Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Play Chords on the Piano - Part 1

Master the correct technique to play slow chords on the piano

In this first video of a two-part series, Robert tackles chords on the piano, and gives you a natural approach that you won't forget!

Released on December 11, 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

Welcome. I'm Robert Estrin here at and with a two-part series, "How to Play Chords on the Piano."

Today's talk is going to be about how to play slow chords on the piano. Okay well, what is the technique for chords? And what's so special about chords anyway? Well, believe it or not, you can get a drastically different tone out of the piano by how you use to press the keys. I'm going to demonstrate this with the Chopin Prelude in C minor. I want to show you first the way that, you know, it doesn't give the most pleasing sound. I want to start with the Forte Chord. I'll talk about piano chords later in this piece, but first the Forte Chord. If I just sail into them and hit them hard, you're going to get kind of a slapped sound like this.


Why is it a slapped sound? Because I'm basically slapping the keys. Interestingly if instead, you apply pressure to the keys. That's right. You release the weight of the arm to the bottom of the key bad on each chord. Listen to the beauty of the tone you can get out of a great instrument like this.


Now once again, practicing without the pedal, you can achieve a wonderful legato. But the secret is not just slapping the key with a hard motion at the beginning of the note, but to pressing to the bottom of the key with a full weight of the arms, gives that beautiful sound. And if you are even a halfway decent in piano, you can exert tremendous energy without ever getting an ugly sound.

Now, what about when there's quiet chords? If I were to play the next section and even use arm weight. I'm not going to slap, I'm just going to be gentle. But listen what happens, you lose the melody. Listen to that.


Here is the secret. The softer you play on the piano, the more difference you must make to delineate the melody notes, generally the top notes. So in a loud chord, you can just play them all equally and that top note is going to come right through, but when you play very piano chords quietly, you have to kind of reach for that top note and you'll get this kind of sound


And incidentally, that's a general rule of piano playing. The more quietly you play, the more difference between accompaniment and melody you must achieve.

Well, that's all for part one. Watch for part two, "How to Play Fast Chords on the Piano." Thanks for joining me. Robert at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Catherine on October 6, 2017 @1:36 am PST
Thanks I love watching your videos.
joyce on December 27, 2013 @9:37 am PST
Thankyou, I will try that technique.
joyce on December 26, 2013 @2:01 pm PST
Is there any visual you would use to teach students the arm weight. For example I tell them to imagine a piece of Velcro underneath the key and the key must be depressed enough to adhere to the other part of the Velcro in the key bed. Otherwise they only use finger weight. Thanks for all your videos.
Robert Estrin - host, on December 26, 2013 @2:43 pm PST
That's an interesting technique! One great way to impart the concept of arm weight is to play a slow melody on the student's arm so they can feel the continuous pressure exerted on the keys. Then have the student do the same on your arm. This way they get a sense of leaning into the keys to produce a smooth line.
Ernest on December 13, 2013 @2:13 am PST
Nice i appreciate it
Helena boggia on December 11, 2013 @7:27 am PST
Aso can you explain cadences. I know about v 1 etc. but not sure when one is given a random note in a piece of music and am asked what the cadence would be for that note...or even two. These would be in the middle of apiece. Hope I have explained that ok. Thanks helena
Helena boggia on December 11, 2013 @7:25 am PST
Thank you Robert ....
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