Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play Octave-Tremolos on the piano

Learn a very interesting piano technique

In this video, Robert teaches you how to approach octave-tremolos by applying this piano technique to one of Mozart's most famous pieces for piano solo: the Rondo' alla Turca.

Released on August 5, 2015

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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, I'm Robert Estrin and this is And the question is how to approach octave tremolos on the piano. Well, you hear them all the time, and they sound so cool. And we're going to use today the "Alla Turca" movement from the Mozart Sonata K 331 in A major. You're all familiar with this piece. And at the end, you have the octaves. And finally are the broken octaves. The octave tremolos that this show is about which sounds like this.

So what is the secret to playing octave tremolos? Well, first of all, you need to know how to play octaves properly. Now, one of the secrets is using the proper fingering. You want to use the fifth finger, the first and the fifth finger on all your white key octaves. And when you have black keys, utilize the fourth finger. This kind of makes the load divided between these two top fingers. It makes it much easier. You practice in octaves, but how to practice in octaves. That's a secret. If you just play this without really thinking about how to play it, it probably would come out something like this. It would be very heavy.

You notice how heavy that is because the thumb is such a stronger finger than the pinkie and fourth finger. So you have to learn how to balance the hand and put more weight into the right hand side of your right hand, that is, the fifth and fourth finger. A great way to practice that is practice in octaves, as I said, using the fifth and fourth fingers on the top notes and play the bottom notes on the thumb staccato from the finger while playing legato on the top. Play the octaves together so you get this sound.

Notice how much more power there is in the top because I'm barely just touching the pinkie on each of these octaves. If I were to play it equally, it would sound like this. But instead, you lighten up your thumb. Then, when you play them in a tremolo fashion, you'll get the right balance. So you're not too heavy on your thumbs, and you'll be able to make it more fluid. And that is the way to practice octaves. And you don't want to ever get tight. And one way to avoid that is to practice in note groups. In this particular piece, since it doesn't go forever, you could practice just the first three. And then relax.

But even in an extended passage of tremolo octaves, stopping along the way and being completely relaxed. So it's almost feeling like you're starting again even when there isn't a break can be incredibly helpful to keep the relaxation. Part of it is also developing more strength. You'll find at first when you practice tremolo octaves, you'll only be able to practice in short bursts of time until your hand gets too tired to be able to play anything. Let it rest and come back to it again and again throughout the day. As you develop more strength, you'll be able to practice for longer periods of time once you have the strength to deal with it.

I hope this has been helpful. Thanks so much for joining me. Keep bringing these great questions in for future videos here at Thanks again, I'm Robert Estrin.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Meera Thadani on March 21, 2019 @9:31 pm PST
Finally, a clear demonstration on octave tremolos. Thank you.
Robert - host, on March 22, 2019 @11:37 am PST
Glad you like! You can search among thousands of videos and articles with keywords here:
Trevor on March 20, 2019 @3:43 pm PST
Tips for playing tremolos in left hand such as Pathatique sonata by Beethoven as this piece has extended use of the forgoing
Robert Estrin - host, on March 21, 2019 @3:56 pm PST
Octave tremolos in the left hand is almost the same as the right hand. However, the pinky is on the bottom. So, it's important to lighten the thumb to gain speed.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on August 5, 2015 @2:06 pm PST
Very helpful lesson ...... if only I could reach the octave with my fourth finger !!! Smiley Face
At least I have enough strength in the fift finger to play it right !
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