Tag: Piano Lessons


“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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‘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

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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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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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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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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Very Successful Piano Concert of Piano-Yoga® Students!

December 14th, 2015 — 10:19pm

SubstandardFullSizeRenderWe had a fantastic concert of GéNIA’s students at Piano-Yoga® School (Concert No 22!)  last weekend. Students ranged from age 7 to over 60 and the programme included works by JS. Bach, F. Chopin, F. Poulenc, M. Ponce, A. Ginastera, C. Debussy (Petite Suite for 4 Hands) and S Rachmaninoff (Suite No.2 for Two Pianos).

GéNIA also took part and Premiered her composition for solo piano ‘Midnight Dream’.

As usual the party at Schott Music Hall continued with the afterparty at one of the beautiful French restaurants in Soho. The students and their guests had a great time!

FullSizeRender

Regular bi-annual concerts became a great tradition at Piano-Yoga® School, as GéNIA believes that through public performance one can really learn the piece. ‘You usually need to perform the piece up to five times in public, before you can confidently say that you have learned it.’ says GéNIA.

 

 

FullSizeRender-2Now we are looking forward to a fresh start in 2016 and the next concert scheduled for June!

The concerts provide an excellent platform not only for learning the pieces, but also for practising to perform before important exams and other performances. Our guests usually come from all walks of life ( sometimes literally people who are wandering in the shop at that moment) and it gives students a fantastic incentive and feeling of achievement.

Piano-Yoga School Students ConcertIf you would like to become a student at Piano-Yoga®, you are welcome to visit our concerts or simply send us an email to arrange a consolation for you.

 

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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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Piano-Yoga® student Philip Alexander Balkan receives Eton Honorary Music Exhibition

August 21st, 2015 — 1:29pm

Philip wins Dulwich Piano Festival

An Announcement in The Times advises us that Philip Balken (one of GéNIA’s pupils) has been awarded an Honorary Music Exhibition by Eton College from September 2015, which entitles him to use the letters ‘ME’ after his name. These letters (standing for Music Exhibitioner) are a title held during the pupil’s time at the school.  His name will also appear on Westminster Under School Honours board for having won the Eton Honorary Music Exhibition.

 This is a wonderful achievement, and we are delighted that all Philip’s hard work and dedicated practice have been so notably rewarded.

Want to know more about Piano-Yoga®? Why don’t you visit the Piano-Yoga® club, every 1st Wednesday on the month in London. Click HERE for more details.

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