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, and All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique 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 Alan Fraser Piano Institute in the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Fraser’s approach enriches your sound, increases your virtuosity, and eliminates the risk of injury before it ever arises. Building on the strengths of earlier schools, he has managed to synthesize threads from many disparate and sometimes contradictory approaches to arrive at a deeper understanding of the complex physical, mental and emotional processes of artful piano playing.
The underlying unifying theme is his analysis of the the innate structure and function of the human hand, which helps you replace tension or over-relaxation with effective hand activation – it’s not so much about the hand’s shape or position as how it moves.
His teaching zeroes in on the weak points of one’s technique, be it too stiff or too phlegmatic, be there too much arm involvement or too little… he can see exactly where a new effort is needed to bring your body and hand into alignment, making your piano tone blossom with new richness and subtlety.
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 Craft of Piano Method.
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 and DVD, The Craft of Piano Playing has proved popular with pianists of all ages and abilities – its principles hearken back to movement patterns common to us all. Read more. A Revised 2nd Edition of The Craft of Piano Playing was published by Scarecrow Press in 2011.
Honing the Pianistic Self-Image
In 2010 Fraser published a second volume, Honing the Pianistic Self-Image: Skeletal-Based Piano Technique, which leads the hand to a new, sophisticated state – unstable equilibrium – to gain an even finer control over the piano’s colours and emotions, and also shows how a similar state in the whole body offers crucial support to the empowered hand on the keyboard.
In 2012 his third volume appeared, dedicated almost entirely to that most quirky of digits, the thumb. All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique 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.
The Alan Fraser Piano 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 – visit the site for more information.
The Alan Fraser Institute has always maintained the formula of its initial success: there are no assistants; every participant has direct contact with Professor Fraser himself.
Concertizing, writing, studying
Fraser also maintains an active concert and writing schedule, and finds time for the occasional Blog entry and answers to questions raised on his Forum. He is currently preparing five new publications:
- Kiddie Craft, a series of exercises for young pianists based on The Craft of Piano Playing
- Community Craft, a collection of pertinent posts and replies from his Forum
- Phil’s World: Transforming the Pianistic Self-Image, which will document the latest developments in his work with Phil Cohen
- The 24 Chopin Etudes: A New Look, with detailed exercises for each etude and musical analyses showing why each particular exercise is suggested, and
- Skeletal Wisdom: Body & Mind Reunited in the Feldenkrais Method - The Inner Workings of Human Learning – a book about the Feldenkrais Method.
We hope you’ll take time to browse the site: poke around a little, take a look at Alan’s compositions, the family photo album, and read some sample lesson and lecture outlines… Welcome!