Blog

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

Learning Khachaturian’s Toccata

Aram Khachaturian’s Toccata is one of the most effective showpieces for the advancing pianist. Although it looks and sounds very difficult, it is actually much more approachable than you might think, with patterns that are always highly pianistic and often surprisingly simple to memorise. There is plenty of scope for narrative and imagery in this piece, the pedal bringing textures together to create a soundscape that is at times savage and barbaric, then scintillating and brooding. In this excerpt from my video walk-throughs for the piece, I demonstrate an approach to learning bar 74 which looks daunting due to numerous accidentals: The full video walk-through of Khachaturian’s Toccata featuring over an hour of detailed information on learning, memorising and performing it is available on the Online Academy here. Other walk-throughs of pieces from the 2021 – 2022 ABRSM Piano Examination Syllabus are available here. Guide to the ABRSM 2021 & 2022 Piano Examination Syllabus We have published a comprehensive collection of resources for the 2021 & 2022 syllabus. The full set of over seventy video walk-throughs is included with a subscription to the Online academy. Please click here to subscribe or click here to find out more about the Online Academy. Alternatively, the complete set of video-walkthroughs for all ABRSM grades can also be purchased separately along with recordings from our recent workshop day on the syllabus. Please click here for more information or if you have already purchased a ticket then you can access the videos by signing in to your account.

How to Broaden Your Active Repertoire

This week’s post is by Online Academy co-founder, Ryan Morison. Ryan is a devoted and dedicated amateur pianist, and I’m delighted to welcome him as guest author to share his thoughts on ways to increase our active repertoire effectively and efficiently. * * * It is the season for virtuous resolutions and a good time to ponder pianistic plans and goals for the year ahead. Many of us (myself included!) will be tempted to embark upon stretch goals, tackling increasingly difficult pieces on our repertoire “bucket list”. Although setting challenges can be inspiring, being overly ambitious has its drawbacks. It often results in one spending ages on a single piece only to fall short of doing it justice finally when (or if!?) performing it. To avoid these pitfalls, I have opted for a different theme for 2021. Instead of tearing my hair out at a few fiendishly difficult works likely to be beyond my ability and available practice time, my objective is rather to broaden my active repertoire. The focus will be more on quantity and quality than difficulty, having a wider range of pieces that I can play at a reasonable level on the spot or brush up at short notice without too much effort. The benefits of increasing your active repertoire Broadening your repertoire can significantly increase the enjoyment you derive from your playing. It exposes you to a greater variety of music and opens up more opportunities to share your playing with others. In addition to enhanced enjoyment, playing more pieces also leads to significant improvements in your playing, teaching you new things and improving your ability to learn even more works faster. A realistic approach Rachmaninoff once said, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but […]

Applying the Practice Tools

If you would like to lay foundations for much more productive and effective practising in the year ahead, you might want to join my upcoming interactive practising workshop. The workshop takes place on Saturday, January 16th from 14:00 – 17:30 GMT and in it I will demonstrate some of the important practice tools and show you how to apply them to learning a new piece, as well as keeping old pieces in good shape. The material will be useful to players from lower intermediate up to advanced levels, and of special interest to piano teachers. Background to the Workshop In the summer of 2019, I was invited by Casio to present a day’s course on piano practice at a central London hotel. I felt we could add huge value to the event if everyone had their own piano to practise on during the frequent breakout sessions. Casio arranged for each participant to have a digital piano and headphones, enabling them to try out the ideas I had just demonstrated using worksheets provided without being overheard. This attracted visitors from all over the UK as well as Europe, and was a great success. we were considering doing this event again when COVID struck. My team and I realised we could adapt this workshop format and present it online and ran a pilot of the format in December last year. From the feedback received, this turned out to be one of our best received events. The format actually worked better online as it made the event more accessible. Having microphones muted during the break-out allowed participants to practise in the comfort of their homes. The only thing missing was the sumptuous lunch and delicious cakes during the […]

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|0 Comments

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 Holidays!

This is my final blog post for 2020, so let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful holiday season. It has been a year of tremendous growth for the Online Academy, with many new subscribers joining us from all over the globe and lots of new content from our team of contributors. Needless to say we have many exciting plans in place for the New Year! The global pandemic has been disastrous for live music and for the arts in general. And yet some silver linings have come out of it. The Online Academy has been able to offer an extensive series of Zoom workshops and presentations on a variety of different topics, from practising to technique, to exam preparation, sight-reading and more. My own Facebook Live practice clinics, which I give monthly, have become a regular fixture, offering subscribers the opportunity to send in questions and problems they are having from specific pieces. We are planning a new series of Zoom workshops for the 2021, so make sure you are subscribed to our mailing list for more information (details of the next fixtures are available here). Let me leave you with a piece I always associate with the holiday season, and New Year’s Eve – Schulz-Evler’s transcription of Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz – ‘Concert Arabesques on The Beautiful Blue Danube‘, in this scintillating performance by Mikhail Pletnev. I’ll now be taking a break for the festive season, so see you in the New Year. Happy holidays, everyone! *** Looking for a gift for a pianist?   Our range of eBooks, digital editions, online lessons and subscriptions make ideal Christmas presents for piano lovers!  A selection of our digital products […]

The New ABRSM Syllabus – Initial Grade

The final instalment in my exploration of the pieces from the new ABRSM piano syllabus is now available on the Online Academy. This features video walk-throughs for each of the main pieces for the Initial Grade, an important exam on the path to Grade 1 (where a large number of technical and musical skills are already a requirement for success). In each of the videos, I stress the importance of developing a strong technical foundation that needs to get laid down right from the word go, at the most elementary level of piano instruction. These videos demonstrate the movements involved in the Initial grade, some of the pitfalls to avoid, and how to stimulate the imagination so that we might play with a sense of narrative. There are plenty of tips that will be helpful to the teacher and player. The following video provides a brief preview of the type of content featured in these walk-throughs (click here for links to previews for other grades): How to access? Please click here to view the full videos for the Initial Grade or click here for an index of other grades if you are an Online Academy subscriber (further information about the Online Academy is available here). The complete set of video-walkthroughs for all ABRSM grades can also be purchased separately along with recordings from our recent workshop day on the syllabus. Please click here for more information or if you have already purchased a ticket then you can access the videos by signing in to your account. What’s next? With the addition of the Initial Grade, I have now covered repertoire from all of the grades (over seventy pieces!) in the new syllabus. These will now be followed by: General […]

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