Ever since I was casually asked by a fellow student at senior school “how do you play so fast?”, the question of “how” has remained a very interesting and essential one for me. Although I really wanted to help my friend I was lost for any explanation; my facility had until then come rather naturally and without much thought! I then began to ask myself the same question when practising but found the question itself was often quite off-putting and disturbed my ability to play. A bit like the centipede who was asked by the grasshopper how he knows which leg to move and when, this was my first realisation that the problem solving mind is not able to fully comprehend the miraculous things the body is capable of performing and in fact often interferes with the body’s subtle procedures.
Nevertheless, the word “how” when asked with an open- mind has led me in useful directions and is vital for both teaching and self-development (the two of course are interlinked). Over the years I have tried many methods which profess to know “how” to develop a good piano technique by giving you a list of “what to do” but something about them never quite sat right with me. It was really only when I met the pianist and Alexander Technique teacher Nelly Ben-Or that I began to also think of what not to do. This to me explained how someone can have ability but not understand how they do it - they are able because they are not burdened by certain habits which disturb a naturally co-ordinated approach. Ever since, the Alexander Technique has remained a strong influence in my teaching and I use its principles to help clear the way for a natural and healthy approach to learning music.
Although I see patterns among the problems my pupils encounter which can often be solved by tried and tested techniques, no single student has exactly the same obstacles to overcome as another. I therefore aim to be fluid in my approach as teaching needs to be an alive process that adapts to each situation. “Philosophy” in reality is an inappropriate word because it implies a fixed, preconceived viewpoint which is surely unintelligent in the context of addressing our infinitely dynamic mental, physical and emotional habits.