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