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

GéNIAs 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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How to Obtain the Best Sitting Position at the Piano. Part 1

November 3rd, 2014 — 3:32pm

I am often asked what it the best way to sit at the piano, as various piano teachers recommend different approaches. When we watch famous musicians, we cannot help but notice how differently they sit:  Glen Gould with his unbalanced low sitting position, Arthur Rubinstein with his almost perfect and static way of sitting, Lang Lang who generously uses body movements and Ivo Pogorelich who is very minimal in his physical expression… So how can we decide what is the best way to sit at the piano?

According to the Russian Piano School that I have been taught, you need to sit closer to the edge of the piano stool, with the forearms parallel to the piano, ideally keeping about 90 Degrees between your upper arm and forearm. The distance from the piano should be equal to the length of your forearm. This way gives you a freedom to move your hands correctly and without a restraint.

However, after teaching a number of students over the years and performing myself on different concert platforms, I noticed that sometimes this is not enough.

Why? Because, all the pianos are different: some are loud and some are soft, some have a heavy action and some are light, additionally to that the acoustics of each venue vary from one another, ranging from ‘dry’, where the player needs to give more sound, to ‘wet’, where the sound needs to be carefully controlled, as otherwise the venue amplifies the sound.

On top of that students have different physique, where some are tall and limber, and some are petite and prone to rigidity. Sometimes the upper body is considerably longer than the lower part, or vice versa. All this needs to be taking into consideration when you play the piano. So how can one find the best sitting position?

First of all there are some basic rules that apply to all body types, all kinds of pianos and all environments. This is my personal conclusion, reached after experimenting a lot on myself and with the help of my wonderful students. The method is represented in detail in my book,  “Piano-Yoga®: Transform Your Hands” in Chapter 1: Preliminary Piano-Yoga®, Exercise 6. However, here I will give you a quick outline: the main objective for finding the best sitting position at the piano, is that you need to feel grounded at all times. So what exactly does it mean, and how is this achieved?

Sit, as described above, closer to the edge of your piano stool, aiming to have your forearms resting on the keyboard parallel to the floor, with a 90 Degree angle to your upper arm. Make sure that your wrists are in line with your arms and hands, and not above or below them. Keep the forearm distance away from the keys.

Start from the feet - make sure that they are firmly connected to the ground. To do that you should keep you legs a hip-width apart, with feet parallel, close to the pedals, and sit with the back straight. Lift your toes, spread them, one by one if you can, and then slowly put them down. Then continue with you heals, lifting them as high as you can and placing them slowly down.

Piano-Yoga® Sitting Routine

Then engage your abdominal area, as it holds the spine and keeps all the energy of your body (according to the eastern philosophies). Slowly draw your abdominals in, but not too much, as you do not want to prevent your diaphragm from expanding (breathing fully).

Next, make sure that your shoulders are down and back, if necessary.  To do this, stretch your arms, with the fingers widely spread, pointing to the floor and knuckles parallel and facing the keyboard. Hold this position for a few seconds and then turn your palms so they are now facing the keyboard. This will increase the stretch deeper, and facilitate lowering of the shoulders. If your shoulders are prone to be rolled inwards, then pull them slightly back; however, avoid over-arching your back (as this would add the additional pressure to your lower back)

Piano-Yoga® Sitting Routine

Finally, make sure that your neck is aligned with your body and is not protruding forward.

Pulling the neck forward can lead to heightened blood pressure, headaches and even blurred vision, as well as pains in the upper shoulders.

Once you master this sequence, it will take you about 1 minute to perform, but will considerably improve the quality of your playing and facilitate the best sitting position for you.

To be continued.

For more information on how to improve your piano playing visit our Piano-Yoga® workshop with GéNIA at Schott Music, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB, on Thursday, 6th November at 7:00-10:00 pm in London. View the webpage of the programme here.

GéNIAs Piano-Yoga® Book is available here.

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The Best Hand Position to Start Playing the Piano

November 3rd, 2014 — 1:45pm
Copyright © Piano-Yoga® 2013

Thumb (Thenar Eminence)
Image Copyright © Piano-Yoga® 2009

When people start playing the piano, it is very important to explain to them the way they are supposed to hold their hands. If they do not know about it, the chances are that they would tend to hold them incorrectly, which, in turn, will slow down their progress on the instrument. The challenge that the player immediately faces is continuously and consciously holding the hand in a position which might initially feel very strange and uncomfortable (we were not simply born to play the instrument!). However after 2 – 3 weeks, if one is consistent, holding the hand correctly will become second nature.

When playing the piano, it is good to perceive the hand as an independent object which is supposed to perform various functions. Fingers are doing their job, while wrists should ensure that there is no tension, but the position of the hand must facilitate the best structure for the player to be able to perform at his or her best.

If you look at your hand, the first most important area to pay attention to is the ridge of knuckles connecting the fingers to the hand. From there your fingers start to work. Those knuckles should be always slightly raised, forming the so-called ‘C’ sign between fingers 1 and 2 (See the Thumb picture).

The second important area is the muscle that holds your thumb (the Thenar Muscle), as it ensures that the hand is not collapsing and in the long run prevents the thumb, which is the heaviest finger, making a ‘pushy’ sound on the keys (Please see the Piano-Yoga® 30 Sec Tip No. 4 below).

The third important area is the muscle which is attached to your little finger, (the Hypothenar Muscle). When it’s engaged, it holds the hand so that it does not collapse down and towards the outside.

When all these three areas are engaged, the hand is in its perfect playing position.

The whole hand position should be in line with your forearm, which in turn should be at an angle of 90 Degrees to your upper arm. Once you start playing, the wrist should have enough freedom to move up and down while the hand moves. Please note, without proper use of the wrist, a good hand position by itself will not be sufficient to play well, but without it, it will be absolutely impossible to do so!

The simplest way to establish a good hand position is to put the hand on your knee cap. The fingers will automatically form the shape that is required to play the piano. Then, without disturbing this position, raise your hands and put them on the keys.

You can receive a free copy of the Piano-Yoga® Foundation Course eBook when you register with our website (free), which contains various exercises on strengthening the fingers, developing flexibility of the wrist and establishing the independence of the Thenar muscle.

Click HERE to register and then send us an email to request your free eBook.

Enjoy your playing!

GéNIA

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.

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How Playing Piano could have an astounding effect on your well-being and self-realisation

October 30th, 2014 — 1:53pm

Our busy society today runs at a fast pace: we have endless tasks awaiting our actions and decisions, and we are expected to be reached or respond practically on an immediate basis, thanks to mobile phones, emails, and other social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The way society operates has changed. And, in general, this is a good thing! Now people can do collaborative work together whilst being on a different continents, one can feel close to family and friends and be in touch with them almost on daily basis due to the delights of Skype and Google, to name just a few. You have the opportunity to do more things, and to do them faster.

The side-effect of all of this is that we become so ‘bogged down’ with our TO DO lists, that we forget about ourselves, our needs and priorities. We sometimes forget to differentiate between what is important and what is not, going through life in a dreamlike state, and been awoken only during major events, such as a birth of a child, or, sadly, the loss of someone. Usually during those times we feel really present. We are made aware of our own mortality and feel that we are alive now.

A few years ago I was due to give 12 concerts in 10 days with 6 various programmes. The programme ranged from Baroque music (Scarlatti, Bach) through classical (Mozart, Beethoven) and romantic repertoire (Chopin, Schuman, Schubert), neo-classical, impressionists and 20 century (Buzoni, Ziloti,Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Satie and Philip Glass, to name just a few).

The moment I finished one programme I had to get ready for another one in a very short space of time. One day, whilst playing on the stage, I suddenly realised, not only that there is no point in thinking about the past pieces I had played (a very common destructive problem for many musicians), but it is also harmful thinking about what might happen in the future pieces (another common problem that makes musicians worry, and which negatively affects their playing), as all those thoughts only distract me from the NOW and do not help with either of those issues. There was also no point thinking of what was going on in the audience, as this was also a distraction, as the only thing I ought to do when I am on the stage is TO BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. It sounds almost trivial, but suddenly it hit me – the past is the past and the future we will never know for sure. The only thing we do know and can control, to certain degree, is our present. The more we are fully ‘in the moment’, experiencing every second of it through our skin, body, eyes, brain, etc., the more enjoyable and fulfilling this experience is.

How often do we do something in life whilst thinking about something that happened in the past or might happen in the future, completely missing where we are right now, and therefore missing the most beautiful moments of our lives? If you think you are one of those people, I would strongly encourage you to play any piece of music in front of other people (you can also try to record it, but this might be less effective) or, if you an actor, present a monolog in front of an audience and try to be ‘fully present’. You may need to do it five to ten times, as this is almost like a ‘muscle’ that needs to be activated, but the effect of this could be mind blowing. It could have an astounding effect on your well-being and self-realisation. It can feel like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time for someone who has had a problem with the their vision, but never worn glasses before.

Give it a try, and if you do suffer from performance anxiety, think about this as a life test that, once overcome, will help you to understand who you are and what you do in this world.

For more information on how to improve your piano playing visit our Piano-Yoga® workshop with GéNIA at Schott Music, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB, on Thursday, 6th November at 7:00-10:00 pm in London. View the webpage of the programme here.

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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