Tom Hawkins is a professional tutor based in Sheffield teaching piano lessons and music theory.

How to reach me

Telephone: 07500 926 542

“I teach from my music room based in central Sheffield close to bus and tram routes. Lessons conducted from a student's address can be arranged upon request."

Click here to email me!



What Can I Expect From Piano Lessons?

Classical

Learning to play classical piano provides a solid technique and a good understanding of elements of music that can be transferred to any genre. I think learning how to play classical piano is really interesting as it enables us to play music that was first heard hundreds and hundreds of years ago whilst thinking of ways to keep it sounding fresh and exciting!

Jazz & Blues

Jazz as a genre is a broad church that comes with its own technique and approach to harmony, quite different to classical. Learners are introduced to jazz from a theoretical perspective learning how to “build” chords and how these relate to the Circle of Fifths.

Pop

Whether you want to accompany yourself, another singer, be a member of a band or play the melody and accompaniment all on the piano; learning how to play in a pop style can be great fun. It is also a fantastic way of improving our ears and general musicianship.
What Do Current Students Have To Say

About Me

about meMusic has always been a driving presence in my house and life. I grew up listening to my Mum (a piano tuner) practicing Bach and Debussy and my Dad was always playing music and taking me to concerts. Surrounded and inspired, at 7 I started music lessons myself under the tuition of a local piano teacher.

Between the ages of 7 and 10 I remember piano practise being a real challenge. It became one that I truly enjoyed and as I progressed musically, I began to understand the fun side to it all. Soon practice became the first thing I did when I came home from school.

By the age of 12 I’d achieved my ABRSM Grade 5 and taken up drum kit, receiving lessons from a local session musician in Halifax. It was also around this age that I started exploring new genres. I discovered bands like Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan, and also started dipping my toes into the realms of classical music and jazz. Hearing Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’ was a huge inspiration to me, and a turning point in my musical taste.

I started experimenting with playing pop songs from chord sheets I’d print off online, and also improvising my own compositions using knowledge of harmony and melody. High school was a great period for my musical development as I took a weekend course at Leeds College of Music for two years, progressed through my grades with ABRSM on piano and Rock School on drums, performed in school productions both solo and with other musicians, gigged regularly with a brass band and achieved an A* in GCSE music.

Whilst doing my A Levels at Greenhead College I was lucky enough to meet and play with many great musicians both my own age and older. A highlight for me was playing drums for Damo Suzuki who cut his teeth with the pioneering krautrock band Can. Between the ages of 16-18 my taste in music broadened to the extent that genre was irrelevant and I was performing more and more regularly alongside my studies. This included a band tour to Paris, Eastern Germany and solo piano performances for my college. It was also during this period that I started studying jazz theory and technique both in my private lessons and through self-directed study. Bands such Snarky Puppy and artists such as Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett informed and inspired this music making!

Studying music at the University of Sheffield again presented me with the opportunity to meet and share knowledge with many fantastic musicians who I now call my friends. Highlights of my student life included performances at Oxford University and Sheffield Cathedral. Receiving tuition from Valentina Kalashnik allowed for an eye opening experience that led to a completely different perspective on my technique and approach to learning pieces. My final year dissertation gave me the opportunity to look further in to the question of “Why do we like the music we like?” This ethnographic piece of work was highly commended by academic staff.

Most importantly, studying in Sheffield was a catalyst for my career in music education. I had always dreamed of teaching, so when an opportunity arose during my sophomore year I leapt for it. Since then I haven’t really looked back! Teaching piano is one of the biggest pleasures I have in life. I have the privilege of working with some of the kindest, friendliest and funniest people I’ve ever met. I delight in watching the progress of each and every student especially when they start to see their hard work paying off. Even when progress is slow, I enjoy the challenge of finding different avenues and exploring concepts with my students so that they can move forward with their playing. Just as I did, I want you to discover what makes playing the piano fun for you!

Playing an instrument is the best thing I’ve done with my life. Not only do I believe that music-making has inherent worth but various studies and real-world situations have shown that musicians benefit from increased confidence, communication skills and improved cognition and coordination. I firmly believe it is a myth that some people are musically “gifted” whilst others aren’t. Everyone has musical ability. Sometimes it merely takes the right teacher to encourage it to grow!

 

COSTS

Please get in touch for pricing information. All lessons include a free half hour consultation lesson to consider the individual needs of each learner. I endeavour to find a way to work within most budgets. Gift vouchers are available upon request


Telephone: 07500 926 542 | Email me HERE

STUDENTS' ACHIEVEMENTS

SoundCloud Album Record

Now Playing

Adele - Night Patrol
SoundCloud Album Record

Now Playing

Lisa - Allemande
SoundCloud Album Record

Now Playing

Adele - The Holly & Ivy

VIDEO TIPS

How To Get Children To Practise Piano
What Age Should A Child Start Learning Piano?
Does Musical Talent Exist?
C Major Scale Piano Tutorial
Do You Need To Take Grades On The Piano?
How To Read Music
Why Play Slow?
What is a Semitone?
Learn Piano First
Introduction To Scale Theory
How To Build Seventh Chords

FAQs

Do you offer home lessons?

Provided you have a piano or keyboard at your house I offer a home visit service to areas in and around Sheffield including – Hillsborough, Nether Edge, Heeley, Walkley, Kelham Island, Grenoside, Crookes, Crookesmoor, Ecclesall Road, London Road, Hunters Bar, Woodseats, Meersbrook, Broomhill, Broomhall, Sharrow and Ranmoor.

Please be aware that there is a small extra charge for this service to cover travel time and petrol costs.

How much should I practise?

The annoying answer is “It depends”. Some teachers recommend spending at least 5 times the weekly lesson time in private practise so if, for example, a student has had an hour lesson a week then they should spend at least 5 hours practising.

In reality though, we practise to achieve our goals on the piano. If you want to play “for yourself” and for the pleasure of making a great sound on the piano then as long as you are practising enough to progress on the piano you will enjoy it. In the early days of learning, it is more about short practise sessions of around 20 minutes 4 or 5 times a week as opposed to pulling long stints. With this approach, great results will be seen even if you have a full time job and busy family lives.

If, however, you want to be the best pianist in Sheffield, then you should be practising at least 2 hours a day unless you have only just started.

It should be noted that the quality of practise is much more important than thequantity. For more information on this see my video on the question of how much to practise.

What styles and genres will I learn?

Whatever you would like to learn. I believe it is important to work towards every individual’s goals to ensure that learning the piano is always a stimulating and enjoyable process. That being said, there are certain areas of learning the piano that are universal to all styles and genres. Learning to read notation, count rhythm and good practise technique for example will help with all genres.

Some students come to me wanting to learn the piano but not in the classical way that they did when they were a child. This is absolutely fine and in many of these cases we look at other styles such as contemporary, jazz or even film music.

Will I need to take piano exams?

Not if you don’t want to.

Exams can be an excellent framework to structure learning and practise around and also look great on university applications but they do not build a fully rounded musician. Exams assess a student’s performance, technical ability, sight- reading and aural skills which are all key elements of a musician’s training. However, they place emphasis on some areas of learning at the expense of others which can lead to learners not being fully prepared for certain musical scenarios should they be used as the sole learning resource.

I have a 100% pass rate on piano exams and like to place emphasis on the exam being a positive and fun experience for those that want to take them.

I had lessons when I was younger and now want to return. Can you help me?

I have observed that students who return to the piano after a break (sometimes after a few decades!) are pleasantly surprised by how much they find they remember from their earlier lessons. The body is an amazing thing and muscle memory seems to last a long time!

If you had issues with how you were taught initially we can talk about those and work together to build a programme of learning that will both help you to progress whilst keeping in touch with the reasons why you wanted to relearn the piano in the first place.

Will I have to learn theory?

I like to teach at least a small amount of theory alongside piano with the option to take grades or go more in depth for those who are interested. Learning theory allows musicians to gain a more thorough understanding of what they are playing and, ultimately, be more expressive in their playing. Theory also allows us to attempt the tricky business of putting music in to words – something that becomes more and more necessary as lessons progress.

Are you DBS/CRB checked?

I hold a full enhanced DBS check that is renewed every year. A copy of this can be provided upon request.

What experience do you have?

As a teacher I’ve been working for four years teaching students from all age ranges, abilities and according to a range of different goals. I currently teach privately from my teaching studio in Sheffield and also at Harmony Music School.

I hold a BA Dual Honours degree from the University of Sheffield in Music and Philosophy. Whilst at university I took modules in music education and conducted a research project in primary and secondary schools under the supervision of Professor Stephanie Pitts. I also hold my ABRSM Grade 8 in piano performance which I achieved aged 17.

Will I need an instrument to practise on?

Whilst there is no harm in having a few lessons without an instrument to practise on to see if playing the piano is for you, you should seek to have a piano of some sorts in your house pretty early on in the learning process. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that nobody gets good at anything if you only do it once a week – therefore it’s important to have something to reinforce what you’ve learned in lesson at home.

Should I get an acoustic or electric piano?

The answer to this question very much depends on your individual situation as there are pros and cons to both options.

Electric pianos have the advantage of taking up less space, portability and the ability to wear headphones so as not to disturb other people in the house or neighbours. However, it should be noted that if you’re looking for a substitute for an acoustic piano – only the more expensive electric pianos come close to emulating the action (touch or feel) and harmonics of an acoustic piano. In Sheffield I would recommend paying a visit to Richtone music to try out their range of electric pianos before you buy. Beginner keyboards with a weighted action and 88 keys (both necessities for good technique) start at around £350.

Beginner acoustic pianos start in price at around £500 and can go in to the tens of thousands for concert grand pianos. Without a silent play system, acoustic pianos can’t be listened to through headphones and are a bit larger than electric pianos and keyboards however if you specifically want to play piano and not the keyboard then, it almost goes without saying that an acoustic instrument is the superior choice. For those wishing to learn classical piano I would especially recommend an acoustic.

Second-hand acoustic pianos are a great choice also however I would recommend getting them checked by a piano tuner or technician before buying to make sure you get one in good condition. GSG Pianos are great if you are in the market for a second-hand model as all their pianos are checked and tuned before sale.

What age should I start learning piano?

Any! I think some people have a misconception that learning piano is something that you can only do as a child and that if you didn’t do this then you have missed your chance. However, whilst children are able to start learning music from roughly the age of 5, I have also seen great progress and results in some of my adult students.

A lot of adults enjoy piano lessons because it gives them a bit of time for themselves and it aids relaxation whilst keeping the brain active. I also have some students of retirement age who are enjoying a fresh challenge!

Do I need to practise scales and arpeggios?

Scales and arpeggios fall under the bracket of “technical exercises.” These exercises are tools that we use to improve power, speed and dexterity behind the piano. Because they don’t have a tune and are sometimes referred to as “drilling exercises” scales and arpeggios often get a bad reputation as being boring.

However, with the right guidance, learning scales and arpeggios can be fun! There’s loads of different ways to play them (swung, staccato, in thirds....) that means there’s no need to ever get bored of playing one permutation. The benefits you reap in return are massive including better muscle memory, not having to look at your hands, learning the geography of the piano, ingrained key signature knowledge, speed... I could go on.

So the short answer is “Yes – but it doesn’t have to be dull!”

Where can I listen to live music?

For places to listen to live music in Sheffield I would recommend heading over to the “Music in Sheffield” section of my site. Local highlights for seeing pianospecifically, however, include The Crucible, Firth Hall at the University of Sheffield, The Lescar and Sheffield City Hall.

Top 10 tips when learning the piano

  1. Make time for practise – Obvious as this may seem, alongside taking private lessons from a teacher, practise time is critical to your progression as a musician. A few hours a week is all it takes. Through practice and taking lessons, we can draw up an effective practise programme together making your time spent behind the piano will as useful and effective as possible.

  2. Slow it down – As a teacher, I see many students practising their pieces at the speed that they intend to perform it at. This inevitably leads to both student and teacher frustration. Mistakes are more easily made at fast tempos. By slowing practise down, especially when encountering a new piece, we give our brains time to process the instructions in front of us on the page. We become more likely to be able to play our music accurately and deliberately.

  3. Practise the performance, don’t perform the practise – Whether you are recording yourself for your ears only or getting ready to perform at Sheffield City Hall, we should only practise what we would intend an audience to hear. As a teacher I know better than anyone that mistakes will happen. That is perfectly fine. However, deliberately neglecting musical details sets us up for subpar performances. It is a teacher’s job to guide students to their best possible music making!

  4. Get inspired – I’m aware that I get into a rut of listening to the same music repeatedly. But listening to music is an immense resource for musicians, both for pleasure and for education/ To mix things up, try putting aside a couple of hours to watch professional concert pianists on YouTube. If you find yourself being drawn in, consider paying for a digital concert subscription. Ask friends (or your piano teacher!) for song recommendations, go to a local gig in Sheffield or check out some Pitchfork, Noisey or FACT online for album reviews and music news. Why not push yourself and go for a genre you know nothing about?

  5. Keep a diary – Consider keeping a log of everything you practise. Having a record detailing the quality and quantity of your daily practise helps to instil and maintain a well structured and effective practise routine. For example, keep track of tempo increases on technical exercises and your thoughts and reflections of how your pieces went. Over time, this helps us become constructively critical musicians. It can also be very rewarding to read the diary back to see how far you have come!

  6. Be a story teller – When you’re practising a piece think about the narrative that it’s trying to tell, no matter how silly or fanciful it sounds. The beginning could be the sun rising over Sheffield before an intense and loud mid section where the city gets invaded by a dragon! It doesn’t matter what the story is, but inventing these narratives helps us to visualise a more vivid performance. In our piano lessons together we would spend time practising this.

  7. Use a metronome – A metronome is a time keeping device that sets the speed of a piece. As a teacher, I am keen on my students using this tool starting early on in their development. It is the only sure-fire way of knowing that our speed in a piece is consistent. It also is invaluable in assisting student’s rhythmic development and comprehension. Metronomes or “clicks” are used universally in recording studios also, so if studio work is something you’re interested in, get using a metronome early on!
  1. Remember why you’re learning the piano – It can sometimes be forgotten that piano lessons and practise should be enjoyable. Learning an instrument is challenging and this can sometimes detract from the joy of the learning process. If this happens, talk to your teacher. They should be able to recommend changes to your programme of learning that help you to reconnect with the original reasons you wanted to learn the piano.

  2. Record yourself and listen back – It doesn’t have to be an Abbey Road quality recording. Using the record function on your digital keyboard, or a smartphone recording, will suffice. Recording yourself lets you analyse your practise away from the piano and enables you to go through your performance with the score whilst not playing so you can think about where to improve. Recording yourself is also a gentle introduction to performance as the microphone acts as a dummy audience.

  3. Feedback to your teacher - Always remember that it should be a two-way conversation between students and their piano teachers. If you enjoyed a particular element of a lesson, then let them know! If you struggled or really didn’t see the point to a certain aspect, then tell them. Your teacher will appreciate your feedback. Most importantly, if you feel you don’t understand something properly then please tell your teacher. I’m a strong believer that the learning process is enhanced through this on-going conversation between student and teacher.

 

The Music Theory Bootcamp

The music theory bootcamp is a consecutive five-day course of lessons tailored to the unique requirements of each individual student and designed to cover all areas of music theory.

I have had great success in the past with children over the school holidays on the bootcamp as the camps can be designed to be as fun and functional as possible. However, the course is also great for adults looking for a fast-track introduction to the nuts and bolts of music or looking to deepen their knowledge.

Each bootcamp session is 1-2 hours long and includes a small task to work on at home after each session to reinforce what has been learned during that day’s lesson.

Topics covered on the bootcamp vary a lot depending on the interests and musical background of each student but usually include:

  • Notation – Notes on the stave treble and bass clef, recognising common chord shapes, ornaments, signs.

  • Rhythm – Rhythmic values, dots, ties, simple, compound and odd time signatures, counting, rests, accent patterns, polyrhythms, metric modulation, triplets, swing.

  • Harmony – Intervals by ear and on the page, major and minor, chord recognition by ear and on the page, scale theory, chords of the scale, key signatures, triads, extended and altered chords, modes, pentatonic scale, blues, common chord sequences, melody, bass harmony, inversions.

  • Implementation – Improvisation and composition on ideas covered, technical exercises, studies, pieces that emphasise ideas covered, instrumentation.

Please note that due to the unique, tailored aspect of each course, at least 2 weeks notice is required before the start of any bootcamp.

Get inspired to learn the piano by visiting these great Sheffield venues!

30-36 Burton Rd, Sheffield
S3 8BX

A one-stop shop for all your musical desires. Tucked away in Kelham Island, Yellow Arch is a venue playing more genres than I care to mention as well as putting on club nights. I’ve seen Sub-Saharan folk bands and avant-garde trip-hop acts all in the same night. To top it off, there is an excellent café and recording studios there should you ever need to use them!

For fans of… Friendly atmospheres and genre-bending music! 

1A, Sussex Rd, Sheffield
S4 7YQ

The standard of acts that Lo Shea’s Hopeworks showcases punches well above its weight. This warehouse venue puts on not just some of the finest electronic acts in the country but the world, with artists frequently flying in from the US and other destinations far and wide. Previous acts include pioneers such as KiNK, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Evian Christ and Ben UFO. 

For fans of… 4/4 beats, late nights and progressive sounds. 

University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN

Some may say I have a certain bias for this venue however its concerts team consistently creates innovative and inspiring programmes of cutting edge music. Its free lunchtime and rush hour concerts are great for those wanting to squeeze as much music into their days as possible and they’re a great opportunity to see the development of The University of Sheffield’s highly talented students. 

For fans of… Spending precious moments wisely and musical variety. 

 

55 Norfolk St, Sheffield
S1 1DA

Possibly Sheffield’s grandest venue (most definitely from the outside), the Lyceum puts on more popular musical theatre productions such as might be found on the West End. The standard of professionalism involved in The Lyceum’s productions is incredibly high and it’s hard not to feel classy being sat in its plush seats and grabbing a drink during the interval at its gleaming bar. 

For fans of… The West End and the finer things in life. 

6 Leadmill Rd, Sheffield
S1 4SE

A venue that needs little introduction really. Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, ABC and of course The Arctic Monkeys all cut their teeth playing this stage. Sheffield locals are proud of this medium-sized venue conveniently located within a two minute’s walk from the train station. Leadmill delivers on all fronts with good sound, great bands, reasonably priced tickets and it also puts on club nights if you fancy a dance after the gig! 

For fans of… Larger indie bands, bang for your buck and Sheffield heritage.

 

303 Sharrow Vale Rd, Sheffield
S11 8ZF

Every Wednesday this classy and authentic gastro pub opens its doors to the best acts on the UK jazz circuit as part of the Sheffield Jazz collective. Do not be fooled in to thinking the diminutive stature of The Lescar means that the standard of musicianship takes a hit, as recent Bluenote signees GoGo Penguin are among those who have played here as well as Robert Mitchell. 

For fans of… Jazz served alongside great food. 

23 Furnival Gate, Sheffield
S1 4QR

Previously The Rocking Chair, Café Totem puts on the best in local up and coming bands as well as ones from further afield in an intimate location. Run by industry professionals this venue definitely has music at the heart of what it does and this is reflected in the quality of the sound broadcast to the audience. 

For fans of… Local musicians who demand only the best in sound. 

79 Fitzwilliam St, Sheffield
S1 4JP

I have many happy memories watching emerging bands on the Washington’s tiny stage. If alternative rock and indie are your thing then the Washington’s standard of acts will leave you smiling and with close ties to local promoters English Rain you know you will always be listening to the freshest sounds coming out of Sheffield. 

For fans of… Homegrown talent and getting up close to the band.

Barker's Pool, Sheffield
S1 2JA

The only venue central to Sheffield that can house a full-sized orchestra, the City Hall sees The Hallé, BBC Phil and international touring orchestras as well as Sheffield Symphony Orchestra perform some of the greatest music ever written. This venue also puts on some of the best in modern pop music including Kate Rusby as well as some golden oldies.

For fans of… Beautiful interiors and the spectacle of performance. 

12 Exchange St, Sheffield
S2 5TS

Some of the best worst-known bands of the North and beyond clamour to the Clam to play to pocket-sized audiences in this central venue. Come here for anything that adheres to a punk aesthetic (whatever that may entail) and enjoy feeling like you’re now part of the family. 

For fans of… Hella, Eagulls and whatever lies between.

106 Harwood St, Sheffield
S2 4SE

Behind an unassuming back door down near Bramall Lane is a gateway to the outer reaches of the musical universe. A place of upcoming bands and artists specialising in the avant-garde and the indefinable, Audacious is a DIY space full of music that will make you question what you are listening to before realising you don’t care about the answer. Don’t forget your earplugs.

For fans of… Envelope-pushing sounds set against a laid-back atmosphere.

55 Norfolk St, Sheffield
S1 1DA

Much more than just snooker, The Crucible offers a varied programme of classical chamber music usually performed by their resident artists; Ensemble 360.  The Crucible’s “Music In The Round” series provides audiences with a rare, intimate insight in to classical performances as musicians can be viewed from all angles within the round. For those more interested in contemporary composers, The Ligeti Quartet are regulars.

For fans of… Classical music outside the realms of a concert hall.