Am I Ready For Piano Lessons?

Starting Piano Lessons

People who start piano lessons for the first time, or who resume after a break of many years often ask me for advice about what to expect. I usually respond by asking a few straightforward questions:

Do you have TIME for piano lessons?

This may sound really obvious, but believe me, people don't ask themselves this question enough. Here are a few pointers to think about:

  1. To see any noticeable results, piano lessons are a medium to long-term commitment, requiring more than just a 40 minute weekly session with your piano teacher. To achieve the goals the two of you agree in your piano lesson, you'll need to set up a practice schedule to do the homework assigned by your piano tutor. To progress in any significant way and justify the money you're paying in piano tuition fees, you'll need to dedicate a minimum number of practice sessions in between, to make sure you're prepared for the next lesson.
  2. I personally recommend no less than 3 half-hour practice sessions per week. Increase that exponentially if you have more than one piece, are practising scales & exercises, or working towards an exam, showcase, or recital. If you'd like to find out more about practising, read this article on effective piano practice.
  3. If you're able to schedule a programme based on the points above, you'll be able to see noticeable results in a short space of time and before you know it, you'll be building up a repertoire of piano music to impress your friends and colleagues. It's a great feeling of achievement to finish a piece and deliver it to a high standard in front of an appreciative audience!

Are you READY for piano lessons?

Before deciding to book piano lessons, it's a good idea to check if you have several things in place.

  1. Do you own an acoustic piano, digital piano, or have the budget to buy or rent one?
  2. Do you have a space away from distractions and noise where you can spend quality time practising the piano?
  3. Are you in a mentally and/or physically demanding job or study programme? It's worth asking yourself if you have enough energy left at the end of a long day for lessons AND practice sessions. Based on the times given, that's approximately 2.5 hours extra that you need to find per week.
  4. Consistency is the key to progress as with many things and to achieve noticeable results, you should be sure you can keep a regular practice schedule in addition to your other commitments.
  5. Following on from this, are you in an unpredictable job that will have you cancelling your piano lesson on a regular basis? Some of my keenest students have included a doctor, a head of marketing, a cabinet office employee, a record label boss and a travelling photographer who were all very committed to learning, but whose work was very demanding and continually required them to stay late or change schedules. Unfortunately something had to give and it was their piano lessons. So it's essential be honest and realistic with yourself about this side of learning the piano.

Summary

Hopefully these questions have made you sit up and think. With any luck I've pointed out some stuff you hadn't thought of, in which case, you're welcome! If you're waaaaaaay ahead of me, good for you! 

Playing the piano is one of life's most satisfying achievements. There's nothing like expressing yourself in music and communicating one of the the deepest parts of the human experience to others. If you improvise, using the knowledge you already have, this is the purest, and most soul-fulfilling aspect of being a musician and I believe it is this unfettered freedom of expression that most attracts people to music and musicians.

So are you ready for piano lessons???

The Taubman technique for pianists

piano-lessons-postureI recently experienced difficulties with my thumbs during a concentrated spell of practise. As a result, I started to do some research on playing technique, to find out if perhaps I’d developed any bad habits. Dorothy Taubman, the creator of this discipline, developed the therapeutic approach during her lifetime, dedicated to helping people with bad injuries and conditions caused by bad technique or other incorrect habits.

I came across a collection of helpful instructional videos for pianists on You Tube by Edna Golansky, in which she goes into some detail on the approach and focuses in on some very specific examples. I recommend watching at least some of these, whether you’re experiencing problems or not, as there’s a wealth of information here.

Luckily, or perhaps not so much, my thumb issue seems to be the onset of arthritis more than a bad playing technique, however I’m currently looking at ways to improve my hand and arm work based on the ideas put forward by Taubman practitioners and plan to book myself a Skype session or two in the future (there are currently no UK practitioners).

I’d be very interested to hear from any students who have attended classes or seminars on the Taubman technique, to hear your experiences and opinions, so please contact me if you’d like to get into a discussion – or hit the comment box below.

Happy and comfortable playing!

Piano Tuition West London

Piano Tuition West London

“Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there” Bruce Lee

I firmly believe in combining the contemporary side of piano teaching with the traditional side of music education, as I personally feel that lack of attention to either side leads to incomplete development as a musician. My piano tuition practice in West London is dedicated to introducing students to material and techniques that’ll give them the absolute best grounding possible as musicians.

Book My Piano Lesson Now!

Studying ABRSM (Associated Board Of The Royal Schools of Music) material is a crucial background for musicians who want to move around freely in an industry that in our present day frequently blurs the lines between classical and more popular styles. Additionally, the ability to improvise and reproduce a piece of music aurally (for the purposes of learning) must be cultivated in every performer in order to express their deepest musical character.

My lessons look at both sides of the coin, using popular contemporary pieces to achieve the kind of rhythmic, harmonic and melodic dexterity not available from the more traditional repertoire. A significant time is also given over to study of the jazz repertoire and work with chart-reading (‘real book’) and improvising. But for a student to stand a chance of reaching the level of dexterity such as Oscar Peterson or other performers of his level, the serious piano student needs to also include pieces such as Hanon and JS Bach (also Oscar P himself) and other composers who really hone in on finger work, exercising the hand in unique ways that are of invaluable help to those aiming at becoming master pianists.

If this hybrid approach is one that appeals to you, why not arrange a no-obligation informal chat to discuss your aims, experience, likes and dislikes?

Book My Piano Lesson Now!

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Jazz Piano Lesson from one of the world’s greatest masters

One of my all-time piano heroes, Oscar Peterson gives us this amazing jazz piano lesson.

…and here’s a heart-warming documentary on the man’s life & work…

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Jazz Piano Lesson in Notting Hill | Jazz Piano Lesson in Knightsbridge | Jazz Piano Lesson in Kensington | Jazz Piano Lesson in Holland Park | Jazz Piano Lesson in Shepherds Bush | Jazz Piano Lesson in Maida Vale | Jazz Piano Lesson in Paddington | Jazz Piano Lesson in Royal Oak | Jazz Piano Lesson in Kensal Green | Jazz Piano Lesson in Kensal Rise | Jazz Piano Lesson in Harlesden | Jazz Piano Lesson in Willesden | Jazz Piano Lesson in Acton | Jazz Piano Lesson in Bayswater | Jazz Piano Lesson in Lancaster Gate | Jazz Piano Lesson in White City | Jazz Piano Lesson in North Kensington

Wabi-Sabi in Piano « The Go Play Project by Catherine Shefski

[Taken from a Piano Playing site I’ve just discovered run by Catherine Shefski, I’m very attracted towards her approach and wanted to share her thoughts here on my site. The documentary’s a good watch, too!]

Wabi-Sabi in Piano

A SoundCloud friend, Peter Vorländer, (cis minor) introduced me to the concept of Wabi-Sabi the other day. He gave me just enough information to send me searching the web reading everything I could find on this topic. Here is his wonderful explanation….

Short about Wabi-Sabi: its a concept that values imperfection. For example many things become more beautiful when they become older, think of a piece of wood or the patina of a metal tea can. Thats Wabi-Sabi. There is a very compelling story of Ryuki, a famous japanese person. When he was young he decided that he wants to follow the path of learning to master the tea zeremony. He went to an old master and applied. The master told him: “I want to see if you are the right person to learn this. So hear you see my garden, its pretty disordered, please clean it up”. So for the full day young Ryuki was working in the garden and cleaning up everything with perfection, always secretly observed by the old master. At the evening he was finished. Everything was tidy. Ryuki stepped back and looked to the clean garden. But he had the impression, that something is wrong. He went to a cherry blossom tree, shaked it a little and three little cherry blossom leaves fall down on the cleaned path. Thereafter he was pleased. The old master who had observed this knew, that Ryuki will become great master of Wabi Sabi… And actually he became. So this is Wabi-Sabi … three little cherry blossom leaves on a cleaned pathway. Considered as imperfection with a western point of view, considered as highest perfection in Japanese culture of Wabi-Sabi. And I think the same applies for music…we need to strive for Wabi-Sabi, not for cold technical perfection. Once you start viewing the world with the eyes of Wabi-Sabi you will discover beauty almost everywhere … and so much pleasure comes from this!

In addition to getting back to the piano, another of my ongoing goals has been to de-clutter and lead a more Minimalist Lifestyle. As I look around my house and choose what will stay and what will go, I’m drawn to three or four possessions – an old blanket chest I purchased for $35 which was refinished by my father, my cracked majolica plates, a large yellow vase with hand-painted flowers, and a little green paint-splattered work table from my grandfather. These are the  pieces that have followed me from house to house, city to city, over the years. I can’t bring myself to put them out for a yard sale or donate them to charity yet.  These represent Wabi-Sabi to me. Imperfect. Natural. And a little sad.

I took time over the past few days to watch Marcel Theroux’s documentary “In Search of Wabi-Sabi” and I’ve learned that Wabi-Sabi can be summed up in three sentences. Nothing is perfect. Nothing lasts. Nothing is finished.

Perhaps this “Go Play Project” has a touch of “Wabi-Sabi.” After all, the performances are not perfect, the recording process is as simple and as natural as it can get, and the pieces are all WIP’s (works in progress). They will never be complete as long as I find more to listen to and more subtleties to refine.

Could it also be that the pieces themselves summon the spirit of Wabi-Sabi and that is what makes a piece like Chopin’s Nocturne in c# minor speak to so many – musicians and non-musicians alike? The Rachmaninoff Etude Op 33 no 2 is a piece I’ve worked on only in the winter. Does that particular piece evoke  sense of the impending “death” that comes in winter? Are we drawn to certain composers and pieces in the same way we’re drawn to certain comfort foods, pieces of furniture and art, and nature settings?

Wabi-Sabi in Piano « The Go Play Project.

Piano Lessons

Who will replace the all-time greats? A West London Piano Teacher asks….

Piano LessonsAs another tragic loss was reported recently from the highest echelons of the recording industry, I started thinking – who is going to replace the Whitneys or the MJ’s of my generation? Being a Piano Teacher based in West London, I’m involved with music education in the UK and am concerned about our current standards and methods. I believe the US has a lot to teach us about levels of performance within the pop industry and a general approach within pop genres to playing instruments and general musicianship.

So who is up to the task of taking the baton being passed down by artists of this calibre? While TV ‘talent’ shows purport to showcase new undiscovered artists, more often than not they are lowest-common-denominator shows designed by reality-TV hacks, and as such they focus much more on the cringe factor, than on a genuine search for exemplary performance and showmanship. More like a public hanging than a celebration of achievement!

And given that major record labels no longer develop acts – relegating any of the ‘lucky’ ones quickly to the rubbish heap if their first quarter’s figures fail to match up to predictions, who is going to nurture and encourage the major artists of the future? Will there actually BE any?

What made Whitney and MJ stand head and shoulders above the rest? Who are the new young giants wowing us with their performances and songwriting, in the way these legends of pop did when they amazed us all back in the day? Who is your favourite new artist to claim the crown and what qualities do they have in common with past kings and queens of pop?