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The Craft of Piano Playing
DVD - Alan Fraser

The Craft of Piano Playing DVD

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DVD cover for The Craft of Piano Playing: A New Approach to Piano Technque

THE CRAFT OF PIANO PLAYING
A New Approach to Piano Technique

DVD REVIEWS

PianoNews, Germany
La Lettre du Musicien, France
International Piano (UK)
American Music Teacher (MTNA)

More Reviews




Review of The Craft of Piano Playing DVD in PIANONEWS, Germany
November/December 2006

.pdf file of review in German

Background to the development of this new piano technique DVD

Alan Fraser’s biography reads like that of a jack of all trades. Born in Montreal, besides piano he studied composition, singing, cello and also played pop music. In 1988 he came to know the Feldenkrais Method, developed in the 1940s, that refers to the natural conditions of the human body. Nowadays this method has spread worldwide: of special value to musicians, it is taught in many music academies.

 


He went to Yugoslavia in 1990 to work with Kemal Gekic. There he developed a new method of teaching that combines elements of the different schools of piano technique with the Feldenkrais Method. After one year of teaching at Wuhan Conservatory of Music in China he published this new method in his book, The Craft of Piano Playing. Today he teaches in Novi Sad, Serbia.

 

 

Out of this book which successfully documents his method, Fraser has now developed a DVD, where he graphically demonstrates the basics of his teaching. Everything he shows is very convincing, beginning with explanations of our body’s skeleton and the skeleton of the hand before moving to demonstrate effective movement at the piano. He quickly makes us understand that methods such as sitting stiffly at the piano, moving the fingers with a stiff forearm, or playing with an exaggerated movement out of the shoulders evoke a dubious sound quality and inferior control of one’s playing.

His profound knowledge of the human body leads to a unique body of piano exercises

His use of terms such as yin and yang doesn’t disturb at all – on the contrary, his illustrative way of explaining legato playing by comparing it with walking allows us to quickly recognize the natural resources of the hand, and begin to use them effectively. Linking his profound knowledge of the human body’s skeletal structure (and especially that of the arms and hands) to the activation of particular muscles, Fraser develops the following exercises and ways of playing the piano, all in an eminently understandable manner: the special use of the thumb, playing scales, arm rotation, hand rotation etc.

Greatly improve your piano sound... an absolutely natural way of moving at the piano

His explanations taken as a whole lead to an absolutely natural way of moving at the piano, both powerful and flexible. It is clearly certain that one will greatly improve one’s piano sound by following Fraser’s advice, and his method also eliminates problems such as tendonitis and muscular dysfunction. He demonstrates with examples taken from well-known piano pieces such as the Beethoven sonatas, Liszt’s Dante Sonata, etc.

 

The thumb's large muscles play a crucial role in piano technique

A piano professor exceptionally generous with both his time and his knowledge

His own playing indisputably exemplifies the success that one can expect to reach by following the method. Fraser’s teaching reminds one of the professor who is generous with his time, his bountiful, interesting lessons full of experience extending far beyond their scheduled close. Not every teacher will agree 100% with all of his exercises, but if you as a pianist try to follow his advice you will soon notice where you are making unnatural movements in your playing, and why certain passages never sound well. With Fraser’s exercises you will find a better sound!

Carsten Durer

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Review of The Craft of Piano Playing DVD in LA LETTRE DU MUSICIEN, France
January 2007

.pdf file of review in original French language

In 8 chapters, a piano technique DVD that teaches how to place the hand,
how to work the fingers, the arm… all in the most natural way. 

Of Canadian origin, Alan Fraser completed his musical studies in Montreal, where he worked notably with Phil Cohen, a student of Yvonne Hubert, herself a student of Alfred Cortot. “I’m the pianistic great-grandson of Cortot,” he loves to say. Based on the book of the same name still not translated into French (Scarecrow Press, Maryland), this DVD is a graphic representation of the technical approach Fraser espouses. 

A synthesis of the best approaches in piano pedagogy - a real basis for one's "school"

As he warns us at the start, a beginner should not attempt on his own the very natural gestures recommended here, but first try them under the guidance of a teacher. However, amateurs and teachers alike will find here a highly interesting and useful tool that could well become the basis of their ‘school.’ The proposed method is in effect a synthesis of the best pedagogical techniques concerning hand position (of which he teaches us its structure and function), the fingers, the arm… 

maintain the arch going over the thumb to empower your piano technique

The very complete DVD is structured in 8 chapters with ‘’The Arches of the Hand’ and ‘Maximal Finger Action’ sandwiching sections on ‘Legato,’ ‘The Thumb,’ ‘Octaves & Chords,’ ‘Rotation,’ etc. These chapters are themselves divided in very short, concise sequences to which one may easily refer. 

Alan Fraser explains the gestures to be practiced and gives examples at the piano, showing what one should and should not do. All this is illustrated with archival extracts of the great pianists in concert where you can see, among others, the arch structure of Arthur Rubinstein’s hand, the octave work of Gyorgy Cziffra, Claudio Arrau’s use of arm weight…

A piano technique DVD useful to all - based on fundamental principles of movement

As it is, the DVD is useful not only to pianists but to all instrumentalists searching for a better understanding of the hand and arm. And it must be said that it can even help non-musicians who use their hands in their professional activities – for example computer operators who suffer from tendonitis – because at the heart of this DVD (issued in several languages including French) lie the fundamental principles of movement of the hand and arm.  

Michelle Woms, Editor-in-Chief

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Review of The Craft of Piano Playing DVD in INTERNATIONAL PIANO, UK

November/December 2006

.pdf version of original review

An engaging, informative piano technique DVD based on principles of hand structure

This new 90-minute DVD from Maple Grove Music Productions is based on the technique book of the same name by Alan Fraser, published in 2003. Alan Fraser also fronts this well-produced DVD, and is an engaging and informative host. Although the DVD can be used in conjunction with the book, it also works well on its own.

Don't avoid finger curling but learn to do it effecively to transform your piano techniqueThe Craft of Piano Playing is based on principles of hand structure and its relation to piano. The opening section of the DVD goes into this topic in depth, and is an essential grounding for anyone really wishing to explore Fraser’s methods. For those who are more interested in getting started with hands-on exercises there is plenty on offer, from ‘thumb-rolling’ and ‘wrist flips’ to the ‘windshield wiper.’ A well-designed interface for the DVD makes moving between sections and finding specific exercises very straightforward. Although it is aimed at teachers, this DVD should also prove to be a very useful resource for any player interested in hand technique.


£24.95/$39.95 www.maplegroveproductions.com

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Review of The Craft of Piano Playing DVD in AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER, USA
February/March 2007

.pdf version of original review

The Craft of Piano Playing: A New Approach to Piano Technique with Alan Fraser, Maple Grove Music Productions (2 Milana Koma Ave., 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia), 2006. 90 min.

DVD offers an effective complement to The Craft of Piano Playing book.

The new DVD, The Craft of Piano Playing: A New Approach to Piano Technique definitely complements Alan Fraser's 2003 book of the same title. If you are already familiar with his book, then you will want this DVD to benefit from the audio-visual dimension and demonstration of his ideas. If you don’t own this book, this DVD may intrigue your curiosity enough to want to read it. However, not all exercises or “applications" from the book are presented on the DVD—perhaps another DVD is in the works. Conveniently, the DVD menu indicates which applications can be found in the book.

Maintain hand structure in walking on the keyboard for healthy piano technique

Theme of 'skeletal' piano technique interwoven throughout

Fraser introduces his philosophy of achieving an orchestral sound by presenting aspects of the finger and arm weight schools, some of which have been misunderstood, and how they contribute to a “comprehensive technique” and are “pieces of the puzzle.” Through analyzing the innate structure and function of the hand, he shows how the appropriate lining up of the hand bones allows a transfer of energy to the keyboard. This theme is interwoven into each of the eight chapters of which he spends most time on skeletal alignment and arches of the hand in Chapter 1 and octaves and chords in Chapter 4. Other chapters specifically approach legato, the thumb, the arm, rotation, natural finger motion in scales, and finally—of a less technical and more musical nature—rhythm, phrasing and dynamics. In each of these chapters, he often physically demonstrates his points both at and away from the piano in an effective, and often humorous manner.

A piano technique DVD for all levels of piano playing

As found in the book, his examples are all advanced repertoire. It may have been useful to see him working with students more often, as well as varying levels of literature. However, his creative analogies and clear instructions. along with the opportunity to see these demonstrated visually, do make it worthy to follow along at the keyboard while viewing the DVD— with caution, as always. Although this seems most directly applicable to advanced pianists, teachers of advanced pianists and pedagogues, development of piano technique starts at the beginning of piano instruction. Any teacher or pianist inquisitive about developing good, healthy technique should explore all thoughtful insights and resources — including this one. If you would like to view a demo of the DVD, go to www.craftofpiano.com/dvd.html.

Reviewed by Cynthia Benson, Bowling Green, Ohio

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