Answers to frequently asked questions

When is a good age to start?

How do you teach a pupil to read music?

Can I combine piano with recorder or singing?

What styles will I learn?

Do I need a piano?

How long a lesson do I need?

What books will I need?

What opportunities are there to perform?

Are adults too old to learn?

Will I take exams?

What do lessons cost?

 

When is a good age to start?

If a child shows a genuine interest in the piano, then I teach from the age of 5. Often aged 7 is an ideal starting age, when they are able to read. At this age, their hands are bigger, they will learn to read music notation more easily, and will generally make quicker progress. Children however will benefit from general musicianship lessons from a very young age, learning pitch and rhythm by ear through games and singing. I teach through song and recorder if their hands are too small for a keyboard.

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How do you teach a pupil to read music?

Musicianship comes initially through sound, and some people have a natural preference to continue to learn by ear. This is a wonderful skill and we don’t ever want to lose this! However, to play more complicated music, the ability to read music symbols opens up a new world of adventure, and learners sometimes need separate, specific training in this. I use some great new apps alongside carefully structured tutor books that don’t overwhelm beginners with too much notation. Even adults like using very large print and the best adult tutor books understand this!

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Can I combine piano with recorder or singing?

I positively encourage this, as singing helps greater musical playing for any musician. Singers naturally have to breathe and shape phrases, and any other instrument is imitating our inner singing voice. Singing aloud with a teacher gives enormous confidence as well as a sense of physical release. Recorder playing is great for students with little hands or those who find reading two different music staves difficult, and is a great precursor for playing other woodwind instruments e.g. clarinet. The only drawback to combining instruments is that the lesson time needs to be divided or alternated across them, so progress in each instrument will be slower than concentrating on just one.

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What styles will I learn?

Happy pupils are those playing the music they like, so my teaching materials are framed around pupil choice, and ensuring that these still provide stylistic and technical learning opportunities. Those who want to prepare for examinations, and more advanced pupils, need to have a rich musical diet that covers all the different centuries. Teens often want to play their latest chart hits and I can usually make or find suitable arrangements to satisfy them. Adults often want the classics or arrangements of classical pieces they know. I also cater for those wanting to learn how to add their own harmonies and develop their own arrangements.

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Do I need a piano?

You certainly need either an acoustic or digital piano or a keyboard, and piano technique will only develop properly with a weighted keyboard i.e. it is touch sensitive. Keyboards should also be full size - students are confused and hampered if they have a shortened keyboard rather than one with 88 notes. A piano stool of the correct height and a pedal are also important!

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How long a lesson do I need?

Young children and beginners (until age 11) will find 30 minutes is plenty. After Grade 1, I usually recommend 45 minutes to provide enough time for sight reading duets, chording work and theory. Adults generally need 45 to 60 minutes either weekly or fortnightly.

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What books will I need?

I provide learning folders to focus practice. Pupils of any age will generally need to purchase a tutor book, a finger technique book, a theory book and any associated exam books, during the year, along with repertoire pieces.

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What opportunities are there to perform?

Playing with and for others is very important, although some adults initially learn simply for personal pleasure. I organise pupil piano parties several times a year to give them performing  experience in a friendly environment. These (with games and cake) are very successful and warmly received by both performers and the audience. I actively encourage and support any child wanting to audition or perform at school.

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Are adults too old to learn?

Adult returners find it is like riding a bicycle – your body remembers skills acquired in youth. However, adults often give up piano as children because they haven't learned to read music properly, so I specifically focus on this and bring them up to speed using the latest apps. For complete beginners I use some excellent American training materials (e.g. with backing tracks) that enable those whose ambitions exceed their skills to achieve satisfaction from the outset! There is frequently research in the news showing how learning an instrument keeps the brain active and more flexible. Playing an instrument requires ear, hand and eye co-ordination. Piano playing is more complex than other instruments however, requiring particular coordination between both hands, and reading two staves. Every adult is coached to work out learning and practising strategies that will suit them.

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Will I take exams?

Taking a practical (playing) exam and achieving success can be a great motivator and marker of progress. However, I only advocate this for those (of any age) who want to devote at least a term to honing their skills and focusing on a limited number of pieces. It is quite possible to thrive musically without needing to take exams. I tend to put pupils in for ABRSM exams, but Trinity offer a great alternative. Regarding theory exams, I encourage pupils to take these to support their playing levels from grade 1 upwards. I run theory breakfast clubs in the holidays, which (with breakfasts!) are good fun, and mean that progress can continue without taking up too much lesson time.

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What do lessons cost?

Lessons are £34 per hour, £25.50 for 45 minutes and £17 for 30 minutes. These are charged in half-termly instalments.

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