Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Save Vast Amounts of Time Practicing the Piano

A useful, time-saving technique

In this video, Robert gives you a basic concept that will help you save a lot of time during piano practice.

Released on August 26, 2020

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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

Welcome to I'm Robert Estrin with a tip for your practice today that can save you vast amounts of time, the secret and the power of interlocking phrases. Now, I'm going to to explain to you what I mean, but first I'm going to give you an idea of how I practice the piano and how I teach others to practice the piano. Now, of course, there's many different skill sets in practicing the piano. For example, if you're accompanying and your reading, that's one type of skill. If you're improvising, if you're a jazz player, that's another skill. But if you are memorizing music and you want some tips about that, you've come to the right place.

Taking a small phrase at a time, hand separately mastering all the elements of the music is the way I've been taught from the time I started the piano as a young child. My father, Morton Estrin, taught this method and it's so powerful. To give you a demonstration, let's say you were learning, I'm going to use a famous piece here for you. The K5 45 Mozart Sonata in C major, and you were learning it. Well, first of all, just so you know which piece I'm talking about.

So that's a little bit of the exposition, the first subject. So, if you were learning this piece, of course you'd want to read through it first to get familiar with it. But then my suggestion is get right down to the work and start learning it rather than playing it over and over again, because it's almost impossible to absorb all the thousands, tens of thousands of details in the music because you're not just have the music, the notes and the rhythm. You have to figure out the fingering, the phrasing, the expression. There's so much there, which is why you want to learn a small chunk at a time, hand separately.

For example, if you wanted to learn the beginning of this piece, you could learn as little as this and taking smaller chunks is great because you'll never work yourself too hard, which can enable you to sustain a longer productive practice. So let's say you just took the very first phrase, right-hand alone. You got that memorized. You got it fluid. You got it perfect. You checked your work. And then you'll learn the left-hand, and you got that perfect. Then you put the hands together, slowly at first. Very good.

So then you go and you learn the next phrase. You get that memorized, and you do the left hand. And then, you put them together, slowly at first. You speed it up, and you think, great, now I'm going to go back to the beginning and connect the phrases. You play the first phrase, which you've gotten up to speed. You start slower at first to be able to give yourself a chance to connect these phrases smoothly. And right there, you're going, "Where do I go?" You have no idea because... "Oh, oh, that's right."

Well, The tip I'm going to give you is going to bake it a fluid process to be able to connect your phrases like a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit together perfectly right from the get-go. Instead of learning it the way I just showed you, you go one note beyond so you have a common note between the two phrases. So, as you're learning the right hand, you would learn just this. That is the connecting note. When you put the phrases together, you do the same thing with the left hand. And when you put the hands together, then you will have... and that's the phrase you learn. So when you learn the next phrase, you do the same thing.

That makes it a seamless process to connect your phrases as you go, because the two hardest parts about learning music, of course, is putting the hands together, which is why you want to really solidify each hand separately, getting them up to tempo, getting them fluid and repeatable. That gives you half a chance of being able to put them together and get them memorize, going slowly. The next hardest thing is connecting phrase to phrase in a smooth manner. By using interlocking phrases this way, all is going one note beyond the phrase so that when you put the phrases together, you've got that connection note.

This is a great tip that I want all of you to try it out. Let me know. How does it work for you? If any of you have done this before or have never thought of this, I think you'll really find this as an eye-opener to save you a lot of time in your practice for getting fluidity as you connect your phrases. Thanks again for joining me. I'm Robert Estrin. This is, your online piano resource. Thanks for all the subscribers. You can ring the bell and spread the word. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Nesta Mae Horton-Johnson on July 23, 2021 @5:13 am PST
Thank you very much Robert. I have just listened to your video on, How to Save Vast Amounts of Time Practicing the Piano.
As I listened to you say, "then go over it again slowly, when finish go over it again … I say two for the price of one learning and memorising.
I suddenly got the message! I thought, this is similar to proof reading.

Thank you.
Nesta Mae

Thank you, I will not waste any more time in practicing.
Robert - host, on July 23, 2021 @10:44 am PST
Checking and re-checking the score is the life of the musician, particularly pianists and conductors. Here is a video and article on this subject for you:
Bill McClellan * VSM MEMBER * on August 26, 2020 @7:46 am PST
Thank you so much for this very important video! Adult learners will benefit greatly from this clear. concise description of how to learn a piece of music.
Robert - host, on August 26, 2020 @6:21 pm PST
I was lucky to learn how to practice effectively at my very first piano lesson which was with my father, Morton Estrin. I am very happy to be able to share this with people.
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