29 years of teaching and lecturing experience
Past university degree pupils successfully gained 1st class BMus Hons (Bachelor of Music with Honours)
Past pupils grade exams resulted in Distintions 99% of the time!
Full member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
Active musician, graduate from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Daily access to a
piano/keyboard for practising. If you are planning to buy one, ask me
for advice first.
Time for practising: at first
could be as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day but slowly adding up over
the years. For better results, I would recommend a minimum of 30
minutes a day. Advanced pupils should aim for around 2 hours a day, and
professional players do it from 3 to 12 daily hours as necessary. The
important thing is to do it 5 to 7 days per week!
A Metronome, as soon as
possible. Again, if you are planning to buy one, ask me
for advice first.
Music: All the technical work
and public domain scores are provided free of charge. Apart from those
you will be expected to buy your own books
And most important of all: learning to play the piano well is quite a challenge, so bring along lots of enthusiasm and determination!
Music Reading Workout: Rhythm and note reading. Music has its own language. Learning music is like learning Russian, in the sense that you not only need to learn the language, but you must also learn a new alphabet. In order to read music efficiently you'll need to know not only the notes and rhythms, but where they are on the keyboard and which fingers to use on those notes - and when. Cultivation of reflexes is the key.
Technique: Playing a musical instrument is not a very natural thing to do. Nobody is born ready (despite what you see in the movies). Your body has to be adapted and re-trained in relaxation and co-ordination in order for you to produce the best sound and music possible, without too much effort or risk of injury. I agree that at the end of the day it is the emotion that matters, but since I assume that you already have a heart, my job is to help you work on your technique.
Repertoire: This is where you will apply and sharpen your musical skills. We'll cover everything, from the Great Masters to the Contemporary Favourites. We'll polish things up until they are as good as you can get them to be - and then some. I can be a real pain when it comes to detail, but the results will speak for themselves!
Keyboard harmony & improvisation: Sometimes you don't want to think or remember too much and just want to sit down and start playing something out of the blue, anything you feel like. This is the part of your lesson where you'll learn to do just that. We'll talk a lot about pentatonics, Jazz & Blues chords, scales, Trance, Ambient, oriental music and the like. This is music at its purest form, directly from your soul to everyone else's.
Daily Life: Naturally, it's not all up to the teacher. If you want to become a musician, professional or just for your own pleasure, music must be a big part of your day-to-day life, just like one learns French much better by going to France. So, whenever you are at a gig or listening to a CD or radio, when watching TV or going to the theatre, to the movies, art gallery, working out, or even just going for a stroll or sitting still, be aware of the sounds and the music in the air, and notice how it affects you. The more you live in music the more it will live in you!
Assessment: Every lesson is an exam. If you do something well we'll move on to the next challenge, if something isn't working well we'll find what's wrong and fix it, then move on to the next challenge. A true apprenticeship! Comments and feedback are given on the spot, but be aware that some stuff like technical development could take up to a year to be noticeable. Pupils that manage to maintain a satisfactory rate of progress should expect to see some results within their first year of study or so, depending on how much time they've spent practicing.
Grade Exams: Playing a musical instrument well is, or at least should be, one's primary objective when taking up lessons. Having said that, exams can be fun, and having a little certificate to hang on the fridge's door can make you feel pretty good about yourself. When the time is right, pupils who are willing to do so can be entered for Trinity/Guildhall Piano, and/or ABRSM Jazz Piano, and/or theory exams. However they have to be able to put in the extra practice time that it will take to guarantee a high standard of preparation, resulting in an absolute minimum of an 80% mark (when it comes to music-making, aiming for anything less than 100% is not acceptable, but we must allow for mishaps, stage nerves, non-specialist or underqualified examiners, etc.) Also, those willing to do grades should plan for no less than 45 mins lessons per week, while higher grades will require weekly 60 min lessons. Pupils will not be entered for any exams until they (and myself) are quite confident of their success. Nevertheless I cannot stress this enough: exams are TOTALLY optional. Most of the best musicians that ever lived NEVER took a grade exam in their lives! There is no less merit in learning to play the piano purely as a pleasurable way of extending one's boundaries - in fact, this is the best way to do it!
Be greedy. Learning an
instrument is an extremely delicate long-term process, and it takes
many years of hard work to get anywhere that's worth going. However, by
taking the time to learn things properly and to allow your skills to
develop naturally, you'll actually get there much quicker and you'll be
a much better for it, than if you didn't - which in turn will make me
look good as well!
Have long fingernails. To play
the keyboard with long
fingernails is like playing football wearing high-heels: it can be
done, but it not with much dignity! If the fingernails are not kept at
their shortest (at all times, not just for the lesson) they will stop
the development of the whole hand. Try wearing extensions when long
nails are really necessary, but remember to remove them when practicing.
Withold relevant information. This is very important: if you have any previous or current illnesses or injuries, muscular tension problems, previously broken limbs, pregnancy, or if you are under medication, please let me know in advance. Most of the time it doesn't mean that you won't be able to play, but that we must be even more careful and if necessary adapt to your specific needs.
Your objective is to become a
good musician in the first place.
You are unique! You have your
own strengths and weaknesses.
Don't waste your time comparing yourself to everybody else (they are
It takes time to become a good
musician. However it's not a
matter of how many years, but how many HOURS you put in!
Sometimes things can get difficult. It happens to everybody, myself included. This just makes the taste of victory even sweeter when (not if) you get there! Think of all the hard work as walking barefoot on the hot coal in order to enter the brother/sisterhood of musicians...
Sessions take place in Hall Green,
not far from Sarehole Mill, Hall Green Station and Bus Routes No 1, 5,
6, 31, 11a & 11c. Easy(ish) parking, depending on the time of day.
If this location is not convenient, I can still try to help you find a
good, qualified teacher more local to you.
Fees are adjusted for inflation every
year, so please email me for the current rates.
My email can be found on the listings page you used to get here.
If you think that this is what you
are looking for, we can begin by coming in for an informal chat and to
meet in person, discuss your goals and skills
in more detail, and to give me a sounder basis on which I can prepare
our regular sessions more efficiently. After that session you will have
a better idea about what to expect of me and of yourself, so if you
that this is really what you are looking for, we can go ahead and begin
regular sessions. If you feel that the chemistry s wrong, or whatever
other reason, I can still help you find someone more suitable - no hard
I hope this will be the beginning of a great time for you, and I wish you lots of success and good luck in your new interest!
I have included here the standard contract from the Incorporated Society of Musicians, of which I am a registered member. I thought that some of the terms on this contract are quite restrictive, so (as allowed under section 8 of said contract), I have added a few special concessions, thus making it more flexible. If you can take the time to read through this now, it will save us both lots of time later: