Robert Estrin - piano expert

Technique vs Musicality

A classic debate among musicians and music lovers

In this video, Robert tackles a classic debate: What's more important? Technique or Musicality?

Released on January 29, 2020

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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. This is The question today is, which is more important, technique or musicality? Now, I can already hear it. There's going to be a lot of opinions about the subject, but truth be known, you can't really separate technique from musicality, not completely. So let's talk about what is technique anyway? In its most abstract form, you might think of technique as being kind of the physical capabilities, how fast, how loud, the control, trills, octaves, all of that stuff. But in its essence, technique is being able to produce on the instrument, whether it's a piano or whatever instrument, what you hear in your head, being able to, in the outer world create something from your inner world. Ultimately that is the secret of technique.

So now as to which is more important, let's, for example, pretend for a moment that there is somebody out there, they just want technique. They don't care about the music. So what are they doing? They're just creating a, almost like a sporting event. How fast, how loud, and can you really achieve something with that? You might think that if somebody could play faster and louder and slower and more delicately and every kind of nuance of touch on such a high level, that they would probably have a career because they'd be so phenomenal. The truth of the matter is that people who have tremendous techniques on the piano and other instruments, who could play all the hardest pieces of the literature and play accurately and play with power and speed and fluency is very common. Believe it or not, I know most people haven't met concert pianists, but there are so many countless concert pianists around the world you've probably never heard of, who, if you heard them, you'd be astounded thinking they're the greatest pianists in the world because they can play so well.

So what does it take then? Well, let's talk about the musicality. Can you be musical without technique? Well, just imagine if you considered yourself to be a writer and you've got great stories, but you couldn't really write and you really weren't a good orator either. You have to have a command of language in order to be able to express anything in writing.

Well, it's the same thing with music. You can't just have musicality abstracted from technique. It takes a technique to be able to produce the music. Now here's the good news. The piano repertoire is so vast that someone who is a relative beginner, if they have a natural emotion in their music, if a teacher guides them with appropriate level of music, it's possible to play musically even with a very, very basic technique. For example, a piece that I loved as a kid and taught countless times by Cuthbert Harris from the book ABC Manuals, which has been out of print for decades, but it's a wonderful beginning book. Listen to this piece and I remember as a kid and I even have recordings of it.

Sometime, I'll dig it up and post it for you because I taught this piece so many times. I heard so many kids play it and nobody did what I did with it, which was to play it very slowly, first of all. Usually kids, the more they get to know a piece, the faster it goes. And it's like, "Come on. Whoa, horsey slow it on down." But listen to what can be done with this relatively simple piece of music that doesn't take much technique, but you can achieve a great deal just with the voicing of the notes if you hear it.

So if you want to explore musical possibilities and total control, the secret is choosing a piece of music that you can have total command over. I know many of you want to play certain pieces of music you've heard your whole life and you love them so much, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you spend all your time with music that is above your level, if which you could play honestly what you hear in your head and achieve it on the instrument. Start with that premise and you will develop a technique in service of the music, which is what it's all about. You can't really separate them. And that's the lesson for today. Love to hear from all of you. Once again, I'm Robert Estrin here at, your online piano store. You can subscribe and ring the bell and you'll be hearing lots more videos coming your way. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Janet Nelson * VSM MEMBER * on January 29, 2020 @5:52 am PST
Please tell me the name of that piece of piano music you played.
JJK on January 29, 2020 @4:47 am PST
Absolutely spot on!!
Perfectly expressed.
Thank you!
Robert - host, on January 29, 2020 @8:01 pm PST
Glad you like it - thanks!
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