Play the Piano with Your Whole Self

Refine the Physical to Free Your Inner Musician:
Biotensegrity, the Inner Conductor, & Expressively Directed Micro-Timing at the Piano

A full ten years after the publication of All Thumbs, Alan Fraser presents his most far-reaching exploration of Piano Somatics to date. Growing out of his final years' work with the late Phil Cohen, his ongoing collaboration with Kemal Gekic, and new research into the nature of human movement, this book is a masterpiece of new pianistic learning strategies presented in appealing, easy-to-digest form.

“Over several decades, a number of dedicated pianists have been seriously researching healthy, effortless technique and exploring how this information can further enhance the quality of their musicianship and interpretive decision-making. Alan Fraser’s newest contribution for piano teachers is an important and comprehensive book containing incredibly valuable information from which every pianist around the world can benefit. Alan’s years of study and extensive research, combined with his excellent musicianship, has resulted in an outstanding resource that belongs in every pianist’s library.”

- Gail Berenson, USA (Past President, MTNA)

Towards a new, deeper sense of pianistic Self

This book uses Feldenkrais-style strategies not only to have you feel more comfortable in your body, but also to have you move with new ease and command at the piano. Passages that had seemed insurmountably difficult become possible, and passages that were naggingly problematic become a breeze when you are "in yourself" in the best physical sense. You already have this potential in you, it only needs the ingenious strategies of Play the Piano with Your Whole Self to unlock it and make it completely yours.

"The Awareness Through Piano Movement lessons of Play the Piano with Your Whole Self expand the physical possibilities needed to rebalance the body, improving how the pianist transitions from a vivid inner imagination to refined musical ideas. The resulting increase in agility, coordination and security at the piano transforms technical challenges into an ease-filled relationship with the instrument. For all pianists seeking continued musical growth, this extraordinary resource will bring refreshing conversations to lessons, curiosity to the practice room, and a new level of delight to performance."

- Dr. Grace Asquith, NCTM, USA

But just how does this happen? How do we overcome habits that prevent us from fulfilling our pianistic potential?

A return to primordial movement: the hand's pre-standing apprenticeship

Nobody learned to walk by walking. We all rolled around on the ground for a year before coming to stand. We needed that time to learn the hundreds of movement patterns inherent in standing, walking and running. Parts of Play the Piano with Your Whole Self do the same for the pianist's hand, laying it down on the keys or on a table and exploring the myriad ways it can move while supported from below, free from the stresses of normal piano playing. In this secure state the hand is free to differentiate its parts: muscle tonus lowers, the different digits become more independent – not through mechanical exercise but through sensorial learning, leading to a new blossoming of ability and agility when one returns to playing music.

"Alan Fraser’s previous books are an inspiring and thought-provoking read, but his latest book, Play the Piano with Your Whole Self, is his Magnum Opus indeed – an important landmark in the field of instructive music literature. It offers a unique insight into the interaction between player and instrument from a neurological point of view, expressed with a new concept, biotensegrity, and showcases such a wealth of revelatory ideas expressed in an engaging and lucid manner that one may return to it many times over and still find new illuminations and an abundance of food for thought. As an added bonus, the instructive parts are interspersed with autobiographical writing both edifying and entertaining. Enthusiastically recommended!"

- Kemal Gekic, Miami

Biotensegrity: the natural elasticity of human movement

Dr. Steven Levin coined the term biotensegrity to describe the wonderfully elastic quality of human movement - it's not about relaxation; it's not about building up strength; it's about developing a keen muscular vitality that moves the skeleton effectively and easily because the bones are well-aligned and the muscles are primed just right. The degree of tonus required for biotensegrity to function well is quite precise, and Play the Piano with Your Whole Self offers numerous Awareness Through Piano Movement lessons that bring the hand to this optimal state. It's worth going back to a 'primordial state' when the result is not only more agile, potent movement but a fuller expression of Phil Cohen's "expressively directed micro-timing:" a deeper, more capable and expressive musicianship.

“Alan Fraser’s methods are a unique amalgam of principles of Tai Chi and Feldenkrais, of the wisdom of his mentors, and of his intense study of Horowitz’s technique. My own experience has led me to believe wholeheartedly that his approach opens the door to complete technical mastery, heightened musical sensitivity and artistic freedom. This book is the culmination of Alan’s life work to date, in which every serious pianist and teacher can find inspiration to take their playing and teaching to the next level and beyond!”

- Jackie Sharp, BSc, AMusA,LMusA,LTCL, Australia

Excerpt from the Introduction

The book leads off with biotensegrity because it has the potential to unify all the previous schools of piano technique. The conceptual framework of biotensegrity allows significant updates to the work of Matthay, Breithaupt, Ortmann, Schultz, Neuhaus, and the more recent work of Bernstein, Fink, Taubman, Lister-Sink, Johnson, and Karpoff. Neuromotor development in the pianist’s hand follows, and then Phil Cohen’s mature work on the ‘bio-physico-musical’ aspects of piano performance, before we delve into injury rehabilitation, the antecedents of piano technique in harpsichord technique, and a new look at that old conundrum, the thumb. In my discussiion of my work with Kemal Gekić, we address integration as well as the music – which is, in the end, what it’s all about.

The following Detailed Table of Contents gives a taste of the book's orientation - its intriguing view of human movement and how you can deepen your musical ability by delving into the detail of your physical relationship to the piano.

"Alan Fraser’s detailed tables of contents, exacting photographs, exhaustive index and wonderfully illuminating text are all helping lead this reader-musician along a pathway, from fingertip to sitz bones, that illuminates new possibilities for producing beautiful and transcendent sounds at one’s piano. Only now, after over forty years of keyboard abandonment, with Alan’s latest crowning achievement nearby, have I the means to return joyfully and capably to the piano."

- Kathleen Carels, MLS, USA

Product details

Book Title : PLAY THE PIANO WITH YOUR WHOLE SELF - Refine the Physical to Free Your Inner Musician: Biotensegrity, the Inner Conductor, & Expressively Directed Micro-Timing at the Piano
Publisher : The Piano Somatics Press (Novi Sad, Serbia: December 10, 2022)
Language : English
Paperback : 412 pages
ISBN : 978-86-6229-034-2
ISMN ‏: 979-0-9014106-3-3
Dimensions : 18.2 x 2.7 x 25.7 cm
Weight : 1.24 kg



The physical as a channel to the musical. Cohen. Gekić. Feldenkrais. Levin & Slutsky. The peaceful hand. The body’s crucial role. This book’s focus. Repetition. Robust exercises and the risk of injury. Tonus, tension, and functional strengthening. Be sensitive to one’s physical process. Chapter order. An alchemical view of piano technique – “As above, so below.” Where to start? How to do the ATPM (Awareness Through Piano Movement) lessons. My writing style. The photo illustrations. It’s not always easy.

1 Guiding Lights: My Mentors & Their Practices

1: Phil Cohen (1926-2018). 2: Kemal Gekić (b. 1962). 3: Feldenkrais Method. 4: T’ai Chi. 5: Harpsichord technique. 6: Infant movement development. 7: Biotensegrity. Elastic transmission of kinetic forces. Biotensegrity to synthesize the different pianistic approaches.


2 A First Look at Biotensegrity

Moving the fingers ‘too well.’ Improve loose movement by increasing biotensegrity. Awareness Through Piano Movement. A specific strategy to address a specific internal state.

    ATPM 1 Stiffening and Sliding to Evoke Biotensegrity

Sliding into an octave. ‘Flexible solidity’ on the keybed. ‘Flexible solidity’ in the air. Stiffening before sliding. Using anti-movement to improve movement. Just one step in the learning process. The 2nd is the most important finger in an octave. ‘A feeble hand hip-joint is the root of all evil.’ Tonus masquerading as tension. Biotensegrity in chords: ‘bobsled’ the middle finger. Biotensegrity in passagework. Integration

3 Biotensegrity and Elasticity

    ATPM 2 Elasticity

Elastic stretching and movement-generating contractions are two different functions. Thumb opposition to evoke elasticity.

    ATPM 3 Elasticity in Practice

Distinguish elasticity from other touches. No curling.

    ATPM 4 Individuate Thumb and Forefinger

How to maximize potency and thumb independence. The tendency to lapse back into stiffness. The great virtuosi possess this quality. Relaxation begets stiffness. Tonus begets movement.

    ATPM 5 Leap Without Relaxing

Relaxation can disempower the whole body. Extremely quick hand position shifts. Maintain connection to the key, even in mid-flight. Tension – Tonus – Relaxation: mutually exclusive.

4 Biotensegrity and Arm Weight

Just the right amount of snugness. Cultivating snugness.

    ATPM 6 Move Your Fingers as a Snug Set of Levers

Play from the surface or slightly under the surface of the key. Indirect attack. Complete absence of arm weight. Sensing the weight: useful or not? Inexactitude. Free fall and the resulting hook-clamp. The finger should have only one job. Compression and/or fixation. The biggest illusion is that the key goes down. Replace relaxation with activation. Use ‘the Hoop’ to create effective, snug levers. Make the hoop as large and stiff as possible.

5 The Kinematic Chain

There is no sense of weight in piano technique. One segment of the skeletal chain follows another. The kinematic chain. Flopitis infection. Tensility is not tension. Tensility for easy ulnar deviation. Let the body facilitate ulnar deviation.

        ATPM 7 Experience the Kinematic Chain

Become an ‘ulnar deviant.’ Getting to the extremes of the keyboard easily. Keep the body in play: don’t drop dead. The arm’s kinematic chain extends throughout the whole body. Open collarbones, open-heartedness. Wonder Breath to vitalize the whole self. A broken kinematic chain is a problem. Wonder Breath in the hand. Curling the pinky enlivens the kinematic chain. What constitutes the arm?

6 Easy, Effective Ulnar Deviation

    ATPM 8 Ulnar Deviation

Security combined with moveability. Neuromotor templates of efficient movement. Ulnar deviation and the thumb corkscrew.

    ATPM 9 Rolling and Folding the Hand

Reversing the roles of proximal and distal. Ultimate pronation. The Roman Arch clock. The learning is neuromotor, not mechanical. Combine ulnar deviation and supination. Use ulnar deviation to your advantage instead of avoiding it. An integrated movement transmits all the way through the skeleton. Connected in stillness – ‘sensorial presence.’

7 The Seesaw Hand

The arm is a teeter-totter.

    ATPM 10 The Seesaw Hand

A specific wrist position facilitates a specific internal hand organization. Why is the seesaw exercise effective? Horowitz and the seesaw.

8 How Babies Move

The developing sense of self is sensorially based. Sensation combines with intention to beget learned movement. The sensory-motor feedback loop. Healthy movement wastes no energy. Preliminary elements of complex actions. Nobody learned to walk by walking. The long apprenticeship is informed by whole-body sensory experience. Context of comfort and security. After the long apprenticeship: finally, full verticality. A full seven years to learn adult walking. Standing and moving: an inherent contradiction. “As above, so below” – As for the whole body, so for the hand. The pianist’s hands have been denied their movement birthright. The high incidence of piano disabilities is a natural outcome. A new regime for developing capable, healthy hands at the keyboard.

    ATPM 11 Treat the Hand Like a Baby Learning Movement

Sucking. Extension. Grasping and flexion. Propping. Extending the legs. Commando crawling. Toe differentiation. Rolling – prone to supine. Rolling – supine to prone. Folding the leg in and under. Folding the body. Sitting. Half-standing. Integration.


9 The Hand’s Pre-Standing Apprenticeship I

    ATPM 12 Enhance the Hand’s Internal Feeling

Palm glissandos for a deeper connection to the keyboard. Bobsledding – extension. The Swamp Monster. Roll, leaving the thumb neutral. Use the thumb as a prop.

10 The Hand’s Pre-Standing Apprenticeship II

    ATPM 13 Play With the Proximal Phalanges

Collapse your arch so it can better soar. The fingers as a delivery system for the wisdom of the palm.The physical becomes biological. From the biological to the aesthetic. From the aesthetic to the expressive. From the physical/biological/aesthetic/expressive to spirit. The Hermetical fusion of three modes of awareness.

11 Arm Weight Antidotes

The mindful, intelligent hand.

    ATPM 14 The Wisdom of the Palm

Antidote 1: Cultivate the wisdom of the palm. Play chords ‘from inside the key.’ Antidote 2: Move laterally off a chord. Antidote 3: Slide on the key. Antidote 4: Move sideways. Antidote 5: Curl to lock down. Antidote 6: Separate and join thumb and hand. Antidote 7: ‘Boing’ off the keyboard without flapping the wrist. Antidote 8: Use a flattened curve in thumb opposition. Integrate the exercises immediately.

12 A More Intimate, Detailed Touch

The arduous task of cleaning up old brain clutter.

        ATPM 15 More Hyper-Differentiation in the Finger

Obsessive finger substitution. Quasi-independent thumb. Playing ‘from within the key.’ Horizontal standing. A necessary preparation. A stroking sensation. Sensorial learning and the empowered sense of self. Integrating these new abilities in practice. Joists in a wood- frame house. The ‘one-bone lever’ evolves into a ‘three-bone lever’ by ‘knocking.’ Transform the ‘one-bone’ lever into a ‘three-bone’ lever by squeezing. Combine three seemingly anti- thetical feelings. Physical means serve a musical end. Another distinctive orchestration technique. Not arm weight. The difficulty of bringing ‘play’ to piano playing. Playing classical music seems equated with ‘difficulty.’

13 Finger Substitution for Supple, Empowering Tonus

The fingers’ articulative activity echoed in the mouth. Finger substitution.

        ATPM 16 More Finger Substitution

Leap through multiple octaves by chaining.

        ATPM 17 Increased Differentiation in the Thumb Corkscrew

Proximal-distal relationship in the thumb corkscrew. Thumb & forefinger: proximal vs. distal differentiation.

14 Scat Syllables, Biological Gesture & Musical Meaning

        ATPM 18 Animate Your Fingers with Scat Syllables

The 3-dimensionality of scat sounds. Map vowels & consonants onto finger inflections (notes) or arm inflections (phrases). Scatting 16th notes. Sliding bones create sinuous tone. Finger pedalling on one note. Scatting and staccato touch. Scatting Scriabin. The simplicity of establishing a skeletal touch. Deviating from the neutral. The unity of arm and thumb. Reduced parasitic contraction improves hearing. Free melodic tones to sing by playing them staccato on the pedal. Making full chords sing. The future creates the present. Gentle finger flexion to ‘play’ the air above the key.

15 Why Phil’s Lessons Work

        ATPM 19 Super-Saturated Key Contact

Soundless glissandi. Don’t integrate too soon. Hyper-clamped ‘oozing’ movement. The ‘air holes’ of the hands in T’ai Chi. Ongoing psychological resistance. A new physical relationship to the music requires relearning the text. Another ‘oozing’ technique to melt away an old ‘crunching’ habit. The subjective experience of ‘letting go’ may not be what’s actually happening. The greats don’t do as they were taught.

16 The Music Itself is the Conductor

The nature of the biological. Access the potent sensitivity of your palm. The pianistic Dan Tien.

        ATPM 20 The Basis of Expressively Directed Movement

Bringing the caress to the key. Begin any phrase from your lap.


17 Healing the Disempowered Neutral

Computer tendonitis. Too little effort can be worse than too much. A similar situation at the piano. ‘No connection’ does not equal ‘objective interpretation.’ Mental tendonitis.

        ATPM 21 Release the Forearm Extensors by Joining Skeleton to Key

        ATPM 22 Depress the Key Silently

Play a note from a slightly lowered key position. A new type of finger pedalling.

        ATPM 23 Play on the Escapement

Playing on the escapements in the repertoire. Discover your intransigent, unmoving thumb. Impressionist escapement playing. Recreate the shallow key depths of early pianos.

        ATPM 24 Releasing the Forearm Extensors in Octaves

Integrate the exercise into the playing action. Break down old habits to cultivate the new. Non-playing exercises change the way you play. No transformation without integration.

18 Getting the Message with a Focal Dystonia

Some thoughts on dystonia. Grasp to cure a dystonia. Restore right function to resolve the dystonia.

        ATPM 25 Dystonia is a Communication from the Nervous System

‘Neurological’ movement. Addressing a hyper-extended 2nd finger. Slide in the other direction. Lie on the back of your medial phalanges. Lie on the back of your proximal phalanges. Take your time. Return to neutral. Extend to avoid triggering the dystonia. The healing power of a structurally supportive skeleton. Contract the finger muscles without flexing them.

        ATPM 26 Dystonia in Octaves

Learn the inner hand action of octaves at a slow tempo, then apply it at speed. Feldenkrais and hand functionality at the piano.

19 Hyper-Mobility

        ATPM 27 Dangle to Sense Fine Muscular Adjustments

Dangle to minimize structural pressures. Dangling in repertoire. Address hyper-mobility by enhancing it? Go slowly to allow neuromotor learning to take place.


20 The Seeds of Piano Technique in Harpsichord Technique 1

        ATPM 28 New Keyboard Movements at the Harpsichord

The hand arch is crucial in harpsichord technique. Harpsichordists need a stronger hand than pianists. No role confusion.

21 The Distinctive Nature of a Single Harpsichord Tone

Bending time. A different compositional process. A different interpretive process. A non- pedalled technique. The pedal undermines biotensegrity.

22 The Harpsichord Plectrum & the Piano Jack

Antecedents in harpsichord technique. Tenuto touch. Non-tenuto touch. Whence the necessary increase in power? Weight – an illegitimate solution to a legitimate problem. Usethe arm to shape phrases.

        ATPM 29 Turn the Piano Jack into a Harpsichord Plectrum

The complex inner organization of a simple movement. The finger creates a tone. The wrist joins tones. The unfortunate development of weight technique. Weight technique: a collection of contradictions. Appearances can be deceiving. An arm weight variant – pressure technique.

        ATPM 30 The Arches of the Hand Revisited

Curving and curling – a conundrum. Three arches.

23 The Plectrum & the Piano Escapement

        ATPM 31 Explore the Escapement

The piano action as a tensegrity.

24 The Nail Joint’s Special Role on the Harpsichord

Surprisingly high resistance.

        ATPM 32 Nail Joint Flexion on the Harpsichord

Play from the nail joint alone for finer control. Done in isolation, distal phalange flexion can lead to injury. Nail joint flexion: the final link in the kinematic chain.

25 Play fff & ppp with the Same Key Speed?

Reduce amplitude instead of speed.

        ATPM 33 Reduce Dynamics Without Reducing Key Speed

Discover the two components of any note: consonant and vowel. Musico-pianistic consequences. Create voicings by timing key descents. Create voicings with articulation instead of dynamics. Both Gekić and Cohen are moving away from dynamic differentiation. Horowitz seldom played loud. Not the physical alone. The palm as a bellows. Empower the palm-bellows by deflating instead of inflating.

        ATPM 34 Lie Down to Play Stress-Free

Elements of speculative playing. The biophysical basis for freedom in playing. Altering the tone of one note.

26 New Sounds From Old Fingerings

        ATPM 35 Old Harpsichord Fingerings For Slightly Uneven Scales

Hilary Hahn’s Bach and uneven scale fingerings.


27 The Thumb’s Arc Movement in Scales

        ATPM 36 Scales & Thumb Opposition

Improve proximal flexion to empower fingers in scales. Thumb opposition is different from flexion. Thumb opposition to move the piano key. Thumb opposition to ‘elastify’ the hand in scales. Now replace flexion with opposition. I pass and do not pass the thumb under. I pass and do not pass the hand over. Flexion disempowers; opposition empowers. Searching for a more effective learning style.

28 Refined Thumb Movement in Arpeggios

The presenting problem often distracts from the real issue.

        ATPM 37 A Hidden Problem in Arpeggios

Resolve the awkwardness of the position shift by avoiding it. An interesting side effect. The thumb uses a physical legato in slow arpeggios. The faster the arpeggio, the less ‘thumb under.’

        ATPM 38 Arpeggios: To Swivel or Not to Swivel?

29 Uncommon Octave Technique

The thumb as a flying buttress.

        ATPM 39 Grasp Your Thumb to Empower Your Octaves

30 Use the Thumb to Transform the Pianistic Self-Image

The sense of a potent, moving skeletal structure originates in the pelvis. Thumb and hand dome have a special interaction.

        ATPM 40 Fold the Thumb Under, Clamp it Down

An alternative to vigorous finger movement. A structure strong but not stiff. Secure bone contact for free movement. The antithesis of weight technique.

31 Thumb Opposition & Elasticity to Empower the Hand

        ATPM 41 Clarify the Movements of the Thumb

Flexion: bad. Adduction: better. Opposition: best. How thumb opposition & forearm supination/pronation interact. Scales to the outside: ‘passing the thumb under.’ “I pass and do not pass my thumb under.” Scales to the inside: ‘passing the hand over.’ Superfluous swivelling. Eliminate the sense of falling. Supportive muscular activity. The corollary in walking. Resolving over-differentiation. 5th finger orientation.

        ATPM 42 Isometric Thumb Opposition in Grasping

One hand grasps and moves a passive forearm. The same, isometrically.

        ATPM 43 Thumb Opposition and the Bird Beak

Thumb opposition empowers the hand.


32 The Three Cardinal Directions of Movement

        ATM 44 The Three Cardinal Directions of Movement in Sitting

Cardinal direction 1 – Flexion–Extension. Why not lean against the chair back? Cardinal direction 2 – Side bending. Side bending and arpeggios. Cardinal direction 3 – Rotation. The first cardinal direction modified for pianists. Combining the three cardinal directions in the dynamic act of sitting at the piano.

33 The Airport ATM

        ATM 45 Elbows on Knees

Starting position. Flexion–extension – Cranial version. Side bending – Cranial version. Rotation – Cranial version. Gentle, slow and small. Only one vertebra.

34 Use the Body to Transform the Hand’s Vertical Movements

Habit embedded in a belief system. Monitor sacrum–sternum to empower entire body.

        ATPM 46 The Sacrum–Sternum–Arm–Finger Connection

Vital activity moves us, not relaxation. The curious case of the clavicle.

        ATPM 47 The Collarbone is Proximal to the Shoulder

        ATPM 48 Differentiate the Arm from the Torso

        ATPM 49 The First Cardinal Direction and Breathing

The torso’s center of gravity is not the spine.

35 Walk by Falling Forward and Catching Yourself

Walking is a continual loss and regaining of balance.

        ATPM 50 The Physics of Walking Should Remain Imperceptible

The neuromotor complexity of managing movement. Fully evolved walking: a quantum leap in elegance and effectiveness. At peace with gravity – in standing. At peace with gravity – in walking. The illogic of sensing weight. High tonus in the hip joint. The physics of weight transfer should remain imperceptible. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Arm weight eradication.

        ATPM 51 The Frankenstein Walk

Replace parasitic contractions with healthy ones. Horowitz’s unique sound. A functional structure is not fixed.

36 Biotensegrity in Running

Elastic release vs. contractive pull as means of movement. The ‘loaded spring’ in the calf muscle. Elastic release in running and in piano technique.

        ATPM 52 The Sense of Elastic Loading

Kinetic energy stored in elastic contractions. Elasticity at the elbow. Elasticity at the wrist joint. Elasticity at the metacarpal-phalangeal joint.

37 A Swimming ATM

        ATM 53 Swim to Improve Your Grasping

The wrist remains neutral. Many preliminary sensory steps maximize improvement.

38 Transformation through the T’ai Chi Form

Unconscious holding patterns coming to light. You must be born again. The value of pressing the keys silently. Delayed enlightenment. The link to harpsichord technique.

39 The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Handling parasitic contractions.

        ATM 54 The Ladle & the Pot Move with No Hitch

Repairing a faulty movement image. Arm movements across the body involve the whole body. See your reflection in the ladle.


40 Special Kinds of Genius

Physical vs. musical experience.

41 Playing a Note is an Action; Creating a Colour is an Act

        ATPM 55 Use the ‘Gravity Mash’ to Activate the Kinematic Chain

Exploring the pelvis–hand relationship. State of the hand – tensility made manifest. A physical technique and an artistic act are neurologically different. You must access the whole brain in your artistic work. The ear is the most effective instrument for physical & artistic refinement. First practice physical strategies; then practice musical strategies. Smooshing is not flopping. Eerie resemblance to weight technique. A particular inner state. Biotensegrity in action. Put the palm ‘in the key’ beforehand. Percussion is a result of faulty structure. Muscular readiness connects pelvis and hand – not tension, not relaxation. My practice goes round and round. Fulfill the ancient dictum, “Know thyself.” Help from the instrument. We tend not to do a whole finger action. Is it possible to avoid the downward spiral?

42 Transforming Arpeggios from Action to Act

Don’t study these movements in isolation. Is an arpeggio a physical difficulty or a musical structure?

        ATPM 56 Transform a Physical Strategy into a Musical Act

Solve the difficulty by removing it. Inversion of thumb and 2nd. Physical organization must always serve musical ends.

43 Biotensegrity à la Kemal

A supercharged version of the one-boned finger.

        ATPM 57 Skeletality, Structurality, Elasticity & Biotensegrity

Splayed joints: all or nothing.

44 A Drumming Lesson

        ATPM 58 The Fingers as Segmented Drumsticks

The advisability of a given lesson at a given time.

45 Tapping

Tapping single notes. Tapping chords. Tapping melodic chords. Rapprochement. It’s actually musical, not physical. Structural integrity in both hyper-legato and non-legato. A trace remains of every practice technique.

46 Pre-Performance Integrative Strategies

        ATPM 59 Integrative Exercises: A Pre-Concert Warmup

Part 1. Part 2.

47 Rock & Roll & Rachmaninoff

The arm hangs just enough to keep the palm flat.

48 Piano Requires Greater Strength than the Harpsichord

Piano & harpsichord not totally similar.

        ATPM 60 The One-Boned Finger: Pianists Need Greater Power

Caught in my failure to integrate. Elastic loading even more useful than activity. Sit at a height that allows arm freedom. One note at a time for gleaming, rich sonority. Physical legato across the thumb in slow tempi activates supporting muscle groups. Moving the arm to support the thumb. The skin plays legato; the bones non-legato. The physical serves the musical. Crucial support from the triceps. From the think tank to the stage – a long, arduous journey.

49 Prefab Hand Shapes for Greater Sound

        ATPM 61 Preformed Hand Shapes for Ultimate Sonority

50 Whole–Body Movement to Improve Phrasing & Articulation

        ATPM 62 Pulse Patterning

Use your spare arm as a ‘substitute pelvis.’ Complete a closed-circuit loop. There’s a brain in your forearm. The closed-circuit loop is two arms and a body. Physical support morphs into musically functional support.


51 Kemal in Performance: Musical Alchemy

52 Kemal’s Teaching: A Musician at Work

Papandopulo etude. Chopin Op. 25 #2. Make a Haydn sonata ‘tell a story.’ Harmonic progressions contain emotional colours. One pulse per measure in a slow movement. Create contrasting characters in Islamey. Experiment with varied characters in Chopin. Rhythmic deformation practice counteracts the tendency to blur articulations. A physical ability is needed. The benefit of a musical instead of technical teaching.

53 Generic vs. Content-Specific Phrasing

Primal elements of good piano playing. Excellent is not good enough. Kemal’s methodology. Playing piano well is mainly a musical, not technical problem.

54 The Great Divide

The fake mask. Which is wanting, musicianship or physical organization? Improve movement to improve the music. Improve musical conception to improve movement.

55 The Touch that Gave Me My Body Back


56 Update on the Horowitz Steinway

57 Why Does the St. Matthew Passion Act on My Emotions So?

If we knew why, we would play very differently. Achieve it through rigorous musicianship. Refreshing new interpretive directions from the world of early music. The unavoidable suffering of great artistry.


Appendix 1 Basics of Physical Prowess and Musicianship at the Piano

A naïve but musical youngster. The problem with arm weight technique. The arm shapes the phrase. Feldenkrais Method to improve body movement. Kemal Gekić: a practical, transcendent technique. Legato and the arches of the hand.

        ATPM 63 Functional Differentiations for a Transcendent Technique

Overholding empowers the arch. Functional differentiation 1: hand/arm. Functional differentiation 2: fingers/hand: unstable equilibrium. Functional differentiation 3: individuate the thumb. Thumb pushups. Functional differentiation 4: the thumb corkscrew. Functional differentiation 5: the rearing horse. Functional differentiation 1 review: overhold while the arm breathes.

Appendix 2 Using Piano Technique to Bridge the “Left” & “Right” Brains

        ATPM 64 Use Movement & Music to Integrate Your Brain

Integrative element #1: movement. Integrative element #2: rhythm. Integrative element #3: mental breathing, return to neutral. Integrative element #4: differentiate arm direction from note direction. Integrative element #5: the wrist flip. Integrative element #6: ‘listening backwards.’ We need both thinking styles.

Appendix 3 A Guide to Using the Exercises

Appendix 4 Students Appearing in this Book

List of Illustrations

List of Musical Examples

List of ATPMs