Category: GéNIA’s Articles


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:

buy Seroquel online us pharmacy 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.

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

November 20th, 2014 — 6:25pm

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

GéNIA playing with Trinity College Orchestra

GéNIA playing with Trinity College Orchestra

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

1. Are you a

A. Beginner or
B. Intermediate/Advanced Player?

2.  Are you establishing the sitting position for

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

 

 

3.     What is the acoustic of the space?

A. Dry
B. Wet

4. What is your body type?

A. Tall upper body
B. Short upper body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Please refer to the 2B answer above.

4. This is very interesting point:

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Practising & Enjoy Finding your Unique Position!

GéNIA

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

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

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

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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.

GéNIA’s 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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