Category: Practical Advice


‘The Kate Way’ – Guest blog post by Kate Lovell

May 25th, 2017 — 8:11am

Kate Lovell © Genevieve Stevenson-1-10Kate Lovell is a Yoga Teacher and Holistic Health coach based in London.  Kate grew up in a small town near Boston in a musical family where she learned to play the piano, but her passion for languages and Europe brought her to France, then Italy and eventually London to live and work.  While working in the media, Kate trained to teach yoga and studied nutrition and holistic health in order to turn her passion for well-being into a career.  She discovered Piano-Yoga® and my teaching approach quite by chance while looking for a piano teacher in London.  Kate loves teaching yoga to beginners and believes in making yoga accessible to everyone.  She equally loves offering support to her coaching clients to help them develop habits and awareness that feed a healthy approach to eating and living for the rest of their lives.  She weaves her insights into monthly newsletters and her blog so that more people can help incorporate healthy habits into their lives. Read on below to hear about Kate’s experiences playing the piano and visit her website for further advice on health, nutrition and well-being! GéNIA

 

It’s been a long time since I have been called upon to perform a piano piece in front of an audience, but I can remember the nerves and anxiety that accompanied my bi-annual recitals like it was yesterday.  I started playing the piano around the age of nine and performed in recitals up until the age of twenty, a time period that unfortunately preceded my many years practising yoga and studying nutrition as a means towards improving my well-being and reducing stress.  I have been teaching yoga for a decade and health coaching just slightly shorter than that, and believe that if only I had the tools and knowledge I do now to help me stay grounded and centred, I would have welcomed more opportunities to perform and perhaps have even enjoyed the experience.

 

I have always been interested in the food-mood connection and how what we eat affects how we feel.  If people drink coffee or consume sugar as a pick-me-up, then surely there are foods that also do the opposite?  And the opposite of feeling overly stimulated and jumpy is exactly what one needs to perform well.  I remember my piano teacher telling me to eat something that made me feel calm before a recital where I was playing one of my most challenging pieces yet.  She recalled an incident where she and a close friend who were performing a four-hand piano piece decided to have a coffee together before going on stage.  The performance was like a car crash – they couldn’t control the tempo and their hands were shaking from the caffeine.  Not all of us responds to caffeine with the same sensitivity, but often if our stress hormones have been activated and our autonomic nervous systems sent into fight-or-flight mode (for example, because of stage fright or fear of forgetting one’s music), consuming foods or beverages that are ‘yang’ (energetic) in nature just adds fuel to the fire.  Imagine Flight of the Bumblebee but inside your body!

 

With nutrition, there is no one way.  We are all programmed a bit differently and require different diets depending on our body types and lifestyles (as is taught in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine).  However, I generally I find that given our stressful lifestyles and the increasing demands placed upon us due to technology (in the case of city-dwellers especially), we are living in more of a yang (energetic) state than a yin (cool) state and thus require foods that are more calming or ‘sattvic’ in nature to balance these energies.  Calming foods are generally easy to digest, have nutrients that steady the nervous system and have textures and temperatures that are soothing to the body and mind.

 

So if, like me, you get really nervous, agitated and flustered before a performance, consider some yoga practices but also think about what foods you could eat to help reverse that feeling. Below are just a few suggestions that work for me:

  • Avoid any caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea, and opt for a herbal tea like chamomile and plenty of pure, room-temperature water to stay hydrated (but maybe not too much just before going on stage!)
  • Have a warm, nourishing and fresh cooked meal with root vegetables (because they come from the ground, they help you stay grounded!) before performing – something like baked sweet potatoes with some brown rice (contain Serotonin) or a warm porridge with nut milk, cashews, almonds and brazil nuts (their Omega 3 Fatty Acids feed the brain)
  • If you get a really upset stomach when you’re nervous a warm vegetable or chicken broth could just the thing to calm your tummy and feed your brain
  • I often drink a warm nut milk with a bit of ghee and some spices like cardamom to help sooth me before I sleep and find this is also good when I want to feel more grounded
  • Avoid refined sugar and high sugar energy drinks, instead have fruit like bananas (good for Potassium to support brain function) and kiwis (good for Vitamin C) but keep in mind that too many raw foods might challenge your digestion

Visit Kate’s website here for further information on health coaching, well-being and yoga.

Comment » | Guest Blogger, Practical Advice, Yoga

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

Comment » | Guest Blogger, Music, News, Practical Advice

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!

 

 

Comment » | GéNIA, GéNIA's Articles, Guest Blogger, Music Lessons, Piano-Yoga Lessons, Piano-Yoga®, Practical Advice

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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