Robert Estrin - piano expert

Should You Learn a Piece of Music From the End to the Beginning?

The answer to this question is simpler than you may think

In this video, Robert discusses the possibility of learning a piece backwards, much like with textual content for proof-reading. Does this technique work in music as well?

Released on September 15, 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

Robert Estrin here with a really interesting subject for you, learning a piece from the end to the beginning. Wow. This is quite a concept. I once had a long discussion with a pianist who swore by this technique. And I've heard of others. And there is some merit to it. You know, of course, you know my practice method if you watch my videos is to start from the beginning of a piece, read it through a couple of times and get to work and learn it piece by piece, little phrase right-hand, little phrase left-hand, memorizing each of them, memorizing them together, going on to the next chunk and connecting as you go and getting to the end of the piece. Well, what about starting at the end and working backwards? That way, when you're done practicing, the end is already solidified for you. You just get to the beginning and you're done.

It sounds great doesn't it? And in fact, you have solidity in your performance because how many times do you go to a concert, a student recital, and they're doing just great and they get to the end and darn it, it just isn't really a good, strong, closer. The end of their piece is weak and you feel badly for them. You figure, they just didn't have enough time to get to the end of the piece. So why not just start a piece from the end? That way you avoid that whole problem. Well, here's the way I look at it. The reason why I have never done it, even though this other gentleman was begging me to do it, he even gave me a score. He said, "Look, learn this the way I've been learning pieces from the end to the beginning. And I'll learn one your way, from the beginning to the end." And I didn't take them up on it. And why not?

I'll tell you why. Because, just like reading a book, learning a piece of music is a story that unfolds. More than that, dramatic material, motifs, all develop as they go. There's a logic to the sequential nature of a musical composition. To go from the end of the beginning, it's kind of like being in a maze, and you don't know where you are. And you finally get to the beginning and go, "Oh." Then you'd have to rethink everything because it's not meant to be thought of that way. It really isn't. And I just have an aversion to the whole idea, because for me, when I'm learning a piece of music, it's an exciting adventure. I start off at the beginning. Of course, I'm always raring to go at the beginning because you've heard the piece before. And if you read through it, you're already kind of a little bit familiar with the beginning, at least. And then you start going through and as you get further along, oh, this part is similar to the first part or, oh, thank goodness for repeats.

This section came back from earlier, man. I just got another page learned with minimal effort. So it's fun, exploring it and seeing the changes along the way, how themes are slightly different in different places, and a return of something in a different key, all the permutations, learning a piece that way, I believe gives you a deep understanding of the structure of the music that learning it backwards would not reveal. So that's my take on it. And I'm sure there's some of you out there who have a differing viewpoint. I'd love to hear from you. And I've articulated some reasons, some of the benefits for learning for the end to the beginning. And maybe you have others that I haven't even thought of that would encourage me to try it at least once with a piece of music.

And for those of you who do agree with what I'm saying, or have tried it from the end to the beginning and from the beginning to the end, and found one to be better than the other, let us know the comments here at, and on YouTube. Looking forward to hearing from you. Again, I'm Robert estrin. This is, your online piano resource, lots more videos to come. If you like the videos, a thumbs up and ringing the bell will certainly help our algorithms to get these videos to more people. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Philip Glaser * VSM MEMBER * on September 15, 2021 @7:29 am PST
I agree with you. But working a bit extra on the very last notes of a piece definitely can avoid the weak endings. Thanks for all of your great videos.
Robert - host, on September 15, 2021 @3:07 pm PST
That's not a bad idea! Working out the hardest parts of a piece while going through from the beginning is also very helpful.
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