How Many Levels of Pianissimo Are There?

Piano Lessons / questions / How Many Levels of Pianissimo Are There?

Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about playing pianissimo. How many different levels of soft playing are there on the piano? By the end of this video, I’m going to reveal the answer to you!

There are different levels of quiet.

So many times, pieces of music are written to be played softly or even very softly. For example, Clair de Lune is written pianissimo at the beginning and stays pianissimo for a long time. Does that mean you should play that entire section as quietly as possible? I’m going to give you a little analogy. Just imagine you’re with someone who’s very dear to you, and you’re having a tender conversation. Maybe it’s late at night when other people are sleeping and you’re whispering. As you’re whispering, you’re saying very important, personal things about yourself. There’s some animation, and there’s tenderness. It’s all quiet, but there are different levels of quiet, aren’t there?

There must be nuanced expression in your pianissimo playing.

When you are playing quietly, there is nuance of expression, just as there would be in a tender conversation with a loved one. You must have expression in your playing. So the question is: how many levels of soft are there? And the answer is that there’s an infinite range of soft expression, just like dividing halfway between two points again and again and again. There is no limit to how much expression you can bring to a well-regulated piano while maintaining a pianissimo dynamic. I want you to try this with your music and see how many different levels of soft playing you can achieve, getting the maximum expression in your music. Let me know how it works for you in the comments here at and on YouTube! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel!

Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you!

6 thoughts on “How Many Levels of Pianissimo Are There?”


  1. Debussy always advocated for softer and softer playing. In addition to using the soft pedal, he would close the lid to the piano to muffle the sound further. When playing Debussy ppp, I found that you can keep the damper down longer, allowing for wonderful blending.

    1. There is an art to the use of pedals particularly in Debussy. Half-pedaling, as well as the use of both the una corda and sostenuto pedals in combination with the damper pedal helps to create many different colors of sound.

  2. This is strange but yet most important listening skill to develop with your playing.Students do not realise sometimes they play on a loud piano ,,,most probably in a bad condition.They then just polay the notes and ignore any artistic enhancement.
    Teaching them to nplay piano indifferent levels will ensure their level of understanding how to make sure the correct dynamics are portrayed .You can mute yourself and your playing from p—pp etc. The ability to play soft to very soft has an immense gateway for better performances from young teenagers.Thank you , and it is excellent advice.Thank you.

    1. Adjusting to instruments, particularly worn out pianos that have harsh, ugly sounds can make developing a sense of tone production on the piano incredibly difficult. It is ideal to have the opportunity to play a variety of pianos to get a sense of what is possible with the sounds you create on the piano.

  3. Thank you, I agree with your great reply .The students are not always in a fortunate position.I as a teacher do make them aware of the state the piano is in and then we think of inventive ways to cope !
    But the main idea is definately to play on different pianos and even keen to discuss the piano’s weakness . We definately have a few other better pianos around in the College for performance classes.

    1. When I was studying at the music conservatory, I would always check out recital hall anytime I was nearby to see if anyone was in there. If not, I would play until I was kicked out. Just a few minutes on a fine concert grand made my practicing so much more productive throughout the rest of the day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine + 16 =