Robert Estrin - piano expert

What are Etudes?

Learn what the term "etude" means

In this video, Robert talks about the term "Etude" and how it can mean different things. Also, don't miss our Back to School page we have just released, perfect to get ready for school!

Released on August 23, 2017

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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, this is Robert Estrin at The question today is, what is an etude? You've heard of etudes before, and the answer to this question is... Well, it's a two part answer, because there are fundamentally two different types of etudes, that are completely different from one another, even though they're both called etudes. Well, what are these types? Well, there's one type of etude that's strictly an exercise. etude just means "studying," it's the French word. And they usually entail some technical challenge that you must overcome. So there are famous Czerny etudes and Hanon etudes, particularly Hanon, are really just exercises. You would never program this kind of music. The other type of etudes are musical etudes, the Chopin etudes, Liszt etudes, Scriabin etudes. These are masterful works of music that explore different technical problems, like double thirds or octaves and as such.

So let's first see what the non-musical type of etude is like. Well Hanon, you've probably are familiar with it, they're just really repeated patterns. You would never play this in concert. And so it goes. And there are many different etudes. There are Brahms etudes, that are also not musical etudes, that have certain fingers down and certain fingers that come up. Czerny etudes, some of them are quite delightful actually, but they really are not concert pieces as such.
Now the other type of etudes, I mentioned this mammoth works, you know, when talking about Chopin, you know. The revolutionary etude or Scriabin etudes. These are amazing pieces of music. But you might think to yourself, "What does that have to do with me?" If you're someone, for example, as a student or intermediate player, you may think, "Can I actually do anything with musical etudes?" Actually, absolutely yes. Because there are some masterful little gems on intermediate level, etudes of Burgmuller and Heller are gorgeous little pieces that can solve technical problems while enriching your repertoire with music that people will really want to hear you play. I'm going to give you an example of such an etude. This is a Heller etude in A minor.


So you can see that they're richly awarding pieces of music on many different levels, from student level to absolute virtuoso etudes, both musical and non-musical. I think that they both have value. In my teaching, I really like students to have the experience of playing great music, so whenever possible I try to find etudes that are also great pieces of music. It makes practicing much more a joyful experience.

Thanks so much for the great questions. Again, this is Robert at Robert Estrin here at livingpianos, your online piano store. Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Patrick * VSM MEMBER * on October 6, 2022 @8:23 am PST
Enjoyed the video Robert. The problem I have with etude instruction books (especially the older ones) is that they don't explain the technical challenge they are trying to address. I do weight training and get more out of an exercise when I focus on the muscle being trained as I perform the movement. I guess if you start to play the etude well, you can assume you overcame the challenge, but if you know the challenge up front, you may master the piece sooner (?)
Amber Chiang on October 5, 2022 @7:37 pm PST
so musical etudes are also technical exercises? but, could be named differently?
Robert - host, on October 6, 2022 @9:10 am PST
Yes, there are etudes that explore technical challenges in a musical context. Listen to the Chopin Etudes and you'll hear rich music. Each etude explores different techniques from 3rds, to 6ths, to octaves and more. They are great pieces of music as well!
Alessandra Exposito * VSM MEMBER * on April 19, 2019 @4:59 am PST
Would you consider "Marriage D'Amour" of Paul de Senneville, an etude?
Robert - host, on April 19, 2019 @8:06 pm PST
While many pieces of music, like Marriage D'Amour" of Paul de Senneville require technical skills, that doesn't necessarily qualify them as etudes. Etudes generally explore specific technical challenges in either a musical context, or as a purely technical exercise.
Alessandra Exposito * VSM MEMBER * on April 21, 2019 @12:26 pm PST
Thank you.
federico fuentes on October 28, 2018 @11:04 am PST
I would like to hear Robert explaining the different notations in a sheet music.

If he has already done this then i'll just ask you to tell me where to find it

By the way, I am in Mexico and I really enjoy the lessons from Robert Estrin. Congratutaltions
Robert Estrin - host, on October 29, 2018 @4:16 pm PST
Thanks for your question. Please let me know if you are asking how to read sheet music or if you are inquiring about what the chord symbols in sheet music mean. I do not have videos that cover either of these extensively. Please let me know what you are after and perhaps there may be a good subject for a future video!
federico fuentes on October 30, 2018 @10:49 am PST
Yes to both of your questions…

I learned by myself, used to play from music sheets but since I had no teacher I used to guess what tne symbols meant.

Gave up the piano for many years because of my work, now, semi retired, I want to study again but this time with more discipline and good information.

Would you allow me to write to you now and then with comments and/or questions?
Douglas Baker Adelaide Australia on June 28, 2018 @7:24 pm PST
Wonderful how you remember this Etude. You are very clever. Great to watch you play.
Robert A Estrin - host, on July 2, 2018 @4:36 pm PST
Glad you enjoy!
Ramona Walter * VSM MEMBER * on November 8, 2017 @12:23 pm PST
Thank you so much for all your help. You are great !
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