Robert Estrin - piano expert

Does Personality Make You a Better Musician?

Learn how personality can help in your musical expression

In this video, Robert answers a viewer question by telling you what "playing with personality" means and how it can help you in today's music world.

Released on January 6, 2016

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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 and The question today is can personality make you a better musician? This sounds like a really loaded question and so I'm going to try to approach this honestly. Well, obviously you want to be able to express something in your music. So having a personality to your playing is vital for capturing the interest of the listener. But the interesting thing is there are some people who are very dynamic on their instrument but maybe very milquetoast personally. It happens.

Now, for example, there are people, for example, who are great musicians who maybe just don't like to get up in front of people. You wouldn't think this would be the case, but there are many pianists, violinists and other instrumentalists who really do not really like the public life. A classic example, Glenn Gould, actually gave up his live performance career and devoted himself to recording where he felt much more comfortable.

Yes, personality is essential in your music but just because maybe you don't have the personality to go out there and be in front of a bunch of people doesn't mean you can't be a great musician particularly with the advent of recording not to mention composing and other disciplines. Thanks for the great questions. Keep them coming in, and also here at I'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Steve Borcich * VSM MEMBER * on August 19, 2021 @1:14 am PST
Your point is well taken. Like great athletes, some musicians thrive when the bright lights go on and others don't. That's why some musicians make a living as a studio musician instead of as a touring musician. Musicians who prioritize their family lives also may prefer to stay close to home rather than be on the road 360 days/year. Other musicians love the night life and traveling. Then there are musicians who love playing live but can't travel and are satisfied to play locally. That's the beauty of being a musician. You can find several ways to get paid to do something that you love.
Robert - host, on August 19, 2021 @9:51 am PST
You are absolutely right! Everyone must find how to incorporate music into their lives in a way that is enriching.
William Strickler * VSM MEMBER * on August 18, 2021 @9:27 am PST
If playing in front of the public does not appeal to you, seems to me there are many musicians who do everything by YouTube. Doing that allows you to make recordings of yourself and then choose the better recording to post and then your friends can watch at their choice of time and make comments that inspire you. For most of us, playing music is a social activity where motivation dies without at least some social support of others. An example of a YouTube (only?) violinist who is very successful on YouTube is Katy Adelson. She has quite a following, but I think many will be happy building a list of only 10 to 20 friends who will follow them on YouTube, especially beginners and shy kids. Recording yourself and watching the recording builds confidence and contributes a lot to musical improvement.
Robert - host, on August 18, 2021 @11:19 am PST
Today there are so many outlets for performing online that didn't exist years ago. Social media can be a great place to share your music! While I love performing live, I get thousands of views on each of my videos which is a larger audience than I could ever dream of having for my live concerts!
Gerardo de la Torre * VSM MEMBER * on January 12, 2016 @9:07 am PST
Hi Robert thank you for your very interesting vídeos I enjoy them very much. Here is my question. I always experience porformance panic when playing infront of people not to say infront of an audience to the point that I make mistakes playing. I am not a pro but I love music and playing I am still taking piano and guitar classes. Please tell me how to overcome it. Thank you best wishes.
Robert - host, on January 13, 2016 @10:44 am PST
Here is an article and video I made on this very subject:

Cindy on January 6, 2016 @5:17 pm PST
At a seminar I attended, my piano tuner who was hosting, made a statement that just hit me with such force, like a bolt out of the blue. For me, it was literally life-altering in changing my attitude toward music, the life-long love/hate struggle, performance anxiety, and critical self-judgment:

He said, "The world does not need more concert pianists. What the world needs is more satisfied amateurs."

Words to live by.
John S. Batts on January 6, 2016 @5:05 pm PST
But, Robert, I wonder if the question might also be answered by considering world-class pianists who may somehow have imprinted their personalities upon the standard repertoire -- if you agree that such has been the case. So could there have been a Gould impress upon the resultant music that was demonstrably different from what Horowitz or (name your pianist) had achieved in the concert-hall or recording? Just a thought!
Robert - host, on January 8, 2016 @3:23 pm PST
Each great pianist imparts their personality as well as their unique concept of every piece they play. Just as actors in a play or film bring their characters to life, each musical performance must flesh out realisations of the composer's works.
John S. Batts on January 12, 2016 @7:52 pm PST
Hi Robert: Sorry to persist, but I'd like a fuller answer from you if possible re a personality impress upon the music. Thinking of Gould, for example, and his recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations, where no tempo indication is suggested. Is then the personality element a choice of tempo; is it a question of the degree or number of embellishments that might be employed? Are there other facets of a performance that you can add to the possible variations of speed and the ornamentations? And in any case, at bottom is the matter of speed a personality trait -- Gould made at least two recordings of this Bach, and appears to become slower in many if not all of the items. Can one usefully deduce something of his personality from that?
Robert - host, on January 13, 2016 @10:56 am PST
In the early 20th century before recording was prevalent, there was great diversity of interpretation among musicians. Listen to the recordings of Cortot, Rachmaninoff, Hoffman, Lhévinne, Paderewski, Friedman and others and you will hear wildly different performances of works. We can only imagine what the performances of Liszt and his contemporaries were like!

As time progressed, musicians have gotten more and more familiar with each other's performances on a global scale. This has created norms that become fashionable from one generation to the next. What was once a standard performance at one time evolves. So, expectations of the listener change.

People often attempt to perform faithful to the composer's intention. But it is impossible to know how people played centuries ago. Musical performance is an art which affords freedom. Some people strive to strike the middle - exactly what people expect to hear. Others diverge from the normal conventions to one degree or another. It has to do with personality and conviction of ideas which are formulated from the vast experience with music along with the psychological, emotional and physical makeup of the person along with how they are feeling at that moment of the performance.
Gib Rogers on January 6, 2016 @6:34 am PST
Enjoyed this video. Agree with it 100%. Being a Pianist, I don't like to perform in front of people in the arena of Concerts. I do love playing the piano for church Worship Services where I can use my personality in interpreting the music. I am not an 'up-front' person. So, Robert was right in his comments. The Lord did not give all of us a gift of playing the piano to be used on the Concert stages. Thanks!! gib Rogers (Lexington,SC)
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