On Teaching

Several interesting articles have been published on the way Geoffrey Madge works with his students.

The following comments are excerpts from interviews and master classes.

Some basics:

It is essential to maintain the many organic connections within a composition without separating the musical content from the technical.

Geoffrey at the pianoRetaining a natural connection with the instrument. Making use of simple “wisdoms and observations”, to help the pianist find his or her own voice with the maximum of ease. He was fascinated when each of his students could develop a different sound quality for each composition and were capable of being creative and relaxed during performance, allowing the music the space to breathe "as if the composer were playing".

Natural abilities

He believes in discovering the natural abilities and individualities of a student, observing them he wants them to find their own solutions. A process of asking a number of questions, watching the response and then moving on to some of the musical issues. It is often that the physical activity of performing will limit the expressive-technical potential that the student hears inwardly, developing a more singing touch or legato quality, breathing-like movements of the arms and hands, or understanding of phrasing and pedaling that may need experimentation. These are just some of the starting points that may help towards a musical growth by simple steps. An often heard comment is “why didn’t I think of that, it’s easy!”

He believes in the study of a wide range of repertoire, from the early baroque, classical, 19th century through to the 20th/21st century.

Exploration of the many ways of approaching the piano, including an intensive study of important historical recordings and films. Knowing the musical alphabet and being aware of a wide range of possibilities so as to be able to make sensible choices. Without trying to force a “one directional” plan, he directs the student to listen intuitively to how something is sounding, even naively at how the playing sounds to others at a larger distance, what we actually hear and how this can be projected to the back of a large hall under present day conditions. Experimenting to find new directions in our performance.

Organic connection with the sound

From the more basic technical side he asks for different ways of practice, believing that we need not just one or two methods of approach but many contrasted ways of using the instrument. Studying at times with slow movements (he believes that it is useful to study with fingers in different positions, flatter, or vertical), without unnecessary arm or hand movements, an easy flowing of the hand from key to key all with the upper arms relaxed. Steady, small continuous movements throughout the phrase, a connection kept at all times inwardly with the sound produced. An organic continuation of the sound from note to note.

The development of intuition and the unconscious.

He believes strongly in giving the unconscious room to speak, letting go of the endless control. So much today is technically and musically so over-controlled, so what happens if we consciously let it go? Allowing the intuition to soar like a bird, just to sing, going over bar lines and first beats, an act of discovery finding the deeper meaning behind the notes. Obviously to achieve this we need to master the basic material first.

From Geoffrey Madge's viewpoint a student develops best by listening and understanding. Finding inner musical instincts by a process of asking the right questions at the right time, a learning through what we already have within.

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