Robert Estrin - piano expert

What Does It Mean to Be Musical?

What does it mean to say, "this artist is so musical"?

In this video, Robert explains the concept of "being musical."

Released on February 8, 2023

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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

Don't fret if you are lacking in one or multiple of these skill sets. They all can be developed and nobody has all of them in spades. Everybody has to mitigate their weaknesses and develop their strength.

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. This is Today the question is what does it mean to be musical? Sometimes you hear people say, oh my gosh, that artist is so musical or that student is so musical. And you wonder what does this all mean? Well, there's a lot to unwrap here. So one thing about playing the piano, in fact all instruments but the piano in particular has so many different facets of abilities that are necessary in order to be able to play successfully. So you might think that somebody who's got really good technique must be musical. But you know, technique is something I put under the umbrella of musical abilities or even musical intelligence.

Not necessarily being musical but having an aptitude certainly.

Maybe it would be also something under the heading of talent. Another aspect is security and performance. There are some people who just go out there and they just play their best in front of people and you go, wow, that person is really talented or they're a really good performer but are they musical? That is really something kind of different, isn't it? Obviously, if somebody doesn't have security and performance, it's difficult to be musical, just like if they don't have technique, how are they going to be able to express anything? And there's other aspects, you know, just being able to digest the score and be able to look at a piece of music and make sense of the structure of the piece.

Once again, that's musical intelligence, being able to have coherence, particularly in a longer work, holding it together.

These are all aspects of important parts of piano playing. So what is being musical then? These all these things are related and they really are important because how can they possibly be musical, whatever that elusive thing is, if you can't digest the piece, if you can't hold it together, if you don't have the fingers to be able to execute the music? But assuming those things are there at least to some extent, what I believe being musical is, is being able to elicit emotions in the listener. And here's the amazing thing.

There are some people who are astoundingly accomplished at the piano, can play the most difficult music with fluency and security and yet maybe they leave you cold. And yet sometimes there's a student, maybe even a young student who doesn't have much technique, doesn't really have much experience and maybe they don't even necessarily do all the things that should be done in a piece but there's a beauty and it makes you feel something, brings a smile to your face or maybe sadness, those emotions. Now this is something that is really elusive to describe and even more difficult to teach. A certain amount of this is inborn. Can it be learned? Absolutely. But like many other things in life, someone who is just naturally musical, they could become more musical by exposure, by good training, by listening to other musicians who are musical and accomplished, more accomplished than they are, of course you can learn from that. And somebody who's down here who just doesn't have much sense of where the music should go, maybe they can learn a great deal and their musicianship and their ability to elicit emotions and create excitement or sadness or the myriad feelings that a musical performance can create, they can improve that but somebody who just has very little of that natural ability isn't going to suddenly be up here. Everybody can improve and this by the way doesn't just go for musicality, for lack of a better word, but all these aspects I brought up, technique can always be improved, security and performance can always be improved, how to digest a score can be improved, understanding the musical architecture of the form to make sense of a longer work in particular, all of these things can be improved along with that elusive musicianship, the musicality. So don't fret if you are lacking in one or multiple of these skill sets, they all can be developed and nobody has all of them in spades, everybody has to mitigate their weaknesses and develop their strength. But I just thought I'd bring this out for discussion here on and YouTube about what you think being a musical is. Do you think it's really all about creating emotion or is it more about the technique and these other aspects I brought up? I'm interested in all of your opinions here on, your online piano resource. Thanks so much for joining me and thank you my Patreon followers. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Franc Uberti * VSM MEMBER * on February 8, 2023 @1:42 pm PST
Technique is pointless and boring (to the point of showing off) without emotion! That is the ONLY thing you are in business for. Isn't that why many rock stars who can't read and have few rudimentary skills are millionaires?
Jeanette Hamilton * VSM MEMBER * on February 8, 2023 @1:20 pm PST
I think you absolutely nailed it! Musicality is the ability to elicit emotion in the listener. It is certainly easier to elicit emotion when you have lots of great technical tools in your toolbox. But I’ve heard less technically gifted performers whose innate musical intelligence just blew me away. I believe some of what we refer to as “musicality” is innate and the rest can be developed through study and learning to objectively listen to oneself.
Cliff Roth * VSM MEMBER * on February 8, 2023 @7:06 am PST
It is all about emotion.
Robert Estrin - host, on February 8, 2023 @12:59 pm PST
JJK on February 8, 2023 @6:09 am PST
Wow, what an excellent, erudite dissection and encouraging presentation on musicality!
[Would you agree that that a person needs to be able to first feel and understand the emotions in order to express (vs “create&rdquoWinky Face them in their music?]
Robert - host, on February 8, 2023 @12:59 pm PST
Music is a language. So exposure to, and understanding of music is essential for being musical. Like spoken language, some people pick things up much more quickly than others.


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