A fresh approach to playing
Piano Portals is a holistic daily practice for the thinking pianist and teacher.
It's a radical substitute for conventional exercises which challenges pervasive assumptions.
For post-beginners to advanced players, it works on many levels.
Become the expert on your own playing technique and well-being through deepening self-awareness.
What it is
- Fresh priorities for fluent, expressive technique free of excess tension
- An engaging approach to learning new repertoire assuredly
- An aid to presence and concentration
- Beautiful music every step of the way
Online Foundation Course, books and ebooks that offer 4-in-1:
Who's it for?
- Post-beginner adult pianists with a holistic outlook
- Radical piano teachers with a holistic outlook
- Thinking pianists seeking fluent, expressive playing coordination
- Open-minded advanced pianists seeking to refine technique and avoid injury
- Pianists seeking to improve technique but suspicious of or disenchanted by mechanical exercises
- Pianists who are blocked or frustrated and open to new ideas
- Independent learners seeking a creative approach
- Mature teenage pianists
What it's not
- A beginners' tutor
- A guide to music theory
- A prescriptive 'method' that works without honest, conscious engagement
- A set of inscrutably complex instructions for the physical minutiae of playing
How does it work?
Piano Portals is a radical musical environment - a play-space - for observing and refining technique from a holistic perspective. It's an effective, engaging substitute for Hanon - and much more. Think musical Tai chi postures or Yoga asanas, specific to the ergonomics of piano playing.
The approach offers three main benefits for technique: diagnostic, remedial and relaxing.
- Uncover fresh solutions to technical difficulties in places that may surprise you
- Become the expert on your own technique, through deepening self-awareness
- Discover fresh points of focus to rebalance and reintegrate your playing coordination
- Remedy imbalances in your coordination
- Reintegrate your body and mind with musical flow at every stage
- Eliminate excess tension in your playing
Piano Portals doubles as a mindful practice for mental focus and relaxation and as beautiful music to play and enjoy.
Watch me play the music
Please note that in this playlist I simply play through the patterns and pieces. The Foundation Course and books explore them in countless creative ways, comprising a comprehensive daily practice - the only resource for technique that you'll ever need!
Why is it unique?
- Piano Portals rewrites the rules on technique. It challenges assumptions about what's helpful and what's not in expressive, fluent playing.
- Piano Portals highlights fundamentals of able players' techniques that are all but neglected in conventional pedagogy.
- Piano Portals prioritises above all your body's response to musical flow - at all stages, throughout all activities. It acknowledges this to be the cornerstone of efficient, expressive technique.
- Piano Portals assumes that attempting to work on your technique outside of the context of musical flow is to waste time. It bypasses a fundamental component of coordinated, expressive playing.
- Piano Portals cultivates integrated whole-body coordination at all stages, rather than isolating parts from the whole.
- Piano Portals is straightforward and accessible. It avoids the impenetrable complexity of many methods and offers engaging, practical activities - always within the context of musical flow.
- Piano Portals prioritises self-discovery - you become the expert on your own coordination, through deepening self-awareness. It's creative, open-ended and non-prescriptive.
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 exploring the Piano Portals Free Taster and signing up with your email address for occasional freebies and news.
Can't I just use Chopin's Études?
Études are often musical masterpieces. They can be more of a barometer of technical proficiency than a failsafe means of cultivating it. How helpful études are to you depends on your points of focus in practice. Unhelpful priorities turn études into frustrating dead-ends. Études shine a light on your technique, but they don't contain within themselves the means to play them fluently and expressively. Piano Portals offers fresh points of focus in technique to fast-track your path to mastering études and any other music of your choice.
Is anyone else doing it?
Piano Portals Founder, Stephen Marquiss, explains,"In all my experience of pedagogy - lessons, masterclasses, courses, books and videos - I've rarely known the fundamentals of Piano Portals to be explored in any detail, let alone afforded the transformational significance I've come to believe they deserve.
The only comprehensive precedent is the writing of Abby Whiteside (1881-1956), whose ground-breaking essays, 'Fundamentals of Piano Playing', expound fresh practice priorities, based on her tireless observations of how able players actually use their bodies versus what is often taught. Driven by her determination that all should progress - not just the most naturally coordinated - she challenged conventional pedagogy and put forward radical alternatives.
Piano Portals is not the same as Whiteside, but owes a debt of gratitude to her pioneering work. Piano Portals has evolved over twenty years into a simple, practical, accessible approach."
What are the principles underpinning Piano Portals?
It's based on The 7 Secrets of Piano Playing, explored in detail in the Piano Portals Free Taster. If this sounds like just another gimmick, please read on for a moment. They're secrets only in the sense that they've been all but overlooked by conventional pedagogy. The latter has skated over their fundamental role in able players' techniques and overlooked their vast potential for transformation. Thus generations of pianists have been sold short and failed to play to their potential. Or rather, only the most instinctively coordinated ones have, since they've intuited what they've needed and discarded the rest. Each Secret represents layer upon layer of discovery for the willing adventurer.
The 7 Secrets of Piano Playing
Connect deeply and personally with the music
throughout all activities and explorations of technique. Without this, there's no corresponding response in the torso, and technical practice is of little value.
Play by ear
Not necessarily discarding the score but reorienting all learning towards the aural for direct, efficient coordination.
Balance freely against your sitting bones
Connecting the fingertips with the sitting bones - via every element in between - is the single most overlooked and transformational element in fluent, expressive technique.
Free your forearms
Freeing them up and integrating them successfully with your fingers and thumbs, upper arms and torso.
Free your breath
Permitting it to integrate and assist freely in technique.
Becoming ever more attentive to your own body and to musical detail, layer by layer.
Free your fingers
Least of all the priorities - they align and deliver the coordination generated elsewhere in the body.
And the end result...
These elements, harmoniously integrated, underpin all fluent, expressive playing. Any inhibition or imbalance within them results in technical difficulty and impairs the musical result. They've emerged from years of observing, experimenting, refining and personal transformation. When the 7 Secrets unify, you play to your potential.