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 didnt have any professional expertise, so she wouldnt 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.