What is Piano Somatics?

A New Vision of Piano Technique

Canadian pianist Alan Fraser is best known for his writings on piano technique: The Craft of Piano Playing (also in DVD), Honing the Pianistic Self-Image, All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique, Play the Piano with Your Whole Self and Pianimals: 28 Feldenkrais Lessons for the Beginning Pianist's Hand all shed new light on the relationship between body organization and musicianship at the keyboard. Fraser is active as a teacher on both sides of the Atlantic, with branches of the Piano Somatics Institute in Canada, the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Piano Somatics enriches your sound and increases your virtuosity while eliminating the risk of injury before it ever arises. Building on the strengths of earlier schools, it synthesizes threads from many disparate and sometimes contradictory approaches to deepen our understanding of the complex physical, mental and emotional processes of artful piano playing.

Piano Somatics analyzes the the innate structure and function of the human hand to unlock its power, replacing tension or over-relaxation with effective hand activation – it’s not so much about the hand’s shape or position: it's about how it moves.

Whether you feel too stiff or too weak, whther your arm feels too involved in your playing or not enough – whatever seems lacking in your technique, Piano Somatics pinpoints exactly where a new effort can bring your body and hand into better alignment, making your piano tone blossom with new richness and subtlety, and increasing your sense of power and agility.

Fraser has drawn on

  • his early association with pioneer pianist and psychologist Phil Cohen, creator of the Leonardo Project
  • extensive inquiries into both Tai Chi and Feldenkrais Method
  • a 25-year collaboration with the Croatian virtuoso Kemal Gekic
to develop his transformative approach now known as Piano Somatics.

The Craft of Piano Playing

Initially designed to help top-flight pianists add a further dimension of virtuosity and expressivity to their technique, his first book, The Craft of Piano Playing (also in DVD) has proved popular with pianists of all ages and abilities – its principles hearken back to movement patterns common to us all. A Revised 2nd Edition of Craft was published by Scarecrow Press in 2011.


Honing the Pianistic Self-Image

Fraser’s second volume, Honing the Pianistic Self-Image: Skeletal-Based Piano Technique (2010) leads the hand to a new, sophisticated state – unstable equilibrium – to gain an even finer control over the piano’s colours and emotions, and shows how the whole body in unstable equilibrium offers crucial support to the hand on the keyboard.


All Thumbs

His third volume is dedicated almost entirely to that most quirky of digits, the thumb. All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique (2012) offers 52 new Awareness Through Movement lessons for the hand and body, the better to integrate all the disparate parts into a harmonious, well-functioning whole. It also features a special in-depth study of arm weight technique.


Play the Piano with Your Whole Self

This fourth volume looks back to the very beginnings of human movement development, applying these insights to the hand to transform its inner workings.


Fraser's four books to date contain over 250 Awareness Through Piano Movement lessons. Pianimals distils these down to 28 essential lessons for the young pianist's developing hand - but teachers have found it useful for their own technique as well.

The Piano Somatics Institute

2011 saw the inauguration of the Alan Fraser Piano Institute at Smith College, Northampton Massachusetts. 11 active participants plus numerous observers gathered for a week of intensive lessons, lectures and group Feldenkrais Method sessions all led by Alan Fraser. This first event was so successful that a Western division was created the same summer in Salt Lake City, followed by Institutes many other locations both in North America and Europe in subsequent years – see the dropdown menu above for upcoming Institutes.

The Institute has always maintained the formula of its initial success: no assistant teachers; every participant has direct contact with Professor Fraser himself.

Concertizing, writing, studying

Fraser maintains an active concert and writing schedule, and is currently preparing several new publications:

  • The Pianimals Primer - more Pianimals-style exercises for young pianists
  • Transforming the Pianistic Self-Image - Volume V of "Natural, Artistic Piano Technique," documenting the latest developments in his work with Phil Cohen & Kemal Gekic
  • The 24 Chopin Etudes: A New Look, with detailed exercises for each etude and musical analyses showing why each particular exercise is suggested