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Niklas Pokki

– on piano, pianists and piano pedagogy


This blog is about anything related to piano music and piano pedagogy: repertoire, performing, practicing strategies, teacher´s challenges, pedagogical research, books about piano playing, learning environments, concerts, festivals, master classes and much more.

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The Youth Piano Academy: Boosting The Learning Environment

The Mänttä Music Festival 2014 ended last week with a wonderful Beethoven recital by Paul Lewis. Other highlights this year were the piano recitals by Anna Vinnitskaya and Laura Mikkola and the concert by Slawomir Zubrzycki with his Viola organista, a unique Renaissance instrument that he built over four years based on Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-year-old sketches.

One of the novelties at Mänttä was the collaboration concert of the Youth Piano Academy (YPA) and the Sibelius Academy’s junior department. Five youngsters gave stunning performances of an extremely demanding repertoire, including pieces such as Liszt´s Spanish Rhapsody, Vallee D’Obermann and many more. In addition, the summer session of the YPA took place during the festival, and the ten students took lessons with Juhani Lagerspetz, Jussi Siirala, and Risto-Matti Marin. Also the German hyper-virtuoso Severin von Eckardstein joined our faculty to give some lessons. Continue Reading

From Mänttä With Love

One of the annual highlights of my personal life, the Mänttä Music Festival, starts next Wednesday, August 6th.

The sun is shining and the beautiful little town seems to be prepared to become the Piano Capital of Finland next week.

It is hard to believe that this is already the festival’s 16th anniversary. It feels like we just started it! Much has changed over the years, though. The festival has developed into an international event, featuring world-class pianists as well as promising young artists. And, the festival will also be evolving this year. I am excited to see how this year’s festival turns out, since it has a new main stage and it starts a month later than in previous years.

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Let’s talk more about piano practice!

I just came back home from Seinäjoki, where I gave a lecture on piano practice at the Sibelius Academy training centre. One of my former teachers, a current friend and colleague, Teppo Koivisto, was giving his annual master class and was kind enough to invite me to speak to his students.

In the heat of summer — it has been unusually hot in Finland lately — we had a delightful session. The students made clever comments, asked informed questions, and, afterwards, the discussion went on with Teppo at a local restaurant.

After speaking with Teppo´s class, I contemplated what it was that made me devote myself to giving lectures on piano practice about ten years ago?  Continue Reading

10 Characteristics of Efficient Piano Practice

1. Urge to express. Sharing the music you love with others is one of the greatest privileges in the world. What, exactly, makes the musical work you currently practice so appealing and inspiring? Strive constantly to develop your expressive means, decode the ”message” of the composer, and maintain an open channel to your own emotions while practicing.

2. Exploratory, creative mindset. Always look for fresh perspectives. Let your findings inspire you, and try to go deep inside the composition you play. Focus on dos, not don’ts. Continue Reading

Ear training with the iPad

Will new technology revolutionize ear training and music theory studies?

Good aural skills are at the core of musicianship. A pianist needs a good ear not only for intervals but also for polyphony and harmony.

Pianists with secure and fast aural perception are known to learn faster and perform more solidly, fluently, with more natural flow, with fewer memory lapses, and with greater spontaneity than other pianists. In piano playing, security brings freedom.

A sharp ear results from many years’ practice, and the younger that one starts training, the better. That’s why I would advise my younger readers to steal 15 minutes daily even from the etude-practice-session in favor of ear training. It surely will pay off, and the etude-playing will most likely benefit, too.

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Tuning the learning environment

Bad news, teachers! What happens between lessons can be more important than what happens during lessons.

Too often music pedagogy concentrates solely on the most obvious part of the learning environment; namely, the lesson. I am the last person to deny the significance of an inspiring lesson – it might give the pupil or student a motivational boost that easily lasts until the next lesson. Still, in many cases, even a brilliant lesson is not enough.

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