Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to choose the right musical piece to study

Useful tips to pick the right musical piece according to your level and talent

In this video, Robert gives you interesting ideas and practical steps to take in choosing the right musical piece to study, with or without the help of a teacher. This information is also useful for music teacher's themselves!

Released on June 19, 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, I'm Robert Estrin here at Welcome. Today's subject is how do you know the right piece to study. This is such an important part of your progress as an instrumentalist or singer. For teachers, knowing what repertoire to give students progressively is vital for success of the students.

How do you know? The fact of the matter is you must progress methodically so that any piece you study shouldn't take an inordinate amount of time to learn. Of course, a more advanced student has the maturity to work on a piece that is of great length that could take weeks or even months to master. On the more elementary levels, however, it's important not to spend more than a couple of weeks, two, three weeks on a piece before it's mastered. Because here's the thing: some teachers will give their students pieces that might take half a year to learn. In that same amount of time, another teacher might give a student a dozen pieces to learn. By the time they learn the 12th piece, they're on the level of that piece that the other student has been struggling with for half a year.

If you are progressive, you can always be learning new repertoire, amass more and more music than you can play, and the level grows over time. This is not an exact science. I have had some students sometimes who really were itching to play a piece far above them. I'd tell them outright well, you know, I think that you could do this piece, but you would have to practice more than you've ever practiced before because this is above anything you've done before, and if you have a commitment to really go for it, I will give you that opportunity to try, but you have to promise that you're going to give that level of practice. I've had students rise to the occasion and take their whole level of technique and raise it up to a level that might've been six months beyond them, but they did it in one fell swoop with just total commitment and dedication to practice.

This does happen sometimes, but for the most part I think all too often teachers will want to glorify their own image of what their students are studying by advancing them too rapidly to the detriment of the student who struggles. It's more important to master your music rather than to learn long extended compositions that take forever to learn and may never master. Be careful to choose music that you can learn and play on a very high level within enough of a time frame that you have the maturity to handle. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

LUIZ SETTE * VSM MEMBER * on May 14, 2015 @6:29 pm PST
I think it is important to choose not only by a level criterion but also think about styles and musical periods. Good musician covers a broad spectrum of musical eras.
Robert - host, on May 15, 2015 @11:42 am PST
You are absolutely right. This is an essential criteria for progressive, well rounded musical study. I always consider this in the materials for students. This was a serious omission in my video. Thank you for bringing it up.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on May 13, 2015 @10:40 am PST
Practicing piano on my own now, this is one subject that I really need help! And especially with the numerous books of studies I have. I don't know in which sequence I should practice those books. Several decades ago I was already studying the velocity of Czerny, now I am willing to start from the beginning! Is there a list of study books by grades? I tried to contact a teacher at the Shenandoah Conservatory, willing to go to her and take lessons, but she did not reply.
Robert - host, on May 13, 2015 @5:26 pm PST
This is a complex subject. I may do a video revealing my personal choices of study material which progresses from beginner to early advanced studies. on December 14, 2014 @12:26 pm PST
It was great .Thanks
Wilhelm Schlag * VSM MEMBER * on July 10, 2013 @5:35 am PST
Any thoughts on memorizing pieces? How about an entire Bach or Mozart concerto? How does one go about that in the most efficient way?

Robert Estrin - host, on July 10, 2013 @2:36 pm PST
Here is a video which describes how to memorize music:
Eldert de Jonge on June 20, 2013 @8:43 am PST
Thanks Robert, I liked your comment, particularly the bit on taking on a piece somewhat above one's level at the time.
Actually, I would prefer shorter pieces with more variety to take on.
pnina ben-hillel * VSM MEMBER * on June 20, 2013 @5:38 am PST
i agree with you! from now on, can you send me Videos with Recorder players?
Hieu Dinh on June 19, 2013 @8:47 pm PST
thanks very much for posting this video. I like this very interesting and important advice . That helps me a lot as I play and choose my repertoire without the help of a teacher.
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on June 19, 2013 @5:02 pm PST
I also agree. Variety is the spice of life and keeps the interest up. In widening the repertoire there will be more choice and no risk of getting bored with just one or two pieces!
Karen Snow * VSM MEMBER * on June 19, 2013 @9:41 am PST
I also agree. Students have much more interest when their repertoire is varied and changes frequently.
Toya Harvey on June 19, 2013 @6:26 am PST
I totally agree! Thank you so much.
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