Tag: Best Piano Teaching Methods


How to Obtain the Best Sitting Position at the Piano. Part 1

May 20th, 2013 — 6:30pm

I am often asked what it the best way to sit at the piano, as various piano teachers recommend different approaches. When we watch famous musicians, we cannot help but notice how differently they sit:  Glen Gould with his unbalanced low sitting position, Arthur Rubinstein with his almost perfect and static way of sitting, Lang Lang who generously uses body movements and Ivo Pogorelich who is very minimal in his physical expression… So how can we decide what is the best way to sit at the piano?

According to the Russian Piano School that I have been taught, you need to sit closer to the edge of the piano stool, with the forearms parallel to the piano, ideally keeping about 90 Degrees between your upper arm and forearm. The distance from the piano should be equal to the length of your forearm. This way gives you a freedom to move your hands correctly and without a restraint.

However, after teaching a number of students over the years and performing myself on different concert platforms, I noticed that sometimes this is not enough.

Why? Because, all the pianos are different: some are loud and some are soft, some have a heavy action and some are light, additionally to that the acoustics of each venue vary from one another, ranging from ‘dry’, where the player needs to give more sound, to ‘wet’, where the sound needs to be carefully controlled, as otherwise the venue amplifies the sound.

On top of that students have different physique, where some are tall and limber, and some are petite and prone to rigidity. Sometimes the upper body is considerably longer than the lower part, or vice versa. All this needs to be taking into consideration when you play the piano. So how can one find the best sitting position?

 First of all there are some basic rules that apply to all body types, all kinds of pianos and all environments. This is my personal conclusion, reached after experimenting a lot on myself and with the help of my wonderful students. The method is represented in detail in my book,  “Piano-Yoga®: Transform Your Hands” in Chapter 1: Preliminary Piano-Yoga®, Exercise 6. However, here I will give you a quick outline: the main objective for finding the best sitting position at the piano, is that you need to feel grounded at all times. So what exactly does it mean, and how is this achieved?

Sit, as described above, closer to the edge of your piano stool, aiming to have your forearms resting on the keyboard parallel to the floor, with a 90 Degree angle to your upper arm. Make sure that your wrists are in line with your arms and hands, and not above or below them. Keep the forearm distance away from the keys.

Start from the feet – make sure that they are firmly connected to the ground. To do that you should keep you legs a hip-width apart, with feet parallel, close to the pedals, and sit with the back straight. Lift your toes, spread them, one by one if you can, and then slowly put them down. Then continue with you heals, lifting them as high as you can and placing them slowly down.

Piano-Yoga® Sitting Routine

Piano-Yoga® Sitting Routine

Then engage your abdominal area, as it holds the spine and keeps all the energy of your body (according to the eastern philosophies). Slowly draw your abdominals in, but not too much, as you do not want to prevent your diaphragm from expanding (breathing fully).

Next, make sure that your shoulders are down and back, if necessary.  To do this, stretch your arms, with the fingers widely spread, pointing to the floor and knuckles parallel and facing the keyboard. Hold this position for a few seconds and then turn your palms so they are now facing the keyboard. This will increase the stretch deeper, and facilitate lowering of the shoulders. If your shoulders are prone to be rolled inwards, then pull them slightly back; however, avoid over-arching your back (as this would add the additional pressure to your lower back)

Piano-Yoga® Sitting Routine

Piano-Yoga® Sitting Routine

 

Finally, make sure that your neck is aligned with your body and is not protruding forward.

Pulling the neck forward can lead to heightened blood pressure, headaches and even blurred vision, as well as pains in the upper shoulders.

Once you master this sequence, it will take you about 1 minute to perform, but will considerably improve the quality of your playing and facilitate the best sitting position for you.

To be continued.

GéNIA’s Piano-Yoga® Oxford Retreat will take the place on the 16 June 2013 in Oxford at St Hilda’s College. With the programme covering Exercises for the Perfect Sitting Position, How to Create Individual Piano Technique, New Approaches to Sight-reading, Masterclasses and Exercises for De-stressing, GéNIA will be addressing each sitting position individually. For more information and to book a place please visit our website.

GéNIA’s Piano-Yoga® Book is available here.

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How Playing Piano could have an astounding effect on your well-being and self-realisation

April 17th, 2013 — 6:46am

Our busy society today runs at a fast pace: we have endless tasks awaiting our actions and decisions, and we are expected to be reached or respond practically on an immediate basis, thanks to mobile phones, emails, and other social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The way society operates has changed. And, in general, this is a good thing! Now people can do collaborative work together whilst being on a different continents, one can feel close to family and friends and be in touch with them almost on daily basis due to the delights of Skype and Google, to name just a few. You have the opportunity to do more things, and to do them faster.

The side-effect of all of this is that we become so ‘bogged down’ with our TO DO lists, that we forget about ourselves, our needs and priorities. We sometimes forget to differentiate between what is important and what is not, going through life in a dreamlike state, and been awoken only during major events, such as a birth of a child, or, sadly, the loss of someone. Usually during those times we feel really present. We are made aware of our own mortality and feel that we are alive now.

A few years ago I was due to give 12 concerts in 10 days with 6 various programmes. The programme ranged from Baroque music (Scarlatti, Bach) through classical (Mozart, Beethoven) and romantic repertoire (Chopin, Schuman, Schubert), neo-classical, impressionists and 20 century (Buzoni, Ziloti,Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Satie and Philip Glass, to name just a few).

The moment I finished one programme I had to get ready for another one in a very short space of time. One day, whilst playing on the stage, I suddenly realised, not only that there is no point in thinking about the past pieces I had played (a very common destructive problem for many musicians), but it is also harmful thinking about what might happen in the future pieces (another common problem that makes musicians worry, and which negatively affects their playing), as all those thoughts only distract me from the NOW and do not help with either of those issues. There was also no point thinking of what was going on in the audience, as this was also a distraction, as the only thing I ought to do when I am on the stage is TO BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. It sounds almost trivial, but suddenly it hit me – the past is the past and the future we will never know for sure. The only thing we do know and can control, to certain degree, is our present. The more we are fully ‘in the moment’, experiencing every second of it through our skin, body, eyes, brain, etc., the more enjoyable and fulfilling this experience is.

How often do we do something in life whilst thinking about something that happened in the past or might happen in the future, completely missing where we are right now, and therefore missing the most beautiful moments of our lives? If you think you are one of those people, I would strongly encourage you to play any piece of music in front of other people (you can also try to record it, but this might be less effective) or, if you an actor, present a monolog in front of an audience and try to be ‘fully present’. You may need to do it five to ten times, as this is almost like a ‘muscle’ that needs to be activated, but the effect of this could be mind blowing. It could have an astounding effect on your well-being and self-realisation. It can feel like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time for someone who has had a problem with the their vision, but never worn glasses before.

Give it a try, and if you do suffer from performance anxiety, think about this as a life test that, once overcome, will help you to understand who you are and what you do in this world.

To  attend the masterclasses and lectures given by GéNIA visit the Piano-Yoga® 1 Day Retreat with GéNIA at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9AG, on Sunday, the 21st April 2013 at 10:30am-5:30 pm in London. View the webpage of the daily schedule here.

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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