PianoNews (GERMANY) November 2006

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.

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!