The Art of Conscious Flow
Piano Portals is a holistic daily practice for pianists and radical substitute for Hanon.
It rewrites the rules on technique, uncovering glorious fundamentals of playing that history has overlooked.
For post-beginners to advanced players, it works on different levels.
Be mindful in Flow. Become the expert on your technique through deepening self-awareness. Ensure your own well-being in playing.
It's books, audio and online courses that offer you 4-in-1:
A holistic daily practice for fluent, expressive technique free from excess tension.
A fresh philosophy for deep-learning new music.
A mindful practice to aid concentration.
Beautiful music for you to enjoy.
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 Yoga poses or Tai chi postures, but specific to the ergonomics of playing. It's a fresh philosophy which integrates deep-learning new music with holistic technique every step of the way.
The approach offers three main benefits for technique: diagnostic, remedial and relaxing.
- Diagnose the root causes of your technical difficulties. Become the expert on your own coordination, through deepening self-awareness.
- Discover solutions in unexpected places and transform your playing.
- Discover fresh priorities in technique - you could be wasting time with certain conventional points of focus!
- Remedy imbalances in your coordination.
- Integrate your body and mind effectively with musical Flow.
- Enjoy your practice whilst transforming your playing.
Piano Portals doubles as a mindful practice for mental focus and relaxation and as beautiful music to play and enjoy.
Who's it for?
- Post-beginner adult pianists with a holistic outlook
- Open-minded advanced adult pianists
- Mature teenage pianists
- Radical piano teachers with a holistic outlook
- Independent learners seeking a creative approach
Watch me play the music
Please note that here I simply play through the patterns and pieces. The books and courses help you explore them in countless creative ways to transform technique. They form a comprehensive daily practice containing as much material as 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. It uncovers transformational elements of playing coordination that are all but neglected in traditional pedagogy.
- It prioritises above all your deep connection to music - along with your body's corresponding response - at all stages, throughout all activities. It's 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. Separating technique from Flow 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, open-ended and non-prescriptive.
- 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 musical challenges 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 the Free Piano Portals Taster Course. Sign up for occasional freebies and news.
Can't I just use Chopin's Études?
Études may be musical masterpieces. More often than not, they're more of a barometer of technical proficiency than an efficient, enjoyable means of actually cultivating it. How helpful études are to you depends on your priorities in practice. Unhelpful priorities turn beautiful études into frustrating dead-ends. Études may shine a light on your technique, but they don't necessarily contain within themselves the route to playing their complex patterns fluently and expressively. Piano Portals offers fresh, radical points of focus in technique to fast-track your path to playing études and anything else you desire.
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. It presents a fresh, comprehensive model for holistic practice, integrating technique with deep-learning music. It leaves nothing to chance - opening the door to progress for all open-minded players, not just the most 'gifted'.
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 fundamentals of playing and teaching, based on her tireless observations of how coordinated players actually use their bodies versus what is usually taught. 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's writings and Piano Portals are not the same, but it's doubtful that Piano Portals could have come into being without Whiteside's pioneering work. Piano Portals evolved over twenty years of further investigation and experimentation.
What are the principles underpinning Piano Portals?
It's based on 'Seven Secrets of Piano Playing', explored in detail in the Free Piano Portals Taster Course. If this sounds like a marketing gimmick, please do explore a little further. The Secrets are as far from glib soundbites as you can get. Each represents layer upon layer of revelation for the willing adventurer.
So, you're the expert, then, bestowing your secrets on me?
Far from it. Piano Portals is the antidote to dogmatic, prescriptive approaches. It prioritises 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 conventional pedagogy has, as a rule, overlooked the fundamental significance of these elements. Or, at least, it's skated over their vast potential for transformation. In this respect, they've remained 'secret' up to now.
Thus generations of pianists have been served up misconceptions and failed to reach their potential. Or rather, only the most '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
- this underpins all explorations of technique, at all stages of all processes.
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.
- 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.
Fluent, expressive 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've arisen from years of tireless observation, experimentation, refining and personal transformation. When the seven Secrets unify, you play to your potential.
How can I have Piano Portals in my life?
Full online courses coming soon!
Please contact founder Stephen Marquiss with any questions or queries about Piano Portals.