The easiest way yet to transform the pianist's hand
Pianimals boils down over 250 of Alan Fraser's Awareness Through Piano Movement lessons into just 28 lessons that are succinct, easy-to-do and powerful in their effect. Thus Pianimals' first benefit is to transform your own playing. No matter how well one plays, no matter how comfortable one is in their technique, these exercises offer the chance to hone one's skills even further, using cutting edge insights that have only recently been developed.
Pianimals is for you even if you are not a studio teacher or university professor. The hand developing a more organic, sensorial awareness of itself, by necessity will serve your musical goals with greater ability, power, and finesse. If you do teach, once you yourself have benefitted from this 'Pianimals Pianistic Makeover', then the possibility opens up of also empowering pianists of all ages in your studio.
Pianimals is not designed to replace other piano methods but to be used in complement with the methods you already use with your pupils. Don't abandon the tried and true teaching techniques which have worked well for you - simply add five or ten minutes of Pianimals per lesson to fast track your pupils' learning curve.
Pianimals offers the 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 any pianist's connection to the keyboard, and especially the beginner's first steps at the piano. The illustrations draw children into a fantasy world where the hand really becomes a bear or a bird, and the evocative compositions develop the child's musicianship along with their fantasy.
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!
First and foremost, use the Pianimals Teachers Manual to explore and develop your own technical approach. No matter how advanced you are, Pianimals can shed light on hidden aspects of your practice, empowering your hand to move better and play better by improving its movement qualities from within.
When you are ready to bring this approach to your students, again the Teachers Manual is your essential resource. Here are gathered together almost all the pedagogical materials: the exercises, the compositions, and the illustrations that will so delightfully engage your pupils young and old. Go to the Teachers Manual, do the exercises, feel how they help your own hand develop, and begin to see how you might apply them with your pupils.
The Pianimals Teachers Manual: 28 Feldenkrais Lessons for the Beginning Pianist is divided into 8 sections that follow the development of the hand just as an infant follows a certain line of development in coming to stand and walk. At first we do the unusual, laying the hand down in the keys so it can discover its primordial movement beginnings - just as an infant lies down for a year's pre-standing apprenticeship before it finaly stands and walks.
We then give some special attention to the thumb, such a problematic issue for so many pianists (beginning or otherwise), before moving beyond preparation into actually standing the finger on key. Reviewing the underpinnings of healthy standing on key empowers our eventual "walking" on key (legato, section III), our "running" (passagework, section IV), "jumping" (navigating large leaps, section V), and even the involvement of the whole body in all these hand-arm activities (section VIII).
Each new development in movement is supported with simple musical compositions that use the hand and fingers in unusual configurations, imparting a new sense of self to the hand, and a sense of new possibilities not only for moving effectively on key, but also for making new types of music.
Eventual editions in English, German, Spanish, French and Italian
The rest of the pedagogical materials are found in Pianimals Pointers, first conceived as a small handbook to be kept by your side as you teach, with quick, simple, bullet-style reminders of the Pianimals essentials. When we decided to add photographs, we realized that only a full-sized pamphlet would do the wonderful pictures of the hand justice, so Pointers ended up being large format just like the Teachers Manual. Pointers has just twelve chapters, each only a page long, with richly detailed photographs that communicate the feel of the hand going through a developmental exercise.
Pianimals Pointers: Quick Solutions to Basic Problems in Beginning Piano Technique begins with the Basic Exercise: creation and development of the hand's arch gently, organically. Then follow twelve variations on that theme where the hand experiences:
Lying down in the key
Empowering the thumb
Standing on key
Sliding on key
"Poking" the key (!)
Lolling on the keys
Rolling on key
Hopping on key
Squatting, rising and taking a big step on key
Curling the fingertip
The "Cat Scratch"
Overholding many keys
A piano book for young pupils must have simple and immediate appeal, so the Pupils' Volumes have only the compositions and illustrations, no exercises. It is up to the teacher to take the pupil through the exercise during the lesson, and then study the composition associated with that exercise together. At home the pupil remembers the exercise and confirms it, integrates it, by playing the associated piece.
The Pianimals Pupils' Book, Volumes 1 & 2 have over 50 compositions, most of which are extremely simple. The idea is not to present something musically challenging, but to provide a means for the pupil to experience their hand in a new way, by putting the exercise into practice. The accompaniments make for a more pleasurable musical experience, and can be played by the teacher, a slightly more advanced pupil, or in some cases, by the pupils themselves using the spare hand.
The illustrations always refer in ingenious ways to the exercise and composition in question, and the pupil is always encouraged to create variations and improvisations on the general idea. It's not so important to play the exact notes, but to really hear whatever notes are being played, to experience them both physically and aurally.
Eventual editions in English, German
The Pianimals compositions are ideal for recitals. There are sonorous, simple pieces, dissonant pieces, and pieces that are technically and musically more challenging. The Playbook presents all the compositions with Primo on the right hand page and Secondo on the left, for easy reading and recital preparation in duo.
The Pianimals Playbook has all 52 Piaimals compositions, many of which have easy and intermediate versions for those not advanced enough to do the full version, set up in Secondo-Primo on the left and right hand pages for easy reading and performance. A thumbnail of the illustration indicates whether the pupil should play Primo or Secondo.