Technique vs Musicality

Piano Lessons / music theory / Technique vs Musicality

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is Today’s topic is “Technique vs Musicality” There will be a lot of opinions about this subject. But truth be known, you can’t really separate technique from musicality completely.

What is technique?

In its most abstract form, you might think of technique as being the physical capabilities, how fast, how loud, the control, trills octaves, etc. But in its essence, technique is being able to produce on the instrument what you hear in your head. Being able to create something in the outer world from your inner world. Ultimately, that is the secret of technique.

Is technique more important than musicality?

Pretend for a moment that somebody out there just wants technique. They don’t care about the musicality. They’re just making it into a sporting event. Can you really achieve something with that? You might think that if somebody could play faster and louder, or slower and more delicately, and every nuance of touch on such a high level, that they would probably have a career because they’d be so phenomenal. But the truth is, having tremendous technique on the piano is very common. Believe it or not. I know most people haven’t met concert pianists, but there are so many concert pianists around the world who you’ve probably never heard of. If you heard them, you’d be astounded thinking that they’re greatest pianists in the world because they can play so well.

Now let’s talk about musicality.

Can you be musical without technique? Well, just imagine if you considered yourself to be a writer. You’ve got great stories, but you can’t really write and you aren’t a good orator either. You have to have a command of language in order to be able to express anything in writing! It’s the same thing with music. You can’t have musicality abstracted from technique. It takes a technique to be able to produce music. Here’s the good news: The repertoire for piano 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 basic technique.

Even beginners can play with musicality.

There’s a piece by Cuthbert Harrison from the book, “ABC Manuals” that I loved as a kid and taught countless times. Because I taught this piece so many times, I heard a lot of kids play it and nobody did what I did with it, which was to play it very slowly. Usually with kids, the more they get to know a piece, the faster it goes. But so much can be done with this relatively simple piece of music that doesn’t take very much technique. You can achieve a great deal of musicality just with the voicing of the notes.

Technique and musicality are both necessary for any musician.

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 for your whole life and that you love so much. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you spend all your time with music that is above the level at which you can play 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 technique and musicality. You need to have both in order to achieve greatness on your instrument. And that’s the lesson for today!

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!