Technique in the Flow Zone
Piano Portals is a comprehensive daily practice for pianists and teachers with a holistic outlook.
It's a radical substitute for technical exercises.
It's an approach to deep-learning repertoire assuredly.
It's an aid to mental presence and concentration.
Piano Portals embodies fresh priorities in technique.
Discover glorious fundamentals of playing technique that history has overlooked.
Transform and refine your playing skills in unexpected ways.
Uncover a portal to mindful sitting, moving and living too!
It's books, audio and online videos that offer you a 4-in-1 approach:
A musical environment for cultivating expressive technique and releasing unnecessary tension.
An approach to deep-learning new music assuredly.
A mindful practice for mental presence.
The music doubles as beautiful concert repertoire.
How does it work?
Piano Portals is principally a musical environment, a play-space, for improving technique. It's an efficient and enjoyable substitute for conventional exercises, but also so much more. Think musical Yoga poses or Tai chi postures, but specific to the ergonomics of playing. Each beautiful pattern and piece is ripe with layer upon layer of self-discovery.
The approach offers three main benefits for technique: diagnostic, remedial and relaxing.
- Diagnose the root causes of your technical difficulties. You become the expert on your own coordination, through deepening self-awareness.
- Discover solutions in unexpected places and transform your playing.
- Discover fresh priorities in technique - you may be wasting time with conventional points of focus!
- Remedy imbalances in your coordination by going straight to the root causes.
- Ensure all aspects of your body and mind play their roles efficiently.
- Enjoy every step of this process of self-discovery.
Piano Portals is also a mindful practice for mental focus and relaxation. It empowers you to perform to your potential!
Who's it for?
Open-minded post-beginner adult pianists. Radical teachers with a holistic outlook.
Why is it unique?
- Piano Portals turns conventional fundamentals of technique on their heads. It challenges long-held assumptions about what is helpful - and what is not - in expressive, fluent playing. It uncovers transformational elements of playing coordination that are all but neglected in traditional pedagogy.
- It prioritises above all your deep connection to music - along with your body's corresponding response - at all stages, throughout all activities. It's the cornerstone of efficient, expressive technique.
- It assumes that attempting to work on your technique outside of the context of musical Flow is to bypass a fundamental component in coordinated, expressive playing. It assumes that trying to do so is of little or no value and means selling yourself far short of your playing potential.
- It prioritises your self-discovery - YOU become the expert on YOUR own coordination, through deepening self-awareness. It's creative, open-ended and non-prescriptive.
- It invokes whole-body coordination at all stages, rather than isolating parts from the whole.
- It teaches the whole-body coordination that underpins all playing techniques - rather than separating out different musical challenges and attempting to address them with independent processes.
Do I have to cough up to try it out?
Piano Portals is accessible and transparent - you can begin to transform your playing right now without investing a penny by joining in with the activities in this free online course. Sign up with your email address at the foot of this page for news of free videos, resources and events.
Can't I just use Chopin's Études?
Études may be indisputable musical masterpieces. More often than not, they're more of a barometer of technical proficiency than an efficient, enjoyable means of actually cultivating it. How helpful études are to you depends on your priorities in technique. Unhelpful priorities turn beautiful études into frustrating dead-end streets. Piano Portals helps you to put first things first and to fast-track your route to playing études and anything else you desire, efficiently and enjoyably.
Is anyone else doing it?
Teachers across the globe are of course touching on aspects of Piano Portals all the time. But Piano Portals challenges the fundamental priorities in conventional pedagogy. It presents a fresh, comprehensive model for addressing technical difficulty and playing fluently and expressively. It opens the door to progress for all open-minded players - not just the 'naturally gifted'.
The only comprehensive precedent for Piano Portals is the writing of Abby Whiteside (1881-1956). It's no coincidence that she entitled a collection of essays 'Fundamentals of Piano Playing'. Whiteside explored new fundamentals of playing and teaching, based on her tireless observations of how coordinated players actually use their bodies. Driven by her determination that all should progress - not just the most 'gifted' - she challenged conventional pedagogical tools and priorities and put forward radical alternatives.
Whiteside and Piano Portals are not the same, but it's doubtful that Piano Portals could have come into being without Whiteside's pioneering work. Piano Portals evolved over twenty years of further investigation and experimentation.
So what are the principles and priorities underpinning Piano Portals?
It's based on 'Seven Secrets of Piano Playing', explored in detail in this free online course. If this sounds like a marketing gimmick, please do explore further. In practice, the Secrets are as far from glib soundbites as you can get. Each represents layer upon layer of profound self-discovery and transformation in playing for the willing adventurer.
So, you're the expert, then, bestowing your secrets on me?
Far from it. Piano Portals is the perfect antidote to dogmatic, prescriptive approaches. It's about self-discovery - you become the expert on solving your own technical challenges through deepening self-awareness and exploring new paradigms.
I use the term 'Secrets' purely because piano pedagogy has, as a rule, overlooked the fundamental significance of these things. Or, at least, it's skated over their vast potential for transformation. It's often treated peripheral elements as fundamental, and all but neglected some fundamentals. Piano Portals brings these fresh priorities to the fore.
As a result, generations of pianists have been served up misconceptions and failed to reach their potential. Or rather, only the most instinctively 'gifted' ones have, since they've intuited what they've needed and instinctively discarded the rest.
The 7 Secrets of Piano Playing
- Connect deeply and personally with the music - at all stages
- this underpins all explorations of technique, at all times.
- Play by ear
- not necessarily discarding the score altogether but reorienting your learning towards the aural at all stages, for direct and efficient coordination.
- Balance freely against your sitting bones
- fully embracing this can be a multi-layered, revelatory journey of discovery.
- Free your forearms
- integrating them successfully with your hands and fingers, helping to produce everything from effortless cantabile to fluent octaves.
- Free your breath
- returning again and again to the profound role your breath can play in facilitating all manner of musical details from phrase endings to double thirds.
- Be attentive
- the Secret underpinning all the other Secrets: bringing your attention to the most helpful priorities in technique, and removing it from those less helpful.
- Free your fingers
- last in the order of priorities, the fingers play a valuable role, which, when the other Secrets function harmoniously, is far less significant than is often believed.
Fluent, expressive playing coordination is underpinned primarily by these elements, harmoniously integrated. They're explored in detail, in a helpful order, throughout Piano Portals, and can transform your playing. They've arisen from years of tireless observation, experimentation, refining and personal transformation - both in my own playing and that of my clients. When the seven Secrets unify, you play to your potential.
What do I get when I buy it?
The physical Piano Portals product comprises two beautiful books and CD. The digital product is a double-ebook/mp3 track download version of the same material. If you order the hard copy you get the electronic one too.
The main book contains beautiful music, inspirational text and a detailed, easy-to-read introduction.
The Piano Portals Players' and Teachers' Guide is packed with creative suggestions for exploring the musical material. It features detailed illustrations and musical examples - a lifetime's worth of resources for technique!
The products are supplemented by an ever-growing stream of online videos. Detailed online courses are coming soon!