Category: Practical Advice


10 Piano pieces that you can pull out of your sleeve in no time!

May 11th, 2017 — 9:18am
GéNIA - Pianist, composer and founder of Piano-Yoga®

GéNIA – Pianist, composer and founder of Piano-Yoga®

Many amateur pianists often find themselves in the situation where they need to play something in front of an audience, but there is nothing ready and then they end up feeling disappointed: with all this practice, how come that whenever they need to perform, they have nothing to show?

First of all, don’t be so harsh on yourself! If you do take your practice seriously, then you must be in the right state of mind, with warmed up hands and your chosen piece in a reasonably good preparation state, ideally glued into your memory. These things do not happen easily. It is understandable that you may feel less than enthusiastic about performing in front of people, if these conditions are not met.

However, there are some pieces which I call ‘Crowd Pleasers’. Once you learn them, they stay in your memory and hands easily and can be picked up at any moment.

Here is a list of pieces that you can pull out of your sleeve in no time:

1. Philip Glass  ’Metamorhopsis  No 1′ (This is a great piece for testing your memory)

 

2. Frederic Chopin Prelude in E minor Op. 28 No 4

 

3. Eric Satie Gnossienne No 1

 

4. JS Bach Little Prelude in C minor BWV 999

 

5 Robert Schumann’. Kind im Einschlummern’ (Child Falling Asleep) from Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), Op. 15 (1838)

 

6. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Movement no 2 from Somata in C major K 545

 

7. Yann Tiersen Soundtrack from the film ‘Amelie’

 

8. JS Bach Prelude from Prelude and Fugue in C major Book 1

 

9. Ludovico Einaudi  ‘Nuvole Bianche’

 

10 GéNIA ‘Mon Amour’

Hope you find this selection helpful!

Remember that piano is there to be enjoyed by you and the people around you.

With love,

GéNIA

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Sight-reading: Eight Tips – a guest blog by Melanie Spanswick

April 27th, 2017 — 10:39am
Melanie Spanswick, pianist, composer, educator and blogger

Melanie Spanswick, pianist, composer, educator and blogger

‘It gives me a great pleasure to introduce a wonderful educator, pianist, pedagogue, blogger, author and international judicator, Melanie Spanswick.  

Melanie kindly offered to write a blog especially for Piano-Yoga readers, covering one of her ‘specialities’: the subject of sight reading.

 Melanie has also just published the first series of her new book ‘Play it again: PIANO’ with Schott Music. Here, she offers some useful tips for pianists who would like to improve their sight-reading.’ GéNIA

Sight-reading is a subject feared by many a pianist. Reading at speed is a real skill, and one to be prized; if you can read quickly, learning repertoire will be a much swifter and more pleasurable experience. Contrary to the often misguided belief that it’s a skill you ‘either can or can’t do’, I’ve found if students are taught and guided carefully in this respect, they can and do make substantial progress. The key is a slow approach with plenty of practice material, and time to devote to this cause.

I hope the following tips will prove interesting and useful for those who feel they need a practice method to which they can apply to every session.

  1. Sight-reading is all about the preparation. Begin by allowing at least two to three minutes of preparation time, looking at the score, and then separating the various tasks (as described below).
  2. On first glance, check the score for the key signature, noting the major and relative minor of that written; get into the habit of ‘spotting the key’ of every piece you read. Note the time signature (particularly if it changes during the piece), obvious note patterns such as scales, arpeggios, chords, octaves and the like (also aim to decipher fingerings for such figurations before you play).
  3. Separate the rhythm from the notes (this is very important). Focus on the general pulse; always start with very slow speeds when learning to read (perhaps a third or even a quarter of the intended tempo). Then tap the rhythm of the treble clef in the right hand, and the rhythm of the bass clef, with the left hand (at the same time), keeping in mind the slow pulse you have already set.
  4. Now play through the left hand alone (without adhering to any pulse), locating note patterns, hand positions changes and fingering (and remembering the key!). Then repeat this with the right hand. If you’re preparing for an exam, you will probably have just enough time to run through each hand separately in the 20 or 30 seconds allocated inspection time beforehand. However, irrespective of exam sight-reading tests, allow plenty of time for this vital part of the preparation process.
  5. Decide how you will keep time during the exercise. A metronome may be helpful (for ‘sitting’ on the pulse), but counting out loud along to your playing is also a reliable method (providing your count is rhythmical!). Try to sub-divide the beat (i.e. if crotchets are the main beat, count in quavers, but if quavers are the main beat, then count in semiquavers etc.). Counting a bar’s rest at the beginning can be useful too (for setting a firm tempo).
  6. Once you have spent time on the preparation stage, and are quite sure of the notes, rhythm, fingering and hand position changes, play your chosen exercise hands together, very slowly, reading ahead all the time, whilst aiming to play through your mistakes. It’s tempting to stop and correct errors, but by playing slowly, you will eventually be able to resist this urge.
  7. When reading, keep in mind the overall rhythmic structure and play the notes to the pulse as opposed to the other way around. This way, you can always keep going, missing out notes or chords if you can’t find them in the time (if this happens frequently, probably a slower tempo is required).
  8. Eventually, when you are comfortable playing sight-reading exercises slowly, gradually add speed.

This preparation will become quicker over time, as will your reading. Ensure you have a large collection of sight-reading books and materials; one or two books won’t be sufficient, as with regular practice, you’ll move through many practice examples as well as easier piano repertoire. Try to start with very simple exercises, moving to more challenging examples as and when you’re ready. If you can spend 10 – 15 minutes sight-reading at every practice session, you’ll be amazed at what can be achieved. Good luck!

Melanie Spanswick

www.melaniespanswick.com

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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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Special Offer on Assessment Lessons!

October 20th, 2015 — 4:00pm

We are happy to offer a special discount on Assessment Lessons with GéNIA for this autumn. The offer is valid until the 30th of November 2015 and is also available through Skype.

 

If you are interested in finding out more about Piano-Yoga® and would like to get feedback from GéNIA directly about your piano playing and practice, an Assessment Lesson could be perfect for you. It is designed specifically for pianists wanting a one-off induction with the founder of Piano-Yoga® herself. The session will focus on the development of a bespoke personal practice plan to help you achieve your aims; whether you are a professional pianist, amateur, conservatoire student, teacher or the parent of a budding young pianist, Assessment Lessons offer something for everyone:

‘I’d highly recommend it… GéNIA is an inspiring teacher and gifted pianist – I couldn’t wait to play piano when I retuned home’

Karen Marshall – Music Teacher Magazine

 

Click here for more information and to book your ticket. 

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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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