Piano Somatics Press

Natural, Artistic Piano Playing

The Piano Somatics Press has published a series of books chronicling Alan's approach to piano technique, which follows a logical evolution:

  • The Craft of Piano Playing delves into the structure and function of the pianist's hand.
  • Honing the Pianistic Self Image brings that structure to unstable equilibrium, the better for it to move freely and effectively.
  • All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique examines the thumb's crucial role in a pianist's virtuosity and artistry.
  • Play the Piano with Your Whole Self returns the hand to its pianistic infancy, lying it down in a "pre-standing apprenticeship" that eventually has it stand up, walk, run and leap all the more effectively on the keyboard.
  • Transform the Pianistic Self-Image ties it all together, integrating Alan's ideas with those of Dorothy Taubman, Seymour Fink and others as well as documenting Alan's own experience of injury and recovery.
  • Pianimals, the first Feldenkrais-based children's piano method, distills the core ideas of Piano Somatics into easy, effective exercises, fun music and captivating illustrations.

The books develop sequentially, but each can be read on its own

Reading the Natural Artistic Piano Playing series in chronological order gives the most comprehensive overview of Piano Somatics - but each pianist is at their own particular stage of development. Not all will need all the books. Each book stands well on its own. Browse through these brief synopses to get a feel for which book might be your best starting point, or click on each title link for a more detailed book description. Or talk with a Piano Somatics consultant to discover which book is best for you right now.

The Craft of Piano Playing: A New Approach to Piano Technique is the fruit of over 25 years' research by Alan Fraser, combining his training in the Feldenkrais Method with his long time studies under Phil Cohen (the Moshe Feldenkrais of the piano world) and Kemal Gekic, one of the top virtuosi on the world stage.

Fraser examines the structure and function of the human hand to unlock its innate potency. Analysing how we do what we do at the keyboard, he clarifies enigmas that have challenged pianists for generations, showing how many common keyboard movements are counterproductive. When these 'movement anomalies' are resolved, astonishing sonorities can be produced - and when this physical approach is linked to musical and performance issues, there's a flowering of new artistry.

This book will help improve your playing and also add a new dimension to your teaching.

Editions in English, German and Serbian

Honing the Pianistic Self-Image: Skeletal-Based Piano Technique brings the hand from its secure structure to a new, sophisticated state – unstable equilibrium – to gain even finer control over the colours and emotions produced at the piano.

When the body sits in unstable equilibrium , an harmonious relationship is established to the field of gravity offering crucial support to the hand on the keyboard.

Honing is about musicianship as well – 'physical' chapters are balanced out by those dealing with specifically musical issues, where Fraser links the idea of skeletality to rhythm, phrasing, harmonic colour and orchestration. Although Honing was written as a sequel to The Craft of Piano Playing, it stands well on its own and can be used effectively without prior exposure to Fraser's earlier work. It is used as a text book for university courses on wellness and piano playing.

Editions in English, French and German

All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique explores the hand's most fascinating and misunderstood digit. Never before has the thumb, one of the most neglected parts of the pianist's hand, received such a complete makeover. Its role is fleshed out, and a brilliant series of exercises is provided to bring its full potential to bear on ones technique.

Fraser shows how empowering the thumb leads to a similar empowerment of the fingers, hand, arm and shoulder. The sensorial re-education offered the thumb allows it to work more completely - its metacarpal bone learns to take part in all its actions.

Arm weight technique is also addressed in detail, with a discriminating evaluation of its potential pitfalls as well as a paean to the glories of its best incarnations. As always, the physical is linked to the musical, with applications to both easy and more complex excerpts from the repertoire.

Written as a sequel to Honing, this book also stands well on its own.

Editions in English and French

Play the Piano with Your Whole Self: Biotensegrity, the Inner Conductor & Expressively Directed Micro-Timing at the Piano begins by returning the hand to its 'infancy.' All humans crept and crawled for a year before standing and walking, but a pianist's hand is forced to walk from day one - how can it function well? How can it learn? This book offers pianistic sensory education exercises that return the hand to pre-standing, pre-walking, pre-running and pre-leaping, allowing it to develop new motor skills.

It also explores the more delicate, incisive touch of harpsichord technique, helping the finger 'get inside' the key instead of impinging upon it - evoking finger power that's more subtle and sophisticated than habitual "muscular" power. Moving from inside the key improves functioning of the kinematic chain, the linkage of one bone to another through the entire skeletal frame that keeps the system continuously vital.

Whole Self also explores biotensegrity, a potent, elastic state possessing immense power waiting to be unleashed.

This most far-reaching and transformative of Fraser's works on piano technique to date follows All Thumbs. Like the others in this series, it also stands well on its own.

English and French editions to be published in 2022

Vol. 5: Transforming the Pianistic Self-Image

Transforming the Pianistic Self-Image: Diary of an Injured Pianist continues the integrative slant of Whole Self, re-evaluating the Taubman rotation approach, the arm weight approach, the Russian pressure approach, and other standard approaches to piano technique.

The book focuses largely on rhythm, exploring new ways of integrating a skeletal physical approach with rhythm, music's skeleton.

Fraser aims to create a new aesthetic in piano performance free from the constraints of arm weight technique. The wrist must often minimize its movement to maximize the efficient transmission of forces through the kinematic chain. These often minute adjustments can lead to an astonishing sonic and artistic transformation.

As did his previous books, this one grows out of Fraser's experiences with Kemal Gekic, Phil Cohen, his Tai Chi teacher Sam Slutsky and the Feldenkrais Method of neuromotor re-education. This book forms an organic unity with its companion volumes, and can be taken as well on its own terms.

English edition to be published in 2022

Pianimals: 28 Feldenkrais Lessons for the Beginning Pianists' Hand is the first beginning piano method based on the Feldenkrais Method. This approach offers the beginning pianist's hand the same developmental experiences we all had in childhood when we first learned to stand, walk, run and jump.

The Feldenkrais-style exercises empower the beginner's first steps at the piano, with illustrations that draw the child into a fantasy world where the hand really becomes a bear or a bird, and evocative compositions that develop the child's musicianship along with their imagination.

For grownups too

These exercises are a great remedial experience for more advanced pianists as well. Never has Piano Somatics been spelled out so clearly, so simply... the compositions are fun to play for teacher and pupil alike, and sometimes stretch the ability of both!

Edition in English. Translations slated for future publication include:

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Dutch
  • and Serbian

Skeletal Wisdom: Body & Mind Reunited in the Feldenkrais Method - The Inner Workings of Human Learning is a book not about piano technique. Instead, Alan Fraser tackles the difficult task of explaining Feldenkrais to the lay person (it's a bit like explaining color to a blind person). Lauded as one of the clearest and most accessible introductions to the Method ever written, this book dovetails beautifully with Fraser's other books linking Feldenkrais to piano technique.

The book illuminates the Feldenkrais Method in both its forms - Functional Integration (FI), private, hands-on style lessons, and Awareness Through Movement (ATM), group lessons where the student evokes the neurological changes of FI on their own with subtle, sensory-enriched sequences of movement.

Discover an important source for Piano Somatics

Fraser's Awareness Through Piano Movement (ATPM) lessons have their roots in Feldenkrais. Read this book to gain greater fluency in the language of Piano Somatics - or if you are not a pianist, read this book to discover a method that can transform your life in many other ways. Never has Feldenkrais been spelled out so clearly, so simply.

Edition in English. Translations slated for future publication include:

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Dutch
  • and Serbian