Robert Estrin - piano expert
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How to approach the Ocean Etude Op. 25 No. 12 by Chopin

A not-easy answer to a pretty common question

In this video, Robert shows you how to play the famous Ocean Etude by Chopin.

Released on April 3, 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 This is Robert Estrin. We have a viewer question. "How much does it cost to tune a piano?" You know what? This is a much more complex question than you'd ever imagine. There's actually a really wide range due to a lot of circumstances. Let me explain.

Now, pianos are ongoing processes. That is to say that the more often you tune a piano, the less often it needs to be tuned. That sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? There's a saying among tuners that you can't tune an out-of-tune piano. Because once it goes out of tune so far, once you start tuning it, the other end of the piano starts going out when you get halfway across because of the exertion of force on the soundboard for the parts that have to be raised up and pitched.

So somebody who tunes their piano all the time on a regular basis, has a stable environment, the piano almost doesn't go out of tune. Therefore, the tuning is not very expensive, because it just needs a little touch up. Maybe it needs a full tuning. But it's not going to be an arduous job. Now, take somebody who hasn't tuned their piano in five years. The tuner comes, they don't just do a tuning. They have to do at least two tunings in a row, a pitch raise just to get it in the zone and the second tuning to try to get it to hold. That's going to cost you more.

So one factor is how long it's been since the last tuning, another factor is the stability of the environment, and there's more to it. The quality of the piano also enters into it. A cheaper piano might be harder to tune. There could be also other issues with your piano. Occasionally, for no particular reason, a string can break. Of course, you want your tuner to fix it. They're not going to work for free. It's not their fault that a string breaks.

Also, if you're like me and you want your piano to sounds its best, you're not just going to do a rudimentary tuning. You want your technician to maybe do some action lubrication, find voicing, regulate a couple of things to keep everything at a high level. Now, there are other things that enter into it. Where you live. Some regions have much, much higher costs for tuning than others, particularly isolated areas that don't have piano tuners. When they do swing around to your region, they might get a premium because there's only so many they can tune on a trip, so they get top dollar.

Also, the level you're after. Now, when I have my piano tuned, I want a concert-level tuning. Now, what does that mean? Well, you can get a piano in tune, but getting it to hold its tuning longer, that is an art that few technicians know how to do. A really fine, concert-level tuner is going to tune your piano in such a way that it can withstand vigorous playing and still maintain its tuning better than a tuner who just is an okay tuner. Any competent tuner will get your piano in tune.

A good tuner, your piano's tuning will last longer. So after all of that information, basically the going rate is somewhere around $100 to $150 for tuning. However, as I've mentioned with all the caveats, how long it's been, the quality of the piano, the level of tuning you're after, all these things could make your tuning more expensive than that. Of course, there are some cheaper tuners out there, just like anything else. Are you going to get the same quality of work from a cheaper tuner than a more expensive one? Chances are no, although paying a high price isn't necessarily any assurance of quality.

The best thing to do is if you know of any concert venues or recording studios, someplace that has a very critical application for performance of a piano, find out who maintains the instrument. They're probably going to be the best tuners or among the best tuners in the region if you find somebody who is doing concert-level tuning already. Of course, you might have an old beater piano, and you just want something just to keep it in the zone and not want the very, very most expensive tuning, but you'd be surprised.

Getting a better tuner, your piano will sound better and will last longer. Plus, if they're skilled and you don't mind paying a little bit extra, they might be able to improve the tone, the function of the pedals, and a host of other things for you that might be important. Thanks for the great questions, and once again I'm Robert at, also Look forward to seeing you next time.
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Denis Gogin on June 24, 2015 @2:34 am PST
Hello, Robert,
I have a question about transitions from one octave to another in this etude , could you suggest some preparatory exercises to improve this skill?
Robert - host, on June 24, 2015 @2:50 pm PST
As I show in the video, practice going to the repeated note that changes fingers in each hand without going further. Practice arriving on that note with the other fingers of the hand over the octave (and middle note). You should practice very slowly at first until you can make the change to the higher octave instantaneously.
Iretnal on August 11, 2014 @11:52 pm PST
Thank you, that was very instructive!
robertfields * VSM MEMBER * on April 14, 2013 @8:21 am PST
This was very informative
Thank you very much
henry morris * VSM MEMBER * on April 6, 2013 @6:23 am PST
thanks for this, Robert! appreciated.
J. Shaw on April 5, 2013 @6:39 am PST
Thank you. Nice to see someone else who uses the same approach in teaching. My students will have another reference.
Judith Stijnis * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @12:52 pm PST
Thank you . It is very interesting
Ross * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @9:32 am PST
Exquisite! Before watching your video I regarded this Etude as the Mount Everest never to be tackled by me; now it looks more like a piece that I may actually dare attempt!! Your simple explanation and analysis of the Etude makes all the difference. Thank you Robert.
BJ on April 4, 2013 @8:27 am PST
Have been playing and teaching for years and always avoided the etudes as I have small hands. However you've prompted me to get my book open and have a go. Thanks
Jean-Marc Fabri on April 4, 2013 @7:05 am PST
Nice! Thanks!
phil * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @6:17 am PST
That was a very helpful video for a novice piano player like myself. It changed a string of endless notes to a logical progression of chords. It's still too hard to put my hands together the way you play but I now understand what's going on. Thanks.
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