Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Reach the Last Row in a Concert Hall

Learn how to play in a way to be heard by anyone in your audience

In this video, Robert gives you useful tips for your music performance, with deep thoughts and fascinating history citations.

Released on July 10, 2019

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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

Robert Estrin here at, with a really fascinating show that I think you're going to really appreciate, which is how to reach the last row in a concert hall. If you've ever been to a performance of a world class pianist, I had the opportunity for example to hear Vladimir Horowitz on several occasions, and it's an interesting story. The first time was he made one of many comebacks, and every time he did this it was a huge event, and this was no exception. This was in I believe 1973, and he was playing a performance, actually '74. He was playing a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, and if you have any idea of the scope of the size of that hall, you wonder how could you possibly play a concert in a hall that big?

Well, I camped out at Lincoln Center, I got there the night before, the tickets went on sale 6 AM in the morning, and I got there at nine at night, or actually before nine, it was eight something, and I was number 311 in line already. Can you imagine? Interesting thing is that about 2:30 in the morning Horowitz and his wife came by with coffee and donuts for the people waiting camped out there, it was really something. Anyway, so I get tickets, it was limited to only two you could get, and my tickets were way, way up, and the amazing thing was he was able to project a sound that came right through to the last row with beauty and singing quality that was really something.

Well, here's the interesting thing; just a couple of months later I was studying with Constance Keene at the Manhattan School of Music, and she was really good friends with the Horowitz's, and she actually was able to get tickets to a Carnegie Hall concert he was giving, and in this case I was one of the front box seats, right there. And in this case I could hear what he was doing that made it possibly for me to enjoy his performance and the last row. Everything was punctuated much bigger when you could hear it up close.

It's kind of like, have you ever been to a museum and you see a great painting of maybe one of the impressionists, a Degas of something of that nature, and you look from a distance and it's just gorgeous colors and patterns, and if you get up close you just see all these angularity to the strokes. It was like that hearing him so close in that front box seat. I could hear what he was doing in order to project, and I'm going to demonstrate for you. Not an imitation of Horowitz or anything of the sort, I'm going to show you a delicate way of playing Mozart, and then a way of playing Mozart that would go to the last row of the hall.

So here is first, a perfectly valid and wonderful way to play Mozart with a nice characteristic delicacy. The G major is a 283 Köchel. So, listen to this, and this is one way of approaching Mozart.

So, by the way, up until recently I've been playing that way, and I've been experimenting with a completely different way of playing it. Using a lot more arm weight, projecting a bigger sound, one that would carry through in a very large hall. Let's see how this sounds by comparison.

So, it's not a right or wrong proposition here, and I would say to a great extent it comes down to where you're performing. In a big hall, something along the lines of the second type of approach, playing bigger and with more arm weight, and then punctuating the fast notes, lightening up for those so that you can negotiate them. Rather than playing everything in a fluid manner the way I did the first time.

So that's the secret. You have to play with more arm weight, more angularity, and punctuate fast passages by detaching the notes from one another, so they carry through, even with the reverb of a large hall. So, these are some pointers for you; you've got to always listen to the piano and the room you're playing in, so that you can produce a sound that carries through to the last row. Thanks so much for joining me again. This is Robert Estrin at, your online piano store.
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