Tag: PIANO METHODS AND TECHNIQUE


Sight-reading: Eight Tips – a guest blog by Melanie Spanswick

April 27th, 2017 — 10:39am
Melanie Spanswick, pianist, composer, educator and blogger

Melanie Spanswick, pianist, composer, educator and blogger

‘It gives me a great pleasure to introduce a wonderful educator, pianist, pedagogue, blogger, author and international judicator, Melanie Spanswick.  

Melanie kindly offered to write a blog especially for Piano-Yoga readers, covering one of her ‘specialities’: the subject of sight reading.

 Melanie has also just published the first series of her new book ‘Play it again: PIANO’ with Schott Music. Here, she offers some useful tips for pianists who would like to improve their sight-reading.’ GéNIA

Sight-reading is a subject feared by many a pianist. Reading at speed is a real skill, and one to be prized; if you can read quickly, learning repertoire will be a much swifter and more pleasurable experience. Contrary to the often misguided belief that it’s a skill you ‘either can or can’t do’, I’ve found if students are taught and guided carefully in this respect, they can and do make substantial progress. The key is a slow approach with plenty of practice material, and time to devote to this cause.

I hope the following tips will prove interesting and useful for those who feel they need a practice method to which they can apply to every session.

  1. Sight-reading is all about the preparation. Begin by allowing at least two to three minutes of preparation time, looking at the score, and then separating the various tasks (as described below).
  2. On first glance, check the score for the key signature, noting the major and relative minor of that written; get into the habit of ‘spotting the key’ of every piece you read. Note the time signature (particularly if it changes during the piece), obvious note patterns such as scales, arpeggios, chords, octaves and the like (also aim to decipher fingerings for such figurations before you play).
  3. Separate the rhythm from the notes (this is very important). Focus on the general pulse; always start with very slow speeds when learning to read (perhaps a third or even a quarter of the intended tempo). Then tap the rhythm of the treble clef in the right hand, and the rhythm of the bass clef, with the left hand (at the same time), keeping in mind the slow pulse you have already set.
  4. Now play through the left hand alone (without adhering to any pulse), locating note patterns, hand positions changes and fingering (and remembering the key!). Then repeat this with the right hand. If you’re preparing for an exam, you will probably have just enough time to run through each hand separately in the 20 or 30 seconds allocated inspection time beforehand. However, irrespective of exam sight-reading tests, allow plenty of time for this vital part of the preparation process.
  5. Decide how you will keep time during the exercise. A metronome may be helpful (for ‘sitting’ on the pulse), but counting out loud along to your playing is also a reliable method (providing your count is rhythmical!). Try to sub-divide the beat (i.e. if crotchets are the main beat, count in quavers, but if quavers are the main beat, then count in semiquavers etc.). Counting a bar’s rest at the beginning can be useful too (for setting a firm tempo).
  6. Once you have spent time on the preparation stage, and are quite sure of the notes, rhythm, fingering and hand position changes, play your chosen exercise hands together, very slowly, reading ahead all the time, whilst aiming to play through your mistakes. It’s tempting to stop and correct errors, but by playing slowly, you will eventually be able to resist this urge.
  7. When reading, keep in mind the overall rhythmic structure and play the notes to the pulse as opposed to the other way around. This way, you can always keep going, missing out notes or chords if you can’t find them in the time (if this happens frequently, probably a slower tempo is required).
  8. Eventually, when you are comfortable playing sight-reading exercises slowly, gradually add speed.

This preparation will become quicker over time, as will your reading. Ensure you have a large collection of sight-reading books and materials; one or two books won’t be sufficient, as with regular practice, you’ll move through many practice examples as well as easier piano repertoire. Try to start with very simple exercises, moving to more challenging examples as and when you’re ready. If you can spend 10 – 15 minutes sight-reading at every practice session, you’ll be amazed at what can be achieved. Good luck!

Melanie Spanswick

www.melaniespanswick.com

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

Inspirational Piano-Yoga® Club Launch in London!

September 23rd, 2015 — 9:02am

GeniaPianoYogaClubLaunchWe were delighted with the September Piano-Yoga® Club Launch!  Schott Music Shop provided a warm welcome and Steinway grand piano gave a beautiful opportunity for participants to try out various techniques there and then. Having a lovely crowd, with participants including piano teachers and amateur players, we discussed grounding as the main element of any practice, emphasising all the aspects that are necessary for successful piano performance. Trying various exercises, learning about feet (yes feet!), as they provide the foundation for your success, talking about the important role of your abdominal area and, of course, shoulders! The Club over-ran as was expected, but GéNIA was touched with the notes that she received afterwards. The club gathering was truly inspirational and we are looking forward to seeing you at the next one!

Don’t forget that if you have any particular questions or topics that you would like to discuss, please email us in advance and GéNIA will do her best to cover this in her session. The details of the next Piano-Yoga® Club on the 7th of October  could be found HERE!

GeniaPianoYogaClub

‘I was one revitalised pianist and a teacher ready with a new range of tools to support and develop her students! Thank you GéNIA, this was a five-star course.’

Karen Marshall, Music Teacher Magazine

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

Comment » | GéNIA, News, Piano-Yoga News, Piano-Yoga®

Piano-Yoga® Retreat Competition!

April 3rd, 2013 — 9:43am

Win a ticket to our forthcoming Piano-Yoga® Retreat on the 21st April, 10:30am at Kings Place, London by answering the following question:

Q: Which museum has a plaster cast of Chopin’s hand?

Please email your answer to info@piano-yoga.com. We will accept submissions up-to midnight on Friday 12th April 2013. The winner will be selected randomly and notified on Tuesday 16th April 2013. The ticket is non-transferable.

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

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

Answer YES or NO to the following questions:

  • Would you like to hear from Piano-Yoga® and Kings Place about future events via post?
  • Would you like to hear from Piano-Yoga® and Kings Place about future events via email?

To view the event please visit the Kings Place website HERE.

Comment » | Events, Piano-Yoga®

Transforming yourself through piano playing. Part 2.

March 24th, 2013 — 8:00am

With the first student, who had a problem with his right hand (see the Transforming yourself through playing the piano, Part 1), it was not possible for him quickly to change his personality by becoming proactive, reaching out and acting as an extrovert individual. In his case, I felt that it would be better to start working on his technique at the piano. I gave him a lot of exercises for his right hand (Dohnányi and Brahms, to name a few), but also suggested to do some first proactive steps in his lifestyle, which, in his case, was to start going to the gym and doing some weight lifting, as it was the place where he felt least uncomfortable and where he could start building up the strength in his left hand.

Hence my approach was different here: first we were trying to fix the problems with the hand, hoping, that it would positively reflect on his personality, helping him to eliminate shyness and become more extroverted.

What was interesting in each of these cases was that both students showed signs of positive development, not only in their techniques, but also in their personalities. The girl who was very critical became softer and creative, whilst the student who was shy and introverted started to communicate more freely with people around him, and become more socially active,

If it had not been for the piano, would they have noticed these qualities in their character? Would they have addressed these issues? We will never know, but here is a beautiful example of how playing the piano can not only bring you enjoyment in a musical sense, but also help you to develop your own personality.

Have you noticed which side of your body is stronger and which one is weaker? Have you recently had an inquiry that lead to problems with one side? How much do you know about your body? I would highly encourage you to look into this and derive your own conclusions! And by reading this blog you are already on your way to self-discovery!

Written by GéNIA

Russian virtuoso pianist, 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. Her eclectic repertoire embraces classical and multimedia projects. With releases for Black Box and Nonclassical labels, she worked with numerous key figures in the music industry. A visionary pedagogue, GéNIA also founded the Piano-Yoga® Music School in London and gradated  from the Life Centre, London in 2008 as qualified BWY Yoga Teacher. GéNIA’s next appearance is on Sunday 24th March 4.30-5:30pm  presenting ‘Improving Yourself’ at the ‘All About Piano” Festival at Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT . View the webpage here. 

Comment » | GéNIA's Articles, Piano-Yoga®

Transforming yourself through piano playing. Part 1

March 22nd, 2013 — 12:07pm

One of my students was playing Schumann/Liszt ‘Dedication’, when I noticed how unbalanced his hands were: the left hand was beautiful, producing a powerful rich sound, whilst the right hand was so weak, that the sound was dull and very quiet. The imbalance was astounding.

However, whilst my student had no apparent arm or hand injuries or any other health problems, his hands looked like they belonged to two different people.

He immediately asked me what kind of exercises I would recommend for him to do to improve his condition, but somehow I did not feel that just piano exercises would help him in this case. I started asking him questions about himself, whether it was easy for him to reach out to people, whether he could communicate freely and express himself, particularly at his place of work when he was dissatisfied with something and needed to express his opinions without feeling uncomfortable.

It turned out that all these things were very difficult for him; he would consider himself shy and introverted by nature. He deliberately arranged his working conditions so that he could work a lot of time from home, avoiding too much contact with his colleagues. On the other hand, his level of receptivity, sensitivity, softness in his voice and manner and creativity were very developed and manifested themselves with ease. Music was one of his biggest passions.

All this was very apparent from his playing: whilst his left side, which is closely conneceted to ‘female’ qualities such as listening, creativity, being receptive and being introverted was very highly developed, his right side, responsible for ‘masculine’ qualities like reaching out, communicating, establishing leadership and giving out, was not developed well.  It was weak, and did not have any energy flow, and his right hand movements could have been compared to a person who cannot speak, because of choking in his throat.

A similar thing happened to another student of mine, but in reverse. Being a professional musician and highly intelligent, with several diplomas under her belt, she came to me with a plea for help, as her left hand was so weak and almost uncontrollable when she played the piano, whilst her right hand was perfectly in control and very strong. After talking to her, it turned out that she was very good in expressing her needs, dealing with tasks, communicating with a lot of people and maintaining high standards for everything she did.  However she was always assessing and criticising her own creativity (attributed to the left side) to the point where she could not express herself or ever play in front of people, not even one person.

She asked me what exercises I could recommend for her to do to improve her left hand weakness, but I felt that the first thing she really should do is to get involved with something creative, in the area in which she didn’t have any professional expertise, so she wouldn’t be able to criticize herself much. I thought that she should not, for the present, do many musical activities or anything where she had professional qualifications and expertise. Instead, I recommended her to do something that she loved, but where she was completely inexperienced. She told me that she loved fashion and I said: ‘Great’! Create a set of beautiful outfits for yourself, deciding on the style and see how much you enjoy it.’ She also loved decorating her own house, so I suggested that she revamp one of her rooms. My advice was to collect a lot of ideas and see how they made her feel.  I also asked her not to criticise herself if at all possible, but accept that the end result would be unknown and, very likely, not perfect.

The whole point of this was to develop her ‘creative juices’ and minimize her self- critical attitude.

Of course, I also suggested that meanwhile she did some piano exercises by Berenz (‘Training of the Left Hand’, an amazing book, highly recommended for those who need to improve their left hand), Marguerite Long, and use the Piano-Yoga® book.

To be continued…

Written by GéNIA

Russian virtuoso pianist, 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. Her eclectic repertoire embraces classical and multimedia projects. With releases for Black Box and Nonclassical labels, she worked with numerous key figures in the music industry. A visionary pedagogue, GéNIA also founded the Piano-Yoga® Music School in London and gradated  from the Life Centre, London in 2008 as qualified BWY Yoga Teacher. GéNIA’s next appearance is on Sunday 24th March 4.30-5:30pm  presenting ‘Improving Yourself’ at the ‘All About Piano” Festival at Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT . View the webpage here. 

Comment » | GéNIA's Articles, Piano-Yoga®

Back to top