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 on using movements that are most natural to the body – movements that are free, loose and that feel good. It is most important that we are in touch with the physical sensations as we play – our feet grounded, freedom in the legs and thighs, support from the piano stool, mobility in the torso, looseness in the shoulders and arm and, not least, the absence of tension from our wrists, hands and fingers. Our physical contact with the keyboard can feel delicious and sensual or visceral and energetic; it should never feel tight or awkward.
As I have evolved as a pianist, I have taken on new ways of doing things and discarded old ways that I found simply didn’t work for me or my students. Even though I might do things differently from the next person, I have a healthy respect for what works – for me and for others! Some pianists have built their technique up from a steady diet of exercises and studies, others almost exclusively from the repertoire itself. Some have developed a more traditional finger-based technique, others coordinate in different ways at the keyboard. I have even heard it said that there are as many different piano techniques as there are pianists, and there is certainly more than a grain of truth in that. I take an agnostic view of piano technique – rather like the magpie, I believe we can use it all. It is my hope that this agnostic approach will help you find the information you are looking for, and that you find your own solutions by experimenting with the material.
Starting with the first module I will be exploring the very basics of piano playing, from posture to whole-arm touches, and how we begin to play legato. This module might serve as a starting point for beginners and will also be useful to teachers or those seeking a refresher on the basics. We will then be publishing other modules soon, including a substantial overview of octave playing, a course in forearm rotation and associated principles of movement, and a module on scale and arpeggio playing. For updates on these and all future projects, please subscribe to our mailing list and to our YouTube channel for previews and video excerpts!
Elementary Technique – Introduction and Basics 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 module index if you are already a subscriber.
Further links & resources
- Fundamentals of Scales & Arpeggios – The next module in in the Online Academy’s technique library which follows on from the introduction and basics. Click here to view.
- Mastering Piano Technique – Part 2 of the Practising the Piano eBook series provides an overview of different schools and traditions through to an extensive listing of technical exercises. Click here for more information.
- Piano Technique Lecture Series – Video lecture series from the Piano Teachers’ Course UK on piano technique by Graham Fitch with a particular emphasis on teaching beginners and beginner exercises. Click here for more information.
- Online Academy technique resources – Click here to view an index of existing resources on piano technique on the Online Academy or on one of the following links:
These new resources will all be available through an Online Academy subscription for as little as £13.99 a month or £119.99 per year. Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here to subscribe.