Transforming yourself through piano playing. Part 2.

October 23rd, 2014 — 1:11pm

With the first student, who had a problem with his right hand (see the Transforming yourself through playing the piano, Part 1), it was not possible for him quickly to change his personality by becoming proactive, reaching out and acting as an extrovert individual. In his case, I felt that it would be better to start working on his technique at the piano. I gave him a lot of exercises for his right hand (Dohnányi and Brahms, to name a few), but also suggested to do some first proactive steps in his lifestyle, which, in his case, was to start going to the gym and doing some weight lifting, as it was the place where he felt least uncomfortable and where he could start building up the strength in his left hand.

Hence my approach was different here: first we were trying to fix the problems with the hand, hoping, that it would positively reflect on his personality, helping him to eliminate shyness and become more extroverted.

What was interesting in each of these cases was that both students showed signs of positive development, not only in their techniques, but also in their personalities. The girl who was very critical became softer and creative, whilst the student who was shy and introverted started to communicate more freely with people around him, and become more socially active,

If it had not been for the piano, would they have noticed these qualities in their character? Would they have addressed these issues? We will never know, but here is a beautiful example of how playing the piano can not only bring you enjoyment in a musical sense, but also help you to develop your own personality.

Have you noticed which side of your body is stronger and which one is weaker? Have you recently had an inquiry that lead to problems with one side? How much do you know about your body? I would highly encourage you to look into this and derive your own conclusions! And by reading this blog you are already on your way to self-discovery!

Written by GéNIA

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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Transforming Yourself Through Piano Playing Part 1

October 20th, 2014 — 10:00am

One of my students was playing Schumann/Liszt ‘Dedication’, when I noticed how unbalanced his hands were: the left hand was beautiful, producing a powerful rich sound, whilst the right hand was so weak, that the sound was dull and very quiet. The imbalance was astounding.

However, whilst my student had no apparent arm or hand injuries or any other health problems, his hands looked like they belonged to two different people.

He immediately asked me what kind of exercises I would recommend for him to do to improve his condition, but somehow I did not feel that just piano exercises would help him in this case. I started asking him questions about himself, whether it was easy for him to reach out to people, whether he could communicate freely and express himself, particularly at his place of work when he was dissatisfied with something and needed to express his opinions without feeling uncomfortable.

It turned out that all these things were very difficult for him; he would consider himself shy and introverted by nature. He deliberately arranged his working conditions so that he could work a lot of time from home, avoiding too much contact with his colleagues. On the other hand, his level of receptivity, sensitivity, softness in his voice and manner and creativity were very developed and manifested themselves with ease. Music was one of his biggest passions.

All this was very apparent from his playing: whilst his left side, which is closely conneceted to ‘female’ qualities such as listening, creativity, being receptive and being introverted was very highly developed, his right side, responsible for ‘masculine’ qualities like reaching out, communicating, establishing leadership and giving out, was not developed well.  It was weak, and did not have any energy flow, and his right hand movements could have been compared to a person who cannot speak, because of choking in his throat.

A similar thing happened to another student of mine, but in reverse. Being a professional musician and highly intelligent, with several diplomas under her belt, she came to me with a plea for help, as her left hand was so weak and almost uncontrollable when she played the piano, whilst her right hand was perfectly in control and very strong. After talking to her, it turned out that she was very good in expressing her needs, dealing with tasks, communicating with a lot of people and maintaining high standards for everything she did.  However she was always assessing and criticising her own creativity (attributed to the left side) to the point where she could not express herself or ever play in front of people, not even one person.

She asked me what exercises I could recommend for her to do to improve her left hand weakness, but I felt that the first thing she really should do is to get involved with something creative, in the area in which she didn’t have any professional expertise, so she wouldn’t be able to criticize herself much. I thought that she should not, for the present, do many musical activities or anything where she had professional qualifications and expertise. Instead, I recommended her to do something that she loved, but where she was completely inexperienced. She told me that she loved fashion and I said: ‘Great’! Create a set of beautiful outfits for yourself, deciding on the style and see how much you enjoy it.’ She also loved decorating her own house, so I suggested that she revamp one of her rooms. My advice was to collect a lot of ideas and see how they made her feel.  I also asked her not to criticise herself if at all possible, but accept that the end result would be unknown and, very likely, not perfect.

The whole point of this was to develop her ‘creative juices’ and minimize her self- critical attitude.

Of course, I also suggested that meanwhile she did some piano exercises by Berenz (‘Training of the Left Hand’, an amazing book, highly recommended for those who need to improve their left hand), Marguerite Long, and use the Piano-Yoga® book.

To be continued…

Written by GéNIA

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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How to Find the Best Piano Teacher for You

October 16th, 2014 — 12:07pm

Piano-Yoga Teacher

In finding the best piano teacher, there are many ingredients that must be right. Sometimes the best piano teacher for one person could be inappropriate for another. Therefore, when choosing the right teacher for yourself, child or even for someone else, it is important to use certain criteria which work over and above professional qualifications and/or a friendly personality.

Below is a simple “TO DO” list I recommend anyone to go through when looking for the piano teacher:

1) Qualifications
2) Years of teaching experience
3) Main area of expertise
4) Level of Professionalism
5) Personal Compatibility
6) The extent of piano teaching
7) Location
8) Online Piano Tuition

Here is a little more information about each of those points:

Qualification

It is good to have the teacher who studied at one of the major Music Schools and Colleges. If you live in London (UK), it could be The Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama or Trinity College of Music to name just a few. Why? Because this will guarantee that the teachers who studied at these establishments have been taught well and therefore will teach to high professional standard and will be unlikely to pass on any wrong or ‘unhealthy’ methods to their students. You can indentify which institution someone has graduated from by simply looking at the letters following their name, and later, checking them online. Also, if you can access the teacher’s biography, their degrees and diplomas may be explained further.

Amongst the most established UK qualifications, here are a few examples of Music Degrees:
BMus, MMus, MPerf, MComp, MA, MPhil, PhD, MMP, DMus and Diplomas LRAM, PGDip, AdvDip, ARCM, DipRCM, ADCM , Artist Diploma, , LGSM, AGSM, PGDip, Dip GSM., ATCL, LTCL, FTCL, PGA, PGD . I have used the examples from the main educational bodies – Royal Academy of Music (www.ram.ac.uk). Royal College of Music (www.rcm.ac.uk), Guildhall School of Music and Drama ( www.gsmd.ac.uk) and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance ( www.trinitylaban.ac.uk)

Years of teaching experience

This can also be quite beneficial. Although there are a lot of young teachers who can be very good and effective, the benefit of working with a more experienced teacher is that, once a student starts facing difficulties (and believe me, this moment always occurs at some stage along the tuition process), the experienced teacher would be likely to guide a pupil through these difficulties more quickly, whereas the younger teacher may not be able to help so immediately, or at all, whilst stumbling through the blocks. It is also good to get any feedback from past and current students of the teacher in question and, if possible, find out about the teacher’s achievement list (for example how many students won competitions, got high grades, participated in all sorts of public performance, etc.).

Main area of expertise

Some teachers are strictly classical, some do mainly jazz, some do a few instruments. The last group would be the ones I would approach with caution, to make sure that their level of expertise is high enough to teach each instrument. It is also quite good to see if the teacher can play a little bit for you, as then you may know straight away if you would like to learn from this person.

Level of Professionalism

This is a quality that I personally value very much in any area of expertise – it is important that a teacher starts and finishes the lesson on time, clearly explains the fee structure and terms & conditions of the lesson. It is important that a teacher informs a student what needs to be brought to the lesson and what role they expect the parents to play in the students’ education.

Personal Compatibility

This is a very important quality for a teacher to have. It goes beyond just being friendly. The energy and the overall approach of the teacher should match the energy of each student. For example, if the student is in a receptive mode, then the teacher should provide a lot of knowledge, so to be in a ‘giving mode’, but if the student is in a creative and active mood, then the teacher should provide this knowledge through inspiration, by encouraging the student to find an answer for themselves. Experienced teachers should be able to match the energy and state of a student’s mind on each separate occasion. It is very important that both a teacher and a student have a harmonious and balanced energy exchange during the lesson.

The extent of piano teaching

This area often gets overlooked, as all we want at the beginning is piano lessons. However, with the passage of time, some students want more then just an hour of piano lessons per week. They would like to know about performance opportunities, the best competitions, thorough help in choosing piano repertoire, information on the best performers, concerts, etc. If you know in advance that you might require some of the above information, it would be a good idea to ask the teacher if they would be prepared to give it to you. Some of them would be happy, whilst some would not, sometimes purely because of the lack of time and/ or knowledge.

Location

Of course, if you want to learn to play piano, you should try to find the teacher who best fits all the points outlined above, and the best might not be in the area close to you. However, it is important to consider the location as, particularly, if you live in a big city where travelling takes an hour or more each way, taking your child after school on a weekly basis may tire them out, and therefore this is important to consider. In general, from my personal experience, students tend to have more regular lessons with teachers who are close to them as compared to less regular, often prolonged classes with the teachers who live far away. For more advanced, adult players this may not be a big problem, but if you are a beginner, you may want to have more regular lessons on a weekly basis (and this is what I would recommend).

Online Piano Tuition

During the last 5 years, the number of students I teach via Skype has grown. With faster and better internet connection, this method has became possible. I find the benefits of teaching via Skype (apart from obviously the lack of travel) include the fact that lessons become more precise and concentrated, where the camera lets you direct its focus to a specific angle of the hand and/or finger. The drawback is the quality of sound which, of course, will never be as good as the live sound; however it is still pretty decent. For those of my students who live far away from London, Skype piano lessons provide a great solution which should not be overlooked when choosing the best method of studying to fit in with your lifestyle.

To help you further I devised a simple questioner which I give out in my GéNIA MUSIC School and Piano-Yoga® School, to students who enquire about lessons. This helps them and us to choose them the best teacher and the best approach to the piano tuition:

1) List Your Name
2) List Your Age
3) Describe your current piano playing level
4) What is your piano aspiration (perform in public, do grades, learn to memorise, etc)
5) How much time do you have to practice (realistically)
6) How often can you come to your piano lessons (one a week, twice a week, once at fortnight, come when I want to) or would you prefer to do a lessons via Skype? Or would you prefer to do both?
7) What pieces are you playing at the moment?
8) What pieces you would like to play?
9) What pieces you listen to?
10) What type of memory do you have (photographic, symbolic, literary, aural)?
11) How do you learn best (aurally, motorically (by repeating after teacher) visually, etc)?

When you start looking for your teacher, it would be a good idea to finalise for yourself what you are looking for, as this would help you to focus on finding the best piano teacher!

Good luck with your search!

GéNIA

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 a founder of Piano-Yoga® Method and is the director of GéNIA MUSIC School and Piano-Yoga® School, both located in Central London: www.piano-yoga.com and www.genia-music.com

 

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The Piano-Yoga® Holistic Lifestyle Approach to the Piano

October 13th, 2014 — 6:02pm

by ~Kacia on Flickr

In Piano-Yoga® we believe that creating an optimal environment which promotes the student’s sense of well-being is the best approach to learning the piano.  When we feel relaxed, think positively and our concentration is at its peak, we can learn more quickly and efficiently. In this state, learning can even feel like having fun, where studying and mastering something new becomes an effortless and pleasurable experience.

It is true that some of the best educational systems (like the Russian school, for example) are based on a strict, disciplined approach to learning, where competition is the utmost motivation for success and the strongest students are stretched to the maximum.  Such systems have produced amazing results, but the weakest emotionally often give up, unable to progress and develop.

Whilst Piano-Yoga® aims to help students to perfect their technique this is only a tool, as our foremost motivation is to make the piano playing process as enjoyable and pleasurable as possible, within the wider framework of the student’s lifestyle.  In order to do this not only do we instruct students specifically in the Piano-Yoga® technique, but we also show them how to efficiently schedule their practice sessions, and how to take care of their health and their body in order to get the most out of their practice and create a positive mindset.

I like to address this issue by using ideas taken from ancient Indian Ayurvedic philosophy – the traditional Hindu system of medicine, based on the idea of bringing balance to the body using diet, herbal treatments, yogic postures and breathing.  In line with the discipline of Ayurveda we ask students to pay attention to what they eat, ask them to monitor how they feel each day, and if they are not happy with the results we teach them how to change their sense of well-being, correcting it through various exercises, simple posture adjustments and the use of aromatherapy.  We very much encourage our students to create a practice environment full of clean energy, and where the student feels comfortable, safe, private and nurtured.

Would you like to try this for yourself?  Here’s what you can do in just one week:

  • Notice when your energy is at its best and try to practise at that time

Are you a morning person or evening? Is the afternoon the best or the worst time for you? Try to practise when you brain is at its best and your muscles are not stiff.

  • Find out if there is a regular time you can practise and, if possible, stick to it.

Getting into a routine will help the body to feel comfortable in its environment and will enable you to concentrate faster and more acutely.

  • Try not to practise on an empty stomach, but also not on a full one.  According to how you feel we recommend using the main principles of Ayurveda

According to Ayurvedic principles a person can either be TAMASIC (sluggish/slow), RAJASIC (hyperactive/fast) or SATTVIC (balanced) depending on their current state of mind.  If you are feeling unsettled you will most certainly be feeling either Tamasic or Rajasic and therefore should aim to bring yourself back into a Sattvic (balanced) state.

Decide how you are feeling at this present moment: TAMASIC or RAJASIC?

For people in TAMASIC (sluggish/slow) state I recommend:

Going for a brisk walk before practice, if possible.

Playing the piano at a moderate or fast tempo but not too slowly!

Eating a moderate amount of RAJASIC foods before practice to induce more energy into your system (chocolate, tea, coffee (but not too much of these, otherwise you may find yourself in a rajasic state) as well as fish, eggs, chilli peppers and strongly-flavored herbs and spices to help bring yourself into a state of balance. Do some physical exercise. Yoga is excellent as long as it is a vinyasa sequence (dynamic flowing yoga practice).  This encourages better blood circulation and warms up the muscles.

For people in a RAJASIC (hyperactive/nervous) state I would recommend:

Going for a slow walk or doing some simple slow stretches, mainly with forward bends (make sure that you do not have any back issues and know how to do stretches safely).

Playing everything on the piano slower then usual. Eat some TAMASIC food before the practice time to induce a calming effect on the body (i.e. meat, cooked vegetables, mushrooms, dried, tinned and frozen fruit).

Practising slow, deep breathing as it has an excellent calming effect on the body. (The yogic breath technique of Ujjayi is particularly good if you are familiar with it – otherwise I would recommend initial guidance from a qualified yoga teacher).

Trying to meditate and rest more between short practice sessions.

  • Make sure that you feel comfortable in your environment

In the morning have plenty of fresh air in the room (no dust, as not only is it bad for your health, but it is terrible for the energy of the place).  In the evening make sure that the room is warm and well lit, but that the lights are not too bright, as this can make you feel tired.

  • Do some physical exercises before your piano practice

Doing some physical work can do wonders for your body and mind. Either walking, running, yoga, pilates or swimming: anything that keeps your body alive, well toned and oxygenated. 10–15 minutes of exercise before your piano practice can dramatically improve your playing and your ability to concentrate!

  • Have some fluids by your side

Preferably have some water (ideally at room temperature, unless you feel hot) or some tea (herbal would be the best, but if you are feeling tired sometimes black tea or coffee can help – make sure that these do not make you too over-active).

  • Use aromatherapy as this can do wonders from your practice

Before embarking on the use of aromatherapy, I strongly suggest that you do some homework, find out what oils and smells you like and how they make you feel. The oils could either be applied to your skin as a cream or used as a room spray or in oil burners. You really need to know what products you are using and which method is the most effective for you, as it can create a very strong effect and this can really elevate your mood, improve your concentration or simply make you feel happier!

I use room sprays the most, and these days create my own fragrances by mixing various oils.  It is so simple: fill a glass bottle with water and add various oils that you like; they usually change with seasons, the time of day and my mood, hence I have many different bottles. Use a diffuser to spray these out.  My favorite morning mix at the moment is a combination of cypress, lemon grass, peppermint and lime.

Below are a few examples of how different oils can help you, but really you need to check out yourself what works for you.  There are endless possibilities for creating various smells.

    • Bergamot helps to fight anxiety, confusion, depression, relieve headaches, and reduce irritability and stress.
    • Pepper is great for fighting apathy, relieving colds, cramps, flu, muscle ache, shock, creating calm and boosting energy.
    • Ylang-ylang helps to fight depression, stress, improve sleep and enhance mood.
    • Rose helps with anxiety, depression and fear, creating nurturing and positive feelings.
    • Clary Sage helps to fight hyperactivity, improve sleep, avoid panic attacks, and induce peace of mind.

Try to pay attention to these few ideas and see how they can improve your practice!

Having said all this, it is important to have a clear goal (know what you would like to achieve from each practice session) and maintain a planned practice process. Try to be undisturbed during your sessions.  And always approach your practice thinking constructively: don’t see problems, only solutions!

Namaste (‘I bow to you.’ Sanscrit)

GéNIA

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.

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Piano-Yoga® Book Sale 4th-5th October 2014

October 1st, 2014 — 10:17am

Piano-Yoga Paperback BookPiano-Yoga® is having a sale! For one weekend only on Saturday 4th to Sunday 5th October we are offering 40% off our ‘Transform Your Hands: A Complete Ten Week Course of Piano Exercises’ book. It comprises of a unique hand and finger workout that will do more for your technique than hours of practising pieces: the muscles of your hands could become much stronger and in turn your finger flexibility should increase.

By the end of the first two weeks you may start noticing changes and as the programme continues your span on the keyboard may also increase.

 

Instead of £24.99 it’s now just £14.99*

 

To purchase your book please click HERE or email us at info@piano-yoga.com for alternative payment methods.

*postage not included

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Piano-Yoga® Masterclasses With GéNIA in Monaco & Nice

August 8th, 2014 — 3:46pm

We are very pleased to announce that Piano-Yoga® will be heading to Cote d’Azur for the first time to host two masterclasses! The first will be held on 3rd September in Nice and the second on 4th in Monaco.

GéNIA will share her teaching on the topics of Efficient Practice with Piano-Yoga®; Combating Stage Fright with Piano-Yoga® and Musician’s Body Mapping that will help musicians to learn how to pinpoint their personal strengths and weaknesses (as well as those of their students) and work on those.

Click HERE for more information and to book tickets for the masterclass in Nice.

Click HERE for more information and to book tickets for the masterclass in Monaco.

 

 

 

 

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Catherine Lieben, student of GéNIA wins 1st Prize in Open Adult Recital at the Windsor Festival.

July 15th, 2014 — 5:24pm

GéNIA student Catherine Lieben won the 1st prize in the Open Adult Recital at the Windsor Festival. Congratulations Catherine! To find out more about the festival follow the link HERE.

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GéNIA releases video for Debussy’s ‘Clair De Lune’

July 1st, 2014 — 2:44pm

Piano-Yoga founder GéNIA has just released a small snippet from one her recent concert performing Claude Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’

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GéNIA Student Philip Balkan Wins Another CUP at Dulwich Piano Festivial

June 23rd, 2014 — 1:17pm
Philip With His Trophy

Philip With His Trophy

Following on from his win last month at the London Festival of Music, Drama & Dance, Philip Balkan has won first prize at this years Dulwich Piano Festival and was awarded the Raymond Banning Trophy. Congratulations Philip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Student of GéNIA Philip Balkan wins CUP at the North London Festival of Music, Drama and Dance!

May 21st, 2014 — 9:51am

Philip with his trophy

 

Philip Balkan, a student of GéNIA, has won the  Mabel Floyd cup at the North London Festival of Music, Drama and Dance. He has also won 1st prize for the Repertoire  class!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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