Robert Estrin - piano expert

3 Ways of Performing Music

Three useful concepts for all instrumentalists

In this video, Robert gives you three ways to approach your music. Apply them to improve your music performances right away.

Released on March 25, 2020

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

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin here at with a very important show for you. Three ways of performing music. Yes, there are three intrinsic thought processes I'm going to talk about. They don't just apply to performing music, they apply to life itself, which is why I've been really thinking a great deal about how we would present this to you. I hope you enjoy this and welcome your comments.

The three types of thought patterns with performing are linear, random, and cyclical, and I'm going to go through each of these and explain what they are first, and then apply them to performance for you.

What does a linear thought process look like? Well, obviously even speaking is a linear process, word to word to form thoughts. Music is a linear experience after all, and in Western civilization, scientific method is a beautiful example of a linear process, a linear thought process. If this is that, then this is the result and so on. This is how hypotheses become theories and so forth.

The next type of thought process is random thought process. This is more exemplified by Eastern thinking. For example, meditation is kind of a random thought process. As Westerners, we think of meditation as clearing the mind because, yes, it's necessary to stop the internal dialogue, but just because you aren't identifying things and labeling them doesn't mean you're not thinking. In fact, when meditating, you are aware of your surroundings, the brain is functioning, it's a pure thought, sometimes described as.

The third type is called cyclical thinking. What is cyclical thinking? Well, of the three, cyclical is truly a destructive thought process. An extreme example is obsessive compulsive behavior where someone repeats an action over and over again and beyond their own control, drug addiction. More common examples are insomnia. You lie in bed at night and you have plenty of time to sleep and just at the moment when you're about to fall asleep you think, "Oh good, I'm going to sleep. Oh, I got to get up tomorrow, and oh," and then you're a little agitated and you say, "Oh no, that's fine. Go back to sleep." Of course you set yourself up for the same pattern, just as you're falling asleep the next time the same thing happens and it goes round and round and tossing and turning all night long. Like a feedback loop, when you put a microphone by a speaker and you get our horrendous noise, it's the same thing. In this case, it's emotional noise and it's very troubling.

How does all this relate to musical performance? Well, musical performance is a thought process after all. Let's start with linear thinking. Linear thinking is absolutely essential for successful musical performance. After all, you have to get from one note to the next, from one phrase to the next to have a successful musical performance. But it's more than that. A great musical performance is an expression of emotions and feelings about the music, the love for your audience. It's so many other things that come into play and strictly a linear process of getting from A to B to C can be nothing more than that if you're not careful. Well, that's where a random thought can come in.

Yes, you prepare for weeks and months for musical performance and you get there and, well, now the piano is fresh, maybe it's a different instrument than you've played before, the hall has different acoustics, and yes, the audience plays into it also. Maybe you're inspired to try new things at your whim, that playful part of you just exploring and taking off and in ways that you maybe never did in practice before. This can be so electrifying to hear a performance like this. Of course, you don't want to take a wrong turn and end up in a exposition when you're supposed to be at the recapitulation in a sonata or, worse yet, take a temple you've never taken before and end up playing something faster than you've ever practiced it. That's where a really balanced performance has to contain elements of linear and random thinking to really be successful because you have to have that part of you looking down, making sure you keep everything straight, yet allow the playfulness and the spontaneity to engage the audience as well as yourself in a piece maybe you've played hundreds of times to be able to keep it fresh and exciting. It's important to have that random thought combined with the linear route to keep things really stable.

Now, I talked about the dangers of cyclical thinking. Well, this can happen in musical performance also you've prepared for months on a performance, practiced who knows hundreds of hours. The moment comes and you go out and you're raring to go and then some unfortunate happens, a distraction in the audience or fingers slip and what happens? You make a mistake and of course the nerves, the heart pounds, you think, "Oh, that's okay. Oh, I shouldn't make a mistake again." You start thinking about the next mistake and oh, there you know it. You've set yourself up in a pattern that repeats again and again, destroying the potential for a great performance. Cyclical thinking should be avoided at all costs.

To recap, successful performance combines elements of linear thinking and random thinking. Ideally, you should have that playful part of you trying new things, getting the sound, working with the audience in ways that are fresh and exciting and engaging to you so the audience is also engaged, but you must always have that linear part that keeps things straight, that's watching down, making sure you don't take a wrong turn or get too carried away for your own good. Avoid that cyclical thinking, it's bad news. Forgive yourself for a mistake. After all, it's only music, no one's going to die. There's no danger. Make it enjoyable for yourself. Let your audience enjoy it. They're not there because they want to see mistakes. They don't care about mistakes, they just want to hear beautiful music. So make it happen for yourself and your audience and you can enjoy a lifetime of musical performance.

Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here I really welcome your comments and any observations about your own thought process during musical performance, and I will post them for others to enjoy as well. Thanks for joining me and I'll see you next time.
Find the original source of this video at this link:
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login as a Member  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:

wayne russell * VSM MEMBER * on March 25, 2020 @4:14 am PST
Great ideas, Robert! I will remember to apply this in the future performances!
Robert - host, on March 25, 2020 @1:02 pm PST
These principles apply to almost everything since it involves the thought process itself.
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.
Norton Shopping Guarantee Seal