PianoCareerAcademy

Frequently Asked Questions

If the information you’re looking for is not covered in the FAQs – don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

A. PCA Overview
  • 1. What is PianoCareerAcademy?

    PianoCareerAcademy (PCA) is an online Piano Coaching Program that shares the professional principles of the Russian piano school in a detailed and holistic manner. We offer our members premium-quality tutorials that cannot be found anywhere else (unless you study with a professor trained in a Russian-style Conservatory).

    I created this Program because I have a dream: freeeffortless and expressive playing should not be a privilege of Conservatory students and concert pianists! I strongly believe that every piano student/lover (regardless of age, skill level or country), deserves to have easy access to the secrets of the Russian piano school, and to all those discoveries I made the hard way during my own piano quest.

    PCA is addressed to all levels - from absolute beginners to advanced pianists and piano teachers.

    Once you become a member, you’ll have instant and unlimited access to our enormous (but very well-structured!) library of tutorials and courses, and you will also be able to participate in interactive projects. The full list of membership features can be found in my answers to FAQs No. B1 and B2.

  • 2. What is the Russian piano school?

    The Russian piano school is a complex universe. Trying to describe it in a short FAQ answer is an impossible mission πŸ˜…. However, we do get this question quite often, so I decided to highlight the essence here. Even so, my answer got a bit long and transformed into a tutorial 😊 (I still haven't learned how to write in a short-and-shallow style). I hope you find this little 'essay' captivating and insightful! πŸ˜‰

    _________

    In order to speak and have the right to be heard, knowing how to talk is not enough.
    First of all, you need to have a message to share.
    ~ Heinrich Neuhaus,
    great Russian piano professor

    Imagine that you're an actor. You go on stage, you open your mouth, and you start articulating sounds and words. Your diction is wonderful - and so is your speed! Your tongue technique and velocity are off the charts. You are also a good reader - you can easily pronounce any symbols you see on a page.

    If you can do all this, are you a good actor? Will the audience enjoy your performance?

    No, of course not. And yet, this is what most piano methods are focused on nowadays: teaching people how to read the notes, and how to press them with the right fingers. If you're lucky, technique and velocity get some attention too.

    This has very little to do with music. Piano playing is not a 'spelling bee', or a sports competition where the 'fastest and loudest' performers win.

    Loud playing is a sign of emptiness.
    ~ Konstantin Igumnov,
    great Russian piano professor

    Just like speech, music is a method of communication. Just like acting, piano playing has a purpose: sharing a message, telling a 'story', and doing it convincingly.

    What is the music about? What do you wish to convey to the audience?

    Becoming a good reader and pressing all the right notes - this is not your end goal. Even dazzling virtuoso skills are simply a means to a nobler end.

    Meaning. Intellect. Spirituality. Incredible power of expression. Technical freedom. In a nutshell, these are the pillars of the Russian piano school.

    So what is this school, exactly? 

    Well, I could get all academic about it and write a big novel describing the history, philosophy and methodology of the Russian piano school. I could also share many stories about its legendary forefathers - piano 'titans' such as Vasily Safonov, Leonid Nikolaev, Alexander Goldenweiser, Samuil Feinberg, Konstantin Igumnov, Heinrich Neuhaus and many others. However, I suspect that this might get a bit boring πŸ˜…, so I will condense the ‘history’ part into several paragraphs. Then we will take a closer look at the most important performing and pedagogical principles that make our school unique.

    On History and Origins:

    The Russian piano school is a holistic system of musical education that was developed in Russia (and other countries of the former Soviet Union) during more than 150 years of cultural evolution.

    Like all phenomena, this school did not appear out of the blue. Some of its roots were 'imported' from Europe - for example, the Italian school of bel canto, the German tradition dating back to Bach and Beethoven, or the expressive and technical piano innovations introduced by Chopin, Schumann and Liszt (to name just a few). Other roots go even deeper: the melodious Russian folk music, the expansiveness of its breathtaking nature, the archaic Orthodox chants and majestic bell tolls. Yet other roots stem from the intellectual pursuits, philosophical views and even existential dilemmas that dominated the Russian culture of those times.

    The Moscow and Saint Petersburg Conservatories can be considered the 'cradles' of this school. These institutions fostered legendary piano figures such as:

    • Vasily Safonov (student of Theodor Leschetizky and teacher of Alexander Scriabin, Nikolai Medtner, Josef and Rosina Lhévinne);
    • Alexander Goldenweiser (student of Alexander Siloti and teacher of Grigory Ginzburg, Samuil Feinberg, Rosa Tamarkina, Dmitry Kabalevsky, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Dmitri Bashkirov etc.);
    • Konstantin Igumnov (student of Nikolai Zverev and Alexander Siloti and teacher of Evgeny Timakin, Yakov Flier, Lev Oborin, Maria Grinberg, Bella Davidovich etc.);
    • Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher of Yakov Zak, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Lev Naumov, Vera Gornostayeva, Eliso Virsaladze, Alexei Lubimov, Aleksey Nasedkin, Berta Maranz, Evgeny Mogilevsky, Radu Lupu etc.).

    These (and many other) brilliant pianists and teachers left an incredibly rich legacy that combines the European and Russian 'roots' mentioned above with the results of their own performing and teaching experience. The vast knowledge, deep musical understanding, expressive 'science' and technical insights that they passed on directly to their students are still alive today.

    This legacy is not a 'static' one, however. It is not a set of rigid 'mathematical' principles that need to be followed 'to the letter'. Like any other cultural phenomenon, the Russian piano school keeps changing and evolving. Every generation (and every brilliant teacher) contributes to this evolution, adapting old ideas to modern realities, finding inspired solutions to newly-emerging problems.

    The Russian school is also not an 'isolated' system. Yes, some isolation did exist during the Soviet times, when travel was forbidden for most people. However, great musicians could go abroad even then. They played concerts in Europe and America, communicated with other artists, learned new things and shared their own insights. In the last 30-50 years this exchange became even more active - especially because many Russian professors immigrated to the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, China etc. Therefore, we cannot draw 'clean' lines to separate our school from a Western Conservatory-level one. Some principles do overlap - while others are still quite unique.

    Also, no two people are the same - and each Russian-trained teacher and performer has a unique 'blend' of knowledge and skills.

    Still, underneath it all, most Russian 'Jedis' share a common foundation: musical 'wisdom', great sensitivity, amazing expressive skills, a singing piano tone, effortless and fluid technique - these are just a few qualities that make our graduates easy to 'spot' 😊.

    It is my dream that this foundation remains alive in the decades to come, and doesn't get completely engulfed by the modern 'fast-food' mentality (which I talk about in my Piano Myth series).

    And now it's time to briefly highlight the main principles of the Russian piano school! 😎

    Fundamental Principles:

    1. The deeper 'WHY': the artistic concept comes first!

    What is a novel? It's a story told with words. What is a painting? It's an idea expressed with the help of colors and shapes. Similarly, a piece of music is not just a random collection of pretty sounds. Any work of real value has a powerful message - that's what makes it great in the first place!

    The Russian approach to learning any piece does not start with reading the notes, writing down the fingering or bringing the most difficult passages up to speed. All these (and many other) tasks can easily fall into place if we start with the foundation: decoding the message of the piece, its artistic concept - and figuring out the 'story' behind the music. We do this through analysis - a step-by-step process of 'dissecting' a piece until all its mysteries are 'revealed'. Proper analysis goes beyond the symbols on the page: we learn how to read between lines and re-create the composer's original musical idea (which can never be fully written down).

    This helps us to acquire a clear mental picture of the music, a vivid expressive vision that guides us during our practice. As a result, our work becomes targeted and efficient - and our playing is always meaningful.

    2. Multi-disciplinary holistic education.

    If a musical work is a captivating story, or a powerful message, or a call to action, or an 'audible' painting... then what is a musician?

    A good musician is a 'force of nature' 😎: an intellectual, a philosopher, a detective, an actor, a 'bard', an athlete; a highly-trained mind, a sensitive hearing, a big heart, a beautiful soul; a 'well-rounded' human being that captivates, inspires and changes lives; a wizard that makes sounds come alive and speak; a sage whose wisdom can be felt in every note - without the need for words.

    To get there, one needs proper training 😊.

    From the very first piano lesson, our students learn that every move they make (and every breath they take πŸ˜‹) should stem from the meaning of the music. This refers to the simplest of works as well - and even to scales and exercises.

    This sounds easy enough, until you realize that music is as complex as life itself. To be able to understand it, master it and share its message with the audience, one literally needs to become a student of life, in all its manifestations.

    Therefore, you cannot become a good musician if you only study music. To master music, we must go beyond it. In the Russian piano school, in-depth musical training is combined with a multi-disciplinary holistic education. Students are encouraged to read, research, discover, widen their horizons and think outside the box. Inspiration is found in literature, visual arts, architecture, nature, social and economic realities. We are taught to always look for the red wire that connects everything.

    This type of harmonious education changes us to the core, and helps us to grow as human beings. It is not just about information - it's about transformation. Our intellectual and artistic development determines the depth, clarity and power of our performance.

    3. It all begins in the mind!

    We do not play piano with our fingers, but with our mind.
    ~ Glenn Gould

    On the battlefield, it is obviously important to have a well-trained army. However, how will that army perform if the general is missing? The soldiers will run around randomly. There will be no strategy, no coordinated effort. Can you win a war this way? Of course not!

    The same can be said about music. You might have the 'fastest fingers in the West', and even wonderful expressive skills. However, without the general's guidance and bigger-picture understanding, your performance will be mechanical, chaotic and empty.

    And who is our 'piano general'? You guessed it - it's the mind.

    Mental training is the most crucial element of the Russian approach. It includes:

    • Aural training: developing our inner hearing and our objective hearing. Inner hearing (also called pre-hearing) is the ability to imagine the music before playing it; the clearer the vision - the easier its execution! Objective hearing is the ability to assess our own playing. The feedback of our objective hearing allows us to make accurate (and efficient) corrections while practicing.
    • Mental anticipation: just like a general in battle, the mind should always be several steps ahead of the fingers.
    • Awareness: the ability to be mindful, clear-minded and focused on the task at hand. Improving our awareness is not just about music - it's one of the most noble goals one can have in life.
    • Imagination: the ability to immerse ourselves in the story behind the music, to enrich it and make it more vivid - and also to invent powerful imagery behind any fragment or passage.
    • The 'brain gym': developing our coordination, mental flexibility, reflexes and speed of reaction; forming new neural pathways; harmonizing the two brain hemispheres. The brain of a classical musician is incredibly powerful, and remains young for a long time!

    Training your ear is much more difficult than training your fingers.
    ~ Konstantin Igumnov

    4. Music is the art of sound! Developing expressive power.

    Music uses sound to express ideas. No matter how great (or how beautiful) an idea is - we can only share it through sound.

    If our sound is poor, the idea will remain hidden in the score (even if you do understand it well).

    Here is where expression comes to our rescue.

    No, expression is not a mysterious talent, or the random result of inspiration. It's also not just about sharing your subjective feelings when you play.

    True expression is a science that is always derived from the artistic concept of the piece. This science is one of the main pillars of the Russian piano school.

    From the first lesson, we learn how to go beyond the hammer mechanism of the piano and produce a non-percussive quality tone that is rich, deep, vibrant and incredibly beautiful. This tone is the main 'building block' of our art - and it helps us to make the piano SING. By using a special technique called intonation, we become 'magicians' that can create the illusion of a perfect legato (which, objectively speaking, is impossible on our instrument).

    Phrasing, dynamics, voicing, articulation, pedaling - each expressive effect is polished until it 'sparkles' and becomes a reliable skill (instead of being a random result of inspiration).

    The melodiousness of the human voice; the velvety sound of the cello; the power of a symphony orchestra; the pearly trills of a flute... all these (and many other) sound effects become easily accessible as a result, helping us to create convincing 'musical paintings'.

    5. Technical freedom - an important piece of the puzzle.

    If you have nothing to say, good oratory skills will not save you. Once you do have a message, however, the ability to speak becomes VERY relevant.

    Good piano technique is crucial - but only as long as we don't lose sight of the bigger picture:

    Technique is not a separate phenomenon, and it cannot be developed on its own. Technical training is an inseparable element of the whole - being developed simultaneously with our mental, aural, analytical, expressive and practice skill.

    Just like expression, technical execution is a means to an end: sharing the message of the piece.

    In developing our technique, our purpose is freedom: the freedom to share this message without allowing obstacles such as clumsiness, tension, speed walls or lack of endurance to get in our way. Good technique is healthy, comfortable and efficient. It feels good, it looks artistically appropriate, and it allows us to fly 😎.

    However, please don't confuse technique with 'finger velocity' (the ability to play fast and hit all the 'right' notes). Good technique is so much more than that!

    In a nutshell, technique is the sum of movements we make while playing, with the purpose of bringing out our expressive intentions. It starts with correct posture and alignment - and ends with the most delicate movements of the last finger joint.

    The Russian technique is based on powerful ergonomic principles such as whole-arm action and weighted playing (as compared to the harmful old-school 'finger-only' approach). It also uses gravity and leverage in a smart manner - so that we can achieve maximum power with minimum effort. Relaxation and joint flexibility play an important role as well. If you watch great Russian pianists play, you will notice that all their movements are very fluid, free, ample and comfortable (as compared to the more 'limited' motions promoted by some other schools).

    Let's summarize the fundamentals we discussed so far:

    Technique (the physical execution of the music) results from a clear expressive intention - which, in its turn, results from a good understanding of the artistic concept and message of the piece (which can be achieved through analysis).

    In other words, in order to know HOW to play a piece, we need to know WHAT the piece is about, and WHY we play it in the first place!

    The clearer WHAT is to be done, the clearer, too, HOW it must be done.
    ~ Heinrich Neuhaus

    6. Mindful practice.

    How do we transform any vision into reality? Through practice. How do we become good at understanding music? We keep analyzing every piece we learn. How do we develop powerful expressive skills or a brilliant technique? It's simple: daily practice 😊.

    Practice does make perfect - but only if it is mindful and efficient.

    When it comes to practice, it's all about quality, not just quantity. It's also about smart scheduling, targeted problem-solving and a progressive approach.

    Many hours of mechanical playing will not take you anywhere. Playing a piece from beginning to end, over and over again, is NOT what correct practice is all about.

    Efficient practice starts with awareness. Just like the other fundamentals discussed above, it is based on a clear understanding of what the composer encoded in the music. It also takes into consideration the bigger picture - style, genre, historical context.

    The practice itself is not random or repetitive - but focused and powerful, like a laser beam. I like to call this method 'the magnifying glass' - and I demonstrate it in all my tutorials. It transforms difficulties into fun adventures, and makes the impossible easy. The 'magnifying glass' is the secret behind the effortless performance of great pianists 😎.

    7. Progressive, holistic and captivating teaching.

    The Russian piano system is progressive. This means that skills are formed in a certain order - and we do NOT skip steps. We do not build the roof if the walls are shaky, and we do not hang curtains without laying down the foundation. We do not start our journey directly with the Moonlight Sonata - and most of us never play Fur Elise πŸ˜‹πŸ˜…. We do not dive into advanced pieces while we're still beginners or intermediates.

    The Russian method is not about ego and fast-food results. It's not about the mechanical and shallow 'typing' of difficult pieces. It's about true growth and real mastery. There is only one way to get there - one strategic step at a time.

    The Russian approach is also holistic. Besides going beyond the music (as I explained above), we also immerse ourselves in the music, and master ALL its aspects (not just reading or technique, as it sadly happens nowadays).

    Mind, hearing, clear expressive vision, beautiful tone, correct posture, healthy technique, efficient practice skills, good theoretical knowledge - all these skills are developed harmoniously and simultaneously from day 1. This is only possible if we start with small manageable tasks, and don't try to build Rome in one day.

    The teaching process is also captivating, vivid and alive. Instead of dry (and boring) theoretical explanations, we use metaphors, colorful imagery and insightful examples from all areas of life to inspire and motivate the students.

    Conclusion.

    The 7 fundamental principles I shared above barely scratch the surface of the rich universe that is the Russian piano school. There are so many things left unsaid - but you will have the opportunity to discover them in a fun practical manner, by following the Courses and tutorials from the Members Area 😊.

    I hope you enjoyed my FAQ-turned-essay πŸ˜… - and I'm looking forward to seeing you on PianoCareerAcademy!

  • 3. Who is Ilinca Vartic?

    You will find my detailed biography on our About page πŸ˜‰.

  • B. Membership Features
  • 1. What is included in the membership?

    Whether you choose the monthly or yearly subscription - the PCA membership includes:

    1. 24/7 unlimited access to the Members Area and all the features of our program.

    2. Many hundreds of exclusive tutorials:

    • in-depth lessons focused on a wide range of pieces for all levels
    • detailed tutorials covering the most important piano topics and problems
    • play-along videos for duet pieces

    3. Access to our step-by-step Courses:

    • Course for Beginners
    • Scale & Arpeggio Course
    • Sight-Reading Course
    • Piano Myths series
    • step-by-step learning guides for intermediate/advanced students

    4. New tutorials every week.

    5. A holistic professional approach:

    • Conservatory-level teaching style focused on the principles of the Russian piano school
    • in-depth analysis of every topic and piece
    • harmonious integration of all aspects of piano playing (mental, aural, expressive, technical etc.).
    • lifestyle recommendations for a balanced musical and personal development
    • workout tutorials especially designed for pianists

    6. Interactive learning:

    • weekly teacher feedback to your recordings
    • answers to your piano questions
    • member concerts 🎹
    • supportive community πŸ₯°

    7. Progress tracking and a personalized learning experience.

    8. Downloadable materials:

    • the books and scores (sheet music) required for each tutorial or Course
    • fingering charts for each Lesson from our Scale & Arpeggio Course
    • additional method books (and graded repertoire books) for beginners
    • collections of piano masterpieces for all levels
    • repertoire suggestions for all levels (with scores attached)

    9. Piano inspiration and motivation:

    • motivational videos
    • my English translation of rare masterclasses by great Russian pianists and teachers

    Would you like to see our full list of tutorials before registration? You can find it here: PianoCareerAcademy - Complete List of Tutorials.

  • 2. Can I see your full list of Courses and Tutorials?

    Yes, of course! It is available here: PianoCareerAcademy - Complete List of Tutorials.

  • 3. What is not included in the membership?

    The PCA membership does not include:

    1. Unlimited individual piano guidance.

    It is physically impossible for our team to be there for each one of our members 24/7 (which I'm sure you understand) 😊. Still, you can ask questions whenever you need help with a tutorial or Course - and you can also get weekly teacher feedback to your recordings, participate in member concerts etc. Simply put: I can either offer very expensive individual guidance to 10-20 people (which would take my entire time)… or I can create high-quality tutorials that can make a difference for thousands of people, for many years to come - and offer it all for a very affordable membership fee.

    2. Individual piano discussions via email, phone or Skype/Zoom/FaceTime.

    This restriction only applies to piano guidance - not to customer support. You can always ask customer support questions via email (without ANY limitations), and you will get a timely reply from a member of our team.

    WHY is piano guidance via email/Skype/phone not included in the membership? For the same reasons explained above: it is physically impossible. I dedicate my entire time to running PCA and creating tutorials for our entire community. If I would spend my day chatting with 3-5 members via phone or email, PCA would not exist in the first place.

    3. Downloading our videos (they can only be watched online for as long as you remain a member).

    Simply put - PCA is a huge library, and it is also a virtual 'university' where you can share recordings, participate in concerts etc. The membership gives you access to the library, and a 'ticket' to all our interactive events - but we are not selling the 'books' to you (so you don't own our content once you subscribe). This is also a copyright-related issue.

  • 4. Is there a difference between the monthly and the yearly subscriptions?

    Both memberships give you full access to all the features of our program - and the only difference between them is the price: the yearly membership helps you to save $94, but it requires a longer commitment.

  • 5. How many tutorials can I watch per month/year?

    You can watch as many tutorials as you wish per month/year - and you can also go back to older tutorials as often as you choose.

    You will have unlimited access to all the features of our program for as long as you remain a member.

  • 6. Do I have to take action for renewing my membership every month/year?

    No. Membership payments recur automatically on a monthly or yearly basis (depending on the option you chose when you subscribed). All you have to do is register - and then relax and enjoy the experience! You'll simply receive an email notification when your membership payment has recurred.

    Canceling your membership is very easy - just make sure you do it a couple of days before the date of the next recurring payment.

  • 7. Can I switch from Monthly to Yearly?

    Yes, of course! You can easily do it from your Account settings in the Members Area.

  • 8. Do you have a free trial membership?

    No - because it's very easy to assess my teaching style before registration, by watching and reading the 50+ FREE tutorials that you can find on PianoCareer.com (my piano blog). This Archive contains the direct links to ALL my free lessons (including the ones available on my YouTube channel).

    So, if you enjoy my free tutorials - you will definitely love the ones available in the Members Area 😊: they are even more detailed and comprehensive, the entire library is well-structured, we have step-by-step Courses - not to mention the modern and easy-to-use website, interactive projects, progress tracking etc.

    If, on the other hand, you are looking for something else (a different teaching style, or maybe you're not interested in classical piano) - then there's no reason to subscribe at all.

  • C. Payment and Purchasing Options
  • 1. Do I have to pay extra for the required materials (books, sheet music etc.)?

    No 😊.

    All the needed books, scores and other materials are included in the membership fee.

    Once you join, you will have instant and unlimited access to hundreds of downloadable materials (including unique resources we use in the Russian piano school):

    • the scores and books required for each tutorial or Course;
    • fingering charts for each Lesson from our Scale & Arpeggio Course;
    • additional method books (and graded repertoire books) for beginners;
    • additional collections of piano masterpieces for all levels;
    • hundreds of other scores (pre-classical, classical, romantic and impressionist piano music);
    • repertoire suggestions for all levels (with scores attached).

  • 2. Can I purchase a separate tutorial or Course?

    No, we do not offer individual downloadable tutorials.

    Considering the functionality of our program, a membership is a much better option - and also more affordable. Here is why:

    1. PCA is focused on a holistic professional-level approach to piano learning. We don't simply teach our students how to press the right notes of various separate pieces, or how to master separate skills (as sadly many piano programs and apps do these days). Instead, we help them to become good musicians, so that they can play ANY piece with ease. This requires a good understanding of the bigger picture, and a harmonious development of all your skills - which is impossible if you only watch one tutorial (or even one Course).

    2. All of our tutorials are interlinked, making reference to important information available in other lessons or courses. This is important for building the 'bigger picture' mentioned above, and putting things into context. All of this would not be available with individual downloads.

    3. The PCA membership is all-inclusive, which allows great learning freedom. Yes, today you might think that you only need to learn how to play Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor. That's alright, and you can start your learning experience with my tutorial focused on this piece. However, after only a couple of weeks as a PCA member, your entire perspective on piano playing will change, guaranteed - and so will your goals πŸ˜‹. And guess what? As soon as you're ready for the next step, our whole library will be at your 'fingertips' - without any additional payments or downloads! No matter what you need - it is already there, including the possibility to get teacher feedback to your recordings, participate in member concerts or ask for customer support.

    4. Our custom-built website was designed to offer you an intuitive and enjoyable immersive experience. Besides the features mentioned above, our platform also includes progress tracking, personalized learning, easy searching/browsing - and many other unique features that would not be available if you only purchased separate tutorials.

    5. The membership is very affordable: you get unlimited access to ALL the features of our program for only $47 per month (the yearly membership is even cheaper). Separate tutorials would be much more expensive (considering their quality and value).

  • 3. Can I buy your tutorials on DVD?

    No. PianoCareerAcademy.com is an online Piano Coaching Program - and our library of tutorials is too enormous to fit on DVDs. If we would ever decide to sell our courses and lessons on DVD (or another type of 'physical' carrier), we would probably need many hundreds of them. Also, their price would be HUGE (because of manufacturing/shipping costs), and nobody could afford them.

    Moreover, I publish new tutorials on a regular basis, and it would be impossible to keep shipping all the new DVDs to our customers - while our online database is always up to date (for the same price!).

    In other words, PCA is a huge universe - the equivalent of hundreds of books and DVDs (which you can access for the price of one book!). It's actually really wonderful that the internet makes it possible to share so much at such a low cost. This way, our tutorials are affordable for many people (as compared to expensive DVD courses or real-life lessons of the same premium quality, that only a few could afford).

    To have a better understanding of what you can find in the Members Area once you subscribe, please read my answer to FAQ No. B1.

  • 4. Can I pay via PayPal?

    Yes, certainly!

    On the home page, choose a membership option (monthly or yearly) - and click ‘Get Access Now'.

    After filling in your details, simply select the PayPal payment method:

  • D. Content-Related Questions
  • 1. Can I watch some sample tutorials before joining?
  • 2. Can you tell me more about your Course for Beginners?

    Yes, of course! 

    Our Course for Beginners will help you to learn how to play piano from scratch, in an enjoyable progressive manner. The Course combines the fun with the useful in a unique way: the step-by-step Lessons are easy to follow, engaging and 'addictive' πŸ˜‡ - but the focus remains on quality and holistic development (the 'trademarks' of PCA 😎).

    By following our Beginner Course, you will develop ALL your piano skills in a harmonious manner, according to the professional Russian system. The result? You will set a stable, well-rounded piano foundation and form lasting and reliable skills that will allow you to 'conquer' any piece with ease 😎.

    By the way, this Course can be followed by experienced pianists and teachers as well (not just absolute beginners!). As an intermediate/advanced player, you can use it to correct bad habits and master exclusive Russian-school skills (such as whole-arm action or intonation). Teachers can also use each video from this Course as a step-by-step 'pedagogical blueprint' for their own lessons.

    Our Course for Beginners is based on an iconic method book - Nikolaev’s Russian School of Piano Playing.

    It consists of many progressive video lessons, structured into 3 main Chapters:

    • Chapter 1 is based on Book 1 Part I from the Nikolaev method book, and it comprises 29 Lessons.
    • Chapter 2 is based on Book 1 Part II - comprising 46 Lessons (30 to 75).
    • Chapter 3 is focused on Book 2 from the Russian School of Piano Playing - having a more complex 'program format', suitable for the late beginner level.

    Besides the pieces included in the Nikolaev book, our Course also features many 'pieces for dessert' chosen by me - 'yummy' pop/rock/jazz songs (or piano transcriptions of famous orchestral works) that will take your joy and fulfillment to a whole new level πŸ₯³.

    Each lesson includes:

    1. A detailed explanation of all the new elements of theory and musical notation.
    2. My demonstration of each piece (a complete performance in the final tempo, showing you how the piece should sound once you have mastered it).
    3. A detailed analysis of each piece (where I talk about the style of the composer and the artistic concept - also 'dissecting' the musical text and identifying the form, dramaturgy, dynamic plan, phrasing etc.).
    4. Step-by-step 'follow-along' practice guide for every piece.
    5. The downloadable score in pdf format.

    On the Complete List of PCA Tutorials (which is publicly available on PianoCareer.com, my free blog) you will find the list of all the Lessons included in this Course (featuring a short summary of the topics and pieces covered in each video).

    By following our step-by-step Course for Beginners, you will:

    1. Learn how to play piano in a professional, in-depth, holistic manner.
    2. Discover the secrets of the Russian piano school.
    3. Master the correct piano posture, key attack and sound production.
    4. Master the whole-arm action principle (as opposed to the outdated yet very common 'separate finger action', which is the main cause of tension and injuries).
    5. Learn theory and musical notation in a fun, practical way.
    6. Develop your technical skills in a healthy step-by-step manner.
    7. Develop your expressive skills: articulation, dynamics, phrasing, intonation etc. - and also the ability to create a very wide range of musical characters.
    8. Learn how to analyze and practice any piece - and bring it to a sparkling performance level.
    9. Develop your hearing, your imagination, your awareness and your focus.
    10. Learn how to easily memorize a piece.
    11. Develop your sight-reading skills.
    12. Learn how to use the piano pedals correctly.
    13. Develop your ensemble skills by playing duets together with me πŸ₯°.
    14. Discover the main musical styles, get acquainted with great classical composers and their most iconic works.
    15. Increase your practice productivity.
    16. Learn how to avoid tension and injuries - and how to play in a free, effortless manner.
    17. Manage stress and performance anxiety.
    18. … and much much more!

    ... and, the cherry on the cake: as a PCA member, you can also share video recordings as part of our feedback project, and get weekly teacher feedback to your playing! πŸ˜‰

  • 3. Can you tell me more about your Scale & Arpeggio Course?

    Absolutely!

    Our step-by-step Scale Course is entitled How to Practice Piano Scales and Arpeggios - the Art Behind the Exercise.

    It consists of many progressive video lessons where I share, in a detailed manner, the entire scale system we use in the Russian piano school.

    The Lessons are structured according to 8 progressive levels, and can be grouped in the following manner: 

    • Beginner (levels 1-3),
    • Intermediate (levels 4-6),
    • Advanced (levels 7-8).

    Each level comprises several video lessons (4-12). Every lesson is focused on a certain tonality (key), and it includes many scale & arpeggio 'variations' suitable for that level. In a certain level, lessons advance according to the Circle of Fifths. The difficulty of the variations (and their number) increases progressively with each level.

    Practicing scales in a systematic manner will improve 4 fundamental aspects of your piano skill-set:

    • Your technique as a whole (not just your finger agility!),
    • your theoretical skills and 'harmonic thinking',
    • your hearing,
    • your expressive skills.

    In each lesson we go ‘behind the curtain’ and discover exclusive professional secrets that you will not find in typical scale books or tutorials.

    Every lesson includes:

    1. My 'up-to-tempo' demonstration of each variation included in that lesson.
    2. A detailed analysis of each variation (its structure and unique technical patterns, the resulting fingering and most suitable techniques).
    3. All the needed theory: modes, tonalities, key signatures, the Circle of Fifths, triad/seventh chords and their inversions - and much more!
    4. Step-by-step 'follow-along' practice tips that will help you to master each variation.
    5. Additional expressive tasks that will offer you a truly holistic training: scales are a wonderful opportunity to work on your dynamics, phrasing, articulation - and also the ability to create a wide range of musical characters.
    6. A downloadable fingering chart in pdf format.

    Because of the progressive structure of this Course, you'll never have to wonder what scale or arpeggio to play next - or whether a certain variation is suitable for your level. I will guide you every step of the way so that you always know WHAT scales to practice, HOW to practice them and, of course, WHY you need to practice them in the first place πŸ˜‰.

  • 4. I want to improve my sight-reading skills. Will your program help me?

    YES, of course!

    As a member of PCA, you will develop your sight-reading skills:

    1. As a natural consequence of your practice (by analyzing and practicing your pieces in the detailed, mindful and harmonious manner that I demonstrate in all my tutorials).
    2. By following our step-by-step Sight-Reading Course (which will considerably accelerate your progress).

    Before telling you more about this Course, however - we need to debunk two common modern myths (that you might be affected by):

    1. Many piano students nowadays are simply obsessed with sight-reading. They think that good reading skills can replace serious practice (being a miraculous ‘cure’ for all their piano struggles): If I can read a piece flawlessly, there’s no more need to practice it, right? I can play anything straight from the score, and save a lot of time! Tempting, yes - but not real.

    2. Some students also think that they can develop their reading skills separately from all their other piano skills. They focus on the quick ‘identification’ of notes, rhythm and finger numbers (which is only a tiny aspect of our art), and they completely ignore the fundamentals: aural & expressive development - and a healthy, energy-efficient and tension-free technique. As a result, they become clumsy piano ‘typists’ (instead of real musicians).

    You will learn more about these myths (and how to get rid of them) by reading the Introductory Articles from our Sight-Reading Course.

    Therefore, if you wish to become an excellent sight-reader in only a couple of weeks/months (which, by the way, is impossible!), then our program is not for you πŸ˜‹.

    If, on the other hand, you wish to learn how things really work, and make long-lasting progress - our Sight-Reading Course will help you to take your reading skills to a new level of mastery! 😎

    This Course consists of 3 main compartments:

    I. Introductory Articles:
        1. Developing Good Reading Skills: Understanding How it Really Works.
        2. The Fundamental Principles of Efficient Sight-Reading.
        3. Should We Look at our Hands While Sight-Reading?

    These articles are addressed to all levels - and they will help you to acquire a big picture understanding of this topic (according to the holistic professional methodology used in the Russian piano school).

    II. Progressive Sight-Reading Lessons:
          Lesson No. 1: Notes and accidentals.
          Lesson No. 2: Repeated and Neighboring Notes. Seconds.
          Lesson No. 3: Scale-like Runs.
          Lesson No. 4: Hidden Two-Part Structures.
          Lesson No. 5: Thirds, Triad Chords and Seventh Chords.
          Lesson No. 6: Slurs.
          Lesson No. 7: Mirror Symmetry.
          Lesson No. 8: Fifths and Sevenths.
          Lesson No. 9: Octaves.
          Lesson No. 10: Fourths.
          Lesson No. 11: Sequences.
          Lesson No. 12: Seconds in Chords.
          Lesson No. 13: The ‘Alberti Bass’ or Hidden Three-Part Structures.
          Lesson No. 14: Sixths.
          Lesson No. 15: Chords.

    III. The Score Collection (a supplement for the Sight-Reading Course, comprising 53 progressive pieces).

    The Course is addressed to the late beginner and intermediate levels - but it can be 'savored' by advanced players as well. If you ask me, our sight-reading skills always need a bit more polishing! 😊

     

  • 5. Can I join PCA for improving my piano technique?

    Yes, of course!

    A healthy technique is a crucial element of our art. Without it, true progress is impossible. If we don't learn how to use the most energy-efficient and comfortable movements during playing, pain and injuries are sadly inevitable.

    As a member of our program, you will have the opportunity to develop your technique in a holistic manner, according to the professional Russian tradition. 

    You will discover and master important ergonomic principles, such as:

    • whole-arm action and weighted playing;
    • correct key attack and sound production;
    • the healthy cycle of effort-relaxation;
    • arm/wrist flexibility and anticipation etc.

    By following my step-by-step tutorials and Courses, you will develop your:

    • technical power and endurance;
    • dexterity and velocity;
    • coordination and accuracy;
    • technical freedom, comfort, stability and control.

    You will also learn how to avoid tension and injuries, how to prevent (and solve) a wide variety of technical problems, how to overcome speed walls - and this list can go on.

    HOWEVER,

    In order to become a really good pianist and musician, you need to understand the bigger picture.

    For this purpose, I created a detailed FREE video tutorial entitled Developing a Brilliant Piano Technique - The Holistic Professional Approach.

    Please check it out! In only 24 minutes:

    • you will acquire a ‘bird's eye view‘ on the entire art of piano playing;
    • you will see how technique fits into the bigger picture - and how it interacts with all the other pieces of the puzzle;
    • you will learn how to eliminate the root cause of all piano problems;
    • we will shine a bright light on the mysterious term 'expression';
    • we will debunk some very harmful modern myths and stereotypes…

    … and you will never see piano playing with the same eyes again.

    This short video will change your entire perspective on piano playing - so please don't hesitate to watch it! 😎

    We do not play piano with our fingers, but with our mind.
    ~Glenn Gould

  • 6. Do you have a step-by-step syllabus/curriculum? How do I choose the right lessons for myself?

    PCA offers its members an enormous library comprising many hundreds of tutorials, including several Courses. 

    Our Courses have a step-by-step format - while our stand-alone tutorials are organized according to topic and level.

    Therefore, whether you prefer:

    • a clear path that guides your every step;
    • the freedom to 'tailor' your learning experience according to your level, needs and preferences;
    • or a combination of the two...

    ... we've got you covered! 😎

    We also have detailed 'Start Here' posts for each level, where I guide your first steps on our site, telling you what tutorials/courses to watch first, where to go next - and how every 'piece of the puzzle' fits into the bigger picture.

    ... and there's more! πŸ₯³ As part of our feedback project, you can:

    • submit video recordings and get teacher feedback,
    • ask for teacher recommendations (what piece or topic to study next, what problems you should focus on etc.).

    If you wish to learn more, you can also take a look at my answers dedicated to our step-by-step Courses (FAQs No. D2, D3 and D4).

  • 7. How much time will it take me to complete your course?

    PCA offers its members much more than one Course. As I explain in many of the answers above, our program can be compared with an enormous interactive library where you can find several Courses, many hundreds of stand-alone tutorials - and also get teacher feedback to your playing, participate in member concerts etc.

    Whether you follow one of our step-by-step Courses or design your own learning path - there are no deadlines, and no rigid time frames. You can study at your own pace, and remain a member for as long as you wish.

    Piano playing is a complex art (not a limited topic that can be ‘memorized’ in X days). Our rich library reflects that, and there is always something new to discover and learn - even if you are an advanced player or a teacher.

    Everything also depends on your goals. It will obviously take more time to become a virtuoso 😎, as compared to learning the basics so that you can play your favorite easy pieces. You can learn more on this topic by reading my answer to FAQs No. F1 and F2.

  • 8. Do you offer certification?

    No, of course not 😊.

    Ask yourself this: does reading a good piano book offer you certification? How about attending a lecture by a world-class expert (in any field)?

    On PCA, we offer you the equivalent of hundreds of books, DVDs and lectures - but it is up to you how you use this information. You can also participate in our interactive projects (and get teacher feedback to your playing) - but again, this is an optional feature, not a compulsory 'certification' requirement. 

    You see, certification requires evaluation. Evaluation involves exams and tests, and also deadlines, stress and the resulting resistance to your practice. We do not have all of this on PCA. Once you join, you will have complete learning freedom:

    • study at your own pace
    • watch/read as many tutorials as you wish
    • follow the Courses and lessons that interest you most (according to your level, needs and preferences)
    • create your own practice schedule
    • submit videos for feedback only if you wish to etc.

    Don't worry, though: 'learning freedom' does not mean 'learning chaos' or 'lack of guidance'. It's quite the opposite! My tutorials are very well-structured, and I share everything you need to know about how to practice, how much to practice, which tutorials to start with (according to your individual needs) - and where to go next. What we do not have is 'requirements', pressure and deadlines. After all, you are here to learn and enjoy - not to obey and comply.

    Therefore, PCA offers the best of both worlds:

    • the detailed step-by-step high-quality guidance that is only available in 'official' institutions;
    • the learning freedom (and lack of exams) associated with self-study.

     

  • 9. Is your program compatible with ABRSM? Can you help me to prepare for ABRSM exams?

    This question cannot be answered with 'yes' or 'no'. To help you understand if (and how) our program is compatible with ABRSM, first I need to put things into context. Thank you for your patience in reading this reply 😊.

    PianoCareerAcademy is focused on the principles of the Russian piano school. I am a Russian-style Conservatory graduate with a Masters degree in piano performance and pedagogy - and I have 30+ years of piano experience (which include 19 years of professional-level studies). So my background is the opposite of ABRSM 😊.

    In fact, I only heard of ABRSM when I started to teach online (in 2010) - because some of my Western students kept mentioning it. Being curious, I took a look at a couple of ABRSM syllabuses. My first impression was not a very good one - and it hasn't changed much since. The curriculum looked very shallow and simplified as compared to the rich and holistic Russian method. I apologize for my honesty - but otherwise I cannot answer this question truthfully.

    Don't get me wrong - ABRSM definitely has its merits! Its creators are heroes for providing tangible musical value to a world where attention spans are constantly decreasing (while the obsession with 'quick and shallow results' keeps increasing). ABRSM does its best to maintain musical education alive, while providing structure and accountability to its students. Following the ABRSM curriculum is so much better than not studying piano at all (or studying it on your own, by following random 'song' tutorials on YouTube).

    However, ABRSM barely scratches the surface of the wonderful universe called 'the art of piano playing'. It mainly targets amateurs - and when it comes to educating amateurs, the usual approach is: "let's teach them at least something before they lose interest". There is no question of depth, real transformation or building brilliant skills. If the student can manage to read a piece, play it from beginning to end with minimum mistakes AND add in a couple of dynamics - mission accomplished! If he also read Chopin's biography - he is a prodigy!

    The Russian piano school, on the other hand, is a holistic system designed to train world-class professional pianists. Once you get a glimpse of its beauty and magnitude - it will blow your socks off! 😎 Even when using this system to teach amateurs (which I do every day), the emphasis remains on quality, true growth and superb playing. The 'amateur adaptation' is entirely possible if done correctly - and brings much more joy and fulfillment as compared to the shallow approach that most modern curriculums insult your intelligence with. (You can learn more about the Russian piano school by reading my answer to question No. A2.)

    So when somebody asks if PCA is compatible with ABRSM - this is like asking if flying lessons are compatible with learning how to ride a bike πŸ˜‹.

    The next step in understanding how PCA can help you with ABRSM is answering this question:

    What is your piano purpose? Passing exams and getting certification - or becoming a good pianist and musician? Sure, the two are not always mutually exclusive - but still, which goal matters to you the most? In your opinion, which goal is foundational, and which one is a means to an end?

    Sadly, these days many people confuse the technical means (such as ABRSM certification) with the end goal (becoming a good pianist). They are so focused on passing exams (and meeting a set of requirements invented by a board of examiners) that they lose sight of the bigger picture: ABRSM, or RCM (or any other 'M' out there 😁) are just little 'stepping stones' in this game - NOT your final destination.

    PianoCareerAcademy was designed to help you become a good pianist and musician. Our program is not about complying with requirements, ticking 'checkboxes' off a list, or making some examiners happy. We skip these 'bureaucratic' steps and go straight to the core: teaching you to play beautifully, build reliable skills and reach true musical freedom.

    Now we can finally return to your question: is PCA is compatible with ABRSM?

    Think about it: can a truly good musician pass an easy exam? (Keep in mind that if you follow the Russian system for a while, ABRSM requirements will always feel very easy.)

    Undoubtedly! If you have a good foundation and can truly play - such simple exams will no longer be an issue. Once you learn how to fly a real airplane, riding a bike (or playing with a toy plane) will be a piece of cake. All you have to do is open the ABRSM syllabus for your level, choose your pieces, learn your theory and scales - and off you go! After a year or two on PianoCareerAcademy, you will be able to easily learn ANY piece or scale for your level - and you will also have a very good understanding of theory. The examiners will most likely be shocked by your skills and command of the instrument, and you will pass with flying colors. πŸ₯³

    However, if you ONLY wish to meet certain ABRSM requirements (and are ONLY interesting in learning ABRSM pieces), then PCA is not a good match for you. We do not have step-by-step ABRSM-based courses that will help you to 'tick the box' as soon as possible.

    The Russian system is much more complex, and it covers many elements of piano playing (and many skills) that are not even mentioned in ABRSM. The pieces featured in my tutorials are also different - even though some of them can overlap (especially if we talk about masterpieces of the universal repertoire).

    And, the last question: Can you help me to prepare for ABRSM exams?

    No, not directly. We can only help you to build stellar skills - by following our existing Courses and tutorials (which are based on the Russian system). We do not offer individual coaching focused on ABRSM.

    Conclusion. PCA is about learning how to play brilliantly and expressively. Once you can do that, you can open ANY door with ease (including ABRSM) - regardless of 'requirements'. True musicianship is compatible with any curriculum. However, a specific curriculum might not be compatible with true musicianship πŸ˜‹.

  • 10. Do you teach jazz/rock/pop music?

    Yes - but only in small quantities, as a 'dessert' 😊.

    Most of my tutorials are focused on classical music and the professional principles of the Russian piano school. Still, I created many tutorials focused on modern music as well, for example:

    • Christmas carols
    • jazz pieces
    • 'atmospheric' pieces
    • fragments from famous soundtracks
    • piano transcriptions of beautiful orchestral works etc.

    Many of these pieces are included in our Course for Beginners (as pieces for 'dessert' πŸ₯³) - while others are covered in stand-alone tutorials.

    And, the most important thing: classical music is the BEST foundation, period. Once you set this foundation and develop good technical/expressive/analytical skills, you can easily build anything on top - may it be jazz, rock, pop, new age, you name it! 😎

    You can learn more by reading my detailed FREE tutorial on this topic: The Life-Changing Benefits of Learning Classical Music.

  • 11. Do you teach theory?

    Yes, I cover LOTS of theory in my tutorials:

    1. In our Course for Beginners and Scale Course you will find all the piano-related theory necessary for a beginner/intermediate: musical notation (taught in a fun progressive manner), modes and tonalities, intervals and chords, the Circle of Fifths etc.

    2. We have many stand-alone tutorials focused on theory and music history - but all of them are closely related to the art of piano playing.

    3. Each tutorial dedicated to a certain piece includes a thorough analysis where I explain all the elements of the musical text (and also 'decode' subtler nuances that can only be 'read between lines'):

    • style of the composer and epoch,
    • artistic concept,
    • form and dramaturgy,
    • layout of the musical text,
    • phrasing,
    • dynamics,
    • articulation,
    • tonal plan (harmonic analysis),
    • rhythmical formulas,
    • and many other important details that will help you to acquire a very clear understanding of the piece you're about to learn!

    As I always tell my students - analysis is golden. By learning how to analyze a piece correctly, your practice becomes clear, targeted and very efficient. The result: meaningful, expressive, beautiful playing! 😎

    However,

    I do not teach in-depth theory on its own. On PCA you will not find step-by-step courses on subjects such as solfeggio, harmony or polyphony (counterpoint). In our country, these are taught by musicologists, not by piano teachers.

  • 12. Do you teach composition?

    No, I do not teach composition πŸ˜‹.

    PianoCareerAcademy.com is focused on ALL the aspects of professional piano playing. I have a Masters degree in piano performance and pedagogy (which means that I am a professional pianist and teacher, not a composer).

    Many people nowadays think that all musicians can do anything music-related (play any instrument, compose etc.) - but the reality is very different.

    Mastering an instrument at a professional Conservatory level is an enormous task that takes at least 18 years of extremely serious practice. For this reason, in the Russian piano school everything is very specialized: a piano teacher teaches piano, a composition teacher teaches composition, a theory teacher teaches solfeggio and harmony, and so on. Otherwise, if one person would try to teach ALL these things (as it often happens nowadays in the Western world) - his/her level of expertise would be rather shallow. They would know a little of everything - instead of mastering one art (such as piano playing), and teaching it in depth (as I do in my tutorials).

    Yes, there ARE wonderful performers/teachers out there who are also composers - but this is a rare exception, not a rule.

    However, if you wish to study composition and you're wondering whether PCA is the right choice for you - everything also depends on your current level:

    Are you a beginner or an experienced piano player?

    If you are experienced and you want to learn professional composition - then, as I mentioned above, our program is not suitable for you.

    If you are a beginner - you have to understand one fundamental thing:

    It’s impossible to compose without learning how to play an instrument - and without learning at least the basics of music theory! This includes studying pieces by great composers - because otherwise, you will waste a lot of time trying to re-invent the wheel πŸ˜…. Composition students need to study theory and harmony, music history, form analysis, stylistics etc. Without all this, their work would be amateurish at best. I'm mentioning this because sometimes I get emails from beginners who wish to learn how to compose, but they don't want to learn how to play properly, or study pieces by other composers - which is, naturally, a very naive approach πŸ˜‡.

    Therefore, first you need to learn how to play piano - and you also need to acquire a good understanding of theory. You can do both by following our Course for Beginners and Scale Course.

    Then you can also study composition with a professional composer 😎.

  • 13. Do you teach improvisation?

    No, I do not teach improvisation in a step-by-step manner. I do have one tutorial on this topic, however - the first half is available for free on my blog: Awakening Our Creativity: Mastering the Art of Piano Improvisation.

    To put things into context: PCA is focused on classical piano and the professional principles of the Russian piano school. Most of my tutorials are dedicated to specific pieces by great pre-classical, classical and romantic composers (as opposed to teaching you how to improvise, or write your own music).

    So if improvisation is your main objective and you want to study it in depth, then I'm afraid I cannot help you.

  • 14. Do you teach how to play chords?

    It depends on what you mean by that. 'Learning how to play chords' can refer to 2 different things:

    1. Learning a simplified method of playing modern music. The idea is to memorize a series of chords (and chord progressions) that are commonly used in pop/rock/jazz music. Instead of learning how to read musical notation, you only focus on:

    • playing by ear (which involves improvisation, or picking out by ear popular songs);
    • learning how to read chords from a 'chord chart' (where chords are notated with letters and numbers, and there's no musical notation involved).

    If you refer to this skill - the answer is NO, we don't have tutorials or courses on this topic 😊. PianoCareerAcademy is focused on classical piano - and musical notation is taught from the very start. As a member of our program, you will build a solid piano foundation and acquire reliable technical/expressive/reading skills. This will make 'chord charts' (and playing by ear) redundant - and modern songs will become incredibly easy to play!

    2. Learning theory, the basics of harmony, and also the technical/expressive fundamentals of correct chord playing. YES, we have plenty of tutorials on these important topics! 😎

    Please understand: 'chords' were not invented by pop/rock bands. Modern music is based on a simplified version of classical harmony (which appeared a very long time ago, and kept evolving throughout the centuries). As a member of PCA, besides learning how to read music from scratch, you will also discover the basics of classical harmony and 'chord building'. This includes:

    • understanding the theory behind intervals, chords and chord inversions,
    • reading and writing chords with ease (by using musical notation, not 'chord charts'),
    • mastering the most efficient chord-playing techniques (this way avoiding tension, injuries, speed walls and clumsiness),
    • learning how to play any type of musical structure (including intervals and chords) beautifully and expressively.

    You will be able to develop these (and many other) skills by following our Course for Beginners and Scale & Arpeggio Course (which includes detailed lessons on how to build and play triad chords and seventh chords in every key).

  • 15. Do you teach how to play by ear?

    No - because there's no need to πŸ˜‡.

    As a member of our program, you will learn musical notation from the very start, in a fun step-by-step manner.

    Learning how to read music is easy and enjoyable if done correctly 😎.

    So if you want to play by ear because you think that learning musical notation is too hard and time-consuming - our Courses and tutorials will help you to quickly change your mind! πŸ˜‰

    By developing good reading skills you will open the door to an amazing universe of beautiful music! You will be able to learn ANY piece independently, and play it very well (as compared to the terrible results of playing 'by ear'). A Nocturne by Chopin? A Beethoven Sonata? A Prelude by Rachmaninoff? A modern pop song, or maybe a jazz piece? All of these will become easily accessible to you 😎.

    So don't limit yourself to 'illiterate' musicianship - this is a waste of time (not to mention the resulting bad playing)! Build a solid foundation instead - because serious skills are the ONLY real 'shortcut' to musical mastery and fulfillment.

  • E. Interactive Features
  • 1. Can I get feedback to my video recordings?

    Yes!!! πŸ₯³

    As a member of our program, you can share your recordings on our PCA Stage - an interactive area where you can improve, perform and shine! 😎

    On the Stage, you can do the following:

    1. Get teacher feedback to your recordings. Get weekly feedback to your recordings from our awesome teacher Yuko Agata Farman!

    Yuko has a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, a performance diploma from ABRSM, and she also holds the title of NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano), through the Music Teacher's National Association in USA. Since 2012, Yuko has been studying with me as well (as a member of PCA) - and now her entire teaching method is based on the professional principles of the Russian piano school.

    A couple of years ago, Yuko also met Irina Gorin (an amazing Russian-trained teacher, the author of the method books for children “Tales of a Musical Journey”). Yuko translated these books into Japanese, and since then she has conducted many seminars to introduce the Russian method to Japanese teachers.

    2. Participate in member concerts. Share your recordings in interactive online concerts, acquire performance experience, offer and receive encouragement and motivation! πŸ₯° Our community is AMAZING, and all our members are very positive and supportive. Don't feel like participating in a concert? No problem - you can still learn a lot by watching other members' recordings, just like in a real MasterClass.

    3. Track your progress and share your accomplishments on your individual 'Spotlight' page. The 'Spotlight' area of the Stage is the place where you can shine 🀩. Do you wish to share your own compositions, your most successful recordings - or simply keep track of your progress? Would you like to tell us more about yourself and your piano journey - and share your musical insights with our community? Come into the 'Spotlight' and don't be shy! πŸ₯°

  • 2. Will you monitor my progress once I join PCA?

    Yes - but only if you participate in our Feedback Project, where you can get weekly teacher feedback to your video recordings.

    You can learn more about this project by reading my answer to the previous FAQ (No. E1).

  • 3. Do you offer individual lessons (in real-life or online)?

    No, not at the moment.

    I am happy and honored to receive lots of emails with inquiries about individual lessons (thank you SO MUCH for appreciating my work!) πŸ₯°.

    I would love to offer individual lessons to all of you who are interested, but unfortunately this is physically impossible. There are only 24 hours in a day - and I already dedicate my entire time to PianoCareerAcademy, where I have to post new tutorials on a regular basis (not to mention all the CEO tasks associated with running a large online Academy).

    Therefore, if you wish to study with me, joining PCA is a much better option than individual lessons (and so much more affordable!).

    The math is simple: for only $47 per month, you get unlimited access to every single tutorial and Course I have ever designed (synthesizing the experience I gathered in 30+ years of intense piano studying, performing and teaching) - PLUS teacher feedback to your recordings. The price of a single lesson with a teacher of my level (Russian Conservatory graduate, Masters degree), ranges between $80 and $200 per 45 minutes.

  • 4. Do you offer free individual piano guidance (via email, Facebook or YouTube)?

    I wish I could - but this is sadly physically impossible. Because of my overloaded schedule, I don't even have time for paid individual lessons (as I explain in the previous FAQ).

    There are only 24 hours in a day, so I need to make a choice: I can either offer individual guidance (free or paid) to 20-30 people - OR manage PCA and create tutorials that will benefit thousands of piano students, for many years to come. Since 2012, I keep choosing PCA 😊.

    So, if you send me:

    • an email with piano questions,
    • a Facebook message where you ask for piano advice,
    • a complex question posted under one of my YouTube videos, or as a comment on my blog (PianoCareer.com),

    ... I apologize in advance for not getting back to you.

    Please note that I make exceptions for short questions and comments that are posted publicly (as you can see in the 'Comment' section of all my YouTube videos) πŸ˜‹. I reply to those because my answers can be useful for many people (as compared to email conversations that only benefit one person).

    However, your message will not get lost or forgotten! You will still get a reply from a member of our team - letting you know why I cannot answer your question, and where you can find more information on the topic that interest you. 99% of the time, the answers to the questions I receive are fully covered in the tutorials available on PCA - or even in my free tutorials.

    Thank you for your understanding and see you in the Members Area! πŸ˜‰

  • F. Frequent Piano & Learning Questions
  • 1. How much should I practice after joining?

    Everything depends on YOU, your goals, your available time and your motivation πŸ˜‰.

    By following my tutorials you will learn how to practice mindfully and efficiently, in a healthy sustainable manner. You will also learn that the quality and consistency of your practice are much more important than its quantity. For example, 1 hour of correct practice is considerably more efficient than 5 hours of mechanical practice.

    By using this knowledge, you will be able to organize a practice schedule that is enjoyable and efficient for you.

    A couple of examples:

    1. For beginners, I recommend at least 45 minutes of correct practice per day, 4-7 days a week.

    2. Intermediate and advanced students can start with 1 hour per day and gradually reach 3-5 hours per day, 4-7 days a week (but only if they wish to).

    The important thing is to increase your 'practice fitness and endurance' gradually - otherwise you risk hurting yourself. If a beginner starts with 3 hours of uninterrupted practice per day, the risk of muscle fatigue is quite high - even if he uses the healthiest techniques. So be smart, follow the detailed practice advice you will find in my tutorials, don't rush to build Rome by tomorrow, and take breaks at the smallest sign of fatigue or tension πŸ˜‹.

  • 2. How long does it take to become a good pianist?

    Everything depends on your goals:

    1. If you wish to become a professional pianist - you will need at least 15 years of regular and progressive practice, under the guidance of a good teacher 😎. My own piano studies lasted 19 years: 12 year of professional musical lyceum, 5 years of Conservatory and 2 years of Masters. During this time, my average practice time was 2-5 hours per day, 6-7 days a week (more details in my biography).

    2. If you wish to learn piano for yourself - you will be able to play beautiful pieces of a reasonable difficulty level in about 2-3 years. However, this also depends on how WELL you practice, how MUCH you practice - and what method you follow. If you simply learn random 'songs' from day 1 (as opposed to following a serious piano method, or taking lessons with a good teacher) - then your progress will be very slow (not to mention the risk of injuries and the technical/expressive limitations). You will find several tutorials on this topic in the Members Area, where I talk about the importance of a progressive step-by-step approach πŸ˜‡.

  • 3. I am 30/40/50/60 years old. Is it too late to become a good pianist?

    No! It's never too late to become a good pianist and musician! πŸ˜‰

    My experience (working with hundreds of adult beginners!) taught me the following:

    When it comes to mastering an art (such as piano playing), age is NOT the most important thing. What matters most is your motivation, the time you put in, the quality of your practice - and also your exact goals.

    Yes, you might not be able to become a professional concert pianist (or a Conservatory-level teacher) if you start after the age of 25. The reason is not your age - but the time, effort, commitment and unwavering focus that are required for this monumental task. Becoming a professional takes at least 15 years of intense practice - and one needs to dedicate most of their time to studying this art. Still, if you're 30-50 years old and you DO have this time (combined with a strong enough motivation to make music your profession), anything is possible! 😎

    However, the likelihood that you aspire to become a professional is very small, am I right? 😊 You are probably here because you wish to learn how to play for your pleasure, as a hobby. In this case, it is NEVER too late to start! Even if you're 70 or 80, you can still become a good musician, acquire wonderful skills, grow and enrich your knowledge, AND learn how to play tons of beautiful music! πŸ₯°

    If you follow a good progressive method, in only 2-3 years you will be able to play a very wide range of pieces of a reasonable difficulty level (including your favorite pop/rock/jazz pieces). In 6-8 years you can reach the advanced level, and open the door to the great classical piano repertoire - works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Debussy etc.

    Therefore, the best time to start is TODAY. The time will pass anyway - and a few years from now you will be happy that you took this step! πŸ₯³

    One more thing: are you familiar with the concept of neuroplasticity? It means that our brain keeps changing and adapting at any age (not just in childhood). The best way to keep our mind young and flexible is to always learn new things!

    So don't think "I'm too old to learn a new skill". Instead, remember that you NEED to keep learning if you wish to age gracefully, and retain your mental and physical 'sharpness' 😎. And, because music is one of the most complex arts invented by humankind - it is also the best training for your brain (not to mention the happiness and fulfillment you will experience in the process) 😊.

    Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

  • 4. I am a beginner (relative beginner) and I want to learn an advanced piece. Can you help me?

    The short answer is - no, not really. There are no ‘magic shortcuts’ to mastering the complex art of piano playing - and it's impossible to squeeze many years‘ worth of knowledge and skills into several months. If you try to, you risk creating bad habits, developing hand injuries and sabotaging your progress.

    If you want to learn WHY, and you have 10 minutes - please keep reading: 

    _______

    Almost every day, I am contacted by beginners (or relative beginners with 1-3 years of piano experience) who wish to learn their favorite advanced pieces right now (instead of choosing the progressive path, and moving through the beginner and intermediate repertoire in a step-by-step manner).

    While I do understand your passion, and your drive to play beautiful music πŸ™‚, my duty as a teacher is to tell you how piano playing really works (instead of telling you what you wish to hear πŸ˜‹).

    I call this hurry to master very difficult things in a very short period of time the disease of our century, or the fast-food mentality. In this article I will explain why this approach is so harmful, and how it actually wastes your time and energy (instead of saving you time).

    Imagine that you go to a martial arts instructor and tell him: “Sensei, I am a white-belt (or a complete beginner), but I want to fight a black-belt in a few days. Can you help me”?

    What do you think the sensei will tell you? He will point out that:

    • Reaching the black-belt level takes time and A LOT of training, and this complex process cannot be 'compressed' and conquered overnight, no matter how much you would love to!
    • He can only train you correctly, in a step-by-step manner, and he cannot help you achieve unrealistic goals (just like he cannot help you fly to the moon without a shuttle!).
    • fighting a black-belt can be very dangerous for you at this moment, and lead to injury.

    The same thing happens in musical performance: NO TEACHER, no matter how good or experienced they are, can help a beginner play an advanced piece WELL, as it should be played - expressively and with technical freedom. Yes, it's always possible to simply learn the notes of an advanced piece and play them slowly, clumsily, in a tensed manner, without any expressive effects. The question is - WHY would you choose to play a beautiful piece in such a terrible manner?

    Another metaphor. Let’s say you wish to learn how to juggle. During your very first attempt, you pick up 10 balls and try to juggle them. What do you think will happen? Yes, you will drop them the next second, and probably break something as well! On the other hand, if you are patient and learn how to throw and catch one ball first; then juggle 2 balls; then 3, then 4; after a while you will masterfully juggle all 10 balls!

    Piano playing is an incredibly complex art. Becoming an advanced player takes at least 6-8 years of serious, very consistent practice (under the guidance of a professional teacher). This is how our art really works - and your unrealistic expectations cannot change the natural speed at which our mind and our muscles learn new things. Think about it: can you change the natural rhythms of the universe - the rotation of the seasons, or the length of the year? Can you harvest ripe apples only one month after planting the seed of the tree? So why do you think that our brain can be 'convinced' to operate unnaturally, in 'turbo' mode?

    Most people think that they will save time if they jump into advanced pieces straight away. The opposite is true: by practicing difficult pieces too soon, you will LOSE a lot of time and effort. Instead of slowly and surely moving forward, instead of building ALL your skills in a harmonious manner (which is the only way of making REAL progress)... you will always stagnate at the same ‘clumsy eternal-beginner’ level.

    You will probably ask at this point: Why does this happen? Why can't I make progress while practicing pieces that are too difficult for me?

    Let me explain with the help of another metaphor: your brain can be compared to the RAM of a computer. When you only begin studying a musical instrument, the RAM is not very powerful. It can only process a small amount of data at a time. If you try to learn a difficult piece, the entire RAM will be spent on 'hitting the right notes' - and even this will 'overheat' your hard drive! There will simply be no RAM left for analyzing the meaning of the piece, for correct technique, expressive effects or a brilliant and effortless performance.

    However, if you start with a less difficult piece (appropriate for your level):

    • part of your RAM will take care of notes/rhythm/fingering;
    • another part will be focused on developing your hearing, imagination and musical understanding, on ergonomic technique, correct sound production, expressive effects etc.
    • yet another part will learn how to practice correctly and efficiently;
    • and there will still be some free RAM left that will allow you to coordinate all these things without putting your brain into over-drive!

    Also, the RAM will keep growing as you practice - and one day it will allow you to play advanced pieces properly, without using your entire mental capacity for finding the right notes!

    But if you always force, over-drive and 'short-circuit' your RAM with enormous tasks that it cannot handle - it will never grow.

    Some of you may ask at this point: Wait, what? Pressing the right notes is NOT ENOUGH? 😲

    You already know the answer to this question πŸ˜‹. Tell me this: when you speak, is it enough to produce the 'right sounds' (such as k, aaaa, p, t etc.), without connecting them into words and sentences, without using intonation and phrasing for making your speech meaningful? Just like speech, music is a form of communication. So WHY would anyone think that the bare notes are enough? They are just the alphabet - NOT the story!

    Learning the notes is simply the first tiny step of a very complex and fascinating journey. If you play an advanced piece too soon, however, this will be the only thing you can do. Excessive hurry will rob you of the most important aspects of our art, also leading to LOTS of bad habits.

    'Typing' the bare notes of a piece, clumsily and expressionlessly, can also be compared to admiring a beautiful landscape blindly, with your eyes closed. Again, WHY would you choose to do this, why would you willingly push away the most beautiful and rewarding aspects of our art? Why not be patient instead, learn all the fundamentals correctly, develop reliable skills and make true progress? 😎

    If you always play pieces that are too difficult (instead of choosing the step-by-step approach), 10 years from now you will still be where you are right now. In a best case scenario, you might reach an approximate early-intermediate level, and you will still not be able to play advanced pieces really well.

    On the other hand, if you choose the progressive path - 10 years from now you will be an advanced player, with brilliant expressive, technical and analytical skills: you will be able to play almost ANY piece of the universal repertoire - freely and beautifully, without any technical limitations!

    No matter which path you choose, the time will pass anyway – so why not spend it wisely?

    Therefore, the tortoise will arrive much quicker than the hare (not to mention the inevitable hand injuries and bad playing habits that the hare will collect ‘along the way’).

    So, if you wish to play masterpieces by Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Bach, Scriabin, Debussy etc. - please don't try to learn them after only several months (or 1-4 years) of practice. Be patient instead and build solid skills by practicing easier pieces first (suitable for the beginner and intermediate levels). Then, after about 6-8 years of serious practice, you will be able to play advanced pieces as they should be played!

    Conclusion: Many music lovers nowadays think that playing an instrument is a 'recreational' activity that can be fully mastered during the 'weekend' πŸ˜…. The results of this 'rushed' approach are quite tragic:

    • tension and hand injuries (as a result of insufficient technical development and also because the student is not familiar with relaxation, whole-arm action, weighted playing, wrist flexibility/navigation etc.);
    • ‘note-only’ expressionless playing (due to lack of understanding/knowledge, and also because the student didn't learn any expressive techniques in a correct step-by-step manner);
    • harshness or shallowness of sound;
    • mechanical playing;
    • frustration and lack of progress (the students cannot go beyond the early intermediate level because they keep playing advanced pieces incorrectly; their entire 'brain power' is spent on the very difficult text - and this leaves no ‘mental space’ for expression; and the more they rush, the slower their progress is! Lack of progress leads to frustration and ultimately many students give up piano playing altogether).

    The solution is to move from one level to the next one in a gradual manner, through correct and progressive practice of the beginner and intermediate repertoire, allowing yourself enough time to fully understand and master each piece, expressive effect or technical pattern. The step-by-step approach is the ONLY one that allows a student to make real progress and actually reach the advanced level.

    If there would be shortcuts that would allow a beginner to play advanced repertoire - trust me, professionals would have found it many centuries ago :P, and we would have Richters and Horowitz’es at every corner 😁.

    So if you truly love music and wish to become a good pianist - offer yourself the gift of patience, and learn our art in a progressive manner! This approach is much more enjoyable than you currently think: you will have lots of fun in the process, you will discover many charming pieces for beginners/intermediates, you will build skills you never even knew existed πŸ˜‹ - and you will make true lasting progress!

    Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
    ~Lao Tzu

    For an even more complete picture of how piano playing really works, please read my answers to FAQs No. F1 and D5. Also, if you're a beginner and you wish to join PCA, I recommend starting with our step-by-step Course for Beginners (and not with Bach's Goldberg Variations! πŸ˜…). You will find a detailed description of this Course in FAQ No. D2

  • 5. I'm in pain when I play! What should I do?

    Do you feel fatigue, tension or pain in your wrists, hands, shoulders or back? Have you developed a piano-related injury?

    The first step is to identify the cause of this problem. The most common culprit is incorrect technique - followed by:

    • incorrect practice (including an unbalanced practice schedule)
    • learning pieces that are too difficult for your level
    • lack of correct information about how piano playing works (very common in self-taught students)
    • anxiety and a negative attitude

    The solution is to learn how to play piano in a healthy, balanced and sustainable manner. Correct piano playing does not cause pain and injuries - and you should never tolerate any type of discomfort while playing! Doing some 'exercises' to relieve the pain will not help if you keep practicing incorrectly. Do not try to hide the symptoms - remove the cause instead!

    If you're in pain right now, you have to stop practicing for at least a week or two (to allow your body to rest and heal). Then, you need to reassess your technique and practice habits - and re-build them one step at a time, by following a professional piano method (where ergonomic technique is a priority). You can do this by taking individual lessons with a good teacher, or by becoming a PCA member (where we have step-by-step Courses designed to develop all your skills in a progressive and harmonious manner).

    Of course, this is a complex topic that cannot be fully covered in a short-ish reply πŸ˜‡. That's why I recorded a FREE video tutorial where I cover the most common piano mistakes that lead to tension and pain (with solutions for each one).

    You can find it here: How to Avoid Piano Injuries | Get Rid of Tension and Pain in Your Hands, Arms & Back.

  • 6. Do you recommend Hanon?

    In piano playing, the most important thing is HOW we practice. WHAT we practice comes after that.

    If practiced correctly, Hanon exercises can be very useful.

    If practiced mechanically, with an incorrect 'finger-only' technique, they are a total waste of time.

    Still, I usually do not recommend Hanon. These exercises are outdated and they don't target the entire spectrum of an ergonomic piano technique. They were written during the epoch of the harpsichord-inspired ‘finger-only’ approach - while the heavier mechanism of the modern piano requires whole-arm action (a weighted tension-free healthy technique that also allows us to play in a free manner, with a beautiful rich sound).

    Moreover, Hanon exercises lack meaning and artistic value (being focused on technique alone). In the Russian piano school, we develop our expressive and technical skills simultaneously. Ergonomic technique is very important, but it is derived from our expressive goals. I explain why in this FREE video tutorial: Developing a Brilliant Piano Technique - The Holistic Professional Approach.

    Yes, we can certainly practice Hanon with a whole-arm healthy technique. We can even strain our imagination to invent an interesting artistic concept for each exercise. However, there are much better Etudes out there, combining a wider technical spectrum with TONS of expressive benefits. Here is when WHAT we practice becomes important as well! You can find super-detailed Etude recommendations for all levels in the Members Area of PCA πŸ˜‰.

    And, of course, if you follow the step-by-step system that I cover in my Scale & Arpeggio Course, you will get a super-comprehensive technical & expressive training as well. More information about this Course in FAQ No. D3.

    To summarize: ANY exercise, Etude or scale can be useful if practiced correctly and mindfully. Still, we have a limited number of practice hours per day (and the piano repertoire is sooooo enormous!). So why not spend these hours in a smarter, more efficient (and more enjoyable!) manner, by practicing Etudes of real artistic value, where technical benefits are harmoniously balanced with artistic and expressive ones? 😎

  • 7. Do you recommend Czerny?

    Yes, but only in limited quantities! πŸ˜…

    As I mentioned in my previous reply (focused on Hanon), the most important thing is HOW we practice. Czerny's Etudes can be super useful if practiced correctly - and a waste of time if your practice is mechanical (and/or your technique is incorrect).

    In my opinion, Czerny's Etudes are a bit more interesting (and useful) than Hanon, but the difference is not THAT big! πŸ˜‹ So you can incorporate some of them in your practice - especially if you are a beginner.

    Please note: for a harmonious development of ALL your piano skills, your every program should comprise scales & arpeggios + 3-5 pieces of different styles, genres and characters. One of these pieces should always be an Etude - and once a year (for example), this Etude can be by Czerny.

    However, Czerny can be a waste of time if you are an intermediate or advanced student. Most of his Etudes for these levels are quite boring and lack real artistic value. So why would we spend our precious time on them when we have amazing Etudes by Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff or Scriabin? 😎

    Therefore, focus on meaningful pieces first! Explore those works that develop ALL your skills - mental, expressive, aural AND technical. Only then, if you have extra time and nothing else to practice πŸ˜‹ - you can 'play' with some Czerny or Hanon.

  • 8. Can I keep seeing my real-life teacher after joining PCA?

    Yes, of course you can!

    The decision to continue (or stop) your real-life lessons is yours alone. It depends on the method used by your teacher, the quality of their lessons and the time you can dedicate to piano playing.

    After joining PCA and starting your learning, you will notice that all my tutorials are based on the professional Russian method, an in-depth holistic approach to musical development which 'does not leave any stone unturned', so to speak 😎. In real life, this approach is only accessible in Conservatories.

    If your real-life teacher uses a conflicting method, or if his/her method is shallow and unprofessional (which you were not aware of before joining PCA), you might decide to stop seeing them.

    Here are a few symptoms of incorrect teaching: you learn the notes, rhythm and fingering (and maybe basic articulation and dynamics), but your teacher doesn't pay attention to your posture and ergonomic technique (which includes weighted playing, relaxation, wrist flexibility etc.); they also don't teach in-depth musical analysis, dramaturgy (the 'story' behind the music), sound quality and color, phrasing, sound balance/voicing, artistry etc.

    If, on the other hand, you have a very good teacher that either a) uses the Russian method, or b) has a 'compatible' serious, in-depth approach to our art - you will most likely continue seeing them, and complementing your practice with my tutorials.

  • G. Technology & Content Accessibility
  • 1. Can I watch your videos on my iPad (iPhone, tablet, smartphone)?

    YES! πŸ˜‰

    Our website is 100% compatible with all devices: PCs and Macs, iPads and tablets, iPhones and smartphones! 😎

    You can also use any browser to access the site and watch our videos: Edge, Chrome, Mozilla (on PC), Safari (on Mac, iPhones and iPads), and any other browser you might prefer.

    Moreover, our site is mobile-responsive - changing its layout depending on the size of your screen, for a smooth browsing experience.

  • 2. Can I join if I only have a digital piano (or a keyboard)?

    Yes

    Obviously, there's nothing better than a real acoustic piano.

    Sadly, acquiring one is not always possible. If you can't afford one, don't have space for one, or you prefer a quiet 'headphone practice' (because of your neighbors) - then a good digital piano is the next best thing.

    When choosing your instrument, however, it's important to be aware of the following: for developing all your expressive/technical skills, a digital piano must have good weighted action and touch-sensitive keys.

    Weighted action means that the keys offer a certain amount of 'resistance' when being pressed. This replicates the weight and action of a real piano (where by pressing a key we launch a hammer to strike the string). Because playing an acoustic piano requires some effort, we need to use healthy ergonomic techniques such as whole-arm action and weighted playing. This means channeling the natural weight of the arms (and even upper body) into the keyboard (through a combination of arm/wrist relaxation and hand/finger strength). Simply put, we allow gravity (and the leverage principle) to do most of the work. This helps us to achieve power, comfort and brilliance without any muscle fatigue. On the other hand, if we only use the weak finger muscles, we are inviting quick fatigue, tension and pain. Separate finger action is the No. 1 cause of piano-related injuries (as I explain in this free video: How to Avoid Piano Injuries).

    I explain all this because keyboards with no weighted action have light keys which are very easy to depress. This creates the harmful habit of only using the fingers in the playing process (there's simply no need for more power, or for relaxation/flexibility techniques). If you only play on unweighted instruments for the rest of your life, separate finger action is quite safe. However, if you ever decide to switch to a better instrument, this old habit will be difficult to overcome - not to mention the big risk of injuries.

    Touch-sensitive keys allow you to create different dynamic gradations by modifying your touch: a powerful touch equals a louder sound, a delicate touch produces a softer sound - with many gradations in between. This is extremely useful for your hearing, expressive skills, and for building crucial neuro-muscular connections (arm/hand/finger sensations are automatically associated with sound intensity and color).

    Therefore, invest in a good instrument that will allow you to set a healthy technical and expressive foundation from the very start.

    Yes, I know - most of you are also looking for digital piano recommendations πŸ˜‡. I would love to help, but I spend my entire time running PCA and creating tutorials (and I'm also a classically-trained musician who owns an acoustic piano 😊). Therefore, I don't stay up to date with all the digital models that keep appearing every year. Luckily, you can find TONS of information online - so if you keep in mind the two principles I explained above, you will easily choose an instrument that suits your needs (and budget).

    People also often ask: Can I join your program if I only have a 5-octave keyboard?

    Yes, especially if you are a beginner - but before you do πŸ˜‹, you must understand the following:

    It's not so much about the number of octaves - it's first and foremost about having an instrument with weighted action (or at least touch-sensitive keys that allow you to create dynamics).

    A more detailed explanation:

    Almost every modern piano (grand or upright) has 7 octaves plus a minor third (52 white keys and 36 black keys for a total of 88 keys). Many older pianos only have 85 keys (7 octaves).

    However, there are lots of keyboards that only have 5 octaves - first of all, for convenience of transportation, and also because these instruments are mostly used for playing modern pop/rock music, where the extreme registers are not used very often.

    The good news is that if you're a beginner, you can definitely learn how to play on a 5-octave instrument - the extreme registers are very rarely used in the beginner repertoire. If you're an intermediate or advanced player, however, you must have a 7-octave instrument (acoustic or digital).

    The bad news is that most 5-octave keyboards do not have weighted action (some only have touch-sensitive keys). For this reason, you risk creating bad habits (as I explained above). Yes, you can learn many things with such an instrument (theory and musical notation, sight-reading, basic fingering patterns etc.) - but you will not be able to set a well-rounded piano foundation.

    I hope that this answer will help you to choose the best instrument for your current goals! πŸ˜‰

  • 3. I can’t read musical notation. Can I still benefit from your program?

    Yes! :)

    As a member of our program, you will learn musical notation from the very start, in a fun step-by-step manner.

    Learning how to read music is easy and enjoyable if done correctly 😎. So if you currently think that musical notation is too hard (and you only wish to play by ear) - our Courses and tutorials will help you to quickly change your mind πŸ˜‰.

    By developing good reading skills you will open the door to an amazing universe of beautiful music! You will be able to learn ANY piece independently, and play it very well (as compared to the terrible results of playing 'by ear'). A Nocturne by Chopin? A Beethoven Sonata? A Prelude by Rachmaninoff? A modern pop song, or maybe a jazz piece? All of these will become easily accessible to you 😎.

    So don't limit yourself to 'illiterate' musicianship - this is a waste of time (not to mention the resulting bad playing)! Build a solid foundation instead - because serious skills are the ONLY real 'shortcut' to musical mastery and fulfillment.

  • 4. Is your program suitable for very young children?

    Yes - but only if:

    1. The child is at least 6-7 years old.
    2. The parent is fully involved in the learning process, guiding the child's practice every step of the way.
    3. The child participates in our feedback project (receiving regular teacher feedback to their playing).

    Here is why: our program was designed for adult learners (being also accessible for teenagers older than 13-14).  Once you become a member, you can watch any tutorial (and follow any Course) at your own pace, without any constraints or requirements. This learning freedom requires a high degree of logical understanding, the ability to self-assess - and also commitment and discipline.

    Young children do not possess these qualities - so they need one-on-one guidance in order to make progress: scheduled interaction with a teacher, parental supervision during practice, a well-organized curriculum etc. They also learn intuitively (not logically) - so the teaching methods are a bit different.

    Therefore, young beginners should not follow our program on their own.

    However, we have found from experience that parental guidance, together with regular participation in the feedback project, work really well! Young children can make wonderful progress by following our Courses and tutorials, and develop serious skills that cannot be acquired otherwise (unless they study with a Russian-trained teacher).

  • 5. Do you have tutorials in French/Spanish/German (or other languages)?

    No. At the moment, we only offer tutorials and Courses in English (without subtitles or voice-overs in French/Spanish/German/Mandarin etc.).

    So I'm afraid that you can only benefit from our program if you understand at least some English.

  • 6. Do your videos have English subtitles?

    No, our videos don't have subtitles. Don’t worry, though: because English is not my mother language, I speak very clearly - slowly and with good diction.

    Therefore, if you prefer watching videos with subtitles because English is not your mother language either, you will find my speech very easy to understand 😊.

    Also, each tutorial comes with a detailed written breakdown (with 'clickable' time stamps that will take you directly to the needed spot in the video). This will greatly facilitate your understanding.

    Here is an example of a video breakdown (a screenshot from one of our tutorials):

    As you can see, the Video breakdown offers you a clear 'map' of each tutorial: it comprises all the terms and ideas covered in the lesson - not to mention that you don't have to scroll through the entire video in order to find what you need.

    Also, we DO have subtitles for all complicated terms (including composer names, piece titles, professional Italian terms etc.). So each time I pronounce a complicated word or phrase - there WILL be a subtitle for it! 😎

    Here is an example:

     photo Subtitle_zpsuebgcc2d.jpg

    And, last but not least - we also have TONS of written tutorials (not just videos). Therefore, if you're a visual learner, there are hundreds of detailed articles to explore (besides the videos)! πŸ˜‰ I'm a visual learner too, I know how you feel - and I always make sure that my tutorials are 100% accessible for those of you who don't like to rely on their hearing alone.

  • Miscellaneous
  • 1. Are you Russian? Do you live in Russia?

    This question is obviously not related to the functionality of PCA. However, because my tutorials are focused on the professional principles of the Russian piano school, many people assume that I am Russian, or that I live in Russia.

    No, I do not live in Russia. I like to think of myself as a 'human being living on Earth' 😊.

    If you're still curious - my 'home base' is in the Republic of Moldova, which is a small European country situated between Romania and Ukraine. Moldova was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, that's why our musical education system is based on the Russian tradition. People here speak two main languages - Romanian and Russian.

    However, I travel a lot, I'm married to an Australian - and I'm just a 'citizen of the world' who does not like to identify with a certain country πŸ˜‹.

    So when I say 'Russian piano school', this only refers to the musical/cultural heritage and the professional piano system developed in Russia over the past 150+ years. It has nothing to do with politics, borders, nationalities or ideologies.

    I will also remind you that our physical location is not relevant for your learning experience: PianoCareerAcademy is an online program, and we do not offer real-life lessons.

  • 2. What model is your piano?

    This is another very frequent question that is not related to the functionality of PCA πŸ˜…. I receive it ALL the time ( especially in the comment section of some of my YouTube videos, where I use my upright piano) - so I will address it here as well.

    I have a Yamaha JU109 PE, and before you ask - it is definitely not the best Yamaha out there. This is simply the best upright I could find in my country, where we have a limited range of Yamahas. I bought it in 2013, and I'm very happy with it so far. It has a beautiful rich sound and a very comfortable and responsive mechanism. However, when it comes to acoustic instruments, it's impossible to find two that are exactly the same (even if we talk about the same brand and model). I also strongly doubt that you'll be able to find this exact model in your country/city (and you don't need to - there are plenty of other awesome models out there!).

    HOW you play is also super-important: it's entirely possible to create a beautiful sound on a relatively 'bad' instrument (if you know the fundamentals of correct sound production), and it's also possible to produce a percussive noise on a grand Steinway, Yamaha or Bluthner πŸ˜† (if you play incorrectly, in a harsh and rigid manner).

    Also, if you're considering buying a new instrument, I strongly recommend consulting a professional tuner/technician or a local teacher (especially if you're a beginner/intermediate student and you don't have much experience when it comes to choosing a piano). Your own preferences of sound/action are very important as well (of course!), but the professional will let you know if the mechanism is in 'good shape', what problems you can expect etc.

    I hope that this answer was helpful - and I wish you good luck in choosing your instrument!