Robert Estrin - piano expert

3 Secrets of Playing Slow Music

Learn how to play slow music correctly

In this video, Robert teaches you how to approach slow music avoiding typical mistakes that any musician could make.

Released on June 12, 2019

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Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin at, your online piano store, with three secrets to playing slow music. You know, a lot of times you hear a instrumentalist, a pianist or other instrumentalist, who's very impressive. They have a lot of technical achievement. But when you hear a great artists play a slow movement, magic can happen. It can reach the inner depths of your soul. This is a sign of a great musician.

So how do you approach slow movements in order to get that quality, to get that beauty, and to be able to reach people on an emotional level? Well, there's three secrets I'm going to give you today.

Number one is, make sure you take the right tempo. A lot of people play slow movements too slowly. For example, if I were to play Debussy, Clair de Lune, you hear somebody play it like this, for example.

Now, it might be okay at the beginning, but by the time you start going through it, a lot of times when somebody starts a piece like that that slowly, you check by the middle and compare the tempo they're playing in the middle of the piece with the beginning, and they're going to naturally speed up, because it gets ponderous after a while.

Another clue for you when you're taking a tempo that is too slow is that you will find that if there are repeats, you won't want to take them. They don't seem to work. So if you find that you have a piece of music where you say, "Oh, Mozart didn't mean those repeats," yes, they did. If they don't work, it's a clue that you are playing too slow a tempo.

Now, another thing related to this is holding long notes long enough. There's nothing worse than robbing the long notes, but it's so easy to rob long notes, because you're just sitting there doing nothing. It's easy to count to yourself, and kind of accelerate your counting in your head, and you lose the whole pulse.

I'm going to take the beginning of Clair de Lune at a faster tempo, but I'm going to hold all the long notes for their full value. First of all, I'm going to do it the wrong way, and a lot of people, by the way ... If you listen to a lot of performances, people take it really slowly, and they rob the long notes. I'm going to do that first, and you'll see what that feels like.

To me, that's out of rhythm. But you'd be surprised how many performances you'll find on YouTube of very accomplished pianists playing this piece, and robbing them. Now I'm going to hold all those long notes for their full written value.

It gives it soul, doesn't it? So you've got, take the right tempo, and you hold the long notes long enough. What else is there?

The other thing is to think the long note as the pulse, because then you can have a slow pulse with a faster tempo. I'm going to demonstrate with the second movement of the K. 332 Mozart Sonata in F major. First, I'm going to play it thinking each 16th note ... The left hand has the 16th notes, and each one of those is going to be punctuated as the beat.

Now, instead of thinking each 16th note, I'm going to think each eighth note. (singing)

Rachmaninoff said, "The bigger the phrase, the bigger the musician." Well, I also think the longer note that you feel as the pulse, the more freedom you'll have with your music. I'm going to play it now with the quarter note as the pulse. (singing)

This also gives you the benefit of being able to take a faster tempo, but to still have a relaxed feel to your music. Watch. I'm going to take a little faster tempo, but with the quarter note as the pulse, it doesn't feel hurried.

Those are three secrets to being able to play slow music. Make sure to hold long notes long enough, feel the long note as the beat, and choose the right tempo. Don't take it too slowly. If you do those three tips, it will enhance the performance of your slow music.

I'd love to hear from all of you, and give me your perspective. If you haven't subscribed to Living Pianos videos YouTube channel, go for it, and you'll get all the fresh videos. We produce them for you every week. Thanks for joining me again. Robert Estrin here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Larry * VSM MEMBER * on June 15, 2019 @5:35 am PST
Very helpful! I look forward to trying these ideas out. I am learning a slow piece, "In my daughters eyes" for guitar and I believe this will be helpful. I do not understand, "to think the long note as the pulse," but hope to as I become more experienced.
Robert Estrin on June 15, 2019 @2:17 pm PST
If you tap your foot, you can tap half as slow (or every other beat) to be able to feel the long pulse. Good luck with your guitar playing!
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