Online Academy

A Lesson in Sight-Reading from Julia Child

This weeks’ guest blog post introduces the newly published second part of our advanced sight-reading curriculum by Ken Johansen, associate professor at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and Online Academy contributor. *** *** *** The first requirement of sight-reading is that we keep going and not stop to correct mistakes. This is fundamentally different from practising, where we stop to root out mistakes as soon as they occur. This requirement obliges us, first of all, to choose our sight-reading repertoire carefully, so that we are able to keep going without making too much of a hash of things. Secondly, it means that when mistakes do occur, as they inevitably will, we must be able to sail through them without fear or regret. What Julia Child said about cooking applies equally to sight-reading: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” A “what-the-hell attitude” in sight-reading doesn’t imply that we don’t care about what we’re doing, but that we give priority to our musical experience – our first encounter with an unknown piece of music – rather than to monitoring our success or failure in reading the score accurately. After all, in cooking it is our enjoyment of the food we’ve created, and what we’ve learned from making it, that matters most, not whether or not we’ve followed the recipe in all its details. Such an attitude requires flexibility, not only in the spirit with which we confront challenges, but in the musicianship with which we adapt to them. Just as experienced cooks know how to adapt when the soufflé has collapsed or the roast is undercooked, so experienced sight-readers find ways to […]

Thoughts on Piano Technique

After some initial trepidation regarding how to approach extending our resources on the complex subject of piano technique on the Online Academy, I am happy to say that we have just published the first module in a new collection, with others to follow in due course. Because there can be no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching technique, as it grows, our technique library will also contain content from other leading experts offering different angles on the subject. As such it will be a research-based, organic and consistently growing resource representing diverse viewpoints. I have several worthy books on piano technique on my shelves, some are clearer and more usable than others. However, as soon as an author starts writing about hand positions, arm movements, giving detailed instructions about what the fingers are supposed to be doing in a given situation, etc., they immediately run the risk of being misunderstood. Very often the excessive verbiage involved is hard to fully understand, even by the most educated of readers, and any images included can only tell part of the story.   In the modern age, many of these problems can be resolved by video demonstrations. Building text-light modules around a number of videos has been my default choice of format this new material. Some videos are longer with more description; others are very short indeed – with few words, if any, and filmed close up. The beauty of the short videos is they can easily be watched repeatedly, when you might want to check and recheck how a particular movement looks. My aim is to identify and use the best format to communicate the subject matter at hand.   My attitude to technique is based […]

By |February 20th, 2020|Technique|0 Comments

Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum Launched!

This week’s guest blog post announces the launch of a unique new online sight-reading curriculum for advanced pianists by Ken Johansen, associate professor at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and Online Academy contributor. *** *** *** Introducing the Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum to readers of this blog. This is the curriculum that I use in my class for piano majors at the Peabody Conservatory. It has been nearly twenty years in the making, and I believe that there is at present nothing else quite like it, in print or online. Virtually all piano teachers agree that sight-reading is an extremely important skill, perhaps even the most important. At the same time, it is a difficult skill to teach. It requires a vast quantity of carefully-chosen music, and the gradual, but concurrent, development of multiple aural, analytical, technical, and cognitive abilities. In this curriculum, we work on each of these component abilities – twenty of them altogether – individually, tackling the complex multi-tasking activity of sight-reading from twenty different angles, as it were. Improvement in sight-reading comes not simply from playing lots of pieces, but from acquiring new habits, and learning to think in new ways. Each of these new habits of mind needs first to be isolated, worked on with deliberate attention, and repeated in enough musical examples to become second nature. Whether we are learning how to read ahead, mastering dotted rhythms, or practicing the simplification of complex textures, we first need ways to think about these things, then lots of musical excerpts to practice them on, without too many other difficulties to distract or confuse us. Each of the twenty […]

By |January 23rd, 2020|News, Practising|0 Comments

Highlights & Most Popular Content of 2019

We’re currently taking a break over the Festive Session and will resume further posts and updates in the New Year. In the meantime, the following are some of our highlights and most popular content over the last year. 2019 Highlights: Launch of the Piano Teachers’ Course Online and a section within the Online Academy focusing on teaching Completion of our series of video walkthroughs for all the etudes in Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Studies, Op. 100 The Online Academy celebrated its third birthday Interactive Practice Tools workshop in London in partnership with Casio Music Most popular blog posts (new): The Fantasie-Impromptu Hands Separately Practice – Useful or Not? Precision Measurement in Jumps Why Perform? Resources for Pianists Schumann’s Romance in F-Sharp Most popular blog posts (previous): Enjoying Ultra-Slow Practice “But it Takes Me Ages to Learn a New Piece!” The 20-Minute Practice Session Rediscovering Bach’s Prelude in C Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Most popular Online Academy series 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Burgmüller) Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (Schumann) A Guide to the Trinity College Piano Syllabus Foundations of Good Technique The Practice Tools Lecture Series Most popular videos on our YouTube channel: Proksch – And Now Let’s Handel Bruch – Moderato from Sechs Klavierstücke (Op. 12, No. 4) Mendelssohn – No. 2 from Kinderstücke (Op. 72) Sonata No. 8 in C Minor (Pathétique) – 1st Mvt (Preview) Chopin – Fantaisie Impromptu – How to Manage the 4:3 Polyrhythm Graham was also delighted to participate in an interview with Dr. Josh Wright which turned out to be an incredibly popular video (click here to view)! We also launched new functionality which makes Online Academy lessons available for once-off purchase without a subscription […]

By |December 27th, 2019|General|0 Comments

Ideal Gifts for a Pianist!

Are you looking for a present for someone who plays the piano? We’ve just added a new feature to our site which makes it possible to purchase a range of digital products and subscriptions as gift vouchers. Our range of eBooks, digital editions, online lessons and subscriptions make ideal presents for piano lovers!   How it works Select a gift from our catalogue (a full listing of products and subscriptions available for gift purchase can be viewed here) and click “Buy gift” Enter the details of the payment card that you wish to use to make the purchase and click “Pay” On successful completion of your payment you will be taken to a confirmation page which provides a voucher code and a link which the recipient can use to redeem their gift (further instructions for the recipient are also provided) Featured gifts eBooks & bundles: Practising the Piano eBook series – Click here to purchase a gift voucher for all four parts of Graham Fitch’s highly popular multimedia eBook series for £39.99 Annotated Study Edition Bundle – Click here to purchase a gift voucher for a bundle of Graham Fitch’s annotated study editions featuring works by Schubert, Ravel, Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Debussy for £19.99 From the Ground Up – Ken Johansen’s From the Ground Up series uses outlines and reduced scores to help learn pieces more effectively. Click here to purchase a gift voucher for a bundle of From the Ground Up editions which includes works by Schumann, Bach, Beethoven, Grieg and Chopin for £19.99 Editions: Study Edition – Chopin Nocturne in C-sharp Minor – Click here to purchase a gift voucher for an Annotated Study Edition of Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor, (Op. […]

By |December 10th, 2019|General, News|0 Comments

Celebrating the Online Academy’s Third Birthday

Three years ago, the Online Academy was officially launched with the intention of creating the ultimate online resource for playing and teaching the piano. Our mission was to curate and aggregate some of the best information on the subject of piano playing and make it available to as wide an audience as possible in an inspiring, informative and non-dogmatic manner. From humble beginnings with a few articles and videos, the Online Academy has grown to feature over three hundred articles and five hundred videos on the subject of piano playing. Initially an extension of Graham’s popular blog on practising and eBook series, the Online Academy now includes extensive content from a number of leading experts on topics such as improvisation, sight reading, learning pieces, healthy piano playing and teaching. In reflecting on the last three years, we’ve compiled the following video which tells a bit more about Graham’s background as a pianist and teacher, the story behind the Online Academy and how it has evolved. Where to from here? We have a number of exciting developments in store which will be building on the foundations we’ve developed so far: New content and resources – Extensions to existing resources e.g. Burgmuller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes and Quarantine Spots, a comprehensive library on piano technique, numerous additions to our collection of walk-throughs on works within the repertoire and more resources on teaching in partnership with the Piano Teachers’ Course UK. Features and enhancements – New features for personalising content, a question and answer function and further improvements to tools for finding and navigating content. Additional contributors – We are delighted to be welcoming a number of new contributors to the Online Academy over the coming months! […]

By |October 10th, 2019|News|2 Comments

Online Academy – What’s Coming?

The Online Academy will soon be three years old and we have a number of exciting developments in the pipeline to celebrate this milestone. Following from our previous post which provided an overview of existing resources and content, this article will give you an idea of what you can look forward to from the Online Academy over the coming months. New content The Practice Tools – A detailed collection of resources building on Graham Fitch’s workshops and eBook series will be published as a complement to existing resources. These will include a course teaching the fundamentals of effective practising and a revised index of practice tools. Quarantine Spots Series – We will be launching a focussed series which takes one of the practice tools, Quarantining, and expands on it with demonstrations of how it can be used in context of challenging examples from popular works within the repertoire. Technique Library and Resources – A comprehensive library of resources focusing on improving technique and tackling technical challenges for all levels. This will include detailed demonstrations of various areas of techniques, guides to exercises and studies with contributions from current and new authors. Walk throughs – Our library of resources for the piano repertoire will continue to grow and will feature words by Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Bach to name a few. Resources for examination syllabi will also be added on a continual basis. Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes – The final four walk throughs are currently in production and will be added to complete this comprehensive series shortly. Healthy Playing – Our set of resources on healthy playing by Penelope Roskell will be extended to include information on preventing and recovering from common pianist […]

By |September 12th, 2019|News|0 Comments

A Guide to Our Content & Resources

Since its launch just under three years ago, the Online Academy has grown significantly and now contains over three hundred articles, hundreds of videos and thousands of musical examples on playing and teaching the piano from a range of highly respected experts. Whatever your goals and ambitions for your playing or teaching for the new term ahead might be, we have numerous resources to support you in achieving them! To help you find what the content that is most useful to you, we’ve compiled the following index of some of our popular resources (a full index of resources is also available here): Practise more effectively and learn new pieces faster The Practice Tools Lecture Series – An overview of practice tools and methodologies to help you get the most out of your practice time Slow Practice – How and when to use slow practice Skeleton Practice – Deconstructing a score in order to learn new pieces faster and more accurately   Improve your playing and technique – Click here to view a general listing of resources on piano technique or on one of the following specific topics: Scales and Arpeggios – resources on playing scales and arpeggios at the elementary and intermediate levels Fingering – Learn fundamental principles behind comfortable, musically appropriate fingering Pedalling – A comprehensive treatise on the subject of pedalling Double Notes – Detailed advice on how to practise scales, exercises and studies featuring this challenging area of technique Technical Exercises – An overview of exercises and regimes and suggestions for how to use Hanon’s exercises Sight Reading – Improve your sight reading with a range of sample works and exercises from ReadAhead Learn new pieces Click here to view our library […]

The Practice Tools Lecture Series

I am very pleased to announce a new video lecture series on the practice tools available now on the Online Academy. The Practice Tools What are the practice tools? There are some instances where in a lesson a word of instruction can cause the playing to change immediately, but there are plenty of other occasions when we need to go through a process in our practice room to achieve a certain intended result – learning notes, finessing and polishing, and correcting sloppiness. This is rather like a course of medication, one pill will probably not make that much difference – it is the cumulative effect of the whole course that counts. Another analogy is that of a gardener. If I am planning a new garden, I will first need to have a vision of how I want the garden to look when it is finished. Then I will need to prepare the soil, which will probably involve a bit of spade work and some hard graft. Now, the real gardener will tell you that all this is part and parcel of it, taking pleasure in all the stages from start to finish. There is a certain amount of patience needed to delay gratification and not to skimp on the first stages. If I don’t fertilise my soil, aerate it, add worms to it or whatever else gardeners must do, I can’t expect my plants and flowers to blossom, grow and withstand the frosts and hardships of winter. So when I outline a specific practising activity, I also underscore the importance of doing this type of work daily with full concentration, resisting the overwhelming temptation to finish off the practice session by playing the piece at […]

Most Popular Posts and Articles for 2018

We hope all of our readers are having an enjoyable Festive Season! We’ll be resuming regular posts and content updates in the New Year and have a number of exciting developments lined up. In the meantime, here is a listing of popular posts and Online Academy series for 2018: Blog posts: Enjoying Ultra-Slow Practice “But it Takes Me Ages to Learn a New Piece!” The 20-Minute Practice Session Rediscovering Bach’s Prelude in C Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Online Academy series: Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1 (Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor) A Guide to the Trinity College Piano Syllabus Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios Rachmaninoff Prelude in C-sharp Minor From the Ground Up – Little Prelude in F (Bach) Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level Anyone Can Improvise! Create First! The Art of Piano Pedalling

By |December 27th, 2018|General|0 Comments