Robert Estrin - piano expert

Should You Give Up When Practicing the Piano?

Discover the secret to never give up on the piano

In this video, Robert gives you some unique tips that will prevent you from giving up on your piano practice.

Released on September 16, 2020

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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. This is Thanks so much for joining me today. Today's subject is how to know when to move on in your practice. Working to the point of diminishing returns, sometimes it's really hard to know at what point do you stay with it to really solve a problem and when do you say, "enough is enough? Let me revisit this later on." Well, this is really the crux of productive practice, is knowing that point. Now it can be very easy to give up on a difficult passage to learn or to play and say, "Oh, this is just too hard. I'm going to try this again tomorrow." There's many things you can do first before coming to that point. Number one, slow down. If you can't get something, slow it down. If you still can't get it, try hands separately, revisit the score. There's so many things. Try breaking things down into chords. There is a myriad of things. Take smaller sections and piece the sections together.

But eventually, you're going to come to a point where you're not making progress. And you've got to say that, when you first learn something, for example, it's very shaky, the memory. And for example, if you're learning the way I've taught how to memorize, taking a small section at a time and memorizing each hand separately, putting them together, getting that memorized, then going back and connecting, going on to the next, and always going back to the beginning. Well, sometimes you can't go back to the beginning. Sometimes you can just go back to the previous phrase, piece together every other phrase. So you have the first four measures, then connecting that to the next four measures. Then when you connect the next four measures, maybe you can't go all the way back to the beginning, but you at least to the previous four measures. That is one thing you can do to plow through.

So you don't have to stop memorizing just because you can't get everything together. That's an example of working to the point of diminishing returns. The next day, yes, you can get fluid on the longer sections, maybe get everything put together. So the general rule is try to simplify and break things down to digestible chunks. But when you get to a point where you're not making progress on a technical challenge, for example, and you've tried metronome speeds. You've tried little sections. You've tried different articulations, different phrasing. You've tried hands separate, you've tried everything and you've gotten it, you've made some improvement, but it's not nearly where you want it to be, that might be a good time to work on something else.

Then tomorrow, when you're fresh, you maybe you start a notch under where you were. Sometimes just sleeping on it, it will have grown, and you'll be very surprised, pleasantly surprised to find that the thing you'd been struggling with the day before now comes much more easily to you. Because when you first learned something, it's never secure immediately. It grows naturally with time as long as you reinforce your memory and reinforce your playing.

So that's the lesson for today. I hope this is helpful for you. It is absolutely essential to have productive practice, to know when to move on and when to keep plowing away. And generally speaking, when you run into a problem, first, try to simplify by either slowing down, sectionalizing, hands separate, something of that nature, so you're sort of building again. But when you've built it to the point and you can't get any further, move on and don't feel badly about it. Tomorrow's another practice day. I hope this was enjoyable for you. If you like these videos, there's lots more. You can subscribe, and even more on Patreon. Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin here at, your outline piano resource.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Mikeey * VSM MEMBER * on September 17, 2020 @9:25 am PST
Great tips! It may also help to listen to or especially watch a video several times of the piece being performed. A nuance in phrasing may even signal to you that the performer has had to come to grips with the same difficulty, which can be encouraging and helpful.
Robert - host, on September 17, 2020 @11:26 am PST
Listening to other performances can be invaluable in discovering new ways of conceptualizing a piece of music. However, the best time to do that is after you have gained proficiency playing the music so you give yourself an opportunity to come up with your own interpretation. Here is more on this topic for you:
Jeanne Saunders * VSM MEMBER * on September 16, 2020 @9:22 pm PST
Very helpful ,
Thank you Robert
Richard on September 16, 2020 @5:58 pm PST
Enjoy your videos. What is that machine/instrument you are playing that looks like a giant key action and nothing else?
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