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The New ABRSM Syllabus Workshop & Grade 1

The next instalment in my exploration of the new ABRSM piano syllabus features video walk-throughs of all of the main pieces from the Grade 1 syllabus. The following video provides a brief preview of the type of content featured in these walk-throughs: With this new instalment, the Online Academy’s resources for the new ABRSM syllabus now features over seventy video walk-throughs for grades 1 – 8 (with a set of videos for the Initial grade to follow very soon!). The videos offer guidance and demonstrations for players and for teachers on style and interpretation, technique, practice method, fingering, pedalling and more (click here for links to previews for other grades). Please click here to view the index of available walk-throughs if you are an Online Academy subscriber or click here if you’d like to to subscribe. Full Day ABRSM Workshop Sunday, December 6th (9:00 – 5:00 GMT) We’re delighted to be bringing you a new interactive online workshop this coming Sunday on all aspects of exam preparation from Grade 1 though to Grade 8. The first session explores ways to keep scale and arpeggio practice creative and vibrant, offering technical suggestions as well as practice ideas. We move to a session on the aural and sight-reading tests, looking at ways to improve our results and incorporate these into lessons and the routine practice. After a coffee break we move on to the repertoire. In two 90-minute sessions (the first featuring Grades 1-5, the second Grades 6-8) we will look at how to begin a new piece step by step, with plenty of advice on effective practice, problem solving, interpretation and creating teaching. The last session of the day covers strategies for exam preparation, including practising a performance, the psychology of […]

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

“Everything You Know Is Wrong!”

When I first witnessed international piano guru, Peter Feuchtwanger, demonstrate his exercises in a class I was so shocked by them that I had to leave the room for a short while. They struck me as diametrically opposed to everything I had come to understand about playing the piano, but as I later came to realise, this was exactly the point. The traditional exercises pianists practise aim to solve specific technical issues using muscular or athletic approaches, whereas Peter’s exercises are effectively anti-exercises. Putting the playing into neutral, they rely on flat fingers, hanging hand positions and a completely loose, passive arm that generates most of the motions involved in putting the keys down.  It took a leap of faith to embrace these exercises and, while I did not need to throw out the technical approach I had received from my main teachers, I found I was able to incorporate Peter’s ideas into my playing and into my teaching. They certainly made a significant difference. Having spent some time working on the exercises under Peter’s supervision, I began to feel a significant difference in the amount of effort I needed to use at the piano. Often, I just needed to do much less to get the same, or a better result.  Because I find these exercises very useful in my own playing and my teaching, I decided to include a feature giving my take on them in the Online Academy. To get the best out of the exercises, you would really need to study them with someone who has received them from the source, but I offer them here as a tribute to my work with Peter and to satisfy the curiosity of the many […]

By |November 19th, 2020|Technique|0 Comments

The New ABRSM Syllabus – Grade 8

The next installment in my exploration of the new ABRSM syllabus features some of the main pieces in the Grade 8 list, along with some from the alternative syllabus. In this post I provide an overview with notes on a selection of pieces from the list and a video preview of some highlights and tips for works by Bach, Haydn, Brahms and Bartok (click here for links to previews for other grades): The complete video walk-throughs for the pieces featured in this video are now available on the Online Academy with further works by Schubert, Schumann and Khachaturian to follow. Please click here to view the index of available walk-throughs if you are an Online Academy subscriber or click here if you’d like to to subscribe. Online Workshops As a complement to my Online Academy resources on the ABRSM syllabus, I am also running a series of online workshops. These workshops will cover repertoire in addition to topics such as scales, sight-reading and preparation.  Next workshops Part 4 (Grade 7) – Thurs 12th Nov @ 15:00 – 16:30 GMT (includes 4 videos) – Click here to purchase tickets Part 5 (Grade 8) – Tues 17th Nov @ 19:00 – 20:30 GMT (includes 7 videos) – Click here to purchase tickets Tickets can be purchased for individual sessions using the links provided above or you can save 20% by purchasing a combined ticket here! If you’ve missed a session then you can still purchase tickets for a past session (or a combined ticket) to obtain access to the event recording and included resources. Grade 8 Repertoire Overview LIST A1 J. S. Bach: Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906  This highly chromatic and brilliant piece featuring hand crossings and running triplets shows Bach trying his hand at the new galant and […]

Preparing for a Piano Exam

Preparing for a piano exam relies as much on logistics as it does on a commitment to regular practice, and keeping a positive mental attitude throughout the process. How do we ensure that all the components of the exam peak together, and how do we plan our day-to-day practice routine in the days and weeks before the exam? Routine Showing up to our practice on a daily basis creates a habit that after a while will be hard to break. This is what we want! Some people prefer short task-specific practice sessions spread throughout the day (you can schedule these in your diary) rather than practising in one block. Whatever works for you. Timeline One of the most important aspects of preparation is having deadlines in place to help us structure and reinforce our practice. Let’s work backwards from the end point. For example, if my exam date is December 15th I will need to aim to be fully prepared by the end of November. Just before that, I’ll need to arrange one or two mock exams in front of different people if possible (peers, teacher, family, etc.).  From mid-November I plan a series of regular daily run-throughs of my pieces for myself – recording some of them and reflecting on what went well, as well as highlighting areas I was not so happy with. Identify these weak areas and work on them in special practice sessions – I call this “spot practice”. We’ll also need to do some general maintenance practice, where we continue to work on accuracy and finesse to keep our playing polished. This often involves using the same practice tools we used when we initially learned the notes (for example slow […]

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

Warm-Ups Revisited

We’re delighted to welcome internationally noted pedagogue, performer and author William Westney to the Practising the Piano Online Academy.  William will be posting videos on many practical topics, expanding the content of his bestselling book The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self. William’s videos will cover well-being at the piano, problem-solving, technique, and the power of enjoyment. Common themes in his work are how to adopt the right mindset for effective practising and how practising that “feels great” sounds great.  In his first videos, William explores the subject of warming-up. Most pianists are aware that, like athletes, it is essential to warm-up before practising demanding music. By doing so, we avoid tension and injury, awakening and stretching our bodies to do their best and to feel good during practice. But what about warming up the mind to practise? Warm-ups are not just about doing scales and arpeggios. Successful practise requires the right mindset – alert, free of distractions and ready to focus. In this two-part video lecture, William re-thinks warming up as an integrated process for both body and mind. He provides an effortless approach – a relaxed, focused and therapeutic process that only takes a few minutes and has lasting benefits for healthy, productive practising. Starting with an introduction to the body-mind warm-up, the first video explains the underlying ideas and why this “re-thinking” of warming-up is needed. The second video demonstrates the approach and applies it to a specific piece of repertoire. Together they provide a simple and effective process that prepares body and mind for a highly rewarding practice session – focused in mind and comfortable in body. *** Warm-Ups Revisited is available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy […]

By |October 27th, 2020|News, Practising|0 Comments

Get Feedback on Your Playing!

Although playing the piano at home by yourself is rewarding in itself, it can be difficult to remain motivated and inspired. Obtaining feedback on your playing and sharing it with others are great ways to maintain your enthusiasm and avoid getting stuck in a rut. Unfortunately, current circumstances have limited opportunities for lessons and performing for many of us. Therefore we’ve developed a new online performance workshop format to provide opportunities to obtain direct feedback on your playing and personalised tuition with Graham Fitch. These workshops are an online take on the traditional masterclass, but they differ in they are tailored to provide each performer with the feedback and input that best matches their needs, regardless of their level of playing. Performers are welcome to bring new pieces that they need help with, and pieces do not necessarily have to be performance-ready. The emphasis of this session is as much on finding solutions to problems as it is to refining and polishing a performance. The first of these sessions took place on Saturday 17th October and featured six performances. The following video excerpt shows Graham working with a participant, giving an example of the type of approach and feedback on offer during these sessions (you can read Ryan’s write-up on participating in the event here). How it works Each performer gets a slot to perform and obtain feedback (slots are usually 20 minutes long depending on the session type) Performers may choose to perform live or share a recording of a performance After the performance or recording, Graham will then work with the performer directly Depending on the performer’s needs, Graham offers feedback on style, interpretation, technique, practice method, or works with them to find solutions […]

By |October 24th, 2020|News, Performing|0 Comments