Archive for 2017


Happy Holidays from Piano-Yoga®!

December 23rd, 2017 — 10:47am
GéNIA, the founder of Piano-Yoga®

GéNIA, the founder of Piano-Yoga®

Here at Piano-Yoga® we are taking this opportunity of wishing you a wonderfully happy festive period! This is the time to reconnect with your friends, your family and ….. with yourself! This latter one is very important to remember, as it is the magical time to take care of yourself, your creativity, your health, your inspirations… and it is also a perfect time to reflect, and we so wish you to enjoy this fully wonderful experience to the full.

Remember our mood often dictates us how we feel and, at the same time, if we feel good, we are usually in a better mood;  it is a two way street! And the music is there to support us and make this experience even more magical… Enjoy!

GéNIA xxx

 

Russian virtuoso pianist and composer GéNIA is a founder of Piano-Yoga® Method. She runs Piano-Yoga® Studio located in Central London: www.piano-yoga.com If you would like to try out Piano-Yoga® Assessment Lesson, online Piano-Yoga® tuition, or browse through Piano-Yoga® book just visit our website for further information and courses.

 

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An inspirational Holistic Day for Pianists with Melanie Spanswick, myself and our students

July 24th, 2017 — 2:26pm
GéNIA teachers Piano-Yoga® at Holistic Day for Pianists in London

GéNIA teachers Piano-Yoga® at Holistic Day for Pianists in London

This is just a little blog entry from me about the Holistic Day, that I led with renowned educator, blogger and teacher Melanie Spanswick recently in London. I wanted to share with you how wonderful it was to spend the whole day concentrating on Piano-Yoga® and other aspects of piano playing and technique. Melanie’s talks were inspiring; she offered wonderful tips on memorisation and sight-reading, making students practise various things there and then.

I offered a slightly different approach, concentrating on how to obtain the best energy, so you can get the best our of your practice and/or a performance, especially when you were tired or, opposite, too excited to concentrate. Through the various exercises and talks about different energy states, we spent a wonderful afternoon exploring. I concluded my part of the day by going through the details of each stage of my book ‘Piano-Yoga® Transform Your Hands’: 10 Week Course of Piano Exercises.

We had a wonderful variety of students, which included amateur pianists, piano teachers and professional music students.

The atmosphere of Jaque Samuel Pianos, was equally inspiring; we were surrounded by at least 100 pianos and had 4 Fazioli grand pianos in our studio, where we taught.

Melanie Spanwick teaches Sight-Reading Class at Holistic Day for Pianists

Melanie Spanwick teaches Sight-Reading Class at Holistic Day for Pianists in London

The students were very receptive and eager and after the day we received wonderful comments such as ‘A most inspiring duette with many useful tips’ from Edi and ‘One of the most interesting days in my life. Thank you so much!’ from Charles.

We look forward to bringing you more events and if you’d like to invite us to come to your area with the Holistic Day Programme please do not hesitate to get in touch!

With love,

GéNIA

 

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Why Body Work is so important for musicians

July 5th, 2017 — 9:59am
Pianist GéNIA demonstrating yoga exercises for pianists

Pianist GéNIA demonstrating yoga exercises for pianists

Every professional musician knows the drill: if you want to be good you need to practise. For classical musicians there are many hours of strict practice required, for jazz and other musicians there is a different kind of practice, but in any case, you always need to practise more rather not less. Talking about  technique, which is best developed when we are children, if you want to be good, you are encouraged to practice at least three to four hours when you are a child, with a gradual increase in hours as you get older, especially if playing piano has the potential to become your profession.

 

I personally studied at the School for Gifted Children in the Ukraine, then at the Music Conservatoire (Kharkov State institute of Arts), before embarking on Postgraduate Studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and finally a Masters Degree at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Throughout all these years, I have been encouraged to practice as much as possible, sometimes up to 8 hours a day. It was not surprising that at the age of 15 I suffered muscular tension due to over-practising. What was astounding was that, at no point during my entire studies, was I ever advised on how to look after my body in order to avoid over-practising (meaning over-using it) nor taught how to practise efficiently; how to avoid strain whilst keeping my body relaxed.

By my early 20th, I found myself suffering from  chronic back-pain, and was forced to see a back specialist on a regular basis. After about six months of such visits, I realised that this could not go on. I had to learn how to start caring for my body in order to stop having to see a doctor, as I was became addicted to these visits.

 

This is when I started to explore. It was suggested I should try yoga, and after the first few sessions I got ‘hooked’. Yoga allowed me not only to get rid of my pain, but I noticed that my body slowly started to transform, my muscles became leaner and I even felt taller!

 

Additionally, I noticed that, apart from fixing my back problems, yoga was really good for my piano playing: my fingers became stronger and the challenge of playing larger chords became less of an issue. Following this discovery, I deliberately started incorporating yoga stretches into my practice routine. It felt great; I felt refreshed and balanced.

 

The following year I was faced with the challenge of performing Rachmaninoff ‘Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini’, which I had been told by my teachers, I would never be able to play. I loved this piece and felt that I could play it, so I was determined to do everything possible to master this piece.

All I needed was to find a specific programme or a set of exercises that would develop my hands. After extensive research and trying out various exercises, I realised that what I was looking for was not available, and if I wanted to work on my hands, I would need to create this programme myself. Starting with various experiments, I came to the conclusion that the answer was … in my yoga practice. By trial and error I created the piano-yoga exercises that helped me to master this piece, and this is how Piano-Yoga® was conceived.

 

So what is Piano-Yoga®? It is a method of piano teaching, performing and playing available to musicians of all levels, amateurs and professionals, from beginners to advanced. The more advanced you are, the more you can benefit from it. One of the aspects of Piano-Yoga® method is ‘body discipline’, teaching those who play and practise for more then an hour a day to take care of their body by showing how to use it in their playing as well as how to relax at specific times and how to prevent injuries. Alexander technique offers wonderful teaching that covers some of these aspects, but Piano-Yoga® offers something different; firstly precise work on hands and arms in order to increase the strength of fingers and hand span, secondly, the discipline of taking care of the body on a regular basis, thirdly, various tips on piano playing established through body work and finally prevention and /or post injury rehabilitation programme. By incorporating the ancient yoga teaching, the method aims to create a feeling of well-being on a physical, emotional and intellectual level. For those following  spiritual practices, it offers something as well. It is up to the student to take as much or as little from Piano-Yoga® as he or she wants.

 

Holistic-Banner-Genia_Melanie

The main message of this article though, is that playing piano for more then an hour a day inflicts demands on your body and, if are regularly doing this, you must know how to take care of it in order to avoid an injury or a simple back pain and get rid of stagnation in your body, as sitting for a long time is not good for our health.

I hope that you find my story helpful and if you have any questions I will be happy to hear from you via info@piano-yoga.com.

with love,

GéNIA

GéNIA, the pianist and composer and founder of Piano-Yoga®, will be demonstrating the main principals of Piano-Yoga® teaching on Holistic day for pianists in London on the 16th of July, in the event created in collaboration with the renown educator, blogger, pianist and author Melanie Spanswick. Please follow the link to see more details.

 

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“But it Takes Me Ages to Learn a New Piece!” – Guest blog post by Graham Fitch

June 13th, 2017 — 9:55am

Graham FitchIt gives me a great pleasure to introduce a renowned pianist, teacher, adjudicator and writer Graham Fitch, who is also a regular writer for Pianist Magazine with his own video series on the magazine’s YouTube channel. Graham has also written teaching notes for Trinity College London’s series, Raise the Bar, as well as for the advanced grades of the new syllabus. He has recently published a series of ebooks available at www.practisingthepiano.com, and also launched an online resource for pianists and piano teachers, the Online Academy. Graham runs a very busy private practice in London, and counts among his long-term students Daniel Grimwood, James Baillieu, and Gemma Webster – with many others active in the profession. In addition to teaching talented youngsters, tertiary level piano students and working with piano teachers, Graham is very interested in helping amateur pianists develop their playing. Graham is a principal tutor on The Piano Teachers’ Course (EPTA) UK, and is also a tutor at the Summer School for Pianists at Walsall, and gives weekend courses at Jackdaws. Graham also gives regular workshops and classes across the UK. Read on for Graham’s thoughts and advice on learning new pieces. Enjoy this article below! GéNIA

‘One of the saddest things about our exam culture is spending the best part of a year on three pieces and a bunch of scales, polishing every little detail until perfect. A couple of weeks after the exam, the student has nothing to play because they have forgotten their old pieces and won’t be ready with the new ones for a while yet. This structure means they often have very poor reading skills and are ill-equipped as practical musicians. It is hard to fathom is that a supposedly advanced piano student with years of lessons behind them would not be able to get up and play Happy Birthday by ear at a party, or to read at sight simple accompaniments when called upon to do so.

A very distinguished colleague who taught high-level conservatory students would only ever hear a piece once or twice. Even first year students had to bring something new each week, and while the pressure was often quite intense every single one of them developed the skills to assimilate music very quickly. They had to! Apart from playing extremely well, the best of them became excellent sight readers capable of working out complex scores within a few days. They were flexible and marketable pianists with a large repertoire, just what you want from a conservatory education.

Quick Studies

Not every one of our students would be able to handle this sort of pressure of course, and don’t get me wrong – spending weeks and months polishing and refining certain pieces is absolutely imperative! There is no way we can develop pianistic excellence and finesse without this. To redress the balance between the type of painstaking and time-consuming practise involved in perfecting a piece and the ability to read well and learn fast, I am a great believer in quick studies. Learning a piece from scratch involves different skills and different parts of the brain from playing pieces we already know. If we are constantly keeping these particular grey cells active, they get faster and stronger and this makes processing new material quicker and easier. This is where quick studies come in.

I will give a student a short piece usually well within their capability one week and expect to hear it from beginning to end the next, no matter how sketchy or ropey the playing might be. In the next lesson, we will spend a few minutes on it. I’ll comment on a particular aspect (such as pedalling, tonal balance, rhythm, etc.) rather than give a list of corrections (over and above obvious clangers we can fix there and then). We might discuss the composition and how it’s put together and then try it again immediately, or parts of it again. Whether the student continues to play the piece for themselves is up to them, but I won’t hear it again.

Regular quick studies help speed up the learning processes in general, because the information from the score has to be absorbed and digested very quickly. Playing the piece in the lesson is the performance deadline they have to meet. Whether you do this once a week or twice per term depends on the individual student, but eventually this skill spills over into all they do at the piano. Not only will they beef up their learning skills, they’ll also get better at sight reading and have a number of repertoire pieces to play. Intermediate students can tackle repertoire a couple of grades lower than their current level. For more advanced players, how about taking a set of pieces such as the Beethoven Bagatelles, Prokoviev’s Visions fugitives or Schumann’s Kinderszenen and committing to learning one a week in this way? Devote 10% of your practice time to it, and no more. It doesn’t count unless you play it for someone at the end, though!

A Personal Story

Some of the solo playing I am most proud of took place about twenty years ago. I was asked at four days’ notice to play a concerto at a black tie charity concert, standing in for a colleague who was nursing an injury. I agreed to do it even though I was teaching way too many hours during that period, and playing mostly chamber music. I had to be very creative with the way I used the time during those few days – it was a piece I had played many years before so I had to use what little practice time I had very wisely. I didn’t have time to get too nervous nor to luxuriate in the details, I had to get a professional job done. When it came to the concert, I surprised myself with how everything came together so well (because I am usually guilty of giving myself too much time to prepare for big things). I had managed to achieve in a few short days what I would probably have devoted much more time to under normal conditions, probably more time than would really be necessary. This experience taught me that sometimes it is worth taking a calculated risk and getting outside of my comfort zone.

Parkinson’s Law

Last week I spoke of The Pareto Principle in relation to our work at the piano. This week, I would like to bring in another principle from the field of time management, Parkinson’s Law. The following adage was coined by public administrator Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1955 essay for The Economist:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If you allow six months to complete a project, it will take six months to complete. If you decide you’re going to do it in three months, it will take three months! Setting a deadline focusses the mind and changes the way we learn and practise. If we have set a time frame to achieve a goal, whether that applies to a component of an individual practice session, or learning and performing a piece from scratch, our mind will tend to focus our energies so as to achieve this. In making the decision we are stating an intention and then focussing on what it’s going to take to get it done. This means that we are more likely to be successful at completing the task within the given time frame than if we had an open-ended attitude.’

If you enjoyed reading this post, you may like to visit Graham’s website: www.grahamfitch.com and blog: www.practisingthepiano.com

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Win a free Piano-Yoga® session!

June 1st, 2017 — 10:58am

genaWin a 45 minute Piano-Yoga® session in Central London or online with GéNIA! The session can be redeemed between the 1st-31st July 2017 by answering the following question:

Q: Which famous composer’s wife was also a great pianist and composer?

Please email your answer to info@piano-yoga.com. We will accept submissions up to midnight on Thursday 8th June 2017. The winner will be selected randomly and notified on Friday 9th June 2017.

To be eligible for this competition please include the following information:

– Your Full Name and Postal Address
– Your Contact Telephone Number
– Choose from the following that best describes your musical level: Beginner | Intermediate | Advance | Teacher | Professional Musician

You can find out more about Piano-Yoga® on our website.
– Please note that the name of the winner will be announced on our blog, Twitter and Facebook.
– The session is non-transferable.

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