Category: GéNIA’s Articles


‘How to ‘spring clean’ your piano practice’ by GéNIA

April 11th, 2017 — 12:27pm
GéNIA, founder of Piano-Yoga®

GéNIA, founder of Piano-Yoga®

Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the season: plants are starting to grow, flowers are blooming, the sunshine is becoming stronger and birds start singing earlier and earlier. Nature starts waking up and ‘smiling’ at us, and the same is happening with people; we feel that there are more new possibilities, new beginnings and, in general, life becomes ‘sweeter’ and happier, in comparison with the dark and cold months of winter.

However with regard to piano practice, many people feel that they would rather spend more time outside (whilst the weather is so beautiful) and less time inside, which in turn affects their daily piano regime. Many start feeling guilty for not practising enough.

Also this time is the time for holidays, Easter and Pesach, or just family time together. This is the period when we start thinking more about our lives, relationships and family matters. During these days it is very popular to do spring cleaning in the house, getting rid of ‘stale’ habits and banishing the darkness of winter. The good news is that you can do the same with your piano practice routine: learning new pieces, practising in a different way, start doing new piano warm up exercises; all these can contribute to rejuvenation of your piano practice.

So are you ready to renew your piano practice?Playing Hands (Non Classical) No White window

Below are some tips that will help you to do just that:

Drink a glass of fresh water (ideally with lemon or cucumber) before your practice, in the mornings or afternoons or even early evenings

or

Drink a glass of herbal tea (with honey or lemon, according to taste) before your late evening practice.

Do a few stretches before you start:

Stand with your feet parallel, a hip-width apart, engage your inner legs, draw your abdominals inwards, align your lower back (which often means bringing your hips slightly forward, to avoid creating a big curve in your lower back), keep your shoulders relaxed (lower them if necessary) and slightly back if your shoulders tend to turn inwards, stretch through your arms, as if someone is pulling your fingers down to the ground, make sure that your neck is not protruding forwards (if it is, you can end up with a lot of problems in your upper shoulders and neck, and even experience headaches and problems with vision).

Take a deep breath, inhaling all the way from your diaphragm, while lifting your hands over your head along the sides of your body, then start slowly breathing out whilst bringing your hands to the original position in the same way.

Keep thinking of maintaining your alignment (which means don’t feel sloppy).

Repeat 3 times.

On the 3rd time, instead of returning your hands to the original position, bring the palms together over your head on the in breath and, on out breath, slowly bring the hands together down through the centre line of your body.

Then take 2 breaths whilst keeping your hands firmly against your naval: palms pressed together on the level of your diaphragm.

This simple stretch will revitalise your body and help you to concentrate.

Choose a brand new exercise routine. 

Piano-Yoga® Book of Exercises

Piano-Yoga® Book of Exercises

I am a big advocate of doing exercises, as you can improve your playing dramatically by working separately on technical issues. Identify up to 3 of the weakest areas of your practice (scales, thirds, octaves, etc) and choose exercises that will help you to tackle these. Amongst my favourites are Clementi-Tausig ‘Gradus ad Parnassum’, H. Berens ‘Training of the left hand’, M. Long ‘Le Piano’ exercises, some pages from Chopin and Liszt etudes (it is absolutely fine to use those as exercises) and, of course, Piano-Yoga® exercises, as they promote not only the stretch but the strength in the fingers, especially in the bottom parts (proximal phalanx), and therefore allow you to do all the other exercises much more efficiently.

Choose at least one new piece.  I think it is very important always to work on something new, and especially during the spring. I love variation form, as then you feel that you are not just working on one piece, but on many different pieces. Some of the great examples are Beethoven Six Variations on ‘Nel cor piu non mi sento’ WoO70, Beethoven 32 Variations on an Original Theme’ in C minor WoO 80, Schumann Abegg Variations Op.1, Schumann Pappilons  Op.2 or Mendelssohn Variations Sérieuses’ Op.54 to name just a few.

Record yourself playing one of the pieces that you are working on and then give yourself a day’s rest. Afterwards listen to the recording with the sheet music and a pencil and pretend that you are listening to someone else’s playing and giving them a lesson. Mark all the places, with details and nuances that you think need improvement.

Set-up a goal.  I think it is very important to know why you are learning to play the piano, whether you just want to learn it for yourself or you are more ambitious and you’d like to do some public performances or/and take some exams. Your goal can vary from ‘memorising a piece of music’ and ‘performing in public’ to ‘establishing a practice routine’. Whatever you do, decide on the goal and when you intend to achieve it. This could transform your practice, as it will give it direction.

Get professional advice.  If you are not having lessons at the moment and practicing by yourself, it is a good time to see a professional musician (whether a piano teacher or a performing musician) to get some tips and advice, even if you cannot take regular lessons. If you are already taking lessons, consider signing up for a master class or a workshop, as it is always good to hear fresh new opinions, even those different from your teacher’s.

I always encourage my students to play at festivals and masterclasses, as not only do they get the experience of performing in public, but they also gain professional feedback which is sometimes different from mine, but is always useful.

Piano-Yoga Student Concert

Piano-Yoga® Student Concert

And finally… Set up a date for your ‘public’ performance.  Even if you are the most shy person in the world, it would do you a lot of good to play in front of someone else, as this is where your knowledge and skills will be tested. If you manage to keep your cool and play swimmingly through this, then you have learnt well what you have been working on, but if not, it means, that you still need to continue work on what you have been doing. And if you are an experienced player, then sign yourself up to an interesting performance opportunity, such as a local festival or masterclass.

Alternatively, you can make a recording that you can then give to all your friends and family as a present! Maybe for Christmas?  This will force you to be really thorough in your playing and practising.

I hope that you found these tips useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via my website www.piano-yoga.com or our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pianoyogaeducation/

Enjoy your practice

&  happy Holidays!

GéNIA

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Melanie Spanswick publishes GéNIA’s guest blog ’11 ways to kick start your practice routine’

March 30th, 2017 — 9:19am
GéNIA, the founder of Piano-Yoga®

GéNIA, the founder of Piano-Yoga®

To celebrate World Piano Day, GéNIA was invited to write a guest blog for the website of renowned educator, pianist, composer, author and blogger Melanie Spanswick.

‘Have you ever had the familiar feeling that you really would like to do something but you just do not have the time for it? If only! In reality, very secretly, you know that you have the time, however you just cannot bring yourself into doing something.

Melanie Spanswick, pianist, composer, educator and blogger

Melanie Spanswick, educator, pianist, composer, author and blogger

I have news for you! For a start, thousands, if not millions of people, have had this feeling at least once in their life. It does not matter if it was about piano practice or learning a foreign language or simply starting a regular exercise regime. You know you want it, you even know need it, but still something is holding you back.

So what shall we do about it? How do we start? In this article I am going to concentrate on piano practice, however the tips can be applied to anything!’

To read about 11 ways to kick start your practice please follow this link on Melanie Spanswick’s website. Also check out other blogs from Melanie, offering valuable advice and tips on piano playing!

 

 

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Music Gurus website publish GéNIA’s blog ‘Are Russian piano teachers really that scary?’

February 12th, 2017 — 3:50pm

15e243b2-b4a3-49ee-b800-e7a522ec87b9This month an educational website, Music Gurus, published GéNIA’s blog. Let us know if you agree!

Is she really strict?”” “How scary is she!?” ““Is she nice!?!”
Recently, I had a number of my friends reporting these reactions when they mentioned my name to their peers.
When this happened the first time, I thought that particular person probably just had a bad experience with a Russian piano teacher, and I didn’’t give it a second thought.
However, when one of my student’s friends was shocked upon meeting me (I think he was expecting to see a big 60-year-old babushka), that got me thinking…”

Music Gurus is a new exciting company dedicated to promoting music education to the highest level. The company provides an opportunity for people to learn directly from professional musicians, many of them being remarkable artists. Amongst various videos of masterclasses and specifically designed courses on the website, one can find footage with Maxim Vengerov, Joanna MacGregor, Andras Schiff, Darius Brubeck, to name a few. The website is a great source of inspiration and education that I highly recommend. You can visit the site here.

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How to Find the Best Piano Teacher for You

December 16th, 2016 — 11:39am

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® website www.piano-yoga.com and Piano-Yoga® Studio at Schott Music, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB, where GéNIA teaches regularly.

Russian Virtuoso Pianist and Compser GéNIA is a founder of Piano-Yoga® Method. She runs Piano-Yoga® Studio located in Central London: www.piano-yoga.com

 

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Thank you from GéNIA to all Piano-Yoga® Club members!

January 13th, 2016 — 1:18pm

Piano-Yoga Club with GéNIAThe idea of setting up the Piano-Yoga® Club came to fruition last year, after I received numerous emails and requests from our lovely supporters. Now, looking back, after having done five Piano-Yoga® Clubs, I must admit that it has been not only very productive, but also a very moving experience for me. By now we have some long-standing loyal supporters, whom I call ‘Piano-Yoga® Veterans’, and, at the same time, we continuously have new guests, often those who are visiting London and come just for one event.

I have been absolutely overwhelmed with the feedback that I have received, and this is what gives me growing confidence in the usefulness of Piano-Yoga®. Whether you have stage fright issues, problems with the technique, pains in your body that relate to or arise from practising, Piano-Yoga® has something to offer everyone. Bringing yoga into piano playing, from the anatomical and psychological point of view, dramatically changes one’s attitude to piano playing and therefore to playing itself.

Last time we had guests from the Unites States and also from the other cities in the UK. I now have been asked to organise similar events online, as for many of you it is not easy to come to London. I promise to work on that, and we will try to do something as soon as possible.

Meanwhile here is some of the feedback that I received:

‘An excellent class taught by an excellent teacher! The class is one of a kind in London!’ Salman   

Piano-Yoga Club‘Illuminating!’ Meredith 

‘Very useful! Practising revamped:-) Maybe more events outside of London?’ Liz

‘Very helpful indeed, especially structuring one’s practice time. Plus I feel more energised and more alert after doing your recommended exercises!’ Deborah

‘Another very illuminating Piano-Yoga® Club – I really enjoyed it and looking forward to applying some of the techniques!’ S.P.C.

‘Always very insightful and helpful!’ Olivia

Thank you very much again, and I wish you all wonderful and fruitful 2016!

Looking forward to seeing you at our Piano-Yoga® Club events!

With love,

GéNIA

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GéNIA writes a guest post for Melanie Spanswick’s website

December 14th, 2015 — 10:37pm

Geniaplaying_julius Beltrame_1629_8bGéNIA recently wrote a blog titled ‘Maintaining Concentration in Piano Playing and Practice’ for the website of the renowned pianist, teacher, adjudicator, author and blogger Melanie Spanswick.

Here is the extract from the article:

‘Often pianists mistakenly believe that many of their challenges manifest due to a lack of practice or lack of skills, rarely being aware that they could simply exist due to a lack of concentration. We all know about the cases where pianists work for hours, only to collapse later in their pubic performance, either playing for a group of people or just for one person! They blame themselves, and very often feel inadequate. With stress building up, and feelings of disappointment making them feeling ‘not good enough’, they do start playing even worse than they were playing before and, on some occasions, even stop playing altogether, while developing an ever-growing guilt complex. Little do they know that often this issue could be easily addressed, sometimes with only a very slight adjustment. All they need to do is just to be aware!’

To read the full article please follow this link.

We also recommend to visit Melanie Spanswisk’s website as it is full of the useful tips for pianists!

 

 

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Are Russian piano teachers really that scary?

August 28th, 2015 — 7:06am
Genia_Playing_Julius_Beltrame_JGB_1687_monoPS

Pianist and founder of Piano-Yoga®, GéNIA

Recently, I had a number of my friends reporting that when they mentioned my name to their peers the reaction was usually something along the lines of: “Is she really strict?”; “How scary is she?”; “Is she nice!?”

When this happened the first time, I thought that particular person probably just had a bad experience with a Russian piano teacher, and I didn’’t give it a second thought. However, when one of my student’s friends was shocked on meeting me (I think he was expecting to see a big 60-year-old babushka), that got me thinking…  Another time, a student of mine invited me to come and celebrate his birthday (in a club, of all places), and when we were on the dance floor one of his friends asked, “And where is that piano teacher of yours? I knew she wouldn’’t show up!”  So I just had to introduce myself once again…

Why do English people find us, Russian classical musicians and teachers, so intimidating? I just had to write about this, to get to the bottom of this myth.  When I ask, some say that it’’s because Russian musicians are famous for having the best technique in the world, and Russian teachers are therefore feared for the big demands they make on their students, expecting them to ‘practise 8 hours a day (my grandmother used to say “Four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening””), and for placing them under considerable pressure to achieve the best possible results.

As teachers, that doesn’’t make us unfriendly, cruel or unreasonable; we simply try to teach to the highest level of our ability. Russians sometimes have a reputation for being too straightforward and not very diplomatic. Perhaps…  But if you can accept this and get past it, you may be surprised to find a genuine interest and enthusiasm for conveying knowledge to a student to help them realise their full potential. In my memory, my Russian piano teachers (Sergei Yushkevitch, Victor Makarov and Regina Horowitz – although the latter was my great grand mother), never counted the hours when they were teaching; they gave me and many of their other students as much time as was required to teach them, whether it was one hour, three hours or five… The goal was to educate the student however long it took.

Amongst the most famous teachers in the world who were either Russians or taught in Russia using Russian methods were: Anton Rubinstein, John Field, Alexander Villoing,  Anton Door, Theodor Leschetizky, Vassili Safonov, Alexandre Siloti (the teacher of Sergei Rachmaninov), Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher of Richter, Gilels and Lupu), Alexandre Goldenweiser (teacher of Bashkirov, Berman and Nikolaieva), Konstantin Igoumnov (teacher of Ashkenazy, Davidovich and Feltsman) and Felix Blumenfeld (teacher of Horowitz) to name a few. They were all famous for their principles and total dedication to music and education. Some of them were stricter then others, but they are all warmly remembered by their students all over the world.  I know many current Russian pianists who are both performers and teachers, and I wouldn’t associate any of them with the word ‘Scary’.  Here is an interview with the incredible Russian virtuoso pianist Boris Berezovky, who is the one of the most modest people I have ever met:

 

So what do you you think – are we, Russian Piano Teachers, really that scary?  The only way to find out is to be open-minded and try a few Russian piano teachers.…

As for me, you can judge for yourself!  : )  Take a look at the clips on the Piano-Yoga® Education Youtube Channel:

It’s now time for my piano practice…

Namaste,

GéNIA

Come to our newly launched Piano-Yoga® Club every first Wednesday of the month 2015/16 to learn more about the Piano-Yoga® method. Click HERE for more details.

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How to Choose the Best Piano for you!

June 12th, 2015 — 9:48am

Very often people do not know where to start to buy the piano, as they feel completely overwhelmed by the choice available on the market. It is always good to have a professional whose advice you can trust. However, it is always better to know what you want before you embark on the piano search.

Here are some tips to help you make up your mind:

1. Decide on the type of the piano you want to have: grand or upright?

Whenever there is a choice, I would always advocate the grand, even if it is very small; as personally, I prefer the action of the grand piano to that of the upright. If you do go for the grand piano, decide what size would be most suited to you.

2. Heavy, Medium or Light: Decide on the action of the keyboard.

I would always advocate for a heavy-touch piano, as it trains fingers better (they become stronger quicker) and, also, piano actions get lighter with the time.

3. Decide the sound you prefer.

If you want to go for the ‘black and white’ sound – so to speak – of a Yamaha piano, this sound is excellent for Bach and baroque music in general, as well as jazz. If you would like to go for a more layered sound, this sound is more appropriate for Romantic music like Chopin, Schumann and Rachmaninoff. Always have the number of pieces on which you test the sound:

  • A quiet one
  • A loud one (preferably with chords)
  • A baroque piece
  • A romantic piece
  • A 20th century piece, including French impressionists (Debussy, Ravel, Satie) and
  • A jazzy/modern piece, or something in your own style.

4. Decide on how loud you want your piano to be.

It depends on how big is the space where the piano will be staying. Remember that a loud instrument will only get louder with time. Also think how many hours of loud piano music you can peacefully tolerate. If you have low ceiling, I would strongly recommend against a piano with a bright sound, as it can make you tired quickly and interfere with your practice.

5. Decide on your budget: 

These days you can find a grand piano on the market from £3,000 to £103,000. There are many places to buy: shops, private sales and auctions. Each option has problems and advantages. In the shop, you will normally get a few years guarantee and the piano would be more likely to be in a good condition, however, the price would be higher. In a private sale the price will be lower, but you must make sure that you will get it appraised by the independent specialist. At the auction you may get a bargain, but the danger is that you might not be able to discover the condition of the instrument inside, as normally auctions do not allow independent assessment of the pianos. However I strongly believe that there is a piano for everyone, you just need to know what piano you want. The clearer you are, the more likely you will find the best one for you.

I would advise you to see as many instruments as possible and mark their performance on a scale 1 to 10 for each criteria from the above list! It’s like meeting new people and seeing who are you compatible with and how they make you feel! The piano is going to be your friend for a long time.

And, for those, who are strongly into interior design, think about the colour and texture of the polish that you would like to see on your piano, so not to waste your time.

Visualize it daily, and sooner or later the piano will manifest itself in your life!

Happy Piano Shopping!

GéNIA

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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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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