How to Use Hanon

In this week’s guest post, Ilga Pitkevica discusses the ubiquitous exercises of Hanon and shares her views on how to use them effectively. *** Mastering all core types of piano technique is essential for the freedom to successfully express musical ideas and communicate them to an audience. It can be quite frustrating to have a piece one wants to play and to be unable to do it just because some technical challenges seem impossible to master. I have heard complaints on this matter many times in many different and, at the same time, very similar contexts. In my opinion, the solution is fairly straight forward: We pianists need to exercise regularly to maintain our physical ability to play at the standard we want. And if we know how to exercise and warm-up, it does not take too much of our time at all. Hanon’s Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises is one of the exercise books which can be used for this purpose. However, the opinions on this book are divided. On one side, I think its popularity lies in its “simplicity” of notes (in comparison to etudes, for example). In these busy times, when everyone is looking for fast problem-solving solutions, this simplicity can be very important. On the other side, because of this simplicity and plainness, “Hanon” (as its widely referred to as) is often called repetitive, boring and dull. I would argue that repetition makes things permanent. But regarding dull and boring…. well, this is up to us as the pianists! What we think and practise is what we get. If we play Hanon in a dull, boring, hammering way then that is what we will […]

By |January 28th, 2021|Technique|1 Comment

Improve Your Technique!

A collection of resources to help you improve your piano technique and achieve your pianistic goals!

By |January 26th, 2021|Technique|0 Comments

Your Piano Goals for 2021

With it being the start of a new year, many of us will be making all manner of virtuous resolutions. While we can’t offer any advice on resolutions for combatting excess padding brought on by festive indulgence, here are some ideas for pianistic goals for 2021 that we can help with! Expand your repertoire Learn new pieces more efficiently and effectively with our Practice Tools video lecture series, blog posts on the subject, repertoire library and study editions. Improve your technique Develop your technical skills to enable you to express your musical intentions with our technique “refresher” collection, our recently published module on balanced technique or our comprehensive online course on incorporating forearm rotation into your playing. Share your playing with others Getting feedback on your playing or just sharing your playing with others can be a wonderful goal to work towards while also being an excellent way to improve your playing. You might consider joining an online meet-up group, participating in an online workshop or even working towards an examination. Learn or develop new skills Learn something new e.g. how to improvise or develop skills like sight-reading in order to broaden your repertoire and open up new possibilities for music making with others. Share your Piano Goals and win! Start 2021 on a high note by sharing your #pianogoals2021 with us and stand a chance to win a year’s subscription to the Online Academy valued at £99.99! Whether it’s learning a piece, developing a specific aspect of technique, playing for others or learning something new, we’d love to hear what your ambitions for the year are! Click on one of the following links to share your goals with us: Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn

By |January 7th, 2021|General|1 Comment

Highlights & Most Popular Content of 2020

We’re currently taking a break over the Festive Session and will resume further posts and updates in the New Year. In the meantime, we thought we’d leave you with some highlights and links to our most popular content from the last year. Highlights & silver linings Although 2020 has clearly not gone according to plan for most of us, we are very grateful that the year has still had a number of highlights, including: Launch of our online workshops and events programme which enabled us to meet and interact with pianists all over the world! These included a programme of Zoom workshops, monthly practice clinics and an online take on the traditional masterclass format. The Online Academy celebrated its fourth birthday We welcomed new authors to the Online Academy and published many new resources, including detailed study editions and over 100 videos! Most popular content The following were our most popular blog posts from the last year: Get It Right from the Start Pedalling the Moonlight Sonata A Fantasy Analysis of Brahms Op. 118 No. 2 How to Practise when Learning New Pieces Developing a Balanced Technique And these were the most popular Online Academy series: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Burgmüller) Guide to the new ABRSM Syllabus Practice Tools Video Lecture Series Healthy Piano Playing Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum We also launched a new “collections” feature to provide additional ways to find and access content from our library. Our YouTube channel has also grown significantly and these were some of the most popular videos: Grieg – Arietta from Lyric Pieces (Op. 12, No. 1) “Everything You Know Is Wrong” – A Take on The Exercises of Peter Feuchtwanger A Presentation on Brahms’ Intermezzo in A Major (Op. […]

By |December 29th, 2020|General|0 Comments

Happy Birthday Herr Beethoven!

Although there’s no authentic record of Beethoven’s day of birth, the registry of his baptism on 17th December 1770 has survived. Since it was custom to baptise within 24 hours of birth, the consensus is that his birthday was the 16th of December. To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday tomorrow, we’ve created an instalment in our #piecestoplay series featuring a selection of piano works at various levels and our resources for them. Ecossaise in E-Flat (No. 4 from Six Ecossaises, WoO 83) A lively dance in 2/4 time, an ecossaise is actually the French word for “Scottish”! This piece is currently set as Grade 3 in the 2021 & 2022 ABRSM piano examination syllabus. Click here to view a video-walkthrough for this work. Sonatina in G (Anh. 5 No. 1) Although there are some questions as to whether this work is correctly attributed to Beethoven, it offers an excellent opportunity to assimilate essential elements of the Classical style: articulation, balance, ornamentation, and clear phrasing. Click here to view our From the Ground Up edition which provides a step-by-step approach to learning or teaching this piece. Für Elise (Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor) This evergreen miniature of Beethoven scarcely needs any introduction at all and many pianists attempt it before they are ready for it. This video from our Q-Spot series shows how to use quarantining and other practice tools to tackle two challenging spots within the work. Bagatelle in E-Flat (No.1 from Seven Bagatelles, Op. 33) Beethoven wrote short pieces (which he called “trifles”) throughout his creative life, which he published in three collections. This piece is the first from the earliest set, Op. 33 and is set as Grade 7 in the 2021 & 2022 piano examination […]

Technical Fundamentals Collection

The Online Academy’s content library continues to grow with almost 100 videos added in the last few months alone! We’ve also recently added a new “collections” feature to provide another way of navigating and finding content. These collections provide guided pathways through selections of content based subjects and themes not directly covered with existing browse and search features. The first collection featured highlights from the main content categories within the Online Academy. We have now added another collection offering a selection of resources on technical fundamentals. This selection is aimed at pianists at an elementary level and their teachers. It will also be useful to returning pianists as a technical “refresher” or “health check”, or indeed any pianist looking for tips to improve their technique. Collection contents The collection covers the following topics with a combination of articles, video lectures and demonstrations: A brief treatise on the history of technique and some perspectives on the subject from Graham Fitch A tried-and-tested warm-up sequence from healthy playing expert, Penelope Roskell Tips on developing good pianistic habits from the start from Ilga Pitkevica, including posture, positioning of hands and fundamental movements And finally some suggestions on finger exercises and ideas for using the ubiquitous excercises of Hanon effectively from Graham How to access it? The technique collection can be viewed here, or from the collections listing here. Scrolling to the bottom of the page, “START” button and then navigate backwards and forwards. You can also jump A few of the resources within this collection are freely available to view, whereas most require an Online Academy subscription or can be purchased individually (please see further links below). Other technique resources The full listing of resources in the Online […]

By |December 10th, 2020|Technique|0 Comments

ABRSM Workshop Day

Are you taking a piano exam, preparing students for one or just looking for tips on learning new, graded repertoire? Do you have questions regarding repertoire or other requirements for the new ABRSM syllabus? Join us for a comprehensive online workshop day featuring all aspects of the new ABRSM 2021 – 2022 piano examination syllabus. This event serves as a follow-on to our previous workshop series, covering new repertoire and related topics in further detail with an opportunity for participants to ask questions and submit requests for repertoire to be featured. Workshop schedule & content The day will be divided up into five sessions featuring the following topics: Repertoire – Two sessions with detailed demonstrations on how to learn a piece, develop an interpretation and practice tips for pieces across all grades Scales & arpeggios – Overcoming technical problems, practice methods and imaginative ways for integrating them into daily practice and lessons Sight-reading & aural tests – Practical ideas for improving sight-reading and developing the ear using repertoire Preparation and performance – Strategies for exam preparation, fostering a positive mental attitude and tips for what to do on the day Participants will have the opportunity to submit questions and requests for repertoire to be featured in advance of the event. There will also be numerous opportunities for questions through-out the various sessions. (Please click here to view the complete schedule.) What’s included? In addition to participating in the event, tickets include the following: Session recordings – The individual sessions will be recorded therefore you will be able to watch the videos in your own time if you are unable to attend any of the sessions. Worksheets – A selection of worksheets will be provided for […]

By |November 25th, 2020|Events|0 Comments

Working With Peter Feuchtwanger

Graham Fitch and former student, Daniel Grimwood both had the privilege of working with Peter Feuchtwanger at various stages of their careers. In this video conversation, they discuss and share anecdotes from their experience in working with Peter. The Exercises of Peter Feuchtwanger We’ve recently published a new video module on the Online Academy in which Graham and Daniel give their take on Peter Feuchtwanger’s unique exercises designed to encourage healthy, natural and relaxed movements at the piano. The module is available is available for once-off purchase here or can be viewed here with an Online Academy subscription. Further links & resources Foundations of Good Technique – Video lecture series on how to teach good pianistic habits and ease of movements from the start, and tackle problems in piano playing caused by lack of flexibility. Click here to view. Developing A Balanced Technique – In this video lecture series, Ilga Pitkevica shares insights into approaches and strategies for achieving “pianistic fitness” based on her experience of the traditions of the Russian School of piano playing. Click here to view. Elementary Technique (Introduction and Basics) – The first module in the Online Academy’s technique library exploring the basics of piano technique, covering seating position, posture, whole-arm and legato touches. Click here to view or click here for more information on other modules. Fundamentals of Scales & Arpeggios – The next module in in the Online Academy’s technique library which follows on from the introduction and basics. Click here to view. A Practical Guide to Forearm Rotation – A step-by-step approach to incorporating forearm rotation in your playing to feel strong, coordinated and tension-free. Click here to view. Mastering Piano Technique – Part 2 of Graham Fitch’s Practising the Piano eBook series provides an overview of different schools and traditions through to an extensive […]

By |November 24th, 2020|Technique|0 Comments

Free Highlights and a New Feature!

Our library of content on the Online Academy has grown substantially since we first launched. We have just developed a new feature called “collections” to provide another method of finding and accessing content. Collections are selections of content from the Online Academy library which offer a guided pathway through content or a “play list” based on themes or topics. These may be topics not covered directly within the main browse categories or might span multiple categories e.g. resources at the intermediate level on practising and technique, repertoire collections, recommendations for “returning” pianists and so on. How it works Previously, the Online Academy was navigated by browsing, searching or a full content index. Collections offer an additional way to browse customised groupings from start to finish rather than having to browse / search for individual items. Within a collection you will be able to browse backwards and forwards from start to finish. Breadcrumbs and additional menus will enable you to jump between items. If you’re signed in then you will also be able to jump to your last viewed page from your “Recently viewed” links. You can also add pages that were particularly interesting to your bookmarks. Free Highlights The Online academy recently turned four and therefore we decided to make first collection a set of highlights featuring some of the most popular recent items and a perennial favourites. As part of our birthday celebrations, these resources will be available to view free without a subscription on the Online Academy until Tuesday 24th November 2020. The highlights collection includes: Two of our most popular videos by Graham Fitch on practising which introduce highly effective practice tools A selection of technique resources on general principles, position, scales, […]

By |November 3rd, 2020|General, News|0 Comments

It’s All in the Wrist

Our blog for this week features a guest post by renowned pedagogue, author and pianist William Westney. William is also our most recent addition to the Online Academy with his first contribution being a video lecture on re-thinking warming up. In this post, he shares a few thoughts arising from one of these videos. *** *** *** It’s a genuine honour and a thrill for me to join the stellar lineup of pianist and teachers here at the Online Academy. I had no trouble deciding on which topic might be first; the process of warming up body and mind together to create the conditions for a great practice – and how easily this can be done – has long been one of my favorite offerings to students. There’s one moment in video #1 that I’d like to comment on. While showing how beneficial it feels to us (as athletes) to stretch the joints well beyond the range of motion needed to play piano pieces, I refer to my wrists. At that point in the stretch they are sunk quite far down below the keyboard level (that’s the lovely therapeutic experience I like to call “wallowing”). I cheerfully interject, “Don’t worry – I would never play any actual piece of music from such a low position!” But I did wonder, while filming it, if some viewers might be appalled at what I was doing wrist-wise. Isn’t that position just plain wrong? Moments like this are so important, in a larger sense. We can hear about technique from experts – concepts that are true and good; but there’s a danger of our taking them too categorically, too much like holy writ, and this worries me a lot. […]

By |October 29th, 2020|Practising|0 Comments