In my blog (click here) I explain why I think that the study of music – and the piano in particular – is a wonderful skill to learn and can have an enormously positive effect on a student’s all-round development. Although it is great to start learning the piano at a very early age, it really is never too late to start and the benefits will be felt almost immediately.
My aim in teaching is to encourage all-round musicianship through the piano.
What do I mean by this?
- A strong sense of pulse and rhythm
- A strong ‘inner ear’ – the ability to play by ear and harmonise
- An understanding of how melodies and harmonies work
- Technical piano skills
And, most importantly –
- A genuine love for music and real curiosity to explore further
What does this mean for my lessons?
At each of my lessons we will undertake a variety of activities which may include:
- Pulse and rhythm games / exercises
- Ear-training (aural) or playing by ear – well known songs or current pop songs according to the pupil’s age and taste
- Work on repertoire and technical exercises (e.g. scales, arpeggios, etc)
- Notation work including sight-reading
- Improvisation and / or composition
I am keen to introduce a strong knowledge of chords and harmony to all my students as these really are the building blocks of music. Understanding how chords work and go together enhances the ability to quickly learn repertoire, play by ear. and improvise / compose. Even very young children can learn this.
For further detail on my teaching approach please see my blog “Reading, Rote and Ear – 3 Ways to Learn a Piece”.
What about outside the lessons?
I’ll set a variety of practice exercises each week which will be linked to the work of the lessons. Students should aim to complete some practice each day – but rather than setting a specified timespan I suggest that a specific objective is set for each session or each week, and as much (or as little) practice is undertaken to meet that. That way, practice can be flexed according to the student’s energy levels and other commitments – although I do believe daily practice, even if only 5-10 minutes, is important.
I hold two student concerts per year – typically in June / July and December. These are informal occasions designed to give the students an opportunity to prepare and play their pieces for families and friends. For a selection of videos and pictures from past concerts please visit my Facebook page, as well as a selection of my blogs – for example, this one, which shows the development of certain students over three years.
I also encourage the recording of performances in lessons which – with the parents’ permission – I will also post to my Facebook page. This gives the opportunity for the students to ‘perform’ more regularly as well as the opportunity for parents to share the videos with their families and friends.
What about Exams?
Not all of my students take exams. At the time of writing, about half of my students age 5-18 are interested in taking exams. I am very happy to enter students for exams if they want to. Exams are useful as milestones to mark a student’s progress and for certain students can be a great motivator. However, I will never insist on a student taking exams and I am not a teacher who teaches from one exam to another. By solely focusing on the requirements of an exam syllabus many activities can be overlooked in lessons. For many students exams are just not suitable and – at their worst – can put them off playing altogether. I believe that it is important that a student is exposed to a wide-ranging musical experience that includes playing just for fun and relaxation without always the pressure to take an exam. I write about this subject in more detail in this Blog, but my approach to exams can be summarised as follows:
- First and foremost my aim in teaching is to inspire a real enjoyment of music through the development of all-round musicianship skills
- Exams can be an excellent motivator and provide a well-recognised measure of achievement and I will always support students who want to enter exams when they are ready to do so
- I will not limit my teaching approach to the requirements of an exam syllabus as I believe that this can be to the detriment of the development of a wide range of skills which include playing by ear, improvisation, composition etc.
- I will not ‘fast track’ a pupil through exams by compromising on the development of secure musical foundations.