Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play Clair de Lune by Debussy

An easy approach to one of the most beautiful piano pieces ever written

In this video, Robert gives you useful tips to approach this well-known piano piece by Debussy.

Released on October 2, 2013

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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Sriram on September 18, 2017 @3:27 am PST
Hi Sir, I am Sriram and I've been watching your videos for about 2 years. I loved how you presented and taught, to play this delightful piece. I wanted to request a tutorial on another beautiful piece and that is "Reverie" by Debussy. I will be delightful to see the tutorial.

Robert - host, on September 18, 2017 @1:47 pm PST
We have other videos coming - keep watching, it may come at some point.
Ari on October 20, 2015 @5:43 pm PST
Thank you so much!! One more question: the sustain pedal. I know Debussy never wrote indications to use sustain pedal. What are the more accepted ways to interpret using this pedal? When would you lift/depress?
Robert - host, on October 22, 2015 @1:24 pm PST
Robert - host, on October 22, 2015 @1:27 pm PST
Here are several resources for how to approach using the sustain pedal:






Ari on October 12, 2015 @10:31 pm PST
What speed is the metronome set at? Can you explain more about the 9/8 time signature? How do you count it, etc?
Robert - host, on October 15, 2015 @2:13 pm PST
You can have the metronome ticking at around 50 beats per minute. Each tick will represent the value of a dotted quarter note. You could have the eighth notes tick by putting the metronome at 150 beats per minute if you need to hear the subdivisions of each eighth note first. But you will get a better sense of the music by having 3 dotted quarter notes tick for each measure.

Here is a tutorial on time signatures for you:
Brian Measles on May 21, 2015 @4:59 pm PST
Wow, extremely useful video! As a trumpet player and vocalist who's just taken up piano seriously, I always knew to practice 'music first, technique second', but I never would have guessed the tip about using the pedal last. I feel like that will help immensely, thank you!
Humberto Cruz * VSM MEMBER * on October 9, 2013 @7:54 am PST
meant to say, very useful lesson as usual
Humberto Cruz
Humberto Cruz * VSM MEMBER * on October 9, 2013 @7:53 am PST
Robert, very useful lesson as useful. I would particularly like to see you address the part of Clair de Lune beginning with measure
27, and would like your fingering and rhythmic suggestions to achieve this "wave of sound" effect while making sure the melody stands out.
Thank you again for your videos, Humberto Cruz
Robert Estrin - host, on October 9, 2013 @9:51 am PST
Thanks for the suggestion. More videos are being planned.
George * VSM MEMBER * on October 4, 2013 @4:36 am PST
Super lesson - really helpful and clear.
Elene Gusch * VSM MEMBER * on October 2, 2013 @10:25 pm PST
No, you do NOT want to leave practicing pedaling till the end, and you do NOT want to connect everything possible with your fingers! The pedal is an integral part of the piano, not a "crutch" for God's sake!!! and you cannot possibly make the sound you want for the piece, especially an atmospheric piece like this one, without using it. And if you don't produce that sound while practicing, so that you can get closer and closer to your inner concept of the piece, how can you ever expect to have it happen? The pedal needs to be played, in much the same sense that the keys need to be played, as part of the total sound, not as an afterthought. It is not a matter of simply "sounding better" with the pedal.
Robert Estrin * VSM MEMBER * on October 3, 2013 @3:31 pm PST
You are absolutely right. The pedal is an integral part of the piano playing experience. and you must practice pedaling. However, if you also practice a great deal without using the pedal, you will become a better pianist. The problem with practicing using the pedal all the time is you never discover just how much you can do with the hands and the pedal can become a crutch. Just as practicing with a metronome ticking doesn't sound as pleasing as playing without one ticking, sometimes it is necessary to perform tasks in practicing which offer tremendous rewards. If you have never practiced a piece without the pedal, I suggest you take a piece of music you know and see how good you can make it sound without using the pedal. Then when you add the pedal it's like icing on the cake. You will be playing on a new level. Every great pianist I have studied with practices without the pedal a great deal of the time. Brahms didn't even have a sustain pedal on his practice piano! I know this strikes you as wrong. But when you work this way you will understand the benefits.
Elene Gusch * VSM MEMBER * on October 3, 2013 @7:38 pm PST
Thank you for replying! I worked that way for many years (and when playing harpsichord I've had to deal with articulation, both connection and disconnection, without the pedal). In particular, I believed strongly in always playing Baroque music without pedal. About five years ago I started with a Taubman Approach teacher who had found his way out of serious injuries through that method. His main point has been to teach me to be freer and let go, and this includes getting away from being stuck down to the keys and feeling that you must connect everything with your fingers. This absolutely does not imply any fuzziness either physically or mentally-- everything is extremely precise and thoroughly thought out. This approach has opened a new musical world to me. It was hard to change my belief system at first, since I had been trained much as you describe, but oh, my has it been worth it. One thing that happens is that if you let go of the physical tension and awkwardness that is so often required to connect notes without pedal, the sound instantly becomes so much more beautiful, and phrases so much more elastic and expressive. I mean the sound produced by your hands themselves, not merely the extra fullness derived from the pedal.

I invite you to study Chopin's original fingerings, as I expect you must have done at some point, for some ideas about letting go of connecting with the fingers. Although many times he uses finger substitutions (after all, he was also an organist), there are also so many times that he uses the same finger on adjacent notes or otherwise "breaks rules" to great effect.

Anyway, this is a large subject, and one that people seem to practically come to blows about. It is of great importance and worth being very clear about what one thinks and does in this regard.
Melanee * VSM MEMBER * on October 2, 2013 @6:10 am PST
This was very helpful! It was also helpful to listen to you play while seeing the sheet music at the same time. I am looking forward to seeing more on Clair de Lune. I would love to learn to play this song.
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