Robert Estrin - piano expert

Is there a wrong way to learn piano?

Understanding and following the best way to learn the piano is paramount.

In this video, Robert gives you basic and easy concepts to avoid taking the wrong path to learning the piano.

Released on September 11, 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 and with a question: Is there a right way and a wrong way to approach the piano?

Boy, this is kind of a loaded question. You know, it's not such a simple answer. I'm gonna try to address this for you with some intelligence. You know, I've done a lot of teaching and I've had some great teachers and also given piano pedagogy classes, and there are some truths that you'll find are almost universal among teachers. Certain aspects of playing like being able to count your music so you make sure your timing is correct, practicing with the metronome to check your rhythm, certain parts of working out fingering that has fluidity in your technique.

So there are definitely some truths that are somewhat universal. Now I say somewhat, I must qualify, why? Because there is more than one way to approach the piano, and if you look at different pianos, you'll see that there are different techniques.

Now I got to study with my father, Morton Estrin, and he was my only teacher other than master classes at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria in high school. He was my only teacher until I went away to music conservatory to the Manhattan School of Music after high school. And my father's concept of playing the piano is what he would describe as with a quiet hand. That is, a minimal amount of motion. And I was trained to play the piano with just the minimal amount of movement necessary in order to produce the results desired. And that made perfect sense to me.

In other aspects, with wrist technique for staccatos. And other times, it wasn't like being rigid or anything like that, but generally, not to move more than necessary. When I studied with Constance Keene at Manhattan School of Music, I was very surprised when I first started studying with her that she encouraged me to loosen up and allow more movement on the keyboard and on the arms, and get more into the mix. As I described in other videos, there are different approaches that are necessary for different types of physical structures. Different people have more strength and more power, more mass, bigger hands, smaller hands.

So there are many right things that could be done and many wrong things that could be done, but there's also an area between that combines both right and wrong. In some instances, the same techniques may be dismissed by some and embraced by others. So, there's a gray area. And in these techniques of questionable value where some people may embrace them and others may not, it comes down to two aspects: number one, your physical stature and how the techniques work for you, and secondly, the application because one technique that may absolutely perfect for solving one technical or musical challenge may be completely different in a different context, totally inappropriate.

So, knowing the application of a technique makes it valid or invalid depending upon where you're using it. So yes, there are some right techniques and there are some wrong techniques. But, more than that, there are many techniques that can be applicable to different people in different situations and that's a long and short answer to, "Is there a right way and a wrong way to play the piano?"

Thanks very much for joining. Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Ioannis Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on September 21, 2016 @2:40 pm PST
how important is fingering? is it a bad practice to change fingering if not comfortable with the one given? how to tackle sheet music with no fingering given? thank you!
Robert - host, on September 21, 2016 @5:44 pm PST
There is an art to fingering. There is rarely only one good fingering. When having difficulty in a passage, experimenting with fingering is usually a good choice.
John Beach * VSM MEMBER * on September 21, 2016 @8:20 am PST
It is the idea that there is a "right way" which produces success, the ability to perform a piece flawlessly, as the "key" pardon the pun to success. I think this is especially true regarding fingering. The idea that the experience of generations of people has produced generally-accepted, specifically correct "steps" to perfection is a factor which constrains one regarding the idea of "working out one's own salvation" regarding technique which strays from it.
Diane on September 21, 2016 @8:03 am PST
This does cover those teachers that skip technique - and just teach the music. Teachers should all cover how to play physically. Some just have students learn by, copy me, and then don't even have students know what the music means.
Ken Cory on September 21, 2016 @6:54 am PST
Very wise observations, Mr. Estrin. I would just add the importance of having a level wrist and of not supporting the hands or arms. Very young students might lack the strength to hold their arms level for very long, and should therefore take frequent breaks.
Chazd * VSM MEMBER * on September 21, 2016 @4:57 am PST
Robert, I'm a senior citizen with a desire to learn to play the piano. I play several wind instruments well and so reading music both bass and treble clef is not an obstacle. My main difficulty is coordinating both hands together. I've tried playing the right hand and then the left but putting them together has been a real challenge. Maybe the old adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is truer than I wanted to believe. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. THANKS.
Robert Estrin - host, on December 9, 2016 @11:52 am PST
Everyone I have ever taught can't believe how hard it is to put the hands together when playing the piano - particularly adults. You must become extremely fluent with each hand separately before attempting to put the hands together when practicing. Then, you must play extremely slowly at first. It is the hardest aspect of practicing the piano by far.

Here is a video that will aid you in practicing effectively:
Chazd * VSM MEMBER * on December 10, 2016 @6:55 am PST
Thank you so much ! I'm going to take this advice and WORK at it.
Ronald Verwer * VSM MEMBER * on September 12, 2013 @4:09 am PST
thanks Robert for your enthusiastic way of bringing your views and experiences to us. It is always enlightening to watch your videos.
LUIZ SETTE * VSM MEMBER * on September 11, 2013 @5:35 pm PST
Great! I would add what I consider also very important : the teacher must play 4-hand pieces as soon as possible and keep this practice all the time. Doesn't matter the fact that the student plays a very simple melody in the beginnig. What counts is what it represents in terms of encourgement and stimulus.
Robert - host, on September 12, 2013 @1:32 pm PST
You are right. One size doesn't fit all with music instruction. You must do whatever works to engage the student. Successful teaching is a creative endeavor, not an exact science.
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