Robert Estrin - piano expert

Should you Listen to a Piece of Music Before you Learn It? - Video 1

Listening to a composition before learning it can help a great deal!

In this video, Robert reminds you of the importance of listening to a piece of music before studying and performing it. Don't miss out on this important tool in your musical toolbox!

Released on September 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

Hi. Welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with an important topic today, which is, should you listen to a piece of music before studying it? What a great question. There are many schools have thought of this, so I am going to cover them today for you, so you have a good handle on what is best for you.

Well, when setting a piece of music that you've heard before, it's much easier to learn. You have a sense of the harmonies, the speed, the textures, the mood, there are many aspects of studying a piece that you've heard before that make it much easier to learn. So on the plus side, sure it makes it easier to learn. However, there aren't always opportunities to listen to a piece before studying it. Let's say for example, you have a composer friend who writes a piece of music for you and nobody has ever recorded it. Or, maybe there's another piece that you can't get a recording of, so it's absolutely essential that you have the skills to learn a piece of music without hearing it first. More than that, it's actually detrimental to be too influenced early on to learn a piece. For example, if you were learning one of the Beethoven Sonatas or Chopin Ballade or any piece of music, and you've listened to one performance many, many times, you might not realize how unique that one performance is, and you may imitate that one performance and never give yourself the opportunity to develop your own interpretation and sense of what that piece is about. I think for students, very important to be able to learn pieces without having heard them at all before.

Now, if you've heard a piece a lot and you're studying it, good for you. You'll save time, it's easy. But, whenever possible, I think it's really good for you to go ahead and learn the piece first. At least get it memorized or if it's compendium, get some fluidity out of your performance before ever listening to a performance of a recording or a live performance. That way, you already have your own ideas of commitments about what this piece is about before you get influenced. Then, after you can play it, even if it isn't totally polished but you basically have it going, listen to a variety of recordings so you get a sense of the range of styles and interpretations that other people bring to the music. That is an ideal situation for a student. And other times, if you had a piece that you are familiar with, all the best, go with it, enjoy it, but try to listen to other performances. You realize there is more than one way to play a piece. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

LUIZ SETTE * VSM MEMBER * on September 11, 2013 @5:24 pm PST
Cool, as usual! I strongly agree and the issue becomes even more important for beginners and intermediate students. I sent a violin-piano Mozart Rondo to a teenager violin student I met in church asking her to advise me when we could schedule our 1st rehearsal. She replied: " Where is the mp3?" I quickly answered her: " Change your teacher! ".
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on September 11, 2013 @4:46 pm PST
Thanks Robert for your excellent comments which can also be applied to orchestral music and rehearsals. A new piece we started last night was interesting and today I heard the piece played by a full orchestra- what an eye-opener!
nii kwaku on September 11, 2013 @11:55 am PST
i am not able to watch the videos sent
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on September 11, 2013 @3:07 pm PST
I am sorry to read that, could you please tell me if your browser shows you any error message? What kind of browser and version do you use? Please, let me know, I will be glad to help. Thanks!
Donald J. Puent on September 11, 2013 @10:29 am PST
Robert, excellent comments you make here. Love all your visuals.
Annabel * VSM MEMBER * on September 11, 2013 @6:01 am PST
Recently I have been learning Oscar Petersons "Hymn to Freedom", about half way through it I looked up a recording of it and listened. I was amazed at how different the interpretation was. My version was much more melancholy, not so boisterous. Since this type of music is new to me ( my background is classical), it took several run through s before I accepted that both had validity. This so strongly confirms your point of argument regarding allowing your own interpretation of a piece.
Another thought that might be interesting to your viewers is listening to a piece on YouTube can often be detrimental, as opposed to a professional iTunes version. I try to warn all of my piano students to take YouTube versions with a grain of salt!
Thanks so much for your series of short videos you do an excellent job of being concise and very helpful!
Robert - host, on September 12, 2013 @1:36 pm PST
You offer students a good caveat. While there are some world class performances on YouTube, since anyone can post, you must search intelligently to find masterful performances.
Helen Louise Harratt on September 11, 2013 @5:53 am PST
I agree that a musician should be practice before they listen to a piece so that they can try and make there own interpretation and style of the music. i reckon that this method helps us develop our feel for how a it should sound when performed.
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