Robert Estrin - piano expert

Should I major in piano if I want to play in an orchestra?

Discover how a pianist can actually play in an orchestra, with some compromise.

In this video, Robert gives you some advice by answering this question and other related ones. Can a pianist play in an orchestra? If so, how?

Released on August 12, 2015

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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 with a viewer question, "Should I major in piano if I want to play in an orchestra?" This is a great question. You might think, "Sure, why not? I've seen pianos on stage with an orchestra." Well, it's actually a much more complex subject than you might think.

Well, most of the time when you go to the symphony and there's a pianist on stage, they actually aren't a member of the orchestra. They are soloists who's touring though and playing with the orchestra, a concerto. Sometimes, indeed, there are pianos but very rarely most orchestral repertoire does not have a piano in it. They way it works in orchestras is there is one keyboard position, sometimes not even a full time position, for the few occasions where there's piano, maybe harpsichord, even celeste, synthesizer, organ, any keyboard part that keyboardist in the orchestra plays. Some smaller orchestras that don't have full seasons just sub out these jobs oftentimes.

So if it's your dying passion to play in an orchestra, piano might not be the greatest instrument for you. The great thing about the piano is the solo repertoire is larger than all other instruments combined. Not only that but if you're playing with any other musicians, the piano is an intrinsic part. Virtually all the violin, trumpet, French horn, clarinet, flute sonatas all have piano parts to them. So the piano repertoire is immense, not just solo but in chamber music. From piano trio to string quintet, a piano is an intrinsic part of so many groups.

So if you want to play in an orchestra, what is the best instrument to study? Well by and large, the orchestra is composed mostly of string players. So a stringed instrument is a great choice for you. However, I must say that the work it takes to become an accomplished musician, much less a professional, is so immense that you really have to go with your heart. If you go with your passion, you'll be driven to practice enough to get on a good enough level to have a hope of possibly getting a position with an orchestra or as a chamber musician or soloist. So it shouldn't necessarily be a logical decision which instrument to study. Go with what you love and you're bound to practice a lot more.

I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Michael Prozonic * VSM MEMBER * on February 27, 2019 @12:17 pm PST
My grand daughter has played in the school bands and orchestras throughout elementary, middle
and high school playing both clarinet and tuba. She will start college in the fall to major in music education but her favorite concentration is….MARCHING BAND. There is something out there for everyone
Robert - host, on February 28, 2019 @1:27 pm PST
Glad to hear that your music is continuing in your family!
paul plak * VSM MEMBER * on August 14, 2015 @12:16 pm PST
Yes playing in an orchestra is great fun, I've done it several times as an amateur, and you really feel "inside the music" and totally part of the event. Yet playing the piano opens the world of polyphonic music that you can do on your own, unlike what you can do with a string instrument (except for some solo parts like Bach suites). What I found out is that learning the piano will increase your skill at listening to several voices at the same time, identifying each voice separately, and not get lost as easily as if you only ever do one voiced parts.
So if by all means you want to play in a symphonic or chamber orchestra, try to master another instrument, but there's nothings wrong with doing it besides your piano learning, as you will still benefit from your keyboard abilities when playing another instrument, and besides, many baroque chamber orchestra music may have harpsichord parts.
Robert - host, on August 15, 2015 @10:25 am PST
You are right - it's all good. Anything you do in music will help you grow as a musician and offer additional enjoyment.
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