A fresh approach to technique
Piano Portals is a groundbreaking, holistic approach to technique.
It's accessible and enjoyable. It challenges convention and offers fresh, surprising points of focus for your practice.
Uncover transformational elements of playing that've been all but neglected in pedagogy.
Play fluently and expressively through deepening self-awareness, not dogma.
A comprehensive framework
- 1-Minute Workouts, Patterns & Pieces
- Online courses & bespoke tutorials
- E-books & Cheat Sheets
- Optional 1-2-1 feedback & support
What is it?
- A groundbreaking, truly holistic framework for technique from Beginner to Advanced
- A radical substitute for conventional exercises
- A joyful approach to learning repertoire with fluent, expressive technique
- A mindful practice for staying present and focused
What's special about it?
- It prioritises your deep, personal connection to music to at all stages, throughout all activities. It's the cornerstone of fluent, expressive technique. Even 'holistic' approaches to technique can advocate 'unplugging' from your deep, connection to music in the moment to 'work on' technique. Doing so neglects the fundamental role such a connection plays in 'activating' your torso and focusing your mind. Without it, you risk practising coordination that bears little resemblance to real-life playing.
- It spotlights 'elephants in the practice room' that've been long neglected in mainstream pedagogy: the fundamental role of playing more by ear than by sight, rote or 'muscle' memory; the crucial contribution of the torso, as it balances freely against the sitting bones and the power of an ever-deepening, joyful state of focus.
- It empowers you to become the expert on your own playing coordination through deepening self-awareness, not dogma.
- It addresses your whole-body playing coordination at every stage.
- It permits you to notice, celebrate and leave alone what's already working well and empowers you to free up, integrate and harmonise what isn't.
- It's based on an honest, adult journey of frustration to facility in playing.
- It facilitates all techniques through the regular exploration of groundbreaking 1-Minute Workouts, Patterns and Pieces, breaking the treadmill of facing difficulties one by one in repertoire.
- It distills the fundamentals of technique into 7 broad, accessible principles, avoiding the inscrutable complexity of some approaches.
- It draws on different fields (other arts, sport), genres (classical, jazz, pop) and common sense.
- It offers you both independence and optional 1-2-1 support.
What is it NOT?
- It's NOT yet a learn-from-scratch beginner tutor. It DOES empower Beginner to Advanced players to play with fluent, expressive coordination, in any repertoire.
Who is it for?
- Beginner to Intermediate players seeking fluent, expressive playing with no excess tension
- Intermediate to Advanced players seeking the 'holy grails' of dynamic control, rhythmic evenness, cantabile, exquisite ornamentation, balance, communicating narrative line and more
- Thoughtful teachers seeking to empower all students - not just the most 'gifted' - with fresh tools for technique
- Pianists feeling blocked or frustrated
- Pianists seeking greater enjoyment, connection and communication
- Pianists serious about improving technique but suspicious of mechanical exercises
- Pianists seeking to perform confidently and joyfully
- Pianists seeking to memorise assuredly
- Pianists who've been told (or believe themselves) that they lack 'talent'
The 7 Secrets are 'secrets' only in the sense that they're often neglected in pedagogy. They're based on observable elements of able players' techniques, so in another sense, they're not secret at all...
How can 'big' elements be commonly neglected?
Good question. Probably a complex web of factors, including:
- Are the creators of beginner tutor methods all thinking about the implications of their advice for advanced technique?
- Holistic pioneers such as Abby Whiteside (1881 - 1956) can be sidelined or subsumed into the mainstream in a diluted or misunderstood form
- Could the original context of common advice on technique be lost over time? It can be helpful always to ask: 'Who originally said what to whom and why?'
- Could the influence of editors, academics, theorists, publishers, pianists who are predominantly organists (nothing wrong with that but they're different instruments!) and exam boards be disproportionately influencing our practice priorities?
- Could the influence of innately 'gifted' great pianists be disproportionate to the level of honest enquiry they've afforded the mechanics of their own technique?
- Could observable, easily remedied elements of poor coordination be too quickly dismissed as a lack of 'talent'?
Are there precedents for Piano Portals?
Piano Portals owes a debt of gratitude to the pioneering genius of Abby Whiteside (1881-1956), especially her concept of the 'emotional rhythm' and its central role in technique, combined with the roles of the torso, sitting bones and forearms. Whilst influenced by Whiteside, Piano Portals has evolved into an independent, accessible, practical approach.
Is Piano Portals based on science?
Great question. The simple answer is no, but most widespread advice on piano technique is primarily anecdotal, largely owing to the lack of funding for music pedagogy (e. g. compared to elite sport). Founder, Stephen Marquiss, is beginning the long process of applying to undertake postgraduate research in this area. Meanwhile, Piano Portals invites you, gently and playfully, to think critically about technique and entertain fresh choices. It tempts you to explore unconventional priorities with an open mind - but only if what you're doing already isn't working. It encourages you to apply the same common sense to piano technique as to other fields such as sport, daily movement and even the simplest DIY tasks like screwing in a lightbulb.
The Piano Portals Patterns are authentic, miniature musical expressions designed to be explored in creative ways to transform technique. The online courses walk through these and offer fresh, transformational focal points for your practice...
What's wrong with conventional exercises?
Exercises tend to:
- bypass a deep, personal connection to music and your torso's corresponding response, leaving out a cornerstone of fluent, expressive technique
- break up rather than integrate the elements of your whole-body playing coordination
- give the initial impression of improving technique in particular ways, before revealing their long-term ineffectiveness at solving difficulties in advanced repertoire
But don't many pianists swear by exercises?
Context is key. Such pianists may, for example, be:
- using their body innately in a balanced, integrated way whatever they're playing, rendering their coordination relatively undisrupted by exercises
- misrepresenting or overstating the role of exercises in cultivating their fluent, expressive technique
- unwittingly causing elements of their technique to deteriorate, however subtly, with exercises
It's not impossible to thrive on conventional exercises. But are they the most efficient, enjoyable way for most players to play to their potential?
What about musical études?
They require fluent, expressive technique, but are they the most effective means for cultivating it? How useful musical études are to you depends on your practice priorities and points of focus. Piano Portals empowers you to become the expert on what's working freely and what's not in your technique through deepening self-awareness. It's harder to deepen awareness using complex music at first - the notes simply demand too much attention!
The Piano Portals Pieces, Patterns and 1-Minute Workouts offer an engaging parallel practice for spotlighting and redressing any disharmony in your playing coordination. They empower you to observe, learn and experience in a simpler, purpose-designed context. You can then apply what you've already embodied to more complex music - including études - if you wish.
Watch Founder, Stephen Marquiss, play - he credits Piano Portals with transforming his facility in his 30s and 40s. It empowered him to abandon many beliefs about practice instilled at music school and embrace fresh priorities for fluent, expressive playing...
How do I access Piano Portals resources?
Isn't Patreon a crowdfunding site?
No, it's a professional membership platform where you can access resources from Piano Portals and the content of other creators by choosing a membership tier to join.
Can I try Piano Portals for free?
Yes. Patreon bills on the 1st of the month (after 12 AM PST = 8 AM GMT) and not immediately when you sign up. So you can join any time before the 1st of the month, try it out and cancel before the billing date/time if you wish. Please visit Membership FAQ for full details.