Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Psychology of Performing - Part 1: Examining

Learn the basic of performance and its secrets.

In this video, Robert begins a conversation about the basics of musical performance and the best way to approach it.

Released on November 26, 2014

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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, and welcome to and Today, a really great subject, the psychology of performing, and this can be a multi-part subject.

Today, I'm going to touch on one of the essential aspects of performing, which is that part of you looking down on yourself and the part of you that runs wild like a child. That's right. There is actually a basic element to performing that encompasses almost left and right brain, and you can't depend on just one of them. So how does this work in the real world? Well, you practice a great deal to be able to play precisely and accurately and yet, in the moment of performance, you want to let yourself go. You want to be able to be creative at that moment and make something of the sound in that room at that moment with that audience with the acoustics with the sound of the piano at that time.

Now if you let yourself go too much, you might lose sense of what you're doing. For example, let's say you're playing a performance and you just go with total abandon. You let the emotions take you where they will and then you find yourself playing a tempo you've never played before. Maybe faster because you got excited by the audience and the sound of the piano. And you realize, "Oh my gosh! I can't play it this fast! I've never practiced it at this tempo!" There's an example where you do need that other part of you, almost like a mother looking down, taking care of yourself. So you have to have these two elements.

Now if you only play with that rational left brain, it can be kind of boring and sterile. After all, a musical performance is not something etched in stone, like a painting is. It's something that only comes to life at that moment of the performance. And it's not one size fits all. If you tried to play exactly the same performance more than once, you could never do it because the variables are different. First of all, just as if you were having a conversation with someone, you could never repeat the exact same conversation. It's impossible because just the passage of time and the perspective you have from one moment to the next changes. So it is with a musical performance.

So ultimately it's the balance of how much you let yourself go and yet, have that other part of you looking down to make sure you don't take too wild a turn in your performance. That balance between left and right brain, the yin-yang. That's what it's all about in a great musical performance. I'd love to hear from you and we'll have future videos exploring other aspects of the psychology of performance. I hope this has been interesting for you. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Sharon R. Boser on November 27, 2014 @4:44 pm PST
I thoroughly enjoy your presentations and perspectives on the many facets of music. I do share these valuable pointers with my piano students. Thank you for sharing
Seun Akin-Ajayi on November 27, 2014 @9:23 am PST
This is really helpful, thanks.
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on November 26, 2014 @2:52 pm PST
Interesting perspective as always. Thanks. However, re the analytical side of the brain...seems that can serve both a positive function (as you describe), as well as at times a negative function (your mind telling you negative things while performing, such as how difficult certain upcoming passages will be, etc.) which can be detrimental to the actual performance. The same problem exists in any difficult performance, whether that is in the realm of music or sports (such as golf). Perhaps you could address this in a future presentation. Thanks again.
Deborah on November 26, 2014 @9:36 am PST
thanks...I recently play a part of the Claude Bolling suite(flute)
it was exciting...and I wondered if I could do it again...
James * VSM MEMBER * on November 26, 2014 @7:49 am PST
Great video! Concerning performance, would you in a future video address ways around performance jitters for those of us who are not too outgoing, and experienced in playing for others.
Robert - host, on November 26, 2014 @11:00 am PST
That's a great subject! Here is a video that may offer you some pointers:
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