Robert Estrin - piano expert

Has Technology Ruined Art? Part I: Technology's Impact

Learn how the Internet has changed the world of music

In this first video of a 3-part series, Robert talks about how technology has impacted music in ways similar to other disciplines.

Released on August 31, 2016

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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. Welcome to and

Today, we start the first of a three-part series about technology's impact on music. Today's question is a loaded question. I'm sure it'll elicit many strong responses. The question is, "Has technology ruined music?" I'm sure there are many people who have strong emotions about the subject, but I going to try to break it down in an honest, balanced way for you to see what impact has technology had on music.

Well, it's very easy to look at current technologies and say, "Well, where there used to be live music, now they have DJs, and some musicians are put out of work and don't feel good about that." Or, other people might hear electronic dance music and say, "That's not music. In my day we played bowed instruments." There's all kinds of strong feelings, but get a little bit of perspective for a moment.

There was a time before the piano existed, before the harpsichord existed, where these were new-fangled technologies. Where, really, the original instrument, the human voice, that was the supreme instrument. And then people would bang things. And flutes developed quite early, relatively. So all of these are really technologies. So you have to ask yourself, "Did the coming of the piano ruin the harpsichord?" Some would argue yes. There are people who still specialize in baroque music and play the harpsichord in favor of the piano.

So this is really the crux of the matter. In some ways, yes, societies do move on and the technologies of each age impact the art, not just music, but all art. Architecture, for example, is a classic example. There is art in architecture and the architecture of today is dramatically different from years ago. Some people revere the old and yet there's some spectacular new art.

So ultimately, it's the nut behind the wheel. It is the person making the expression that makes all the difference in the world. These are merely tools. You might not like how some people have utilized newer tools relative to older tools, but that doesn't mean that the tools themselves have any flavor one way or the other. They're just vehicles of expression.

So while it might seem that there might be preponderance of music that you might not like because maybe a lot of it is controlled with computers or people who can't even play a musical instrument. And particularly school musicians have worked hard to master a traditional instrument might feel somehow cheated by people out there, successfully in some cases, utilizing technologies that they don't have the faintest idea how to operate or even care for the sounds.

But the good news is that we can all make our music in whatever ways that you enjoy. And there's always an audience for great music, whatever it is, whether it's the human voice or a synthesizer.

So that's my opinion. I'd love to hear from all of you. I'm bound to get a lot of different impressions and opinions on the subject. So send them to me, and we'll go through those. And I'll respond to some of the interesting questions in future videos for you.

Again, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Lucky Lucy * VSM MEMBER * on April 13, 2022 @7:34 pm PST
Well presented. I think it would be impossible for anything to ruin music. Over time, public perception/reception to various types of music changes, now faster than ever with the internet. Anything that produces audible vibrations in air is fair game to make music with, digital or not. Some music may not be your taste but you can still learn from it. Mockingbirds broadcast amazing combinations of everything they have ever heard and then some. And some pretty weird sounds come out. No matter how you do it with music, when bodies are compelled to move or perhaps souls are stirred (maybe even your own as you perform), you've done your job.
Robert - host, on April 14, 2022 @7:43 am PST
Yes, music is ultimately a language. And there are many different languages of music. Everyone has their own tastes of music they identify with.
Joseph B. Sarnowski on April 13, 2022 @6:39 am PST
This is the question that most people do not think about, What do you do when the power goes out? So much of technology depends on computers and electronics. Will the string grand piano go the way of the 42 key piano?
Robert - host, on April 13, 2022 @11:02 am PST
An acoustic piano is always there (to play by candlelight if necessary!)
Brr * VSM MEMBER * on February 1, 2017 @8:05 am PST
I stumbled on your videos, just simply well-presented, and cover the right subjects. I was schooled 9 years in piano most were doctorate prepared instructors, and have played 38 years. Many topics/strategies you've addressed weren't discussed...and I only 'became aware of ' thereafter thru the natural course of playing. So there's many 'aha' moments for me w/ your videos. Several of your topics are scarcely recognized or addressed in realm of 'piano education/information'... of which I've discovered are inseparable to playing. Your approach to learning or tackling particular techniques are the best in my opinion. Thank you for taking the time to present your accumulated knowledge... I'm grateful for your information...of which I've found in past 30 years to be critical in daily playing
Robert Estrin - host, on February 2, 2017 @12:22 pm PST
So glad these videos are helpful for you. There are more in the works!
Mike Vitale * VSM MEMBER * on September 4, 2016 @5:05 am PST
Robert - that was a very good objective perspective on this subject. I look forward to the next two parts on this topic. I definitely can see both sides of the debate. I am both a musician and a technologist, and believe there are is continuum through which technology can support or be incorporated into the creation of art. The musicality of the result seems to follow the same criteria with or without the technology.
Bill * VSM MEMBER * on August 31, 2016 @2:38 pm PST
Technology in the form of the Finale software has allowed me to finally, after decades of thinking about it, compose music for orchestra and chorus. Some perhaps would say that has ruined music.
paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on August 31, 2016 @2:24 pm PST
Well there are modern technology pieces that have made it to mainstream, don't they ? Jean-Michel Jarre Equinoxe, or Tubular bells for instance.
There are solo musicians that use repeaters so they can add several voices to their performance while still playing the pieces all alone, and produce up to 8 voice music, maybe even more.
Not sure all of them will make it into endless posterity, but just look at the added value of George Martin, turning with his studio recording techniques The Beatles into an all time classic repertoire ...
Thanks for another interesting video.
Norman Ortiz on August 31, 2016 @1:05 pm PST
Robert, you have done an excellent job addressing many aspects of the question of musical technology in a very concise manner. By touching the historical perspective, the emotional impact, as well as educational and artistic issues, you have shown us the natural progression of how technology enters into and influences our modern musical lives. As a professional pianist and educator myself, regardless of my views and/or bias towards technology in today's music, I can appreciate the exceptional opportunities that are afforded our young and future musicians through some of the incredible technology available these days. I look forward to your next segment on this topic. Cheers, Norm
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on August 31, 2016 @11:23 am PST
Nothing will ever beat the sound of a good piano! I listen to WETA all the time and I can tell when a very old recording has been "digitized" as the only way to preserve it, I suppose.
Chad Kurtzman * VSM MEMBER * on August 31, 2016 @9:41 am PST

My issue with technology and art is not a resistance to change. It's that it is now outpacing our ability to adjust to it. In the past changes happened at a slower pace allowing people time to warm to it, or not. Now, I feel, as humans we are not really ready to make so many artistic preference decisions at this new rapid tempo.

Marvin Conrad * VSM MEMBER * on August 31, 2016 @8:12 am PST
Thanks, I agree with everything you said, from the listener point of view. As for the artist's point of view, well, I'm a 75 year old work in progress.
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