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.