Teachers' 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.

   Elegant Alionus, author of Pianimals.

28 core exercises to transform the hand

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 book has only the compositions

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.

   PIANIMALS - An Introduction

   Chapter 1: Waft the Hand Down to Make the Most Beautiful Sound in the World

This floating arm exercise shows how to relax the arm without it getting heavy and cumbrous, creating a magical, glowing, hypnotizing piano sound.

   Chapter 2: Flop the Heel, Make a Seal Flipper with the Hand

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."

   Monkey paw = seal flipper = baby hippo body.

   Chapter 3: Flop the Heel, Make a Bird Beak with the Hand

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.

   Chapter 4: Flop the Heel, "Cat-Scratch" with the Fingertip

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.

   Chapter 5: Lay the Hand Down & Roll it Around

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.

   Chapter 6: Make a Thumb Print; Stand on the Thumb

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.

   Chapter 7: Multiple Bird Beaks

The bird beak is a feeling of tight (but not tense) hand capability. There are many versions to adapt to many different pianistic situations.

   Bird Beaks

   Chapter 8: The Sliding Bird Beak

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.

   Chapter 8A: How Many Different Bird Beaks?

It seems the list of possible bird beaks just keeps expanding...

   Chapter 9: The Crocodile's Jaw

Making the hand into a crocodile jaw gives thumb and fingers the snuggest possible interaction, optimizing hand tonus.

   The Crocodile's Snout

   Chapter 10: The Alligator's Jaw

The alligator jaw is a more triangular structure, preparing thumb and fingers for more active, potent movement on the keys.

   Chapter 11: Tromping Troll & Prancing Stallion

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.

   Stand on the thumb like a stallion on its hind legs

   Chapter 12: Floating Arm, Feather-Light Finger

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.

   Chapter 13: Walking on Stilts

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.

   Chapter 13A: The Hand is a Mini-Body

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.

   The hand is a mini-body.

   Chapter 14: Teetering - Use Rotation to Smooth Out Walking

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.

   Chapter 15: The Hand as an Amoeba

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.

   Can an amoeba play the piano? Yes if it is a cat amoeba.

   Chapter 16: The Hand as a Bell Clapper

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

   Chapter 17: Manipulate the Key

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.

   Chapter 18: Weighted vs. Non-Weighted Touch: The Tai Chi Empty Step

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."

   Tai Chi: "Stork Cools Wings"

   Chapter 19: Sauntering on Thumb & Finger

This is another version of that strange, straight-legged walking - here sped up and helped out with more rotation.

   Chapter 20: Thumb Snaps to Finger Pad

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.

   Chapter 21: Stand on 2nd, Lean ‘Arm Thumb’ To Inside

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.

   Chapter 22: Whip the Arm to Smear a Scale

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.

   Whip the arm up in the air like a bouncing barmy bunny.

   Chapter 23: Overholding

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.

   Chapter 24: Rotation

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.

   Chapter 25: Springboard Launch

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.

   Can you guess who has the most amazing "chiselled" piano tone?

   Chapter 26: Forte Is “Up”

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.

   That's not a lion, it's just Lucky the Cat using a mask to scare Forte Flying Fox.

   Chapter 27: Grow the Hand in Octaves

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.

   Chapter 28: Creeping & Cliffhanging

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.

   Hang by your fingertip like an opossum by its tail.

   Chapter 29: Rock-A-Bye-Body

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.