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 recognise relative pitch and harmonies
- 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) – developing the inner ear using Dogs and Birds (for younger children) and / or Sol-Fa (Solfege)
- Work on pieces and technical exercise (e.g. scales, arpeggios, etc)
- Improvisation and / or composition
As much as possible, all activities will be inter-linked rather than compartmentalised so that the rhythm, aural and technical work will relate directly to the pieces being studied.
Each lesson will follow a different pattern so they don’t get ‘routine’ – and above all I aim to make sure each one is fun!
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.
Practice can be supplemented by a variety of online programmes and smartphone apps – there are some excellent ones available – either free or low-cost – which really help with ear training, scales etc. Similarly music-composing software is an excellent resource for students who enjoy composing.
I also encourage the student to build their own ‘music portfolio’. This is a personalised collection that really represents the student’s interests and musical achievements and may include:
- Recordings / videos of pieces they have mastered
- Programmes from concerts they have been to (or performed in!)
- Youtube Favourites
- Spotify Playlists of different genres which interest them
- Their own compositions
On occasion, I will share suggestions with each student of music or performance they may like – as well as trying to encourage them to listen to different genres. If the parent is happy for me to do so, I will send links for the student to explore (e.g. of Youtube videos or Spotify playlists).
What about 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 – if they are considering music as a serious subject for study – they are essential. However, I will never insist on a student taking exams and I am not a teacher who teaches from one exam to another. 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.