‘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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Congratulations to Lila Erol, a pupil of GéNIA, for winning The Junior School of the Year award!

March 28th, 2017 — 3:26pm

Lila Erol

We were delighted to find out that GéNIA’s student, Lila Erol, was awarded The Junior School of the Year 2017 award from Francis Holland School, Sloane Square.

The award was given as a result of the Funny Davies competition, with over 130 solo and ensemble performances. Amongst the performances were traditional Greek song, a Russian march, native American music, a French lullaby, Italian opera and Spanish dances. The girls also covered just about every musical genre – ancient plainsong, a Baroque concerto, Romantic piano music, film music, Jazz and Blues, musical theatre and even had a rock band!

Funny Davies Award

Funny Davies Award

The Junior School Musician of the Year 2017 shield was awarded to Lila Erol, in Year 6, who moved her audience with her mature, sensitive and and technically assured rendition of Frédéric Chopin’s ‘Prelude in E minor’ op.28, no. 4.

We are delighted here at Piano-Yoga®, and look forward to more performances from this talented young lady!

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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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Piano-Yoga® Blog Selected as one of the Top 40 Piano Blogs on the Web

January 18th, 2017 — 3:22pm

Piano BlogOur Piano-Yoga® blog has been selected by Feed Spot as one of the top 40 piano blogs on the Web.

The team are very pleased with the award and we will continue to strive to offer the best piano playing advice and information combined with our unique holistic approach. You can read more about the award by clicking the link here.

 

 

 

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Piano-Yoga® featured on the cover of The Piano Bench Mag

January 16th, 2017 — 10:27am

IMG_3638Piano-Yoga® founder GéNIA has been featured in the January issue of renowned piano teaching magazine Piano Bench Mag. The issue can be purchased from itunes here and google play 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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Pupil of Piano-Yoga® wins Trophy from Woodely Festival as the most promising performer!

April 28th, 2016 — 2:33pm

WoodelyFestTropheyCongratulations to Catherine Lieben, a student of Piano-Yoga® and a pupil of GéNIA, for winning the Wendy Wilson Trophy from the Woodely Festival of Music and Arts 2016. The trophy is awarded to the most promising performer in the adult class. Catherine was performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in B minor, Op.32 No. 10.

Catherine has been studying with GéNIA for over five years and regularly takes part in many music festivals across the UK.

For more information on the Festival please see their website www.woodelyfestival.org.uk

The next Piano-Yoga® students’ concert will take place on the 23d of July 2016 at Schott Music, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB at 6:30pm. At the concert there will be an opportunity to listen to many students studying the Piano-Yoga®method, including Catherine Lieben, and meet them after the concert.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

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Piano-Yoga® founder GéNIA’s Show at St James Theatre London Just Announced

February 17th, 2016 — 2:27pm

GéNIA’s latest project, the single released especially for Valentine’s Day, features a classical piano arrangement of  ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele and takes it to a global classical audience.

GéNIA will hosting a show at St James Theatre London premiering ‘Someone Like You’ and play many of her own works intertwined with well-known classics.

Tickets available shortly

“…one to watch…”

The Observer, UK

 

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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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