when the music gets exciting and gets louder.

And that's the long and short of loud versus fast. They are two different concepts that you should not confuse in your music. Occasionally they do coincide and that's fine, but if they don't, maintain the integrity of your tempo and you will be richly rewarded with a more satisfying musical performance.

Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at
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