How to Project Your Piano Playing in a Hall

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Welcome to I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to project your piano playing in a hall. This isn’t just for when you’re playing in a concert hall. This is actually appropriate for anyone playing in any room. And it’s drastically different from what you might think! I’ll give you an analogy. Let’s say you go to a museum and look at some gorgeous paintings. You see a magnificent impressionist landscape painting from across the room by one of the great French impressionists. And as you get closer, you see the beauty, the colors and the wonderful imagery. But if you get close enough, at a certain point, you just see little jabs of paint all over the canvas. It doesn’t even look like an image anymore! It almost has a grotesque quality to it when you get too close. But when you back up, the beauty of the artwork is revealed.

When you are playing the piano, you are closer to that instrument than anyone who’s listening to you.

You get a skewed idea of the sound you’re creating, because you don’t hear what it sounds like for anybody else. Just like in the museum, being too close to a painting looks angular. If you want your playing to project, particularly in a hall or a church where there’s reverberation, you have to delineate things much more clearly than you ever would imagine. This goes for articulations, phrasings and dynamics. They all have to be exaggerated.

I’ve played in many orchestras as a French hornist. Sometimes a solo is written to be played piano. But a solo that’s written piano for horn, clarinet, oboe, or flute has a much bigger sound when you’re in the orchestra. Because to project even a quiet solo out into the hall requires a tremendous amount of energy. If you play the beginning of a slow movement of a Mozart Sonata in a lackluster fashion, without projecting, as if you just want to hear it for yourself, it may sound fine to you sitting right at the piano. But from even a short distance away someone listening to you probably won’t get a sense of the performance. It’s just out there somewhere and it doesn’t really draw you in. But if you play with much more intensity and articulate all the notes, and more importantly, the line and dynamic changes, then you’ll get something that may sound exaggerated for you. But for someone listening to you, it sounds more distinct. You have to put much more energy into the phrasing. There are bigger rises and falls of dynamics. The articulation, the slurs, and all the little markings are exaggerated and delineated so that it comes through throughout the room. This technique is not just for quiet music. It’s equally important in more heroic music.

This is a really important lesson about how to play for other people.

This is not just for playing in concert halls. Even in your own living room, for people across the room, the sound is dramatically different from sitting right in front of the piano. In order to project your ideas, your interpretation, your musicianship and your concept of the music, you must delineate and exaggerate! It may even have a slightly grotesque quality when you’re playing it, much like looking at an impressionist painting up close. This is because you’re really stretching everything so that it comes across, whether somebody is ten feet away or one hundred feet away. I hope this is a valuable lesson for you!

If you ever have the opportunity to go to a concert hall with a fellow pianist and play for one another, you could try this out for yourself! Or you could even take a recording device. Record it two different ways and see which one you like better! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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3 thoughts on “How to Project Your Piano Playing in a Hall”

  1. Good one! Thank you! I will certainly keep this in mind. Interestingly, regarding your opening and closing improvisation, that seems to be training ME to improvise. I often think of a different sequence of notes after listening to you. Amazing! I was never able to improvise before. And when you present examples, I love it when you play something I have learned. For me, it was the Mozart today, and also the Mozart K.545 that you played recently. I dug out the music for that one, because I hadn’t played it in years, and I’d kinda forgotten about it. And the first time I played it, it was horrible, and afterward my fingers were even tangled for typing! The second time I played it, I started getting it back, and could even play from memory. I didn’t play through the whole thing, but I will get it back into my fingers solidly very soon.

    Regarding the Chopin, that last note I always thought of as one you play quietly, so I disagreed with your interpretation there. Otherwise, I liked it very much.

    1. So glad the performances have inspired you to revisit music you have played! Regarding the last note of the excerpt of Chopin’s 2nd Scherzo in b-flat minor, in the autographed copy of the score, that note is written to be played sforzando.

    2. Your experience is very much like mine. I also think of other possibilities when he plays his improvisations. And I had the same experience with K.545, including the typing tangle! However, he played K.330, which I also played, but not recently. I agree with his interpretation of the last note in the Chopin, although in his second rendition, it was really too much, at least as close as I was (by video). Maybe if I were across the room, it would seem right. His second interpretations were definitely much more vibrant.

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