How to Get Good Tone on the Piano

Piano Lessons / general / How to Get Good Tone on the Piano

This is Robert Estrin from, Your Online Piano Store with a great subject today: The fundamental importance of arm weight for producing a good tone on the piano. You might wonder what I’m talking about. Before I get into that, let’s discuss the piano as a unique musical instrument.

What was the first musical instrument ever?

The first musical instrument was obviously the human voice! Every other instrument imitates the human voice to one extent or another. Wind instruments, for example, have a clear connection with breath, flow of the phrase, natural progression from note to note, and the smoothness of the line. This is intrinsic not just to vocal performance, but also all wind instruments. String instruments have the bow to create the sense of line like the breath in singing.

What is the analog for the breath on the piano?

You might think, since phrases naturally ebb and flow like ocean waves, that you can simply calculate playing each note louder and louder towards the middle of the phrase, then gradually softer and softer towards the end of the phrase. However, if you try that, you’ll end up with a calculated performance. No surprise there! The secret of creating a smooth line at the piano is, gradually increasing and decreasing arm weight by transferring smoothly from note to note, growing toward the middle of the phrase, and diminishing toward the end of the phrase.

You can try it for yourself!

Play a phrase once while calculating each note getting progressively louder, then progressively softer. Then try playing the same phrase but using the continuous arm weight that ebbs and flows. You’ll find that no matter how much you try to craft the line based upon your musical inclinations, the first version will sound calculated. That is, after all, exactly what you are doing! When you play the phrase again, remember to use the concept of the breath by utilizing the natural weight of your arm. Instead of pushing down more, just support the weight of your arm with your fingers. Lean into it the keys even after initially playing them. Lean more toward the middle of the phrase and less toward the end. You’ll find that this creates a completely different sound. There is something engaging about imposing upon a phrase the idea of the breath and letting the notes flow naturally with that overarching concept. It creates a singing line that belies the reality of the percussive nature of the piano.

I’m interested in your impressions of how this works for you. If any of you have different ways of achieving the same sound, I’d love to hear from you! Once again, this is Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Store.