Tag: Piano method


“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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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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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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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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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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GéNIA Featured in International Arts Manager Magazine

November 11th, 2013 — 11:09am

GéNIA by the PianoThe International Arts Manager Magazine, the only business magazine for the performing arts worldwide, has an in-depth article on GéNIA and how the Piano-Yoga® method came into being. Below is a snippet of what they had to say and a link to the entire article.

The Piano-Yoga concept developed naturally, initially out of necessity for me to stretch my hands. My teachers had advised me to avoid repertoire written for large hands, such as Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Unsurprisingly, I became obsessed with the piece and wanted more than ever to perform it. Faced with the refusal of my teachers to coach me on the piece, I looked for other opportunities. The chance came when I was invited to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Asked what I would play, I said: ‘Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’.

You can read the entire article on the International Arts Manager HERE
You can find out more about Piano-Yoga® on the last Certificate Course at Kings Place in Novembmer HERE. 

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Piano-Yoga® & Healthy Living

November 8th, 2013 — 11:27am

Kate Lovell Blog

Inner Pace

Kate Lovell, experienced Yoga Teacher, Holistic Health Coach and friend of Piano-Yoga® has written a lovely reflective article on her experiences on learning the piano and her introduction to GéNIA and the Piano-Yoga® method. Here is a snippet of what she had to say:

 

A conscious yoga practice and a piano practice are very complementary – physically, emotionally and mentally – and meditatively.  I was thrilled when I discovered someone else had come to this realization and was working to share it with the masses.  During one of our lessons, GéNIA, the creator of Piano-Yoga®, gave me one of the most beautifully synchronistic pieces of advice when it comes to learning something new and working out a healthy practice schedule – always ever practice up to a point that leaves you craving to play again tomorrow.

You can read the entire article on Kate’s blog HERE as well as gain valuable insight into healthy living, a must for efficient piano practice and playing.

Click HERE to read Kate’s Blog
Click HERE to visit Kate’s Website, The Kate Way
Click HERE to find out more about the Piano-Yoga® method
Click HERE to attend Day 4 of our Piano-Yoga Certificate Course Day 4

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