Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Secrets of Piano Voicing

An important technique to master for any pianist

In this video, Robert teaches you what "piano voicing" is and how to use it for your piano playing.

Released on August 14, 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

This is Robert Estrin at with a really interesting presentation for you today, which is secrets of piano voicing. Did you know that the voicing on the piano is intrinsically different when you're playing loud from when you're playing soft? What do I mean by that? What I mean is that the balance between the notes on your hands is different when playing loud compared to playing softly. Here's how it works. Basically, when you're putting a lot of energy and playing really loudly on the piano, you could play everything loud, and the melody will come right through for you. When you play softly though, you have to delineate the top notes, or they get lost.

I'm going to demonstrate with the Chopin 20th prelude, the famous C minor play, which I've never studied, which is why I have the score here. I'm going to play the beginning and it's fortissimo, so I'm going to play all the notes and the chords equal volume. Yet, you will easily be able to discern the top notes, the melody.

I was playing everything equal volume, all the notes and the chords on both hands. Now, the next section is piano. Now, I'm going to play a piano, but I'm going to play all the notes in equal volume like I did playing forte in the previous phrase, and you'll see how the melody gets all but lost.

Now, listen to the difference. By reaching with the top fingers, you can delineate the top notes. Now, I'm not saying you must delineate the top notes in this particular piece, by the way, because there is more than one way that you can approach the balance of voicings within this prelude. But for the sake of this presentation of how to bring out the melody, assuming the melody is on the top where it usually resides, listen to the difference in the tone now. Bring out top notes playing quietly.

Did he hear the beauty of that? Just so you can compare it again, I'm going to play the next phrase, which is very similar, although it's even quieter, pianissimo. I'll take the quarter for this. I'll play it first the wrong way, playing as if it's loud, everything equal. You'll see it gets lost. It's lifeless.

Now, reaching for the top notes.

Now, what's great about this little lesson is that you can try this with all your music and go find that the more quietly you play, the more exaggerated the difference between melody and harmony must be. Because of the natural acoustics of the piano, which when you play aloud everything, you could hear everything clearly, but the quieter you play, the more attention you have to bring to your melody. I hope this has been helpful for you. Again, Robert Estrin here at Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on October 9, 2019 @12:59 pm PST
A repertoire question: Would you have any recommendation about what selections from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier a student should attempt? I can play the Fugue in Bb from Book One, and of course the Prelude No 1 in C. Do you have any favourites, or relatively easy pieces that you can recommend? Thanks!
Robert - host, on October 10, 2019 @11:30 am PST
The Bach Preludes and Fugues are substantial works of music. While there are some that are easier than others (like the C minor and D minor book I, for example), perhaps a better choice for study if these works are too complex is to tackle a bunch of 2-part inventions. These works offer counterpoint with only 2 lines which is substantial enough to gain the ability to tackle more complex Preludes and Fugues later on.
Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on October 13, 2019 @4:32 pm PST
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mr. Estrin. I've already mastered several two-part Inventions. I think I'm going to tackle the Prelude and Fugue in F Major from Book 1.
François Leroux on August 21, 2019 @10:46 am PST
Merci beaucoup Robert for this insight and approach to piano voicing which is rarely emphasized but so crucial to render in any context, practice, house or public concerts. My next few practices will include this so that it becomes a "second nature" to my both piano and guitar exercises.
À bientôt...
Joyce Marshall on August 20, 2019 @12:10 pm PST
ok I get the idea, ie. play the melody clearer than the supporting notes. Any suggestions how to do this. If you have a four note chord in the right hand how do you define the melody note.
wayne russell * VSM MEMBER * on August 19, 2019 @3:25 am PST

I noticed that you use an Ipad for your music often and I wondered if you see any benefits other than simply convenience.
Robert - host, on August 19, 2019 @12:00 pm PST
There are several benefits to using an iPad for music. First, you have a complete library anywhere you go without having to carry a stack of music. Secondly, you can easily turn the pages either with a simple swipe or using AirTurn wireless pedals. You also don't have to worry about lighting. If you have an Apple Pencil, you can put markings in the score. For ensemble players there are even ways of collaborating with other musicians providing a way to work as a bandleader creating shared playlists and other techniques.
wayne russell * VSM MEMBER * on August 20, 2019 @2:41 am PST
Thanks, Robert!

I was thinking of the page turning and lighting as well, butb was not aware of the Apple pencil. I will check iit out! My only concern is that the Ipad may not be as dependable as the sheet music!
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