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The New ABRSM Syllabus – Grade 7

The next installment in my exploration of the new ABRSM syllabus features the main pieces in the Grade 7 list. In the following video I provide some highlights and tips for a selection of pieces from each of the three lists (A, B, and C) for the grade (click here for links to previews for other grades): The complete video walk-throughs for a selection of four of the ABRSM Grade 7 pieces are now available on the Online Academy. These include detailed video walk-throughs with practice suggestions, tips on style and interpretation. Please click here to view if you are an Online Academy subscriber or click here if you’d like to to subscribe. You can get further updates on my resources for the ABRSM syllabus by signing up for our mailing list here and subscribing to our YouTube channel for additional video previews.  New workshop series! As a complement to my Online Academy resources, 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. The format will be interactive with opportunities for questions and answers. Please click here further information.   Grade 7 Repertoire Overview The following are brief overviews of each of the main pieces (an index with links to the full videos on the Online Academy is available here): List A A1  J. S. Bach: Sinfonia No.15 in B minor, BWV 801  Bach’s aims for the Inventions and Sinfonias were to encourage composition (an understanding and appreciation of musical structure), to foster good playing in two and three parts (or voices), and above all “to arrive at a cantabile style of playing”. Apart from good tone, a singing style relies on phrase shaping, an appropriate range of dynamics and colour, as […]

New ABRSM Workshop Series

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the selection committee for the new ABRSM piano syllabus, 2021-2022. Following on from the publication of the graded material, the Online Academy has embarked on a project to create an extensive collection of resources for candidates, piano teachers or anyone using the syllabus as a guideline for their learning. As a complement to these materials, I will be running a series of online workshops which will provide a more interactive format than the existing resources, allowing for questions and answers. Each of the workshops in this five-part series will look at the following topics for one or more grades: Repertoire – Practice suggestions for learning selected pieces in addition to tips on technique, style and interpretation Scales & arpeggios – Overcoming technical problems, practice suggestions and tips General tips – How to prepare for an exam, practice strategies and dealing with performance nerves Sight-reading – How to include sight-reading in day-to-day practice and as part of the weekly lesson The following video provides a whistle-stop overview of the Grade 5 pieces and gives an illustration of what to expect for repertoire walk-throughs in both the sessions and the accompanying Online Academy resources: This workshop series will be useful not only for candidates and piano teachers following the syllabus, but also for those who want to learn some exciting new repertoire, make progress with scales and arpeggios, improve their sight-reading, and learn strategies for performance preparation and dealing with performance nerves. As with all of our workshops, the sessions will be recorded. Included in the ticket price is also the full set of Online Academy video walk-throughs available for the grades featured in each session. […]

By |October 20th, 2020|Events, News|0 Comments

Developing a Balanced Technique

Mastering core piano techniques is essential in order to have the freedom to successfully express musical ideas at the keyboard. Like a ballet dancer is required to do physical training to achieve perfection on the stage, pianists too must train their bodies to enjoy playing with ease. In her new video lecture series, Ilga Pitkevica shares approaches and strategies for development of a balanced, holistic technique based on her personal experience of the traditions of the Russian School of piano playing. The following is an excerpt from the introductory video examining the importance of technical development: The introduction is followed by videos focussing on the main areas of technique: Scale patterns or “finger technique” Broken chords and arpeggios   Chords Thirds Octaves Each of these videos starts with suggestions for how to develop a specific area of technique from the early levels. There are numerous tips for developing speed, fingering suggestions and many solutions to common problems at various stages of development. The videos will be useful to pianists wanting to improve their technique to enhance their enjoyment in playing. Teachers will also find the videos invaluable for helping their students build a good technical foundation. Two further videos providing tips on how to use the popular exercises in Hanon’s Virtuouso Pianist effectively to develop specific areas of technique will be added to the series shortly. *** Developing a Balanced Technique is available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber. Be sure to sign-up to our newsletter for further updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel for previews and video excerpts! Further links & resources Foundations of Good Technique – […]

By |October 15th, 2020|Technique|0 Comments

Pieces to Play – Birthday Offers

The next instalment in our “Pieces to play” series features a selection of popular works at a more advanced level for which we have published annotated study editions and other resources. JS Bach – Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor from WTC Book I The prelude for the work is built on a continually repeated pattern of broken chords with sharp, often dissonant accents on main beats and constant movement in-between them. This makes the score conducive to simplification using blocking to discover the underlying harmonic progression. Click here to find out more about simplification methods or click here to hear a recording of this work on Spotify. Fugues are one of the most complicated musical structures and as a result, many pianists shy away from them. However, there are ways to approach learning a Fugue that make the challenge less daunting. One of these is to use the “practice stepladder” which is based on learning voices separately (or in various combinations) rather than hands. Click here to find out more about the practice stepladder. Click here to purchase our study edition for this work. Beethoven – Sonata in C# Minor (Moonlight), First Movement Beethoven’s Sonata in C# Minor (Sonata quasi una fantasia), Op. 27 No. 2, is surely one of the most famous pieces of music of all time. Completed in 1801, it was dedicated to his student, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. The title “Moonlight” was given not by Beethoven, but by poet Ludwig Rellstab; even though Rellstab dreamed this up five years after Beethoven’s death, his nickname stuck. One of the particular challenges of the piece is voicing. In this video, Graham Fitch demonstrates exercises to help projecting the melody in the right-hand […]

The Story Behind Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu

Even though the Fantaisie-Impromptu was composed in 1834, the world had to wait until 1960 to hear the piece as Chopin intended it. This much-loved work was made popular through the version published by his close friend and musical executor, Julian Fontana, but it contains quite a number of textual discrepancies.  How Chopin’s autograph came to light makes a fascinating story. In 1960, Artur Rubinstein acquired an album owned by Madame la Baronne d’Este. The album contained a manuscript of the Fantaisie-Impromptu in Chopin’s own hand, dated 1835. It would appear that the reason Chopin had not published the work was because he had received a commission from the Baroness, and the piece was therefore her property. It is possible this manuscript might be a later copy of the work, which could explain the gap of a year between its composition and the date in the album’s copy.  Even though the autograph manuscript has since been published, many pianists prefer to play from the much more familiar Fontana edition. This is the version I learned as a student, and because it is very ingrained in my fingers, I have stuck with it. It seems like I am in good company. Let’s look at a few excerpts from the autograph score so we can see some of the differences. In the opening material Fontana adds pedal, and removes the accents in the left hand. Some left hand notes are not the same – the autograph has G sharps in the second groups of bars 5 and 6, and the layout of the broken chord in the second group of bar 7 is different.  In the autograph, the broad melody that appears in bar 13 in crotchets (quarter notes) continues in the […]

New Study Edition – Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu

We’re pleased to announce the publishing of a new annotated study edition featuring one of the most iconic works by Chopin, the Fantasie-Impromptu (Op. Posth. 66). New edition features This new edition is an extension to our original series of six videos providing a walk-through of the work and it’s various technical challenges. In addition to these original videos, the edition features: Urtext and annotated versions of the score with 34 detailed annotations covering everything from interpretation, hand distribution, technical exercises, ornaments, practice tips, fingering and pedalling Three practice worksheets which offer a step-by-step approach to tackling specific challenges within the work, including the polyrhythms Fifteen demonstration videos linking to annotations and worksheets via QR codes (if using a print copy) or clickable links (if viewing digitally) The following is an example of one of the annotations illustrating how to approach the right hand patterns in bar 12 using forearm rotations and inward / outward movements when playing on the black or white keys: How to access it? If you have an annual subscription to the Online Academy then this new study edition and the accompanying multimedia content is included within your subscription. Click here to download the edition from your library or click here to view the online content. The edition can also be purchased as a stand-alone product from our store. Click here to purchase for £13.99. Other study editions Brahms Intermezzo in A Major (Op. 118 No. 2) Brahms Intermezzo in A Minor (Op. 76 No. 7) Debussy The Girl with the Flaxen Hair Chopin Nocturne in C# Minor (Op. Posth.) Schubert Impromptu No. 2 in E-Flat Major (Op. 899) JS Bach Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (Book 1) […]

The Online Academy Turns Four!

It’s the Online Academy’s birthday today and a lot has happened since we first launched four years ago! Initially the site contained a few collections of videos and articles based on my eBook series. It has since grown to house almost a thousand videos with contributions from several renowned pianists and pedagogues. The last year has been particularly busy with the launch of several new initiatives alongside an extensive production schedule. Our online events programme was launched and has proven to be very popular along with our regular “practice clinics”. We also piloted an email course on practising and were delighted to receive a glowing review from International Piano magazine. Our plans for the year ahead are packed with a busy publishing schedule and many new initiatives to make the site even better than before (click here to find out more about what’s in store!)

By |October 1st, 2020|General, News|8 Comments

What’s in Store for the Online Academy

The Online Academy will be turning four in October and we have many exciting developments lined up for the year ahead! Our content library will continue to grow in breadth and depth, and we will be adding several new features to help you get even more from the site. The following are some highlights of what you can expect over the coming months. New content and contributors New contributors – We will be welcoming several new authors, including two distinguished performers, a renowned pedagogue and author of a best-selling book! Their contributions will cover topics such as mindful practising, performance psychology, technique and repertoire. Technique – Our technique library project will see the addition of several new modules covering topics such as octave playing and guides to technical exercises and regimes. An extensive series on “Balanced Technique” based on the Russian School will be published shortly, followed by a guide to some unorthodox, but highly effective exercises! Practising & learning pieces – New modules and an index of practice tools are planned for our resources on effective practising. Step-by-step guides demonstrating how to apply the practice tools in the context of learning specific pieces of varying levels are also in development.   Repertoire – Numerous additions to our library of resources for the piano repertoire are in production featuring works by Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Mozart and Bach to name a few. We’re also embarking upon a major project featuring Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Examination guides – Ongoing updates will be made to our recently launched series featuring walk-throughs of pieces from the new ABRSM syllabus. We will also be extending these resources to cover selections from other examination boards Study Editions – Several new study editions are in the pipeline featuring works by Mozart, Bach and Chopin, starting with […]

By |September 29th, 2020|General, News|0 Comments

Approaching Rhythmic Challenges

Many musicians struggle with rhythm from time to time – we pianists are faced with many situations where one hand is required to play in one subdivision of the beat at the same time as the other hand has to play in another. Polyrhythms (2 against 3, 3 against 4, and so on) are commonplace in music from the 19th century onwards. To help solve problems like this we need to be able to set a steady pulse and internalise it as we play, pushing and pulling according to the natural ebb and flow that all music requires. This is vastly different from playing metronomically, since no performance of anything is going to conform to an unbending metronomic beat. While a certain amount of metronome practice can be beneficial if you know how to use the tool, too much of it can end up being detrimental. Swiss music educator, Émile Jacques-Dalcroze (1865 – 1950) wondered why conservatory students’ playing was not as rhythmical or coordinated as could be expected given the number of hours they spent in daily practice. He formulated a method known today as  Dalcroze Eurythmics. It has helped many people improve a weak sense of rhythm by showing them how to feel rhythm in their body in a whole variety of different ways. Through whole-body movement in space, we really feel rhythm physically in a natural way. We then experience the same rhythmic vitality and coordination through the smaller, more refined movements involved in piano playing. Muscles were made for movement, and rhythm is movement. It is impossible to conceive a rhythm without thinking of a body in motion. Émile Jacques-Dalcroze Recently I came across a book that will be of great assistance to instrumental teachers – Rhythm […]

By |September 24th, 2020|Practising|0 Comments

Mozart’s Sonata in G, K283

Arthur Schnabel famously said that “Mozart is too easy for children and too difficult for adults.” The modest technical difficulties and seemingly straightforward musical expression in his sonatas make many of them more approachable to younger players than, say, most of Beethoven’s. But it is this very simplicity and purity that make performing Mozart on the piano such a challenge. The notes may be few in number, but every one counts. A successful performance hinges on mastering numerous small details while retaining a sense of the long lines that contain all this detail. New From the Ground Up edition Our latest addition to our From the Ground Up series features the first movement of Mozart’s fifth sonata in G major (K283). Mozart composed his first six piano sonatas in late 1774 to early 1775. At eighteen, Mozart was already a highly-experienced composer with a masterful and mature style of his own. The fifth sonata, in G major, is one of the most often played and studied of these early sonatas. Its sophisticated phrasing, rhythmic vitality, and engaging lyricism make it a perennial delight to play, and to hear. Edition features Full score with numbered sections which map to an extensive collection of practise routines Practice routines break down each of the challenging spots, providing exercises to help you to master all the technical and musical details from the outset Reduced score illustrating the large-scale rhythmic structure of the movement’s exposition showing the measure groups (phrase lengths) and hidden meter changes beneath the music’s surface detail Glossary of general practice methods to help learning a new piece more effectively This new edition can be purchased separately from our store here or as part of a combined […]