News

South London Concert Series

On Friday evening I was delighted to attend the launch of an exciting new venture, the South London Concert Series at the 1901 Arts Club. The brainchild of the indefatigable duo, Lorraine Liyanage and Frances Wilson, this series developed out of the London Piano Meetup Group, which they co-host. Lorraine and Frances are both passionate advocates of amateur pianism, and wanted to give adult amateur pianists the opportunity to perform in a formal concert setting on a concert instrument (a Steinway C).   What makes this series different and original is the idea to give young and emerging professional artists exposure and support as they embark on a performing career by placing professionals and amateurs in the same concert. The first guest recitalist was Helen Burford, a Brighton-based pianist with a keen interest in contemporary British and American repertoire and an unerring ability to create exciting programmes with unusual musical juxtapositions. Helen’s beautifully presented programme began with Chick Corea’s Three Piano Improvisations followed by Incarnation II by Japanese composer Somei Satoh, a single Scarlatti sonata, Martin Butler’s Rumba Machine, ending with David Rakowski’s Etude: A Gliss is Just a Gliss. The excellent supporting players were Mark Zarb-Adami, Emma Heseltine, Susan Pickerill and Daniel Roberts. The concert was short (about an hour) and the music varied and unusual – what made this really special was the format, repertoire and the most lovely, intimate venue a stone’s throw from Waterloo station. Afterwards, there was the opportunity to meet the performers and socialise with other music lovers over a glass of bubbly in the upstairs bar and sitting room. The first SLCS concert of 2014 with Emmanuel Vass is already sold out. Further concerts take place in March, May, July and September. Full details of upcoming events are on the SLCS […]

By |December 1st, 2013|News|2 Comments

My new eBook on Technique

When I started work on Part 2 of Practising the Piano, I had only a rough outline of the content I wanted to cover. I soon found that the project was expanding in all sorts of directions. It has been an exciting journey putting it all into writing, and one that I am happy to share with you. While writing articles on technique for Pianist Magazine over the years, I learnt how to put my ideas into words succinctly, but there is still the strong possibility that someone might misconstrue the written word. Fortunately, the technology behind the eBooks enables me to include video demonstration of anything I have just described in words. Because the reader can watch the video over and over, there is a greater chance they will understand what I mean. This is why I included over 100 videos in Part 2, the camera perched as close as possible to the keyboard – warts and all! A colleague once said to me that he did not teach technique; each student must work it out for themselves in their practice room. I couldn’t agree with him less. There are so many detours and dead ends a piano student can take when left to their own devices in this way. They can get seriously side-tracked, the worst-case scenario being debilitating injury. Why have them reinvent the wheel? Why not pass down methodology that is proven to work? Piano playing is a highly sophisticated activity and, while some people do seem born to it, for most of us success is achieved through sheer hard work – blood, sweat and tears. It is true that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to […]

By |November 15th, 2013|eBooks, News|1 Comment

Practising the Piano Part 2 Now Available

I am delighted to announce the release today of Part 2 of my Practising the Piano eBook series, available via www.practisingthepiano.com/eBooks. Part 1 (published in March) dealt with practice methodology (techniques of learning) and getting the most out of our practice time. I think of this as a foundation course. Part 2 covers the complex area of piano technique providing a comprehensive treatise on the subject. We all know that technique is essential for realising our musical intentions at the piano. Every dynamic and every nuance must be produced by a technical means, a physical means.  Part 2 is comprised of three volumes featuring: 100+ video demonstrations Almost 1,000 bars of musical excerpts and exercises Numerous diagrams and illustrations Interactive “sliders” Extensive links to supplementary resources I started playing at the late age of 13 and was fortunate to have excellent teachers from the very best of the European and Russian traditions. I absorbed everything they did with me on a conscious level. I think this is why I have such a thorough understanding of piano technique and can help students overcome technical problems, even those who are not natural pianists. In Practising the Piano I present the best of what I can offer, and while I realise that no publication can ever hope to replace a live teacher, the combination of text, musical examples and video demonstrations enable me to show you quite clearly what needs to be done to manage technical difficulties at the piano while avoiding common pitfalls that lead to tension and injury. Please click here for more information, free previews or to purchase Practicing the Piano Part 2. Special offer Buy Part 2 of Practising The Piano (three volumes) for 25% off the full individual prices.    

By |November 12th, 2013|eBooks, News|2 Comments

The Piano Teachers’ Course EPTA UK

The life of a pianist can be very lonely indeed. For polished performances hours and hours need to be spent at the instrument. Teaching (and for the majority of pianists, this is the most secure career) means rewarding contact with pupils, but what is so often sadly missing is the contact with other pianists, the feeling of camaraderie that comes from knowing we’re all in this together. There is also a danger of becoming stale and out of touch, perhaps teaching the same familiar pieces in the same way for some years. We can all use a bit of inspiration from time to time – some new ideas, learning about new trends in piano pedagogy, finding out about new repertoire and other resources you were unaware of.  I advise colleagues to join EPTA  – The European Piano Teachers Association, a professional body for piano teachers. Founded in 1978 by Carola Grindea, the aims of EPTA are to promote excellence in piano teaching and performance, to bring teachers and performers together and to raise standards within the profession. There are Associations in almost every European country, and an annual conference. At grass roots level, each area in the UK has a local area representative. In addition to attracting pupils via your entry in the list of teachers, benefits of membership include the many events arranged throughout the year – classes, workshops, presentations as well as the annual piano competition. I was delighted to be invited to join the staff  of principal tutors for  The Piano Teachers’ Course EPTA UK, the UK’s leading professional development course solely for piano teachers directed by Lucinda Mackworth-Young. The course is suitable for pianists and piano teachers who wish to enhance their […]

Practising The Piano eBook Series – A New Venture

I am delighted to be able to bring you news of a venture I’m launching this week, a series of interactive ebooks in several volumes based on Practising The Piano. It’s not simply a rehash of my blog – the material has been rewritten in more detail, with additional features such as video demonstrations, audio clips, numerous score excerpts, charts to print off and other interactive features. Right now, you can get beta versions of Volumes 1 and 2 of Part 1 (Practice Tools) at a discounted introductory price, with more volumes to come throughout the year. We have designed this with the iPad in mind, but you will be able to read it equally well on a computer. When I started this blog back in 2011, I knew nothing about blogging. I just knew I wanted to write something about a subject I was passionate about that seemed sorely neglected both online and in print media – namely, the art of practising. It has always struck me how few piano teachers, even very famous ones, talk about this subject and yet the importance of what we do in our practice room between lessons (if we’re learning) or between concerts (if we’ve arrived!) cannot be overestimated. Our progress as pianists is determined not only by the amount of practice time we put in, but by the quality of what we do. We might spend hours at the piano, but if we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, 90% of it can be wasted in futile drilling, or mindless hit-and-miss repetition. Instead of improving, we might actually be ingraining bad habits by constantly repeating them. I keep coming back to the analogy with the Olympic athlete, […]

By |January 25th, 2013|eBooks, News|8 Comments

Holidays!

Practisingthepiano.com is on holiday until the end of August, when you can expect new and different posts. Enjoy the summer, everyone, and thank you for your loyal support.

By |July 29th, 2012|News|0 Comments

Introduction

I am lucky. My pedigree as a pianist is an excellent one, and I have had teachers from the beginning who showed me very clearly how to practise, but not all students of the piano are so fortunate. Is practising an art, or is it a science? It’s both! It cannot be described as an absolute science, because what works for one person will not necessarily work for another, or for the same person at a different stage in the learning (or relearning) of a piece. But I do think it is helpful to make practising as scientific as possible by formulating concrete concepts and precepts while at the same time guarding against dogma. I think I must have vexed my teachers by asking “why?” when they told me what I had to do. I wasn’t being cheeky, I was just very curious as to how it all worked. I still am! I ran a university practising clinic for a time, which was a voluntary, informal drop-in class for pianists to discuss various ways we might solve problems in our daily work at the keyboard. The room was often packed to the rafters, and there was always much lively discussion and experimentation. Since I had to be extremely careful not to tread on my colleagues’ toes by giving technical instruction, I had to find a way of distinguishing between the technique of manipulating the keyboard (which varies from teacher to teacher, depending on what schooling they offer) and the technique of learning (which should apply to all of us, more or less). I don’t have to be quite so careful about this here, but I would want to stress that just as there are (most […]

Welcome!

To PractisingThePiano.com.

By |March 23rd, 2011|News|6 Comments