Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Become a Concert Pianist

What are the requirements to become a concert pianis?

In this video, Robert discusses how to become a concert pianist. What are the requisites? Can anyone become a concert pianist?

Released on January 27, 2021

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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

Welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. The subject today is a very important one for those of you who ever thought about becoming a concert pianist or maybe have children you'd like to expose to piano with the hopes that maybe someday they can become concert pianists. The question today is how to become a concert pianist. Well, there are many, many things involved with this. One of the first things I got to say, and I don't want to disappoint any of you out there, but starting young is really important. It can set the foundation and passageways in the brain and all sorts of things that really are helpful.

Are they essential? There are always exceptions, but I'd say starting young is definitely... If you look at so many concert pianists, they not only started playing young, many of them were child prodigies concertizing as children. Some of those people evolve into great artists. Many of them go by the wayside because the transition from being a child prodigy to a concert artist later in life is not an easy one for many, many reasons, emotional as well as coming into one's own as an adult, figuring out what you want to do and all of that. Not to mention the fierce competition.

So what other things are important? Well, I got to say also some of it is just inborn. You got to have the DNA because there's so many different facets of intelligence and physiology that come into play to be a concert pianist. To be able to amass scores in your head, the dexterity to be able to play with your fingers complex passages, to be able to hear things acutely, there are things that are... The coordination of the eyes and the hands, so many aspects that obviously somebody who's born with these natural skillsets is going to have a much easier time.

I can tell you from years of teaching there's a dramatic difference in how different people learn. Some people learn much more quickly. Yet interestingly, because there are so many different facets involved in playing the piano, some people have tremendous gifts in some areas and not others. For example, somebody might have perfect pitch but be rhythmically disabled, where the simplest counting to a metronome might be... Just totally elude them, have to work 10 times harder at rhythm than as somebody else. Or it could be the other way around. There are so many aspects to playing the piano. Just because you have weaknesses and strengths doesn't mean that you can or cannot become a concert pianist. You must develop your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.

What else is there? Obviously, training. Great training from a young age is ideal, but at some point to become a concert artist, you must have absolutely superb training at some point along the line, hopefully in your formative years because if you have poor training and you're playing sloppily and you're already an adult, being able to unlearn and relearn proper piano technique and musicianship is a daunting task that few people will endure that kind of intensive work to relearn something that's been ingrained for years and years and years.

Also of vital importance is exposure to music. You have to live it and breathe it and hear it. Go to concerts, listen to recordings. If you're in a family of musicians, of course you're surrounded by it and that's great, but there are some people who they just, for some reason, just take to the piano and they're the only ones in their family.

Every single thing I'm saying here, by the way, I want you just realize that there are exceptions to every one of these things I'm saying because there's not a cookie cutter way to become a concert pianist. Don't get discouraged if you don't check all these boxes and you have hopes for yourself to become a concert artist.

Now, there's also the commitment involved. You have to have an unwavering commitment to become a concert artist. If it's something you kind of want to do and you think, "Oh, well, let's see what happens. Maybe I'll give up if I don't get it by the time I'm such and such an age," that's not really a recipe for success in any field, much less the piano which is so highly competitive.

Speaking of being competitive, how about competitions as an avenue? Well, competitions are one of the few ways to get noticed and recognized for your achievements on the piano. But today, there are more fine pianists out there than you can even imagine, so many more than have ever been around in the world and keeps growing. People coming out of music conservatories everywhere. China in particular has so many, tens of thousands of pianos, and many of them on an increasingly high level. So competitions, yes. They're not for everyone, but they really should be if you want to be a concert pianist because it's one of the few ways to put yourself on the line, see how you stack up. Even if you don't win a competition, you might be recognized by some of the concert artists who are judges. Even if they don't pick you, they might keep you in mind for something. You might develop a relationship with somebody. So competitions, I think, are an important component if you want to become a concert pianist.

Now beyond that, even if you win competitions, sustaining a career or even forming career as a concert artists is incredibly difficult. Being versatile, being able to play different styles of music, different ensembles and having some kind of creative approach... To be able to bring something to the table that's different for everyone else playing the same music but maybe just a little better, is that enough? Well, there's so many thousands, tens of thousands of really accomplished pianists that just playing another Beethoven Moonlight Sonata brilliantly isn't enough. Even playing some of the hardest literature, there are lots and lots of people who do that. But if you can have a vision for programming or some comprehensive idea of how to expose audiences to music in new and creative ways, that's a way that maybe you can carve out a career for yourself not with the herd of other people all going to the competitions while you're doing something else over here that's capturing attention, and maybe you get some success for yourself.

These are all different aspects that go into becoming a concert pianist. If it's something that you really have a passion for and you're willing to be versatile and creative in your approach, you can make a life in piano. You can develop your playing to a concert level if you have the aptitude, the willingness and the training to make it happen. Anybody who has questions out there, I welcome them from you. And my Patreon, I can give you even more personal attention. Thanks so much for joining me. Again, I'm Robert Estrin here at, your online piano resource.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Meera Thadani on January 30, 2021 @6:02 pm PST
I would say that the DNA is a very important factor. You come from musical parents and that must have had an enormous influence on your environment as a young child. While there was music in my childhood and I had a mad desire to learn, I simply did not have the facility in my hands. Of all the arts, I think music is the most elusive.
Robert - host, on January 31, 2021 @11:31 am PST
Heredity comes into play in almost any endeavor and music is no exception. What's interesting is how many different skillsets come into play with music! People have dramatically different strengths to leverage playing an instrument.
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