Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Play Smoothly on the Piano

Useful advice on how to play like the great pianists

In this video, Robert helps you achieve smoothness in your piano playing.

Released on September 8, 2021

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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 to I'm Robert Estrin, and today is really something that might be of great value to you, how to play smoothly on the piano. Avoid the impossible. I've already answered the question. That's the end of the video. No, not quite.

What am I talking about? Avoid the impossible. Well, first of all, playing smoothly on the piano is something you hear great artists do, and everything is just so pristinely smooth, and you wish you could achieve that same smoothest in your playing. And yet, your, playing sometimes can feel choppy and you don't know how to get that sound that you hear other people doing. You want it so badly, and you wonder, what can you do about it?

Well, of course, one of the most important aspects of learning how to play smoothly on the piano is to practice incessantly without the pedal, because then you must learn to connect with your fingers. That's the secret, in a nutshell, of how to play smoothly, but there's a bit more to it than that, because oftentimes there are just things that are not possible to play smoothly.

So, what do you do about that? Do you just smear it all with pedal? No, and that sounds awful when you do that. To demonstrate, I'm going to show with the second movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Sonata, and I'll play a little bit of it first, and then I'm going to show you all the pitfalls and, more importantly, the solutions for you.

Now, it's really hard to connect those chords. How do you do it, then? Well, if you just try to connect everything, you can end up with a mess like this.

There's no way to bring out any lines. It's kind of blocked and choppy, isn't it? So, the secret is don't try to connect everything. Sacrifice things are not as important to connect, for the things that are vitally important to connect. Which is what? The melody.

So, in your right hand... You sacrifice those lower notes, so that you can connect the melody, add the pedal, and you can grab a certain amount of those chords on the pedal, so it doesn't sound quite as austere as that.

You see how I purposely let go of the bottom notes, so I could be sure I'm connecting the top notes? That's what I mean by avoid the impossible. If you try to connect all of them, you can't do it.

You can't do it. It's impossible, so don't even try. If you connect the melody really well it just sounds gorgeous. So once again, with the pedal, connecting the top line, sacrificing the bottom notes somewhat, taking what you can with a pedal, without smearing it all up, and this is what you end up with.

Try that in your music, whatever it is you're playing. When you want to really play smoothly, sacrifice what you can't connect for what you must connect. That is the lesson for today. Let me know how it works for you in the comments here at, and on YouTube. Thanks all you subscribers ringing the bell, and the notifications so you'll know about more videos coming your way. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Kathy * VSM MEMBER * on September 8, 2021 @3:43 pm PST
As a senior my hearing leaves something to be desired. I am working on this piece. It's clever and fun. And yes, ears do better with less pedal.
Carol Laux * VSM MEMBER * on September 8, 2021 @2:25 pm PST
I’m gonna try. Thanks
Robert - host, on September 8, 2021 @4:36 pm PST
Good luck!
Anne Davids * VSM MEMBER * on September 8, 2021 @8:47 am PST
I am a “returning senior”, in Level 3, very much at the beginning in many ways. In all honesty my ear isn’t quite trained to really hear the difference between smooth, blurry and choppy Robert! However I can sense that my playing is likely a blur and/or choppy. This helps me to train my ear to even hear these differences. Thank you!
Robert - host, on September 8, 2021 @12:09 pm PST
Practicing without the pedal is a great way to hear with clarity what your playing sounds like. When you add the pedal, you will be rewarded with a rich, sustained sound!
Sharon Hoting * VSM MEMBER * on September 8, 2021 @8:20 am PST
Can anyone recommend piano quartets that are not too difficult for the piano? My string players can learn most quartets in a few weeks, but it takes me several months to learn the piano part.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on September 8, 2021 @8:27 am PST
Hello Sharon and thank you for your inquiry.

You should look into Mozart's piano quartets. Unfortunately, we don't have them available here on VSM (yet), but you can search on the web for them.

In any case, I am afraid most of the piano quartets out there have pretty advanced piano parts unless all instruments have easier parts. And that's usually true for simplified versions or newly composed pieces for children or young players.

I hope this helps!
Peter Herrington * VSM MEMBER * on September 8, 2021 @7:06 am PST
Thanks Robert, excellent explanation and demonstration of a great method to have in your toolkit to improve one's playing.
Marette on September 8, 2021 @4:35 am PST
Thanks, Robert. Well said!
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