Robert Estrin - piano expert

Should You Play Famous Pieces of Music?

Sometimes playing less well-known pieces can be valuable

In this video, Robert offers advice and an interesting perspective on an uncommon question.

Released on October 15, 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, I'm Robert Estrin here at and with a great question: should you play famous pieces? Now this is a really interesting question. Should you play famous pieces? Well, of course, so many people study an instrument because there's a certain piece or group of pieces that they absolutely love and they want to play them, and chances are they're pretty popular because they've been exposed to them.

Now, there's no real harm in playing famous pieces. However, by studying pieces that you may not be familiar with, it presents challenges that are important to overcome. If you've heard a piece many times, it can act as a crutch to learning it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in some circumstances, but it's essential that you be able to learn pieces that you haven't heard before.

Now what about in public performance? Is better to play famous pieces or pieces that are less known? There are certainly a wealth of great, great music that are not that well known. Beethoven, after all, wrote 32 piano sonatas. Most people are only familiar with a handful of them. Well, if you choose a famous piece, you might think the competition is fierce because people are familiar with them, and you're being compared to all the other pianists, if you're a pianist or violinist, all the other instrumentalists out there.

However, when choosing famous people it's actually safer in a lot of ways. That's why Symphonies, they play the same symphonies over and over again, the same piano concertos, the same violin concertos, because audiences will flock to hear the Tchaikovsky B-Flat Minor Concerto. Even though they may have heard it a hundred times before, they still want to hear it again. So, perhaps the best programming involves some pieces people are familiar with, that it's kind of an anchor and a hook to get them there at all, and then expose them to, maybe, composers that are less familiar to them and pieces, later works of the composers that, maybe, they haven't heard before.

And in studying music, you should definitely pepper your repertoire with not only pieces that you love and know but pieces that are challenges because you haven't heard them, and it's a discovery for you. So this is not a black and white question. I would say a combination's definitely in your best interest. Tackle both, and you will be rewarded with additional skills, and you will also take your audience on a journey from the familiar to the unknown.

Thanks for the great question, and thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Bill * VSM MEMBER * on October 16, 2014 @9:40 am PST
Thank you Robert. I've enjoyed your videos especially about playing famous pieces. I'm a very amateur violin player who has played in community orchestras and love playing pieces alone or with others that I am familiar with. As I play I image that I'm Perelman ( as long as I don't record myself!) But a real challenge it to try to figure out a totally unfamiliar piece, and it's rewarding when I do. Keep doing the videos
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