eBook Series – Revised Editions Launched!

The Practising the Piano eBook series was originally launched in 2012 and has been read by thousands of pianists all over the world. We’ve been working on publishing revised editions in conjunction with the development of the Online Academy and are pleased to announce that the first two parts are now available via our catalogue. The revised editions feature a number of enhancements and updates, including: New supplementary content Numerous content updates and refinements A printable PDF download option and additional download options for PC and Mac Various formatting improvements Enhanced video streaming via Vimeo Improved download speeds from upgraded hosting infrastructure The remaining parts (Part 3 and Part 4) are currently in production and will be added shortly. Our catalogue also features a discount bundle containing all four parts (Part 3 and Part 4 will automatically be delivered to bundle customers when they become available) for 20% off the combined individual part prices. In addition to this, we’re offering a further 20% off all of our products to celebrate the launch of the revised editions. Please see further details at the end of this post to take advantage of this offer. How it works The eBooks website has been combined with the Online Academy therefore you will be able to access your eBooks and subscription in the same place. If you already own any of our eBooks, you can still access them via our previous eBooks site. In addition to this, we will be providing all customers who purchased complete parts of the original Practising the Piano eBook series with upgrade vouchers and offers for the revised editions shortly via email. If you purchased a Subscription plus eBooks bundle for the Online Academy via […]

By |October 20th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Q&A: Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata

I had a question from a reader this week who requested some suggestions for the tremolos in Beethoven’s Sonata op. 31 no. 2, often referred to as the “Tempest Sonata”. Q: I find it difficult to make the development section of this piece interesting. The rolled chords seem boring when I play them, and I get self-conscious. Maybe this is why the tremolos in the right hand afterwards feel stiff and awkward too.  I find it most interesting that you relate your awkwardness in the long tremolo section to feelings of self-consciousness in the previous few bars, rather than any specific technical (mechanical) difficulty with the tremolo itself. The opening bars of the development section (marked Largo) are not difficult to play from a technical point of view, but they require some organisation and imagination. The Largo The most obvious practical issue with the Largo (bars 93-98) has to do with how we organise the rolled chords. We are clearly going to need to make a decision about which hand plays what, and there are several solutions to this. My suggestion is to try not only the solution in the edition you have, but to consult other editions too. I work from a Henle score, but I have several others on my shelves for reference. Schnabel has an excellent way of doing this, but here are two from editions freely available in the Petrucci Library – from Sigmund Lebert’s and Alfredo Casella’s editions.   After you’ve decided on which hand plays what, you’ll need to think about the speed and shape of the spread chords. Are you going to play each at the same speed, or are some faster than the others? How do we decide? I suggest first playing the progression […]

Anyone Can Improvise!

Dedicated to helping everyone play the music they love and long to play, Lucinda Mackworth-Young has developed a step-by-step system for learning to play by ear and improvise, so that even classically trained pianists can play spontaneously, anywhere, anytime – and say “Yes!” when asked to play Happy Birthday! Hello Lucinda, I am delighted to be welcoming you as a contributor to the Online Academy. At present, we are happy to present the first installment of your series on playing by ear and improvising. You are one of the most passionate, inspiring and committed teachers I know – can you give us some background on your own pianistic journey? Hello Graham, it’s a real pleasure and privilege to be invited to contribute. Thank you, and for your kind words! My earliest piano memory is hearing my oldest sister play when she was 10 and I was 4. To me it sounded fast – and glittery, and I knew then that that was what I wanted to do – play-the-piano-very-fast! Lessons began when I was 8, and I was well (if conventionally) taught. The fun was with my three sisters at home playing Chopsticks and Heart and Soul etc. We played them over and over, and rhythmic and melodic variations evolved naturally. It never occurred to us that we were improvising – but we were! So have you always been able to play by ear and improvise? Far from it! Aside from Chopsticks and so on, I could hardly play without books at all unless I’d made a conscious effort to memorise. And, since I was supposed to be quite good, it was annoying and embarrassing that I couldn’t even play Happy Birthday spontaneously at social events, […]

Writing the Piano

WRITING THE PIANO Tuesday 18th October, 6.30-9.30pm 1901 Arts Club, London SE1 The piano, in all its complexity and beauty, is a source of constant fascination, for those who play it and those who enjoy hearing the instrument being played. This special event will explore how that fascination and engrossing engagement with the instrument translates into words. Three leading UK bloggers on the piano and piano teaching will explore different approaches to writing about the piano, pianism, being a pianist, piano playing, the instrument and its literature. The event will be of interest to pianists of all levels, professional or amateur, piano teachers, piano enthusiasts and music lovers in general, and takes place in the intimate and convivial surroundings of the 1901 Arts Club. Pianist Elspeth Wyllie will give a short recital of music by Gabriel Faure and Nicholas Sackman to open the event Guest speakers: ​Graham Fitch – acclaimed pianist, teacher, writer and author of the Practising the Piano blog and ebook series, founder of the Online Academy Andrew Eales – pianist, teacher and creator of the Piano Dao blog Frances Wilson – pianist, teacher, concert reviewer and author of The Cross-Eyed Pianist blog The bar and lounge at the 1901 Arts Club will be open before and during the event for the exclusive use of guests. Early booking is recommended due to the small size of the venue Book tickets

Virtuosic Pedalling

The subject of pedalling emerged as one of the most sought after topics amongst my readers in surveys I ran prior to the launch of the Online Academy. Therefore I decided to create a substantial video demonstration series on pedalling for the Online Academy. I’ve just added an additional video, Pedalling According to Basses which brings the series to a total of seven. I’ll be adding further videos one by one on an ongoing basis. The pedal markings that have become standardised in our scores seem to cause quite a lot of confusion. The “Ped” sign to indicate where the pedal goes down and the “*” sign to show the release is an approximate and often arbitrary notation; the release often strikes me as having more to do with the whimsy or practical considerations of the typesetter of the particular edition we are using. With this notation it would appear there should be a small gap after the release before the foot goes down again, implying a direct pedal rather than a legato pedal. If we read Chopin’s pedal marks according to the letter, we will be using direct pedals. But are we to assume that a pianist of the calibre of Chopin, say, never used legato pedalling – despite the less efficient damper system on the pianos of his day? We tend to think that legato pedalling was invented by Anton Rubinstein, but is Czerny describing it in 1839? “The quitting and resuming the pedal must be managed with the utmost rapidity, not to leave any perceptible chasm or interstice between the chords; and must take place strictly with the first note of each chord…The rapidly leaving and resuming the pedal must be practiced…till such passages…sound as if the pedal was held down without interruption.” – Carl Czerny, Complete […]

The Online Academy Has Officially Launched!

After over six months of hard work, I am delighted to officially announce the launch of the Practising the Piano Online Academy at The site already features almost 50 articles and resources containing over 70 videos and almost four hours of footage. There are also copious musical examples and printable worksheets for download. A number of articles are available free of charge and the following subscription options are now available: Free trial – Register for free (no credit card required) and access up to five premium articles in addition to a number of free articles Monthly subscription – Subscribe for £7.99 a month to get full, unlimited access to all Online Academy articles and updates Annual subscription – Save over 15% on the monthly subscription with an annual subscription which gives you access to all articles and updates for £79.99 per year. Subscription plus eBook bundle – Purchase an annual subscription for the Online Academy (£79.99 per year) and for an additional, once-off payment of only £20 you also get: The complete Practising the Piano Multimedia eBook series in four parts (valued at £36) The complete Annotated Study Edition bundle and updates (valued at £20) I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported the crowdfunding campaign prior to launch. The Online Academy wouldn’t have been possible without your support and I very much appreciate your vote of confidence in the project. Lastly, I would also like to say a huge thank you to my team, especially Ryan Morison, Director of Erudition Digital, who has been working tirelessly over the past few months doing all the complicated tech stuff, managing the team and bringing this whole project together. My […]

The Online Academy – Two days until launch!

With just two days to go until the launch on Thursday (22/09), we’re busy putting the final touches on the Online Academy website. We’ve also been adding lots of new content to the material from the beta-launch, including: A detailed video walk-through of Chopin’s beguiling Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 68, No. 2 Additional articles on using “Deconstructing the Score” to learn new pieces and tackling Polyrhythms An essential 5-minute warm-up routine from Penelope Roskell with video demonstrations of easy and effective exercises in the Healthy Playing section A walk-through of the 1st movement of Ravel’s Sonatine to accompany an Annotated Study Edition on the work More content in the pedalling series, including another video featuring the “damper cam” to demonstrate the concept of “flutter” or “fractional” pedalling The launch of the Online Academy is just the beginning as we will be adding content on a continual basis thereafter. The next round of content we’re working on at the moment includes: Walkthroughs and Annotated Study Editions for a number of pieces including Chopin’s C# Op. Post. Nocturne, Mendelssohn’s Variations Sérieuses and Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca Articles on new topics that we haven’t covered before such as improvisation and applied theory Further videos in our comprehensive series on the art of piano pedalling More videos demonstrating the practice tools in context, starting with the feedback loop A series of articles on spread chords If you’d like to see more, we have prepared a brief, guided tour of the features which you can view in advance of the launch here: Subscription options The following subscription options will be available following the launch of the site: Free trial – Register for free (no credit card required) and access up […]

By |September 20th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Are Exercises A Waste of Time?

Originally published from 1922 – 1929, Alberto Jonás’ series of seven books entitled Master School of Modern Piano Playing and Virtuosity is a treatise on piano technique designed to embrace “all the technical, aesthetic and artistic features required for the highest pianistic virtuosity”. The series contains original exercises by Jonás himself (he was one of the most sought-after piano teachers in the USA in the early 20th century), as well as exercises he commissioned from some of the most important pianists of the day (Ferruccio Busoni, Leopold Godowsky, Alfred Cortot and Josef Lhevinne among them). This fascinating resource and historical document came to my attention only fairly recently, with the republication in 2011 of the first two volumes by Dover, with an introduction by Sara Davis Buechner (click here to purchase on Amazon). You can watch a video of Ms. Buechner talk about the first extension exercises here. But surely in the modern age such exercises should be consigned to the dustbins of pianistic history? A quaint reminder of how things used to be done, until we came to know better. Some authorities are very vocal about this. What disturbs me about the (often vicious) fighting that goes on in the pedagogical community is the scorn and venom that come up at the very mention of the word “extension exercise” or “finger exercise”. Normally civilised and well-mannered folk get on their high horse, thinking nothing of trampling on colleagues’ work with a kind of fundamentalist, religious fervour. How fascinating, then, to find an interview with Stephen Hough in Pianist Magazine recently (Issue 88), in which he discusses how he has made a return to practising exercises. “You can warm up by playing pieces, of course, but you might not have a real finger-by-finger warm-up so that your whole hand, by the time you come […]

A Technical Problem?

My new teaching term began this week with a new student, a young lady preparing for an advanced ABRSM exam. She told me she was having technical problems with some of the minor scales beginning on black notes, and needed some help. When I asked her to play Eb harmonic minor, it was clear to me the problems she was experiencing were not technical in any mechanical sense but rooted in a lack of perception about the patterns of black and white notes that make up this particular scale. I asked her to play the scale in one hand using just one finger – something she struggled to do. After the shape and structure of the scale had become clear in her mind and she could play it fluently with one finger, I invited her to try the scale again with both hands together. She was most surprised to discover she could now play it easily. Clearly not a technical problem, then! I have noticed a tendency among pianists to address issues such as this by immediately going into elaborate technical detail, when this might not be the correct diagnosis at all. In order for the fingers to cooperate, they need to be given very clear commands from our brain as to exactly where they are supposed to go, and what they must do when they get there. If we are woolly-minded about the patterns in a piece of music or the type of sound (mood, character, etc.) we are after, how can we expect any kind of fluent or meaningful result? As the young lady left at the end of the lesson, she asked me the best way to practise her scales during the week. My answer was […]

Online Academy “Sneak Preview”

Following the launch of the Online Academy beta site, we’re now hard at work preparing the site for launch and therefore thought we’d take this opportunity to share a “sneak preview” of what is coming… Content The beta site already contains over 35 articles and 30 videos, including: A number of videos which form part of a series on piano pedalling featuring demonstrations, musical examples and a “damper cam” to provide an in-depth treatise on the subject A series of text articles including musical excerpts and video demonstrations on the art of piano fingering by author Penelope Roskell Video introductions to Graham Fitch’s Practice Tools, starting with The Three Ss Initial articles in a series which shows you how to tackle those pesky polyrhythms with videos and downloadable worksheets A series of articles which show how to use skeleton practice to approach learning popular works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin. We’ll be adding lots more content in the run up to launch and on an ongoing basis thereafter. Content still to come includes more articles and videos on healthy playing, a series on how to improvise at the piano, a “crash course” in practical theory, extensions to the technical exercises library, more walk-throughs of popular pieces, additions to existing series and articles featuring new topics from our surveys. Features The beta site is also fully functional and provides a number of ways to browse, search and interact with the content outlined above. We’ve also added a useful “bookmark” feature which enables you to bookmark a page for easy access at a later stage: Home page with featured content, browse, quick search and bookmarks Advanced search with filters for category, sub category, […]

By |September 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|4 Comments

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.