Digital inspiration10:13, 20th August 2020
Are you looking for ways to hone your piano technique and become a more confident performer? Owen Mortimer introduces a superb e-learning resource with all the tools you need
Being stuck at home for weeks on end may sound like a nightmare but for those of us who play the piano it offers a perfect opportunity to sharpen our skills and master new repertoire. Even if you’ve stopped going for regular one-to-one lessons, there is now a wealth of teaching materials available online to support individual learning.
Full disclaimer: I began this process as a hardened sceptic, wholly opposed to the prospect of teaching myself using a website or app. Having been lucky enough to receive lessons on three instruments throughout my childhood, I was firmly wedded to the idea that face-to-face lessons are the only effective way to learn. Without a teacher being present to offer real-time advice, wouldn’t I quickly fall into bad habits?
That was before I stumbled across Practising the Piano Online Academy. Unlike some other online courses I’ve seen, which promise more than they deliver, this excellent website offers detailed advice and information that’s comprehensive and easy to follow. Close-up demo videos illustrate every point made in the text and because there’s no specific ‘course’ to follow, you can go at your own speed and focus on whichever aspects of practice and performance you’re most keen to develop.
For example, subcategories within the ‘Technique’ area of the website include topics as diverse as scales and arpeggios, forearm rotation, the art of pedalling, healthy piano playing and yoga for musicians. ‘Practising’ places strong emphasis on sight-reading skills, while ‘Performing’ covers subjects such as improvisation and managing stage fright. There’s also a section for ‘Teaching’ developed in partnership with the Piano Teachers’ Course UK.
If, like me, you’re more interested in extending your repertoire than focusing on technique per se, I’d recommend going straight to the ‘Learning Pieces’ tab. I’ve already spent several happy hours working on Debussy’s ‘Girl with the Flaxen Hair’ using the materials available here, which have helped to transform my previously ham-fisted and inelegant interpretation.
I began by working through the brief but excellent practice worksheet, which breaks down the piece’s technical challenges into short studies. Once these have been mastered, you can move on to a walkthrough which explores the piece bar-by-bar. The fingerings provided are particularly useful. There’s also a 17-page Annotated Study Edition which can be downloaded and printed so you can work offline.
The teacher behind this fantastic resource is the British pianist Graham Fitch, while key tutors include the Peabody Institute’s associate professor of keyboard studies and music theory Ken Johansen. Anyone wanting to trial the site can register for free and read up to five articles. A monthly subscription costs just £9.99, or you can opt to pay £99.99 for the whole year. Highly recommended.
Readers of International Piano can save 30% on Online Academy subscriptions as well as receiving 30% off any product purchased via their online store. Visit the link below for further details.