I travel out to homes in the Crouch End area and teach piano to both adults and children. I also travel outside of N8, to other areas such as Muswell Hill (N10), Finsbury Park (N4), Highgate (N6), Seven Sisters (N17) and Highbury (N5).
Please get in touch if you are considering piano lessons.
Piano Lessons For Adult Beginners
"Am I too old to old to learn the piano?"is a question that adults interested in taking up the instrument ask themselves. This question may stem from the belief of "lost time"; the belief that beyond childhood the internal pathways of the brain have formed and it would require significant work to form new connections in learning the skill of playing the piano.
The best way to answer the question is perhaps to substitute "the piano" with another skill. "Am I too old to ... learn to dance? Learn web design? Take up running?" You realise that the skill involved is not that relevant; they are all easily interchangeable and ultimately it comes down to answering "am I too old to learn" - in other words, whether you still have the openness to discover new things, whether you are receptive to new experiences, and whether you have the willingness to try. Age is irrelevant - it is whether you are open to trying and discovering new things.
Children are unencumbered by the stresses of a working adult life, and have more time and energy to devote to learning the piano, adult beginners have maturity on their side - this translates into a quicker capacity to grasp harder concepts, a longer concentration span which will help in practice, and life experience to know how to self-direct their learning. While the term "child prodigy" is often bandied around to imply all good pianists started young, adult learners take less time to achieve the same standards. Learning does not follow a linear pattern and progress at the piano - fuelled by time, openness and practice - is exponential.
When you have lessons with me, within minutes of the first lesson I will ascertain what you already know, what discuss with you to find out how you learn best, and what your intentions are, in order to find a method that works for you. Everyone has a different starting point and different skills. For some adults a starting point may be learning about the notes of the keyboard and reading music. For others - such as adult returners to the piano - this may already be a known concept and we will of course progress from a different starting position. Furthermore, everyone has different interests and tastes. Chopin's music may be the epitomy for one person, for another person the composer of choice may be Einaudi. But in all cases you will soon learn the inter-related skills of reading music, working the pedal, and playing melodies with chords; it's at this stage that you really start to feel you are making music. I will show you how to make accompanying patterns using chords - a practice that has developed over centuries of piano playing - so you can play various accompaniments to a tune you already know and bring these skills to new songs.
Most adults I teach want to learn for their own enjoyment but some also challenge themselves to attempt graded exams. These exams either learning technical exercises such as scales and arpeggios, and include other tests such as sight-reading and aural. I mainly cover the ABRSM or Trinity exam syllabus. But there is one difference - I always start with what you know and what you can do, and help you extend, progress and slowly assimilate new concepts. This means I never put the exam book in front of you and ask you to do small sections at a time each week. Rather, I reduce the music to what you can currently play, and then add more notes as you become more familiar with it. It's a method of teaching that I know works.
Piano Lessons for Children
What is the best age to start piano lessons? The general consensus is that the best time to learn an instrument is from about seven or eight years old. If you are considering piano lessons for your child who is significantly younger, the advice I would give you is that their hands may not have sufficiently developed in span to play a range of five notes, or developed enough strength to depress the piano keys, and your intentions in starting them young may actually backfire on you by causing them injury. Your money, in my opinion, would be better spent taking them to music groups first until they are older. Even if they are not pressing piano keys, they are assimilating music concepts like rhythm and expression. So by the time they are ready to start learning the piano, they will have these concepts already. Younger children also have difficulty concentrating for prolonged periods and the necessary maturity to understand what they are learning. It is easy to tell a young child "press this key, then this, then this" but they may not understand why they are doing it.
Although there are some music education systems specialising in introducing music to pre-school children (normally in groups), I - and the music services I work for - would not generally recommend one-to-one piano lessons for a child aged five and under.
What happens in the first piano lesson?
Playing the piano requires at least six simultaneous skills. (And no, it is not as simple as tapping your head with one hand and rubbing your belly with the other.) Even at an initial stage, playing two notes correctly involves mentally cycling through 625 different combinations - of which only one is correct. Beginners, both children and adults, are often flummoxed when required to do these skills at once. But I work responsively, going with what is manageable and slowly moving on into unknown territory, until the unfamiliar becomes familiar. It is important to work positively, discovering what you can do, and aiming for what you can't quite do yet but can manage with practice, rather than be thrown into the deep end and be expected to instantly cope. The latter presents too much negativity and will make you give up.
Want to juggle six balls? Never juggled before? Don't start with six immediately - have the patience to start from two and work your way up. Otherwise six balls going bong bong bongon the floor every five seconds will make you lose your initial enthusiasm fairly quickly.
Are you DBS (CRB) checked?Yes, I hold a fully enhanced, current DBS (formerly CRB) certificate.
Is learning the piano easy?
The piano is easier than most other instruments in the earlier stages to play the correct notes and make a reasonably nice sound. Instruments such as the violin, trumpet or clarinet may be more difficult to control and to produce a sympathetic sound at first.
It is also easier to produce an accompanied tune on the piano (think "Chopsticks"), which gives the played notes more depth and interest. The piano is a percussion instrument, meaning that each note starts to fade once we have played it. You can play a note smoothly or detached, and with the correct pedals you may even be able to produce held and detached notes at the same time.
There is so much you can do with a piano. Conversely, there is so much to learn about it. But the more you devote to exploring it fully, the more it will give you back in return.
Should I do graded exams?
The depth into which one learns a skill is pretty much a matter of personal preference. In my teaching experience, some children explore the option of exams, while adults prefer to learn songs they know and like, and feel they have inclination to devote to such structured study unless it is of professional benefit.
There are two main organisations which administer graded piano exams - the ABRSM and Trinity College. Students usually follow one syllabus. The ABRSM syllabus is perceived to be more rigorous as the requirements for technical exercises are greater, and at the higher levels there is also a pre-requisite pass for Theory exams, while the Trinity syllabus is said to be more performance-based (there are fewer exercises and no theory exam to undergo).
The discipline of following graded structures is useful to some, as it gives a clearer, recognised idea of their playing ability. Some parents also encourage their children to take up graded examinations in order to have a better chance of entering a preferred secondary school. Some schools offer places to prospective year 7 students if they have Music qualifications or are musically-inclined.
But exam pieces should form only the tip of the practice iceberg, as a culmination of skills developed through playing a larger, underlying range of repertoire which is unassessed. Unfortunately many students that embark on the exam route find time constraints and school expectations often do not allow them to practice beyond the three exam pieces; consequently they develop a very narrow view of learning the piano. They equate learning the piano with learning three pieces a year for an exam.
My response to whether one should attempt graded exams or not is "only if you have time and willingness to practice and learn music beyond the three exam pieces". If you that way inclined, then yes, you should do exams and you will succeed at them. If not, you will find the focus of learning only three pieces of music so narrow and yet so too time-consuming (especially at the higher grades) that it would eventually cause you to give up the piano and possibly erode your joy for learning music.
One does not need to run through the whole gauntlet of music exams. You can enter an exam from any grade. In other words, you can develop your skills playing lots of different songs and then take your first piano exam at Grade 4, for example, without having done Grades 1, 2 or 3.