Introduction – Practising the Piano

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 probably) very many ways of skinning a cat, there are as many different ways of playing the piano as there are pianists. I do not subscribe to fundamentalism in any form, no one school has all the answers.

As a teacher once said to me: “Never let the good be the enemy of the better”, I am open to your suggestions and ideas and would not like to think that anything is cast permanently in stone.

So where to start? Having done some market research, people regularly ask me how I manage the complex ornamention in the music of Bach and Rameau. How do we do this reliably, skillfully and beautifully given that our modern piano is a vastly different beast from the instruments that this music was written for?

Watch this space…


Introduction to the Practice Tools

I’m pleased to announce my new course, Introducing the Practice Tools, which is taking place on Saturday, 13th of July 2019 at the Victoria Park Plaza Hotel in central London.  Aimed at teachers and pianists at an intermediate level or above, this one-day course is based on my eBook Series and blog. It will introduce highly effective strategies which will assist you and your students in getting the most out of time spent practising the piano.

The course will be delivered in an innovative, interactive format with introductory presentations followed by breakout sessions. Each participant will have their own private digital piano with headphones to test out a particular practice skill. There will be plenty of opportunity for feedback with question and answer sessions forming the backbone of the day. The following topics will be covered:

  • Introduction: An overview of the practice tools
  • Using the feedback loop: How to plan and focus your practice session for maximum benefit in every area.
  • Slow practice: How to use ultra-slow speeds for learning notes, correcting errors and finessing sound, and when not to use it!
  • Gaining speed: We explore two methods of taking a piece from the slow stages to performance speed, developing fluency and accuracy as well as ease and grace.
  • Repetition in practice: We form habits by repetition, but only perfect practice makes perfect. In this session we learn how to manage repetition in our practice mindfully and creatively to achieve tangible, lasting results.

Preparatory materials for breakout sessions will be provided in advance and all participants will receive handouts and complimentary online access to my video lecture series on the Practice Tools (valued at £20). Please note that participants will not be required to play in front of others, unless they wish to.

The full price of the course is £125. Book now to secure your place for what promises to be a highly informative workshop!

Course details 

  • Date and time: Saturday, 13th July, 10:00 until 17:30
  • Venue: Victoria Park Plaza Hotel, SW1V 1EQ, London
  • Participants: maximum 15 places
  • Participant profile: Piano teachers and intermediate pianists (+/- Grade 5 upwards)
  • Includes: preparatory materials, tea / coffee, lunch, online resources

This event has been made possible with the support of Casio and will include a brief presentation by Chris Stanbury from Casio on the Grand Hybrid and benefits of the Casio Teacher Network.