Why is it unique?
- Piano Portals reorders and replaces conventional fundamentals of technique. It puts first things first and prioritises the most helpful aspects of your coordination.
- It prioritises above all your deep, personal connection to music - along with your body's corresponding response - as 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, exploratory and undictatorial.
- 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 techniques 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 new 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 cultivating technique. 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 and turns them on their heads. It presents a new, comprehensive model for addressing technical difficulty and transforming playing.
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 paradigms for 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 my encounter with Whiteside's pioneering work. Piano Portals evolved over twenty years of my 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 a little further. In practice, they're as far from glib soundbites as you can get. Each represents layers upon layers of profound self-discovery and transformation in playing.
So, you're the expert, then, bestowing your secrets on me?
No! Piano Portals is a process of 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 profound 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.
As a result, generations of pianists have been served up misconceptions and have failed to reach their potential. Or rather, only the most naturally 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.
Expert, expressive piano-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're drawn from years of observation, experimentation, honing, tweaking and personal transformation - both in my own playing and that of my clients. When the seven Secrets unify, you play to your potential.