TEACHERS' MANUAL VIDEO TUTORIALS.
The Pianimals approach adjusts the weighted touch to create a new sense of harmony between finger, piano key and the gravitational field. The hand gains in agility when a sense of constant falling is replaced by vital standing, walking, running and leaping on key. We've created video tutorials to clarify this concept which will be new to many. Find the Teachers' Manual exercises here below and also in this YouTube Playlist.
The Pianimals Teachers' Manual takes the young pianist's hand through a complete developmental process, from lying-down exercises (equivalent to the baby's pre-standing apprenticeship), to standing, walking, running and jumping - on a table top, then on key. The compositions make music out of the exercises.
The pupil's method has no exercises and only a very few playing instructions - no kid wants to wade through all that verbiage - so it is up to you to take the pupil through the exercise, and when the hand has learned it, introduce the musical example. To ensure you understand the essence of each exercise, we offer short video tutorials - compiled in this YouTube Playlist, and also embedded in the page below.
This floating arm exercise shows how to relax the arm without it getting heavy and cumbrous, creating a magical, glowing, hypnotizing piano sound.
Sinking the heel into the white keys offers the hand structural stability - like a baby lying down. From that position of security we can do various things with the fingers - like swatting the keys with a "seal flipper."
Pecking the keys with an ultra-firm bird beak hand while the heel is sunk in the keys gives the brain a new neuromotor image of security and capability.
Curling the fingers works best when the metacarpal-phalangeal joint, the "hand's hip joint," doesn't collapse. Sinking the heel into the white keys offers the MCP joint so much structural support it can't collapse.
The reflexes learn best when sensations are varied. Sometimes we'll create a strong, skeletal-structural sense in the hand; at other times we'll soften it completely making the bones "dissolve" within - as in this lesson where the hand rolls around on the keys like a semi-hibernating bear.
The thumb is the powerhouse of the hand, but often seriously underused in the young pianist. If your pupils are lifting their thumb thus disempowering the hand, this exercise is for them.
The bird beak is a feeling of tight (but not tense) hand capability. There are many versions to adapt to many different pianistic situations.
Sliding on key is one of the best ways of finding that delicious state of hand where it is neither too tight nor too loose. The arm as well gets a clear sense of its optimal mobility - shaping phrases and sonorities with precision instead of waving around trying to relax.
It seems the list of possible bird beaks just keeps expanding...
Making the hand into a crocodile jaw gives thumb and fingers the snuggest possible interaction, optimizing hand tonus.
The alligator jaw is a more triangular structure, preparing thumb and fingers for more active, potent movement on the keys.
The thumb is generally the digit most in need of improvement, and the one that empowers the entire hand once that improvement has been reached.
Float the arm as we did in the first exercise, but now play moving from low to high instead of sounding the note as you waft down.
One of the strangest ways to instil the sense of skeletal power in the hand and arm is to walk on the knuckles using the arms as stilts.
Seeing how all the parts of the hand correspond to parts of the entire body brings us to an entirely new understanding of how the hand can move on the keyboard.
If you could walk without bending ankle, knee or hip joint, you would get a clear sense of how the torso is supported by each leg in turn - and how to manage the transfer of weight. This lesson does this for the fingers & hand.
Children love this lesson, which teaches bonging, not banging. The clangorous, free vibration of the sound board is achieved by eliminating all the "down" from the arm's movement. The hand is as compact as a bell-clapper, but there's no compression
Make yourself one with the key by grasping it, moving it, sensing it three-dimensionally. Feeling as if you're in it instead of on it gives you greater tactile control.
Experience the difference between falling into a key and standing up on a key by practicing these two actions with the whole body: "Frankenstein-walking" and "swan-gliding."
This is another version of that strange, straight-legged walking - here sped up and helped out with more rotation.
The thumb needs to stand well, always, if the hand is to move well. Here we galvanize the thumb to do its right supportive work by bringing a quick snapping movement to a scale - just for a moment.
Imagine a heron stretching one leg out for an eternity before it finally takes a step. Now stand on your 2nd finger and stretch the thumb out. When you take an eternity to make your step, you feel how to do it without the thumb collapsing in the slightest. For many this is a totally unfamiliar feeling.
If you whip your hand up above your head while playing a few notes of a scale, they sound incredibly quick, light and sparky. The reflexes experience the joy of playing fast with none of the stress.
Sometimes a hidden collapse of the hand arch ruins our legato sound unbeknownst to us. Overholding helps us weed out those hidden collapses by making us feel them.
As Matthay said, rotation is always present in piano technique. This lesson helps develop the feeling of how much rotation is needed, and when, by solidifying the hand - shifting all the movement to the forearm.
When you leap from stepping stone to stepping stone crossing a creek, it's the legs that animate the movement and make it accurate. They ensure that you don't end up with a dunking. Leaps work better when the fingers animate them than when the arm carries the neutral hand.
Investing a "down" motion in a forte is the surest way to ruin ones sound, and also the most widespread. This lesson creates glowing, intensely singing fortes that are distinctive for their complete freedom from compression.
Octaves present the greatest danger of stiffening the hand, because it must be in extension. This lesson shows how to keep the grasping action potent and vital even when playing octaves, larger intervals, and chords.
Once we have reviewed all the parts of the piano-playing mechanism (finger, hand, wrist, arm), we return to the fingertip - the ultra-important point of contact - your interface with your instrument.
The hand is a mini-body, but we also play piano with our whole body. This lesson empowers the relationship of the real pelvis & torso to the movements of the hand & arm on key.
Find an Institute near you.
Institute Photos & Videos
Become a Certified Embodied Piano Practitioner.
Extensive data base of Alan Fraser teaching videos