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, challenging pervasive assumptions.
It helps post-beginners to advanced players play fluently and expressively without excess tension.
You become the expert on your 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 at every stage
Online Foundation Course, books and ebooks that offer 4-in-1:
Who's it for?
- Adult post-beginners seeking to play more fluently and expressively
- Open-minded advanced pianists seeking to refine technique and avoid excess tension
- Radical piano teachers with a holistic outlook
- Pianists who are 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
- It's not a beginners' tutor - it's essentially about the ergonomics of playing
- It's not about music theory
- It's not a prescriptive 'method' - it invites you to engage honestly and consciously
- It's not a bunch of inscrutable instructions for the minutiae of playing - it's a simple, profound approach
What's the USP?
- It assumes that separating technique from musical flow/engagement is a poor use of time
- It challenges pervasive beliefs about what's helpful and what's not in technique and advocates fresh priorities
- It cultivates whole-body coordination at every stage rather than separating out parts of your coordination
- It's straightforward and profound, avoiding the inscrutable complexity of some approaches
- It presents fresh choices which help you become the expert - not dogma to follow uncritically
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!
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 underpinned by the audacious claim that a handful of long-neglected fundamentals provide the solutions to all technical difficulties. These fundamentals are The 7 Secrets of Piano Playing, explored in detail in the Piano Portals Courses. If this sounds like a gimmick, please suspend disbelief 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. Those most able have intuited what they've needed, and the rest have been left behind. Thus generations of all but the most instinctively able pianists have been sold short and failed to play to their potential. Each Secret represents layer upon layer of self-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.