Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Achieve Speed & Lightness in Your Piano Playing

Handy tips for pianists

In this video, Robert gives you simple techniques for quick, light piano playing.

Released on February 17, 2021

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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 great subject for you today, how to achieve speed and lightness in your playing. Well, these two things are related. It's simple physics really, moving a great deal of mass takes more work than moving smaller amounts of mass. So minimizing motion in your fast playing is really the secret. Now, I've talked about this with finger work, today the focus is going to be on the wrists. The wrists are incredibly important on the piano for many things that the fingers just can't do because they don't have enough power.

But first I'm going to have a little refresher on how this applies to finger work. Then I'm going to show you wrist technique and how minimizing motion give you more speed and lightness with the wrist as well. So for the fingers, let's start with the Chopin Nocturne, the famous Nocturne in E-flat and notice the amount of motion that I use in the fingers. And this is analogous to the breadth of a wind instrument or the bow of a violin, and even a piano melody. One that is quiet still has to project, and it takes a certain amount of effort and arm weight supported by the fingers to achieve this.

So you can get a nice warm melody that projects and creates a fluid line by utilizing the fingers and the arm weight. But what happens when you want to play much more quickly, is you can't use that much finger motion. You have to stay closer to the keys. For example, in this E-flat Impromptu, I'll just play the beginning of the Schubert Impromptu for you. Now you can see, even in that small excerpt, the fingers are close to the keys and rounded, so there's a minimum amount of motion necessary. It makes it much easier to play fast and light. It's pretty obvious.

Well, how does this enter into the wrists? The wrists are necessary for articulating staccatos, phrasing, accents, all that sort of thing, chord technique. And I'm choosing now for you a piece that I've taught countless times, the Ballade by Burgmuller, one of his wonderful studies. And of course, students often come in the first lesson after they've learned a chunk of the piece. And oftentimes they play the staccatos with their arms, which create a ponderous sound because the arms are so big and heavy that you're going to sound like this.

So the first thing is to utilize the wrists instead of the arms. And this already helps a great deal, as you'll notice. Watch, instead of moving the arm, it's the wrists that are going to be coming to play here. So that already has a Christmas sound. However, trying to get the speed faster with that much motion is all but impossible. But by staying closer to the keys, the faster and lighter you want to play, stay closer and closer to the keys like this.

That is it in a nutshell. When you want speed, stay closer to the keys in your finger work, use less wrist motion. Certainly don't use the arms, the arms have a real limit of speed. How fast could the arms go playing those staccatos? Very difficult, but the wrists can go very fast. So using, once again, less mass, the wrists are much less to move than the arms, so already that helps. And to get even more speed and agility and lightness in quick playing that is not just finger work, then you stay closer to the keys and have a minimal amount of motion. And you'll be able to go much faster.

Try this on whatever music you're playing. If you're playing rapid finger work, and you find that you've hit a brick wall, maybe on your scales or in scale passages in your music, try lightening up and staying closer to the keys. Likewise, in chord technique and staccatos where you're utilizing the wrist, first of all, use the wrist, not the arms because there are much quicker and more agile. Secondly, as you get quicker, stay closer and use less motion. And that's the tip for today. I hope this helps all of you. Again, I'm Robert Estrin, this is, your online piano resource. So glad to have you all join me. You're welcome to subscribe, the thumbs up, share it with your friends if you like it, and there'll be more coming for you. See you later. Thanks for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Anne Iams on February 19, 2021 @10:27 am PST
I love your video on how to use the wrist and not use the arm. I remember my music teacher when I was in grade school telling me the same thing. It is amazing the difference and saves the arm from getting tired. Thank you for all the cool videos you put out. I learn a lot from you. Brings back things I should remember, as well as new ideas.
Robert - host, on February 19, 2021 @12:19 pm PST
You can search among thousands of videos and articles with keywords here:
Anne Iams on February 19, 2021 @2:42 pm PST
Thank you!!
Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on February 17, 2021 @10:23 am PST
Could you talk a bit about that piano you are using in these recent videos?
Robert - host, on February 17, 2021 @3:55 pm PST
The piano used in many of my videos is a modular piano system I am developing. This is my second prototype piano which provides a virtual concert grand playing experience anywhere.
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