Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is a slur?

Slurs give a performer one of the most powerful expression tools

In this video, Robert demonstrates what a slur is with a very talented guest: his wife, well known flutist, Florence Estrin.

Released on September 18, 2013

Share this page!
Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
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, I'm Robert Estrin here at and Living I'd like to welcome our special guest artist, Florence Estrin, flutist. Yes, today's subject is, "What is a slur?" And on the piano what a slur is is very difficult to define, which is why I brought Florence in so you could hear it on a wind instrument. Now, slurs of course are the curved lines over notes and they indicate, to a wind player, when to use the tongue to delineate the beginning of notes and when to play on the breath. So Florence is going to first play the opening phrase from the Poulenc Sonata, "The Second Movement", and she's going to play it as it's written, slurred. So there will be the tonguing of the first slur and everything else will be on the breath, and this is the sound.

And that's just the way Francis Poulenc made the music. Now, I'm going to have her play it not the way it was written, playing it if it did not have that slur. So she's still going to play with very, very smooth but there will be the delineation of the tongue for each note, which is the proper way to play a wind instrument when there isn't a slur. And this is the sound.

You hear that difference, there's a subtle difference. Now, of course there are many different ways that you could play slurs or non-slurs depending on the musical context. So music you'll have more detached. In fact, I could have Florence play, yet again, now playing it a little bit more detached, in case the musical style called for this, still not slurred but different phrasing.

So there are many different ways you can phrase music depending upon the musical context. Now, on the piano it's a very nebulous area, the difference between slurred and notes that are not slurred. It all comes down to the human voice. In fact, with the human voice a slur actually contains all the notes between the slur. It is essentially a very, very quick glide between notes. It's inevitable when you sing, if you sing from one note to the next, and you will get all the notes between, very quickly. I also hear the French horn and the French horn has that same quality of getting all the notes between the slur. String instruments can do that also, sliding on the string, and the bowing techniques enable different types of phrasing as well.

Now, on the piano if I were to play those same series of notes and tried to get the sound of a slur what I would do is overlap the notes slightly, which technically is not what a slur is, but it's actually physically impossible to get a true slur out of the piano. So like many aspects of piano it's an illusion. So this is how I would play those notes if I was playing them slurred.

So it's a very smooth sound by slightly overlapping each note. And if it was not written slurred I'd put a slight bit of space between the notes so it doesn't sound slurred.

So these are subtle differences and there are many different shadings of phrasings within slurs and notes that are not slurred as well as the myriad other phrasing possibilities that composers write in the music. I wanna thank Florence so much for joining us today, and all of you for watching these videos. Again, I'm Robert Estrin here at and Living
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Brian M. on September 18, 2013 @4:35 pm PST
Thanks for this demo. I thought I knew what the intention of a slur was, but this makes it very clear, both what it should sound like and how to play it.
Christmas Sheet Music CollectionsChristmas Sheet Music Collections

Sheet Music Membership GiftMembership Gift


Sheet Music Downloads

Special Contents

Latest Videos by Robert
What is a Major Scale?
November 30th, 2022
What is a Chord?
October 12th, 2022
How to Feel Dotted Rhythms
September 28th, 2022
Assembly Line Practicing
September 21st, 2022

Questions? Problems? Contact Us.
Norton Shopping Guarantee Seal