7 Basic Steps to Perfect Your Sight-reading

March 19th, 2015 — 4:23pm

So many of us feel inadequate when it comes to sight-reading. Just the mention of it can make you start to feel uneasy!

So here are 7 simple steps to help you to perfect your sight-reading. (Bear in mind that these are not a substitute for regular practice, though!)

1. Identify the key of the piece (check the key signature and the last note in the bass).

2. Identify the time signature

3. Check the range of notes in each hand (the highest and the lowest) and find them on the piano.

4. Check the ‘musical words’ (i.e. something your eye can recognise as a word without spelling out each note, like repeated notes or scale passages).

5. Hum the tune to get a feel for the rhythm and pace (like a human heartbeat).

6. Do a quick check on accidentals, tied notes, dotted rhythms, articulation (legato/staccato) and basic dynamics (forte, piano, crescendo, diminunendo, subito).

7. AND OFF YOU GO! SMILE AND DO NOT STOP, NO MATTER WHAT! JUST KEEP GOING, while maintaining the most important thing: the pulse of the music!*

*If you transpose the tune to another key you will still be able to recognize it, but if you change the pulse of the piece, you may not recognize the tune!

Recommend a friend for a piano lesson at the Piano-Yoga® School and once they have booked their lesson, you will receive yours completely free of charge! Click HERE for more details.

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How to Improve Your Rhythm in 1 Hour

February 24th, 2015 — 5:11pm

There are many books which attempt to solve the mystery of rhythmatic problems. These problems could be caused by, for example poor coordination, or inability to feel the rhythm, or some particular medical condition. Thus it is very hard to find one approach which works for everyone.

However, I have a strategy which, when implemented correctly, could help with this issue and improve your sense of rhythm fairly quickly.

It is very simple. It is based on my understanding that every person, in fact, every living being (animal, insect, even plant), has their own tempo-rhythm: the way they breath, move, speak, etc. . . .

Tempo-rhythm also changes according to what state we are in: if we feel agitated or excited, our breathing becomes faster, we move and walk quicker whilst, on the other hand, if we are tired or traumatised, all our actions slow down. This state usually changes throughout the day and even during sleep, depending on the dreams that we are having.

Every piece of music also has it’s own tempo-rhythm. If it is a Waltz, it is in 3/4 time, if it’s a March, it is in 4/4, if it’s a Tarantella, it’s in 6/8 and so on, each having it’s own very strong identity. It is important to recognise this. In fact, did you know that, if you change the key of the piece, it still will be recognisable, but if you change the rhythm, then you may not be able to recognise the piece at all?

Therefore, if you would like to master the rhythm of the piece, you need to do this in 2 stages:

Stage 1: Adjust the tempo-rhythm of the piece to your personal one. This is obvious, as when you start learning the notes and fingering, you cannot immediately play the piece at it’s final tempo-rhythm with the effortless and steady rhythm that it requires. You need extra time to learn many elements, and very often at the beginning, you play much slower than the required tempo, and your rhythm may not be consistent.

However, once you have mastered these problems, then you start

Stage 2: Adjust your own tempo-rhythm to the one of the piece.  What it means is that you need to feel the beat, and the easiest way to do that is to adjust your breathing. Try to breathe ‘in’ to coincide with a specific number of beats, and the same for ‘out’ breaths. (For example: 1- 2 ‘in’ and 1 – 2 ‘out’, or 1- 2- 3 ‘in’ and 1 – 2- 3 ‘out’). The breathing should be natural and not forced. After a few seconds, your body will adjust itself and after a few minutes you may even forget that you breathing this way.

Note of caution: make sure that you do not breathe from the upper part of your chest, as this will cause hyperventilation, which, in turn, can lead to all sorts of problems like dizziness, headaches and high blood pressure. Breath lightly from your abdominal area, and see how the piece flows. To practice this, just put your palm on your abdomin and take a few breaths in and out.

In the whole of my teaching practice, I have only seen one student who was incapable of doing so. He was in his late 60th and found it very difficult to control his breathing. For him this method did not work.

However, the majority of people have found this way of working immensely useful. Why not give it a try? It may solve all your rhythm problems in an hour as, with correct breathing, your phrasing will change and your playing will become more stable and consistent. Your whole body language will become aligned with the rhythm and style of the piece.

Do let me know how you get on!

Written by GéNIA

For more tips on how to improve your playing visit our Piano-Yoga Masterclass® with GéNIA at Pizza Express Jazz Club, 10 Dean Street, London W1D 3RW, on Sunday, 8th March 2015 at 10:30am-12:30 pm. View the webpage here for more info.

Russian virtuoso pianist, GéNIA, is an acclaimed pioneer on the classical music scene, with numerous TV and radio appearances. The founder of Piano-Yoga® , ‘the first entirely new piano technique to emerge in over 50 years’, GéNIA was taught by her great-grandmother, the renowned pedagogue Regina Horowitz (sister of pianist Vladimir Horowitz) and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her eclectic repertoire embraces classical and multimedia projects. With releases for Black Box and Nonclassical labels, she worked with numerous key figures in the music industry. A visionary pedagogue, GéNIA also founded the Piano-Yoga® Music School in London and gradated  from the Life Centre, London in 2008 as qualified BWY Yoga Teacher. 

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Recent News from Piano-Yoga®

February 2nd, 2015 — 10:39am

Recent News From Piano-Yoga2014

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GéNIA Featured on Mark Tully’s BBC Radio 4 Program

January 12th, 2015 — 11:47pm

bbc-radio-4Piano-Yoga® GéNIA was recently featured on Mark Tully’s BBC Radio 4 program that includes Mr Iyengar’s interview and music from Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, Beethoven as well as GéNIA playing Gabriel Prokofiev. You can listen by clicking the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04xkgsv

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GéNIA Student Philip Balkan Wins 1st and 3rd prizes in November.

January 6th, 2015 — 2:21pm

Philip Balkan 1st stage of London EPTA Piano CompetitionGéNIA’s Student Philip Balkan won two prizes in Autumn last year.

He won 1st prize (Medal + a Special Prize awarded by the Kensington Chimes) at the Around the Globe Piano Music Festival (in a Recital class - age 13-14)  on 22 November 2014. On 16th December he claimed his 2nd win in November by winning 3rd prize at the West London Annual Pianoforte Festival in the under 16 category.

Congratulations Philip!

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How to “un-pollute” your ears

December 31st, 2014 — 3:24pm

Usually, we don’t notice the vast array of sounds that we process on a daily basis. Noise from the radio, blaring televisions, even the noise of traffic and conversations between commuters bombard our ears from the moment we wake up. In a big city, all kinds of noises are absorbed by our ears – from the music on building sites playing to no one in particular, to the rubbish collectors announcing their presence noisily in the morning. At times there seems to be no escape.

Do you sometimes wonder why you occasionally feel inexplicably tired?

According to the House Research Institute (www.hei.org)  ‘Normal conversation is measured at a moderate noise level of 50-70 dB [i], while the extreme noise level of a rock concert might be measured at 100-120 dB. Over-exposure to high intensity sound is a leading cause of damage to the sensory “hair” cells in the human ear. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 dB may cause permanent hearing loss. Some examples of loud sounds that can cause NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss) are: Motorcycle/Hair dryer/Lawn mower/Leaf blower  – 85-90 dB; Wood shop/Firecrackers (small) – 100-110 dB; Rock concerts -100-120 dB; Ambulance Siren/Jet Engine at Take-Off/Pneumatic Drill – 119-140 dB.’

According to http://familydoctor.org/ ’Whether noise harms your hearing or not depends on the loudness, the pitch and the length of time you are exposed to the noise. The loudness of a sound (measured in decibels, or dB) and the length of exposure are related. The louder the sound, the shorter the exposure can be before damage occurs. For example, 8 hours of exposure to 85-dB noise on a daily basis can begin to damage a person’s ears over time. Using power tools (which measures around 100 dB), listening to loud stereo headsets (about 110 dB), attending a rock concert (about l20 dB) or hearing a gunshot (at 140 to 170 dB) may damage the hearing of some people after only a few times.’

On top of all those sounds, we are all regularly exposed to the sounds of mobile phones, we use earphones to listen to the music and our ears are pretty crucial to communication in most modern technologies.

So where does it leave us? Shall we just ran away from the busy cities and hide ourselves in woods or desert? Of course not! But we certainly can exercise some control over the sounds that penetrate our life on daily basis and minimize their harmful influence.

Here are some simple and practical tips:

  • Switch off all the equipment that you do not use (radio, TV, washing machine, basically anything that makes sound) and try not to use them all at the same time.
  • If you feel tired, switch off the light. Some lights produce a dull constant noise, which with prolong usage can make you feel strained and lethargic Remember that there are sound frequencies which you may not consciously hear that also affect your hears. To refresh your ears try to place yourself in the dark quiet room for at least 10 minutes.
  • Put some beautiful soft calming music that would ‘take’ you to another dimension: it could be any style (classical, folk, jazz and even pop), as long as it is quiet and switches your mind off.
  • If you are accustomed to using mantras [ii], start repeating it at least 108 times: for example, “NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO,” (Buddhist Mantra) or any mantras that you are familiar with.
  • Take a candle-lit hot bath with relaxing oils and just listen to the sound of water.
  • Go to the countryside, or if you can’t get there, your local park. Let the wind and fresh air clear your mind (having said that, make sure that you ears are protected and warm).
  • Do some yoga poses that involve some slow forward bends. These exercise your lower back and help improve blood pressure.
  • Have some tea – either black or herbal in the dark room or in a natural light.
  • Lie down with the eye mask in a dark room.
  • Do several deep breaths, concentrating on breathing out – if you know the ujjayi breath or lion breath, these could help a great deal.
  • Create your own space when you are among the crowd. Imagine a white light surrounding you and protecting from the crowd, or just concentrate on the task that you are doing, trying consciously to shut the world away.

In general, endeavor to control how much sound you are exposing yourself to. If you live in a busy city, using earplugs can be helpful (although personally I do not like them that much). With a little bit of self-discipline and care, you can start noticing the noise pollution around yourself and, therefore, preserve your ears and your well-being!

Happy chilling,

GéNIA

This blog was written in a busy French Metro, while the author was stuck underground for some time.

Recommend a friend for a piano lesson at the Piano-Yoga® School and once they have booked their lesson, you will receive yours completely free of charge! Click HERE for more details.


[i] Sound pressure levels are measured in decibels (dB)

[ii] In Hinduism Buddhism any sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration and embodying some aspect of spiritual power

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How Much Christmas Piano Practice is Good for you?

December 16th, 2014 — 2:55pm

There are two contrary opinions about how much piano practice is healthy over the holiday period.

On one hand, the opportunity to practice now you finally have free time seems too good to pass up. On the other hand, it could be argued that Christmas is a time for family and relaxation, and it’s only healthy to have some time to yourself – including time away from the piano.

Both are valid and depend very much on what was going on in your life before the holidays. If you’re stressed, always running out of time, it is sometimes good to switch off and fully recharge the batteries.

If however, you have a reasonably quiet lifestyle and prefer to practice in regular, short sessions, you may find it useful to cut yourself off from the world and have a really intense practice period.

From my experience, I would say that 90% of the people I come across  – whether friends, students or colleagues – belong to the first group. Particularly for those who live in busy cities, by the time the Christmas period arrives, many of us feel exhausted, wishing to rest and shut  down completely. Deadlines, Christmas parties, shopping for presents add additional stress to already busy lifestyle, so fitting in an extra 30 minutes a day for scales and arpeggios sometimes proves to be a step too far.

What I also keep noticing with my students, is that once they stop completely, their subconscious mind catches up, and as a result they play better after a good rest. They connect with the music better, and their attention to detail is much greater. It is almost as though the body has finally digested all the work that they have been done before! (Obviously, there must be some work done in the pre-Christmas period, as otherwise there would be nothing to digest!)

Therefore, I would say, that unless you have a big deadline for which you want to prepare, I would advocate for a complete rest! Go for walks, do some exercises, read some books, listen to music, spend the time with your friends and family, avoid your normal working routine and really relax. It is important to separate work from play, and when you play the piano it should be for pleasure. Stressing yourself out too much will not help.

Is this something many of you wanted to hear? :-)

Have a wonderful holidays and Happy New Year!

GéNIA

GéNIA was recently featured on BBC London Radio and she is currently Caffè Nero’s Classical Artist of the month. Her newly released EP ‘Dreams of Today, Thoughts of Tomorrow Vol.2′ can be ordered from iTunes worldwide.

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Piano-Yoga® GéNIA Releases New EP ‘Dreams of Today, Thoughts of Tomorrow Vol.2′

December 9th, 2014 — 2:49pm

Russian virtuoso pianist and composer GéNIA is pleased to announce the release of her new EP, “Dreams of Today, Thoughts of Tomorrow Vol.2” on 14 December 2014. The EP contains 6 solo piano compositions, and is GéNIA’s sophomore EP continuing on from “Dreams of Today, Thoughts of Tomorrow Vol.1” released in March 2014.

Composed mainly in London, GéNIA’s sophomore EP contains 6 pieces inspired by coffee culture. These compositions have been performed at various concert halls in London and other European cultural hotspots. “I wanted to convey a feeling through my music, one that people experience while having a simple cup of coffee. For some a cup of coffee becomes fundamental and the most important first drink of the day. We often think about our past, present or build plans and hopes for the future, whilst having this cup. For a modern person it becomes a modern day meditation,” says GéNIA.

The EP was recorded at Master Chord Studio in London with engineer Raoul Terzi, on a beautiful Steinway & Sons Concert Grand Piano and produced by Hayden Parsey before being mastered at Metropolis Studios by Grammy award winning engineer Tim Young (The Beatles, Michael Nyman, Massive Attack).

GèNIA will be performing a series of concerts at Caffè Nero Heathrow Terminal 2, one of the largest coffee houses in the world, to launch the EP on 14th and 28th December. GéNIA has also been nominated as Caffè Nero’s classical artist of the month.

 

Tracklist

1. Autumn Blues

2. Happy Planet

3. Departure

4. Mon Amour

5. Storm

6. Russian Song

 

Label: GéNIA MUSIC

Cat No: GENMUS002

Release Date: 14 December 2014

Country: UK

To pre-order your copy from iTunes UK click HERE

To pre-order your copy from iTunes France click HERE

To pre-order your copy from iTunes Russia click HERE

Available from all major digital retailers and streaming services worldwide from 14th December or shortly after.

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Piano-Yoga® Founder GéNIA to Perform at the First Classical Concerts at Heathrow

December 8th, 2014 — 2:14pm
Caffè Nero’s Classical Artist of the month Russian virtuoso pianist and composer GéNIA will play two concerts to celebrate the release of GéNIA’s EP ‘Dreams of Today, Thoughts of Tomorrow’, alongside performances of famous classical piano works.
Receive a free coffee from Caffè Nero Heathrow Terminal 2 on the concert days by quoting “I love GéNIA’s music!”
There will be an opportunity to chat to GéNIA and obtain a limited edition signed copy of her EP (also available on iTunes, Amazon & digital retailers)

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How to Obtain the Best Sitting Position at the Piano. Part 2

November 20th, 2014 — 6:25pm

Please read Part 1 of How to Obtain the Best Sitting Position at the Piano before reading the following:

GéNIA playing with Trinity College Orchestra

GéNIA playing with Trinity College Orchestra

To finalise the perfect sitting position for yourself, however, you would need to answer the following questions:

1. Are you a

A. Beginner or
B. Intermediate/Advanced Player?

2.  Are you establishing the sitting position for

A. Your daily practice or
B. For performing purposes?

 

 

3.     What is the acoustic of the space?

A. Dry
B. Wet

4. What is your body type?

A. Tall upper body
B. Short upper body.

Here are the answers to the questions above:
1A.  For the beginner, you will be unlikely to need to produce a lot of sound or exhibit strength in your playing, so all you would need is to sit correctly, trying to match the 90 degree angle between your upper arm and the keyboard on the length of the forearm, so your fingers are gently resting on the keys and your wrists are in line with your arms and hands. Keep your feet parallel, with legs slightly apart. This is very important, particularly for women players, who are taught from childhood to keep their legs close together, which is appropriate in daily life, but creates tension in the hips if you are playing the piano, and hence negatively affects the playing.

1B. For Intermediate and Advanced players, you would need to analyse what pieces you are playing.

If your music has a lot of fast passages or/and big chords, it would be easier to play it sitting slightly higher, as it is less physically exhausting and makes the playing easier, however, on the downside, it will tend to encourage a few wrong notes, as your ‘grounding’ will be affected and therefore your control of the instrument will be disturbed.

If you sit lower, you will be safer from the control point of view, but it will be more tiring to play. Also, you would need to watch out that your wrists don’t go lower then the hands (for more then a few seconds), as this could lead to all sorts of hand problems.

2A. If you are sitting in your practice studio, then it is good to challenge yourself and work from the traditional position described above.

2B. However if you are playing in a concert hall, it is OK to work with the acoustic of the space: sit higher if you need to produce more sound, as your whole body will contribute to producing more sound (very useful for people with a small frame), or sit lower if the keys of the piano are too light and the acoustics of the space are ‘booming’, forcing you to be extra careful not to play everything loudly.

3. Please refer to the 2B answer above.

4. This is very interesting point:

4A. If your upper body is quite long, then your chair would be always placed in a lower position then the chair of someone with a shorter upper body. This is important to remember if you are performing in a concert or exam, where you are not the only person who is playing.

To be on the safe side, particularly if you do not have an opportunity to rehearse on the instrument before performing, make sure to reproduce the seating position that you adopt at home (the height of your sitting position in relation to the instrument) and try to recreate it at the new venue. You may not be able to react to factors like the touch of the instrument or acoustics of the venue, but at least you will feel more grounded, which is so essential for a confident performance.

4B. Please refer to the answer in 4A.

At the end of the day, establishing the best seating position is a very individual factor, as many of us have unbalanced right and left sides, different physique, various hearing abilities and many other factors, so it is always very interesting and rewarding to find the position that works best for you. This is why various great performers sit completely differently. The correct seating position could considerably improve the quality of your playing without you even practicing! If you follow the guidelines above you will definitely be on the right track.

Here is an excellent example of the optimum seating position -  Artur Rubinstein.

Happy Practising & Enjoy Finding your Unique Position!

GéNIA

GéNIA’s Piano-Yoga® Book is available here.

Piano-Yoga® also offer a course of Skype lessons if you have trouble making it to London. Click HERE to find out more information and to book.

To read further on how to obtain the best sitting position here is the very informative blog from Classical Mel, with which we could not agree more!

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