How much practice should I do?
It’s really about the quality and regularity of practice rather than the quantity. However, as a rough guideline I would say half an hour a day in the early days. More experienced students will need to increase that to 1 hour. Also, if you are working towards an examination, you will usually expect to practise more in the weeks leading up to the exam.
What happens in a lesson?
Each lesson will cover aspects of technique, theory, sight-reading and musicianship, as well as playing pieces. I regularly offer aural training which helps to develop musicianship skills. However, occasionally when a student arrives needing to work on material for an unexpected performance, that’s exactly what we do. Lessons are completely flexible to allow them to be tailored to the needs of the student as necessary. I firmly believe it is my responsibility to ensure the student understands what happens in a lesson. If they don’t grasp it first time, I will eventually find a way that suits the individual student. This is also reflected in my interest in teaching students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. I have attended training with the British Dyslexic Association and successfully completed it’s Level 2 Accreditation. As an Alexander Technique teacher I will also work with the student using gentle, respectful, hands-on contact to encourage an awareness of posture, balance and body-mapping.
Can I sit in on my child’s lesson?
I operate an open-door policy when teaching and encourage parents to occasionally attend a lesson. I don’t need any notice of the intention to attend – if you find you have time you will be very welcome. I don’t think it is in the student’s best interest for a parent to attend every lesson – I have found that this impedes the development of the student-teacher relationship as the student can be confused as to whom they should look for clarification when they are unsure. The student’s physical and emotional well-being is my primary concern and if the student is of school age I will work with parents to establish this. If the student is happy and enjoying the lesson they have a much better chance of making good progress.
Do I have to take exams?
No. Exams are a good way for some students to mark their progress but are not right for everyone. I would say about 50% of my students take exams. The most important thing is that students continually improve – they don’t need an exam to do this, but it helps some people focus their practising. Students with ABRSM qualifications at Grades 6 to 8 benefit from UCAS (University and Colleges Admission Service) points which can be used as part of a university or college application in the UK.
What sort of music can I play – is it only classical?
I don’t mind what genre of music my students learn as the basic principles apply to all music. Students are often more motivated when they are learning a favourite piece, so I encourage students to listen to music and bring along anything they like – providing it’s within their ability. I hope my students will become well-rounded musicians and independent learners, who can play any music they want to with musicality and understanding.
How often do I have lessons and how long are they?
For school age children, lessons run in tandem with school terms. Students have weekly lessons which last for 45 minutes up to Grade 5 standard and then increase to 1 hour. It is also possible to have lessons during school holidays if you are a mature student or if you just want to keep going.
How old do you have to be to start playing the piano?
Experience has shown me that it is better to wait until a child is able to sit comfortably at the piano and not overstretch their hands in a 5 finger position. They also need to be able to read. Some piano teachers do start children earlier than this, but in my opinion it is more important to give children access to music making as young as possible and allow their musicianship skills to develop. Kodaly lessons and being a member of one of the many excellent children’s choirs in London provides invaluable musical development in an accessible and fun setting, and gives the student a headstart once they are ready to start piano lessons. There is no upper age limit on learning the piano.
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