Tag: GéNIA


An inspirational Holistic Day for Pianists with Melanie Spanswick, myself and our students

July 24th, 2017 — 2:26pm
GéNIA teachers Piano-Yoga® at Holistic Day for Pianists in London

GéNIA teachers Piano-Yoga® at Holistic Day for Pianists in London

This is just a little blog entry from me about the Holistic Day, that I led with renowned educator, blogger and teacher Melanie Spanswick recently in London. I wanted to share with you how wonderful it was to spend the whole day concentrating on Piano-Yoga® and other aspects of piano playing and technique. Melanie’s talks were inspiring; she offered wonderful tips on memorisation and sight-reading, making students practise various things there and then.

I offered a slightly different approach, concentrating on how to obtain the best energy, so you can get the best our of your practice and/or a performance, especially when you were tired or, opposite, too excited to concentrate. Through the various exercises and talks about different energy states, we spent a wonderful afternoon exploring. I concluded my part of the day by going through the details of each stage of my book ‘Piano-Yoga® Transform Your Hands’: 10 Week Course of Piano Exercises.

We had a wonderful variety of students, which included amateur pianists, piano teachers and professional music students.

The atmosphere of Jaque Samuel Pianos, was equally inspiring; we were surrounded by at least 100 pianos and had 4 Fazioli grand pianos in our studio, where we taught.

Melanie Spanwick teaches Sight-Reading Class at Holistic Day for Pianists

Melanie Spanwick teaches Sight-Reading Class at Holistic Day for Pianists in London

The students were very receptive and eager and after the day we received wonderful comments such as ‘A most inspiring duette with many useful tips’ from Edi and ‘One of the most interesting days in my life. Thank you so much!’ from Charles.

We look forward to bringing you more events and if you’d like to invite us to come to your area with the Holistic Day Programme please do not hesitate to get in touch!

With love,

GéNIA

 

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Why Body Work is so important for musicians

July 5th, 2017 — 9:59am
Pianist GéNIA demonstrating yoga exercises for pianists

Pianist GéNIA demonstrating yoga exercises for pianists

Every professional musician knows the drill: if you want to be good you need to practise. For classical musicians there are many hours of strict practice required, for jazz and other musicians there is a different kind of practice, but in any case, you always need to practise more rather not less. Talking about  technique, which is best developed when we are children, if you want to be good, you are encouraged to practice at least three to four hours when you are a child, with a gradual increase in hours as you get older, especially if playing piano has the potential to become your profession.

 

I personally studied at the School for Gifted Children in the Ukraine, then at the Music Conservatoire (Kharkov State institute of Arts), before embarking on Postgraduate Studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and finally a Masters Degree at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Throughout all these years, I have been encouraged to practice as much as possible, sometimes up to 8 hours a day. It was not surprising that at the age of 15 I suffered muscular tension due to over-practising. What was astounding was that, at no point during my entire studies, was I ever advised on how to look after my body in order to avoid over-practising (meaning over-using it) nor taught how to practise efficiently; how to avoid strain whilst keeping my body relaxed.

By my early 20th, I found myself suffering from  chronic back-pain, and was forced to see a back specialist on a regular basis. After about six months of such visits, I realised that this could not go on. I had to learn how to start caring for my body in order to stop having to see a doctor, as I was became addicted to these visits.

 

This is when I started to explore. It was suggested I should try yoga, and after the first few sessions I got ‘hooked’. Yoga allowed me not only to get rid of my pain, but I noticed that my body slowly started to transform, my muscles became leaner and I even felt taller!

 

Additionally, I noticed that, apart from fixing my back problems, yoga was really good for my piano playing: my fingers became stronger and the challenge of playing larger chords became less of an issue. Following this discovery, I deliberately started incorporating yoga stretches into my practice routine. It felt great; I felt refreshed and balanced.

 

The following year I was faced with the challenge of performing Rachmaninoff ‘Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini’, which I had been told by my teachers, I would never be able to play. I loved this piece and felt that I could play it, so I was determined to do everything possible to master this piece.

All I needed was to find a specific programme or a set of exercises that would develop my hands. After extensive research and trying out various exercises, I realised that what I was looking for was not available, and if I wanted to work on my hands, I would need to create this programme myself. Starting with various experiments, I came to the conclusion that the answer was … in my yoga practice. By trial and error I created the piano-yoga exercises that helped me to master this piece, and this is how Piano-Yoga® was conceived.

 

So what is Piano-Yoga®? It is a method of piano teaching, performing and playing available to musicians of all levels, amateurs and professionals, from beginners to advanced. The more advanced you are, the more you can benefit from it. One of the aspects of Piano-Yoga® method is ‘body discipline’, teaching those who play and practise for more then an hour a day to take care of their body by showing how to use it in their playing as well as how to relax at specific times and how to prevent injuries. Alexander technique offers wonderful teaching that covers some of these aspects, but Piano-Yoga® offers something different; firstly precise work on hands and arms in order to increase the strength of fingers and hand span, secondly, the discipline of taking care of the body on a regular basis, thirdly, various tips on piano playing established through body work and finally prevention and /or post injury rehabilitation programme. By incorporating the ancient yoga teaching, the method aims to create a feeling of well-being on a physical, emotional and intellectual level. For those following  spiritual practices, it offers something as well. It is up to the student to take as much or as little from Piano-Yoga® as he or she wants.

 

Holistic-Banner-Genia_Melanie

The main message of this article though, is that playing piano for more then an hour a day inflicts demands on your body and, if are regularly doing this, you must know how to take care of it in order to avoid an injury or a simple back pain and get rid of stagnation in your body, as sitting for a long time is not good for our health.

I hope that you find my story helpful and if you have any questions I will be happy to hear from you via info@piano-yoga.com.

with love,

GéNIA

GéNIA, the pianist and composer and founder of Piano-Yoga®, will be demonstrating the main principals of Piano-Yoga® teaching on Holistic day for pianists in London on the 16th of July, in the event created in collaboration with the renown educator, blogger, pianist and author Melanie Spanswick. Please follow the link to see more details.

 

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“But it Takes Me Ages to Learn a New Piece!” – Guest blog post by Graham Fitch

June 13th, 2017 — 9:55am

Graham FitchIt gives me a great pleasure to introduce a renowned pianist, teacher, adjudicator and writer Graham Fitch, who is also a regular writer for Pianist Magazine with his own video series on the magazine’s YouTube channel. Graham has also written teaching notes for Trinity College London’s series, Raise the Bar, as well as for the advanced grades of the new syllabus. He has recently published a series of ebooks available at www.practisingthepiano.com, and also launched an online resource for pianists and piano teachers, the Online Academy. Graham runs a very busy private practice in London, and counts among his long-term students Daniel Grimwood, James Baillieu, and Gemma Webster – with many others active in the profession. In addition to teaching talented youngsters, tertiary level piano students and working with piano teachers, Graham is very interested in helping amateur pianists develop their playing. Graham is a principal tutor on The Piano Teachers’ Course (EPTA) UK, and is also a tutor at the Summer School for Pianists at Walsall, and gives weekend courses at Jackdaws. Graham also gives regular workshops and classes across the UK. Read on for Graham’s thoughts and advice on learning new pieces. Enjoy this article below! GéNIA

‘One of the saddest things about our exam culture is spending the best part of a year on three pieces and a bunch of scales, polishing every little detail until perfect. A couple of weeks after the exam, the student has nothing to play because they have forgotten their old pieces and won’t be ready with the new ones for a while yet. This structure means they often have very poor reading skills and are ill-equipped as practical musicians. It is hard to fathom is that a supposedly advanced piano student with years of lessons behind them would not be able to get up and play Happy Birthday by ear at a party, or to read at sight simple accompaniments when called upon to do so.

A very distinguished colleague who taught high-level conservatory students would only ever hear a piece once or twice. Even first year students had to bring something new each week, and while the pressure was often quite intense every single one of them developed the skills to assimilate music very quickly. They had to! Apart from playing extremely well, the best of them became excellent sight readers capable of working out complex scores within a few days. They were flexible and marketable pianists with a large repertoire, just what you want from a conservatory education.

Quick Studies

Not every one of our students would be able to handle this sort of pressure of course, and don’t get me wrong – spending weeks and months polishing and refining certain pieces is absolutely imperative! There is no way we can develop pianistic excellence and finesse without this. To redress the balance between the type of painstaking and time-consuming practise involved in perfecting a piece and the ability to read well and learn fast, I am a great believer in quick studies. Learning a piece from scratch involves different skills and different parts of the brain from playing pieces we already know. If we are constantly keeping these particular grey cells active, they get faster and stronger and this makes processing new material quicker and easier. This is where quick studies come in.

I will give a student a short piece usually well within their capability one week and expect to hear it from beginning to end the next, no matter how sketchy or ropey the playing might be. In the next lesson, we will spend a few minutes on it. I’ll comment on a particular aspect (such as pedalling, tonal balance, rhythm, etc.) rather than give a list of corrections (over and above obvious clangers we can fix there and then). We might discuss the composition and how it’s put together and then try it again immediately, or parts of it again. Whether the student continues to play the piece for themselves is up to them, but I won’t hear it again.

Regular quick studies help speed up the learning processes in general, because the information from the score has to be absorbed and digested very quickly. Playing the piece in the lesson is the performance deadline they have to meet. Whether you do this once a week or twice per term depends on the individual student, but eventually this skill spills over into all they do at the piano. Not only will they beef up their learning skills, they’ll also get better at sight reading and have a number of repertoire pieces to play. Intermediate students can tackle repertoire a couple of grades lower than their current level. For more advanced players, how about taking a set of pieces such as the Beethoven Bagatelles, Prokoviev’s Visions fugitives or Schumann’s Kinderszenen and committing to learning one a week in this way? Devote 10% of your practice time to it, and no more. It doesn’t count unless you play it for someone at the end, though!

A Personal Story

Some of the solo playing I am most proud of took place about twenty years ago. I was asked at four days’ notice to play a concerto at a black tie charity concert, standing in for a colleague who was nursing an injury. I agreed to do it even though I was teaching way too many hours during that period, and playing mostly chamber music. I had to be very creative with the way I used the time during those few days – it was a piece I had played many years before so I had to use what little practice time I had very wisely. I didn’t have time to get too nervous nor to luxuriate in the details, I had to get a professional job done. When it came to the concert, I surprised myself with how everything came together so well (because I am usually guilty of giving myself too much time to prepare for big things). I had managed to achieve in a few short days what I would probably have devoted much more time to under normal conditions, probably more time than would really be necessary. This experience taught me that sometimes it is worth taking a calculated risk and getting outside of my comfort zone.

Parkinson’s Law

Last week I spoke of The Pareto Principle in relation to our work at the piano. This week, I would like to bring in another principle from the field of time management, Parkinson’s Law. The following adage was coined by public administrator Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1955 essay for The Economist:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If you allow six months to complete a project, it will take six months to complete. If you decide you’re going to do it in three months, it will take three months! Setting a deadline focusses the mind and changes the way we learn and practise. If we have set a time frame to achieve a goal, whether that applies to a component of an individual practice session, or learning and performing a piece from scratch, our mind will tend to focus our energies so as to achieve this. In making the decision we are stating an intention and then focussing on what it’s going to take to get it done. This means that we are more likely to be successful at completing the task within the given time frame than if we had an open-ended attitude.’

If you enjoyed reading this post, you may like to visit Graham’s website: www.grahamfitch.com and blog: www.practisingthepiano.com

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Win a free Piano-Yoga® session!

June 1st, 2017 — 10:58am

genaWin a 45 minute Piano-Yoga® session in Central London or online with GéNIA! The session can be redeemed between the 1st-31st July 2017 by answering the following question:

Q: Which famous composer’s wife was also a great pianist and composer?

Please email your answer to info@piano-yoga.com. We will accept submissions up to midnight on Thursday 8th June 2017. The winner will be selected randomly and notified on Friday 9th June 2017.

To be eligible for this competition please include the following information:

- Your Full Name and Postal Address
- Your Contact Telephone Number
- Choose from the following that best describes your musical level: Beginner | Intermediate | Advance | Teacher | Professional Musician

You can find out more about Piano-Yoga® on our website.
- Please note that the name of the winner will be announced on our blog, Twitter and Facebook.
- The session is non-transferable.

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‘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.

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Holistic Day for Pianists with Melanie Spanswick & GéNIA in London on Sunday 16 July 2017

May 18th, 2017 — 4:02pm

Following numerous requests, we are delighted to announce Holistic Day for Pianists, which the founder of Piano-Yoga® GéNIA will be bringing to you together with the pianist, educator, composer, author and judicator Melanie Spanswick.

Melanie and GéNIA met in 2012, and immediately recognised their shared beliefs; helping piano students to realise their true potential by offering holistic technical and musical guidance, and thereby encouraging a different approach to piano playing. Subsequent workshops and projects have followed, and now we are delighted to present a complete holistic piano day which will explore several important elements; incorporating the physical flexibility and relaxation techniques employed in Piano-Yoga® with the mental mindfulness required in memorisation and sight-reading.

Holistic Day for Pianists is an exciting all-day event for amateur pianists, music students, piano teachers and young musicians from the age of 13. For the schedule of the day, further information and to find out how to book please visit our website or click on the poster below.

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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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Piano-Yoga® sessions in Paris competition: Win a free session!

May 4th, 2017 — 8:37am
GéNIA, the founder of Piano-Yoga®

GéNIA, the founder of Piano-Yoga®

Win a Piano-Yoga® session in Paris with GéNIA! The session can be redeemed on Tuesday 16th May 2017, between 10:30-18:30 at Paul Beuscher Shop, 17-27, Bd Beaumarchais,75004 – Paris by answering the following question:

Q: Which Russian composer had infamously large hands?

Please email your answer to info@piano-yoga.com. We will accept submissions up to midnight on Thursday 11th May 2017. The winner will be selected randomly and notified on Friday 12th May 2017.

To be eligible for this competition please include the following information:

- Your Full Name and Postal Address
- Your Contact Telephone Number
- Choose from the following that best describes your musical level: Beginner | Intermediate | Advance | Teacher | Professional Musician

You can find out more about Piano-Yoga® sessions in Paris here.
- Please note that the name of the winner will be announced on our blog, Twitter and Facebook.
- The session is non-transferable.

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Piano-Yoga® Sessions in Paris

April 19th, 2017 — 8:40am

Due to popular demand, after the success of Piano-Yoga® sessions in London and Nice, GéNIA will be bringing Piano-Yoga® sessions to Paris! The sessions will give an opportunity to musicians and amateur pianists to learn in-depth about the Piano-Yoga® method and get advice directly from its creator, concert pianist, pedagogue  and composer, GéNIA. Taking place in the heart of Paris at one of the best piano stores, Paul Beuscher, the Piano-Yoga® sessions will take place on Tuesday, 16 May.

GéNIA- Piano-YogaSessions in Pariis

What is Piano-Yoga®? Piano-Yoga® is a unique method of piano playing, performing and teaching designed for all levels of pianists. It has been created and developed by Russian virtuoso pianist and educator GéNIA.

This multi-dimensional method combines the fundamentals of Russian piano schools with Eastern philosophies, particularly yoga. The aims are focusing your piano practice, improving concentration, effectively building strength in the muscles which work the fingers and hands, establishing good posture at the piano and conquering performance nerves amongst other topics.

Piano-Yoga® radically improves technique and unblocks tension. The method promotes noticeable progress on the piano by utilising the principles of movement, gravity and breathing thus forming a more organic approach towards piano playing. It can also be used as a stress management technique. In the heart of the method lies Piano-Yoga® book ‘Transform Your Hands:10 week course of piano exercises’.

Piano-Yoga® draws on specific methods which encompass the holistic personal development and well-being of the player and as a result helps to open and connect both mind and body.

Who would most benefit? Professional musicians, piano teachers, amateur pianists of the intermediate and advanced level, young people from the age of 15 upwards and children with the supervision of parents.

How can Piano-Yoga® session help you? Prior to the session we would encourage you to fill out our Piano-Yoga® Assessment Form, which will be sent to you once we confirm the booking. The form will allow you to focus on your most important pianistic questions, which could range from technique to post trauma rehabilitation issues, also performance nerves, organisations of piano practise or a simple tiredness during and after your practice.

About GéNIA: Described by The Times as ‘an outstanding musician’, Russian virtuoso concert pianist and composer, 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 & Trinity College of Music in London, where she received numerous awards and prizes. GéNIA gives masterclasses, workshops and Piano-Yoga® retreats worldwide, whilst running her Piano-Yoga® studio in Central London. Her Piano-Yoga® has been featured in most music publications in the UK. In 2012 she launched live series of Piano-Yoga® lessons on BBC London Radio 94.9.

Location: Paul Beuscher Shop, 17-27, Bd Beaumarchais,75004 – Paris

Booking: Tickets can be bought in advance via our website or by giving us a call on +44 (0) 20 7226 9829. For further information email us or Skype ‘piano-yoga’. Please note that sessions are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

‘Piano-Yoga® makes best use of your specific anatomy, strength and flexibility to help your playing’ 

Pianist Magazine, UK

 

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‘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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