Tag: Piano


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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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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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

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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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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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Special Offer on Assessment Lessons!

October 20th, 2015 — 4:00pm

We are happy to offer a special discount on Assessment Lessons with GéNIA for this autumn. The offer is valid until the 30th of November 2015 and is also available through Skype.

 

If you are interested in finding out more about Piano-Yoga® and would like to get feedback from GéNIA directly about your piano playing and practice, an Assessment Lesson could be perfect for you. It is designed specifically for pianists wanting a one-off induction with the founder of Piano-Yoga® herself. The session will focus on the development of a bespoke personal practice plan to help you achieve your aims; whether you are a professional pianist, amateur, conservatoire student, teacher or the parent of a budding young pianist, Assessment Lessons offer something for everyone:

‘I’d highly recommend it… GéNIA is an inspiring teacher and gifted pianist – I couldn’t wait to play piano when I retuned home’

Karen Marshall – Music Teacher Magazine

 

Click here for more information and to book your ticket. 

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Piano-Yoga® Club Launch in London!

August 14th, 2015 — 2:27pm

2nd-September-Newsletter-Picture-Larger

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Fantastic ABRSM results achieved by Piano-Yoga® students!

August 10th, 2015 — 7:35am

Couple playing duet on pianoPiano-Yoga® students actively take part in ABRSM exams and we are very pleased to announce that this year two of our students (pupils of GéNIA) have passed with Distinctions, Grade 1 and Grade 7 respectively. The Piano-Yoga® method of teaching is for advanced and budding pianists alike: ‘It really does work…..many pianists have been helped with this unorthodox and unusual method’. Piano Professional Magazine

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 Talks on BBC LONDON 94.9 Radio about The Piano-Yoga® Club

August 5th, 2015 — 7:17am
GéNIA talks to Jo Good on her show at BBC London Radio 94.9

GéNIA talks to Jo Good on her show at BBC London Radio 94.9

GéNIA was a guest on Jo Good Show at BBC London  94.9 Radio on Tuesday, the 4th of August, where she talked in details about the launch of  the Piano-Yoga® Club, what to expect, who is it for and when it will start. If you are considering of joining the Club this interview will give you a great insight (starts from 1:07): LISTEN HERE 

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