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.
Unveil transformational elements of playing that've been all but neglected by pedagogy.
Play fluently and expressively through deepening self-awareness, not dogma.
4 in 1
Courses, e-books, tutorials, cheat sheets and 121 feedback for:
- Fluent, expressive coordination free of excess tension
- Focus, confidence and joy in playing
- Flowing, enjoyable music-learning
- Facilitating advanced technique
Who is it for?
- Post-beginner to Intermediate teen-to-adults seeking to play fluently and expressively
- Intermediate-Advanced players seeking to facilitate advanced technique: cantabile, power, delicacy, balance, evenness, narrative line, ornaments, tremolos and more
- Teachers of Post-beginner to Advanced teen-adults seeking fresh, holistic solutions for technique
- Those who are blocked, frustrated, struggling or who practise long hours and seem to get nowhere
- Those who long for more enjoyable, invigorating and efficient practice
- Returners seeking a fresh approach with an open mind
How does it differ from other approaches
- treats an emotionally engaged, 'connected' state as the cornerstone of efficient, expressive technique. It assumes that 'working on' technique outside of such a state means leaving out a crucial element and selling yourself far short of your potential. Your body and mind respond differently, and you risk practising coordination that's irrelevant to real-life playing
- empowers you to play more by ear than by sight, rote or motor ('muscle') memory, for fluent, expressive coordination. It teaches you to see with your ears and hear with your eyes! This doesn't necessarily mean discarding the score, but ensuring that you grow to know and love the musical sounds in detail as your top priority
- invites you to explore 7 main points of focus for bringing your whole-body coordination into harmony, based on oft-neglected fundamentals of great players' techniques. This facilitates all repertoire, breaking the cycle of addressing technical difficulties one by one as they arise and eliminating frustration in your practice
- empowers you to become the expert through deepening self-awareness, not dogma. It encourages you to leave alone what's already working well in your coordination and address what's not, efficiently and enjoyably
- is creative and accessible, not authoritarian or unrealistically complex
But I already work on technique in a musical context!
Great! But as soon as you 'unplug' from a flowing, deeply connected state in order to 'work on' the technique, regardless of the context, you risk leaving out fundamental elements of fluent, expressive playing, such as a peculiarly focused mental state and your torso's response to the music. Minus these elements, piano playing is so much more difficult than it needs to be, and many advanced techniques are near-impossible.
Also, repertoire is not purpose-designed to cultivate fluent, expressive technique in a holistic way - Piano Portals is!
What if I'm using beautiful music, such as Chopin's Études?
It depends how you approach them. Assuming you can't already play them exactly as you wish up to speed (if you can, great!), how do you set about facilitating the technique?
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 almost impossible to use complex music as a starting-point for cultivating a high level of awareness - there are too many notes to focus on!
The Piano Portals pieces and patterns offer you an engaging parallel practice for spotlighting and addressing disharmony in your playing coordination in a simpler, purpose-designed context. You can then apply what you discover to more complex music.
What are the Pieces and Patterns?
They're beautiful musical snippets and pieces that serve as ideal environments for deepening self-awareness and addressing disharmony in your playing coordination. They're substitutes for exercises. The term 'pattern' avoids the historical baggage of the word 'exercise'.
You can hear them here. Please be aware that in this playlist they're simply performed in their original guises. The Piano Portals courses explore creative ways for using them to transform technique.
What's wrong with exercises anyway?
Exercises tend to:
- bypass a deep, personal connection to music and the torso's corresponding response, which is a cornerstone of fluent, expressive technique
- detach the parts of the body from their flowing integration with each other - especially disrupting the flexion, extension and rotation of the forearms and their integration with the thumbs, fingers and torso
But many pianists swear by exercises!
That's true. But as always, the context is key. They may, for example, be:
- already accustomed to using their body in a balanced, integrated way and so relatively impervious to possible harmful effects
- using them relatively sparingly
- unwittingly causing their technique to worsen, even slightly
It's not impossible to thrive on conventional exercises. But there are more productive, enjoyable ways for most players to advance - perhaps even beyond their wildest imaginings.
Why should I play by ear? I thought sight-reading was the gold standard for classical playing!
The importance of playing by ear in Piano Portals acknowledges an elephant in the practice room - that the most fluent, expressive players play predominantly by ear, regardless of how they've learnt repertoire. They know the sounds of the music in their 'mind's ear'. This drives their playing coordination and makes for accurate, beautiful playing, expert timing and control.
If they're also fluent sight-readers, they're processing visual symbols in their 'inner ear' very quickly.
It's not an 'either/or' but a spectrum - the more you play by ear, the more fluent and expressive your playing and the more assured and communicative your performing. Even a slight reorientation of your practice priorities can bestow untold rewards and eliminate many difficulties.
How is it possible that these things have been neglected by mainstream pedagogy?
Good question. There are undoubtedly many influencing factors, including:
- Most mainstream beginner tutor methods encourage 'symbol before sound', introducing a long-winded mental processing and stilted coordination from the outset. Is it possible that ramifications for advanced technique could be overlooked?
- Most approaches to technique advocate 'working on' technical challenges outside of a deep, emotionally engaged connection to music. Could the strength of tradition perpetuate the notion that this is the only way?
- Few explore the original contexts of fundamentals of mainstream pedagogy, asking who said what to whom and why
- Could the influence of editors, theorists and exam boards outweigh that of great players who have also explored how they do what they do?
- Some of the more radical voices in pedagogy have been subsumed into the mainstream, diluting their more 'heretical' aspects
Is anyone else teaching the Piano Portals way?
All approaches have their emphases, but it's rare to find an approach that turns conventional fundamental priorities on their heads.
Piano Portals has many influences, but couldn't have existed without the pioneering genius of Abby Whiteside (1881-1956) - especially her concept of the 'emotional rhythm' and its central role in technique, together with the importance of the torso, sitting bones and forearms.
Whilst influenced by Whiteside, Piano Portals has evolved into an independent, accessible, practical approach.
Can I try Piano Portals for free
Yes. Piano Portals uses Patreon as its membership platform. Because Patreon bills on the 1st of the month (after 12 AM PST = 8 AM GMT) and not when you sign up, you can try for free any time and cancel before the billing date/time if you wish. Please visit the Membership FAQ for full details.
How do I access Piano Portals resources?
You can access the growing collection of online courses, e-books, tutorials and cheat sheets, together with 121 feedback, via Patreon, which is the professional membership platform. For full details, please visit the Membership FAQ.