Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

GéNIA Launches her Piano-Yoga® Club in London

Virtuoso pianist and composer GéNIA announces the launch of the first ever monthly Piano-Yoga® Club! The project is a new brainchild of this ‘charismatic pianist’ (Gramophone Magazine) and will take place at the historic Schott Music store in the heart of London.

Pianist GéNIA

Pianist of all levels will now be able to experience the Piano-Yoga® method that was described by Piano & Health Magazine as ‘ the first entirely new piano technique to emerge in over 50 years’  and ‘something radical’ at this new regular monthly Club night. Starting in September and running on the 1st Wednesday of every month the Piano-Yoga® Club will provide a truly unique opportunity to acquire in-depth learning about this unique holistic method from its creator herself, ‘an outstanding musician’ ( The Times) , GéNIA.

Based on a synergy between the Russian School of Piano Playing and Eastern Philosophies, especially Yoga, Piano-Yoga® believes that, with a simple and holistic approach, which takes into account an individual’s physical, psychological and energetic state, one can learn faster and more easily. Strongly emphasising the uniqueness of each human being, Piano-Yoga® teaches musicians how to learn to play the piano utilising their strengths, while gently working on improving their weaknesses. Whether one has tight shoulders, tension in their arms, rhythm problems, performance nerves or the inability to organise piano practice efficiently, Piano-Yoga® can offer various solutions and teach musicians how to be in charge of their own progress.

Paying great attention to the musician’s environment, which can be a lonely existence, especially for pianists, GéNIA believes that the Piano-Yoga® Club will attract like–minded people and become a great place for interactive, creative and noncompetitive music making.

Click HERE for booking details and more information on the all new Piano-Yoga® Club.

Piano Skype Lessons: Are they really a substitute for face-to-face tuition?

GéNIA

Skype Piano Lessons

I have been giving piano lessons for almost 20 years and when I first came across the idea of Skype Piano lessons, I admit, I was quite skeptical about it: doesn’t the student need to be in the same room with the teacher in order to really experience the full benefits of the tuition? Would not this be a bit artificial (particularly for us, the Piano-Yoga® Music School, since Piano-Yoga® promotes an holistic approach to piano playing) to rely so much on technology and the limitations of the computer screen?

However, due to my curiosity and inclination to explore new things, I decided to try this way of teaching by launching a Skype Piano-Yoga® Clinic. The result was better than I anticipated: people were ringing from all over the world, some asking about the piano repertoire that they needed to focus on, some on the details of the Piano-Yoga® method and some simply wanted specific technical help with their pieces. For example, with one student we spent quite a long time working on various trills and mordents, exploring the fingering that would work especially for her and at the end I was amazed with the efficiency of the whole process.

This is how Piano Skype Lessons were launched. This tuition method, which originally started as 10-minute online piano consultation sessions, has now been transformed into a well-established Skype Piano Lessons Online Practice as another branch of the Piano-Yoga® School. My students come from all over the world: Japan, Australia, USA, France and Germany. The feeling that you can communicate and work with someone on the other side of the world is absolutely amazing and rewarding and I guess, for those who like to study playing the piano through the Piano-Yoga® method, there is no longer the need to travel to London or follow my travel schedule.

Piano Skype Lessons can sometimes be even more focused than traditional piano lessons because all the communication is happening through the camera and therefore the direction of the camera and the size of the screen very much dictates the points that are discussed during the lesson. Somehow, talking about the weather and other pleasantries becomes less appropriate!

Sometimes we aim the camera at the particular hand in question, or at the student’s posture or face. On my side I am often adjusting the camera to show either my hands or do work on particular passages, or to discuss the whole posture issue. Because of this the process appears more intense (in a good way) and far more efficient.

Another plus of these lessons is that they usually start and finish exactly on time, without wasting time on getting ready for the lesson and leaving the room, which can sometimes take up to 10 minutes on each side!

Are Piano Skype Lessons for you? Test yourself against the checklist below:

Many of my students, who I teach at Steinway Hall and Schott Music in London, are still apprehensive about Skype online piano tuition and think that Piano Skype Lessons could never provide an adequate substitute for a normal lesson. Therefore, I created this checklist that will help you decide whether Skype Piano Lessons are for you:

  1. Do you want to study with a particular teacher but find hard to travel to see them regularly?
  2. Do you have a limited amount of time and therefore can not study regularly, due to the amount of time it takes to travel to see your teacher?
  3. Would you like to have shorter sessions rather than the one-hour lessons which many traditional piano schools provide?
  4. If you said yes to question 3 (above), do you think that piano lessons shorter than 60 minutes are not worth your travel time?
  5. Do you find that when you are on holiday and finally have the time to practise, as well as greater inspiration, your teacher is in another country?

If you sad yes to ANY of the questions above then Skype Piano Lessons are for you!

What you need in order to start Skype Piano Lessons:

Before committing to Skype Piano Lessons you need to make sure that:

  1. You chose your teacher because you really want to study them specifically, and not just because they provide Skype Piano Lessons.
  2. You have a good, fast internet connection at the address your lesson is due to take place (at least 2mb download and 0.5mb upload).
  3. You have a good and workable computer with a decent screen resolution (see below).
  4. You have a good quality microphone and good speakers.
  5. You have an adjustable camera (either built into the computer – I usually use my laptop – or external), so you can direct it towards specific perspectives during the lesson.
  6. Your computer can face the piano keyboard (this is why laptops are generally more practical and functional)
  7. You can install the latest version of Skype and check that you can see yourself and the piano keyboard in the camera.

Computer Requirements:
Windows (XP – Win 7) or Mac OSX (Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion)
Minimum 1GHz Processor
Minimum 256mb of RAM
DirectX 9 or above

Screen Requirements:
Minimum of 1280×1024 resolution.

Choosing a Skype Piano Lesson Teacher:

At the end of the day, the efficiency of your lesson will very much depend on the teacher. The market is big and you need to find a teacher who is right for you (A separate blog on this will be coming soon!) Needles to say that the teacher needs to be well qualified, have good teaching ethics and, in general, suit your temperament, as well as share your goals and beliefs.

At our Piano-Yoga® Music School we offer many classes and lessons ranging from 20 minute individual sessions to full three-month courses (‘A’ and ‘B’):
http://www.piano-yoga.com/e-shop/lessons/skype-lessons.php
You can always give us a call for an informal chat via Skype on weekdays 9:00-13:00 (GMT) search for us at ‘piano-yoga’, if you want to find out more, or email us on info@piano-yoga.com.

In conclusion, I would say never stop developing and learning just because you do not have the time or means to travel to a lesson or person with whom you would like to learn, and if you are not a fan of technology do not dismiss the idea of using it to your advantage before trying it! You might be pleasantly surprised.

‘The beautiful thing about learning is that no-one can take it away from you’ – B.B. King

With all best wishes,
Namaste
GéNIA

Skype Piano Lessons are available online now! From the Piano-Yoga® School

Skype Piano Lessons

Skype Piano Lessons

Achieve your piano performance goals from anywhere in the world, over the internet, with our interactive Piano Skype Lessons. Get all the benefits of a one to one piano lesson or piano life coaching session live from the comfort of your own home, and be taught by the Head of Piano-Yoga® School, Russian pianist GéNIA!

‘I would encourage any pianist, amateurs and professionals alike, to sign up to one of [GéNIA’s] courses!’
International Piano Magazine

Now you can start benefiting from the powerful Piano-Yoga® technique straight away. With our unique Piano-Yoga® School based in London, piano lessons using Skype offer those unable to travel to us a chance to study piano online. You can have a Skype Piano Lesson from anywhere in the world and, with our continuously growing international community, we welcome pianists of all levels and backgrounds! Whether you are in the United States, Australia or anywhere in the UK, you now have the opportunity to study the piano from the original Piano-Yoga® source; founder of the method, pianist GéNIA.

In these sessions you can work on your technique, prepare for your graded Associated Board Exams or Performance Diploma, get feedback and advice on your posture, receive tips on stress management technique and discuss any questions and concerns that relate to your piano playing (even choosing the best piano to suit your needs)!

Apart from teaching the Piano-Yoga® method, GéNIA has been advising many musicians and young people on how to embark on professional career path, whether to become a piano teacher, accompanist, concert performer or break into a pop music/dance industry. With Piano-Yoga® holistic method, all the elements of your well-being, music potential, circumstances and current education are taken into account and through individual coaching your dreams are transformed to a vision that could become a reality.

“The 21st century answer to playing the piano”
Yoga & Health Magazine

What you get:

  • Exclusive one to one piano lesson
  • Tailored approach to your technique
  • Personalized Practice Plan
  • Step by Step Guidance
  • Stress Management Technique
  • Piano Life Coaching
  • Body Maintenance Exercises
  • Flexibility in your Training Hours
  • The top quality advice at the comfort of your home

If you want to have a quick experience on all what Skype Piano Lessons have to offer you can try a short 20 minute session or, if you already know that this technique is for you, sign up to our courses A or B to benefit fully from the method. The choice is yours!

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no-one can take it away from you!”
B.B.King

Click HERE to book your Skype Piano Lesson now!
Click HERE to view our School Fees
Click HERE to read our School Policy
Click HERE to view our other courses

Watch GéNIA at one of our Piano-Yoga® Workshops:

7 Basic Steps to Perfect Your Sight-reading

So many of us feel inadequate when it comes to sight-reading. Just the mention of it can make you start to feel uneasy!

So here are 5 simple steps to help you to perfect your sight-reading (but please bear in mind that these are not a substitute for regular practice!):

1. Identify the key of the piece (check the key signature and the last note in the bass).

2. Identify the time signature.

3. Check the range of notes in each hand (the highest and the lowest) and find them on the piano.

4. Check the ‘musical words’ (i.e. something your eye can recognize as a word without spelling out each note, like repeated notes or scale passages).

5. Hum the tune to get a feel for the rhythm and pace (like a human heartbeat).

6. Do a quick check on accidentals, tied notes, dotted rhythms, articulation (legato/staccato) and basic dynamics (forte, piano, crescendo, diminunendo, subito).

7. AND OFF YOU GO! SMILE AND DO NOT STOP, NO MATTER WHAT! JUST KEEP GOING, while maintaining the most important thing: the pulse of the music!*

*If you transpose the tune to another key you will still be able to recognize it, but if you change the pulse of the piece, you may not recognize the tune!

Can classical music be ‘hip’?

Last night I went to Lang Lang’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall, where the audience were clapping between the concerto movements as they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to! The people sitting next to me were eating chips with 3 different types of dips whilst listening to Chopin’s Piano Concert No. 2 and the members of the orchestra actually danced during the performance, in which manner they left the stage, followed by a massive roar of applause and standing ovations… There were no signs of death; only celebration! People were there because they loved the music, and Lang Lang…

Yet there is a popular belief in modern society that classical music is dying out. There is talk of empty concert halls, and the idea that the classical music community is losing touch with reality, partly because of the common interpretation of classical music as elitist – chosen by, and only appropriate for, the ‘prepared ear’…

OK. But if we look to literature, do we say that Tolstoi or Balzac or Jerom K Jerom are no good any more because they are old fashioned? Surely even though you don’t read them on a daily basis, you can still appreciate the quality of their mastery. So where does this attitude to classical music come from?

Perhaps it would be good to reflect on why music was invented in the first place. Why do so many love music, and have it as a part of their lives? Because it allows us to dream, to release emotions, to change our mood, to go deeper into our own state and to get to know ourselves better…

Many argue about whether classical music is purely old-fashioned, or whether it can still relate to modern society. In recent years there have been many attempts to make it more sexy and less stuffy, which younger generations of performers donning jeans and leather jackets on stage, and even tales of classical pianists following in the popular music tradition of attending ‘rehab’.

My theory is very simple. First of all, lets go back to why music is so important – why it is a part of many people’s lives and is played in so many households on a daily basis. Often, people don’t sit around and listen to it; music is sometimes played while they are doing other things like cleaning, exercising, having friends for dinner. This music is not analysed; it is simply there to elevate or complement the mood… It works on, and affects, emotions. People can relate to it, to its sounds and moods; it makes them feel better.

One of the reasons classical music is not so popular these days (and the main one in my opinion) is not so much because of the complexity of some of the compositions, but because of the ‘perfection’ in the style of the performance these days. If you listen to the old recordings from the first half of the 20th century by Cherkassky, Horowitz, Cortot, Moriz Rosenthal, Eugend’Albert, were they perfect? Of course not! Were they always rational in their interpretations? No. Were they predictable? Usually not. And that is what made them so interesting. Sometimes Chopin didn’t sound like Chopin, but who cared?; it stirred emotions, stimulated interest and curiosity. Today only the top artists attract this kind of attention, and although some of them appear to attain perfection – which is admirable and really appreciated by musicians – their playing often leaves amateur listeners cold. When it comes to lesser-known pianists, very often their interpretations are similar, where the aim to become note-perfect makes their music more refined, but at the same time more predictable.

Why has this happened? Most likely because of the demands of the record industry, where it has become possible to make any performance note–perfect. Anything less has now ceased to be acceptable. In fact, it has developed into a ‘perfection’ competition, where the purest sound is not contaminated by any external noise (which is considered to be a disaster!). But in real lif, performance is not quite like that. When Horowitz released a recording of one of his concerts, which started with a few wrong notes, the producers asked for his permission to amend it – but he refused! In this day and age this would be unacceptable. This is why in international piano competitions the winners are often very virtuosic pianists, admired for their stamina and inner strength. Those who are weaker, less traditional and not so note-pristine don’t usually win; but often those pianists who connect more with the audience do stir up endless debates…

I remember being at one of the late Pogorelich’s concerts where he played Chopin’s Preludes. He changed everything, his interpretation was totally unexpected and he kept me sitting on the edge of my chair. It felt like Dostoevsky on the keys. I have never heard Chopin played like that – it was an unforgettable experience. A few days later I was reading a review of this concert and poor Pogorelich got completely slated. ‘How could Chopin be played like this?!’ But for me that was one of the most amazing concert experiences of my life. While listening to his playing my emotions and the whole world were turned upside-down.

So why not go back to basics, to the raw art of piano playing that allows for the unpredictability of interpretations, emphasising the full spectrum of piano sounds, and accepting that it is OK to come up with a completely different interpretation as long as this can be delivered on a professional level? To show you what I mean, here is an example of something that really moves me: Stanislav Neuhaus playing Scriabin’s Etude Op.8, No. 12. It is not note-perfect, but it has that fire and originality that makes it unforgettable experience:

So to finish off, whilst some argue whether classical music should be put to rest, it is very much alive and kicking, like life with all its ups and downs. I can admit that some classical music traditions (like the total silence of the concert pianist during performance, or not allowing the audience to clap between movements), can be quite restricting, but if we can get past them, it would allow us to see the real music and its never-ending beauty. Lets embrace it rather than push it away and enjoy the discovery of how much more happiness and pleasure we can have in our life when classical music is a part of it.

If you have any thoughts on this issue, let me know at info@piano-yoga.com.

With love,

GéNIA

Are Russian piano teachers really that scary?

Recently, I had a number of friends reporting that when they mentioned me to their friends the reaction was usually something along the lines of: “Is she really strict?”; “How scary is she?”; “Is she nice!?”

When this happened the first time, I thought that particular person had probably just had a bad experience with a Russian piano teacher, and I didn’t give it a second thought. However, when one of my student’s friends was shocked on meeting me (I think he was expecting to see a big 60-year-old babushka), that got me thinking…  Another time, a student of mine invited me to come and celebrate his birthday (in a club, of all places), and when we were on the dance floor one of his friends asked, “And where is that piano teacher of yours? I knew she wouldn’t show up!”  So I just had to introduce myself once again…

Why do English people find us, Russian classical musicians and teachers, so intimidating? I just had to write about this, to get to the bottom of this myth.  When I ask, some say that it’s because Russian musicians are famous for having the best technique in the world, and Russian teachers are therefore feared for the big demands they make on their students, expecting them to ‘practise 8 hours a day’ (my grandmother used to say, “Four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening”), and for placing them under considerable pressure to achieve the best possible results.

I believe the word ‘Russian’ also still makes some people think about Soviet times, when Russian people appeared on TV or in public with stony faces, devoid of any sign of a smile… These popular beliefs combined have conspired to create the scary ‘dragon’ image of a Russian piano teacher.

It’s true: being Soviet during the Soviet Era meant distrusting your colleagues in fear that you may be reported; there was no suggestion of original ideas unless they were in line with Communist Party ideology (which was extended to science and art as well as economics and politics); and if you didn’t want to support the Communist Party openly (I personally never went on a single demonstration, even when it was compulsory), at the very least you had to keep quiet.

But times have since moved on….  Now there is a new generation of Russians who were allowed to leave when the iron curtain came down, brought up in the times of Perestroika and Glasnost. I remember preparing my school history homework only to discover that everything had changed since the previous night and what we had learned was no longer applicable…  The history teacher didn’t know what to teach us as the Soviet Union and its neighboring countries were dramatically changing.

Having said that, there were good things: you were expected to be good at everything you did (Dance, Music, Maths, etc.) and the standards were extremely high.  Just to give you an idea: some of the Maths syllabus from year 10 at my school covered the same topics that were on the first-year Maths programme at University!  So, when our generation suddenly gained the opportunity to leave our homeland, whilst many of us sincerely wanted to leave behind all the bad things of Soviet Russia, we continued to cherish and bring forward many of the old traditions, including the quality and integrity of our work.

As teachers, that doesn’t make us unfriendly, cruel or unreasonable; we simply try to teach to the highest level of our ability. Russians sometimes have a reputation for been too straightforward and not very diplomatic. Perhaps…  But if you can accept this and get past it, you may be surprised to find a genuine interest and enthusiasm for conveying knowledge to a student to help them realise their full potential. In my memory, my Russian piano teachers (Sergei Yushkevitch, Victor Makarov and Regina Horowitz – although the latter was my great grand mother), never counted the hours when they were teaching; they gave me and many of their other students as much time as was required to teach them, whether it was one hour, three hours or five… The goal was to educate the student however long it took.

Amongst the most famous teachers in the world who were either Russians or taught in Russia using Russian methods were: Anton Rubinstein, John Field, Alexander Villoing,  Anton Door, Theodor Leschetizky, Vassili Safonov, Alexandre Siloti (the teacher of Sergei Rachmaninov), Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher of Richter, Gilels and Lupu),Alexandre Goldenweiser (teacher of Bashkirov, Berman and Nikolaieva), Konstantin Igoumnov (teacher of Ashkenazy, Davidovich and Feltsman) and Felix Blumenfeld (teacher of Horowitz)to name a few. They were all famous for their principles and total dedication to music and education. Some of them were stricter then others, but they are all warmly remembered by their students all over the world.  I know many current Russian pianists who are both performers and teachers, and I wouldn’t associate any of them with the word ‘Scary’.  Here is an interview with the incredible Russian virtuoso pianist Boris Berezovky, who is the one of the most modest people I have ever met:

So what do you you think – are we, Russian Piano Teachers, really that scary?  The only way to find out is to be open-minded and try a few Russian piano teachers…

As for me, you can judge for yourself!  : )  Take a look at the clips on the Piano-Yoga® Education Youtube Channel:

Better still, come and meet me in person on the 15th May at Kings Place in London at the next Piano-Yoga® retreat:

It’s now time for my piano practice…

Namaste,

GéNIA

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GéNIA's Blog

News, Events, Information and random thoughts from GéNIA