William Westney

Practising Showcase

Our first showcase features our practising section which aims to help you practise and learn pieces more effectively.

By |October 7th, 2021|Practising|0 Comments

Piano Day Festival Write-Up (1)

A write-up of a selection of online events from our Piano Day 2021 festival.

By |April 1st, 2021|Events|0 Comments

Playing Softly, Keeping Going & More…

Our biggest ever online events programme kicks off on Friday 26th March. We will be providing further information on the various events in the run-up, starting a showcase of an initial selection from the programme. In these sessions, William Westney demystifies the technique of playing softly, Ken Johansen shows how to keep going no matter what when sight-reading and Graham Fitch takes us back to Haydn’s visit to London! Please see further details for each event below or click here to view the full programme. Click here if you haven’t attended one of our online events before and would like to find out more about how they work.   Keeping Going, No Matter What! Friday 26th March @ 15:00 – 17:00 GMT In sight-reading, we are often told to maintain a steady pulse and keep going, no matter what happens. But when confronted with confusing-looking rhythms, technical difficulties, and other challenges, it can be difficult to keep our rhythm regular and accurate. In this online workshop, Ken Johansen shows how to find a suitable tempo in sight-reading, keep the beat going even in challenging circumstances, and how to avoid common rhythmic inaccuracies. We’ll discuss several techniques that help us to find and solve rhythmic difficulties before we play, so that our sight-reading will be more comfortable and successful from the first reading. Examples will be drawn from all levels of difficulty, from easy to advanced, including several pieces from the Read Ahead curriculum, as well as a preview of Part 4 of the Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum, soon to be added to the Online Academy. Click here to book your place. Making Good, Healthy Sound – Even at the Softest Dynamic Level Friday 26th March @ 17:30 – 18:45 GMT Although it may seem like a simple matter, playing softly can […]

By |March 16th, 2021|Events, News|0 Comments

Piano Day 2021 Festival

The 29th of March is Piano Day 2021 and we’re celebrating with a festival featuring our biggest ever line-up of online events and workshops! Piano Day Weekend Festival Taking place from Fri 26th – Sun 28th of March, the programme comprises ten sessions on various topics, including: Presentations by William Westney on  the technique of playing softly and Ken Johansen on rhythm in sight-reading Two further interactive practising workshops based on our popular “hands-on” workshop format A “Fantasy Analysis” by Graham Fitch on Haydn’s “English” Sonata (click here for Graham’s Fantasy Analysis of a work by Brahms) A special lecture / performance by Harpsichordist Jory Vinikour followed by a workshop by Graham Fitch on Baroque style A chance to perform and get feedback on your playing (or observe) in a performance workshop with Graham Fitch …and much more! Tickets can be purchased for individual events or you can save 20% by purchasing combined “weekend pass” for all ten. All events will be recorded and links to recordings along with any relevant resources will be provided to ticketholders shortly after the festival. Further information on how our online events work is available here. Please click here to view the full programme and booking details. Online Academy subscribers are also entitled to a 40% discount on all events, including the weekend pass (Click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here to sign-in for your discount to be applied if you are a subscriber). Other Special Offers & Updates We will be making other special offers available as part of our celebrations and providing updates with further information on scheduled events in the run-up. Be sure to sign-up to our mailing list here for further information and notifications!

By |March 11th, 2021|Events, News|0 Comments

Piano Conversations with William Westney

William Westney and Graham Fitch discuss their experience with Dalcroze, desire to empower students, and the various ways they have found to achieve this.

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

Perspectives on Technique

Like many of us, I have come from an eclectic background as a pianist. There are strong influences from the British School, with its emphasis on craftsmanship (especially in the practice room), the German school, with its focus on musical structure and clarity of thought, and not least the great modern Russian School (the Neuhaus line from Nina Svetlanova), with its rich traditions of pianism, artistry and attention to creating an incredible sound. Since one of my teachers studied in Paris with Marguerite Long and another with Artur Rubinstein, there will be some French and Central Europe in there too. I also undertook an in-depth study of what has become known as the Taubman Method from a student of Dorothy Taubman in New York, and I worked for a time with piano guru Peter Feuchtwanger in London on his various exercises. No description of my background would be complete without acknowledging the enormous debt I owe to Leon Fleisher, whose weekly classes for piano majors at Peabody during 1982 were among the highlights of my pianistic education. And of course my masterclass and subsequent lessons with Andras Schiff in the early 80s were hugely influential. My own approach to piano technique is therefore rich and varied with all these various influences, and I have found it possible to use the best parts of all of them. Consequently I do not subscribe to the view that there is one correct way to play the piano – rather many different and equally valid ways depending on the physiology, mind and aesthetics of the individual. In my video lecture series on technique on the Online Academy, I offer some very detailed instructions on how to achieve results at […]

Done and Dusted?

I have noticed a lot of players seem to think that, once they have learned a piece they should be able to play it from then on in, whenever they desire. If only we could do some work on a piece, put the genie in the bottle and uncork it the next time we felt like playing it. Wouldn’t it be great if it worked like that? It is easy to hear when a student has been playing through something without attending to the ongoing maintenance necessary to keep it in good shape. I might take a duster to my piano one day and it looks great for a day or so, before the dust gradually returns. Even an unused room will gather dust, ask Miss Havisham (from Dickens’ Great Expectations). I liken performance, or playing through to spending, and practice to investing, or saving. This is especially true of old pieces we haven’t played in a while. So what does maintenance or revision practice look like? We go back to many of the practice tools we used to build the piece in the first place, when we first learned it. The great Russian pianist and teacher, Alexander Goldenweiser describes this vividly: Another grave problem occurs with pupils underestimating the importance of detailed study when they come to revise pieces that they have already played. Yet it is vital to remember that work done on a new piece one is just starting to play and on something one has played for a long time should be basically the same. The difference lies only in the amount of time involved, but the type of work should in each case be completely identical. When you play through something you […]

By |November 15th, 2018|Practising|2 Comments

On Careless Mistakes

Think back to when you learned to ride a bicycle. It was a process, right? You fell off many times before you figured out how to coordinate your body to stay on the cycle, and when you took a tumble nobody reprimanded you for it nor did you give up. You knew deep down that these “mistakes” were nothing more than the learning process itself. The first time we learn something new it is difficult – it takes effort and perseverance until it becomes natural and easy. Relating this to piano playing, I want to distinguish between three different types of what we might label mistakes: clumsiness or awkwardness as we acquire and refine the motor skills necessary for a particular piece or technical skill accidental mistakes that happen in performance when we are under stress honest mistakes that happen during a lesson, when you know you can play it perfectly well at home mistakes that arise in our practice room from a careless and sloppy attitude I am not going to concern myself with the first three points. We are not robots, and therefore fallibility is part of our story. Why is it, when the consequences of sloppy practice are so debilitating when we have to perform, do players indulge in it? I think it is because serious piano practice is actually rather difficult. It takes as much concentration as we can muster, constant listening, evaluating and reflecting and a fair amount of frustration at times. Much easier just to sit there and enjoy the music, and the physical act of playing the piano. Busking With a new or newish piece, there’s a great temptation to learn it by repeatedly reading it through. You get into a […]

By |February 16th, 2017|Practising|1 Comment