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Classical

Learning to play classical piano provides a solid technique and a good understanding of the 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! 

For those who want to, I can teach to the ABRSM exam board specification, which provides training in classical performance, technique, aural skills and sight-reading. However, I also supplement the ABRSM syllabus with pieces that each individual learner may want to learn, the “A Dozen A Day” books as well as other technical exercises such as Hanon and Czerny.

For younger learners I find using the “Piano Time” and John W. Schaum books among others in practise time provides a strong introduction to playing the piano. Playing musical games both in lesson and at home further strengthens this foundation.

Jazz and 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. 

Once a foundation in theory has been established we can start looking at jazz lead sheets and how to interpret them. This could include playing in a Fats Waller “stride” style or imitating the trio work of Keith Jarrett. One of the great things about jazz is the element of improvisation where there are no real right or wrong answers. Because of this, jazz lessons would feature a strong element of ear training that can be really fun! 

The blues is similar to jazz in as much as there is often a strong element of improvisation in the right hand with patterns to be repeated or used as a framework in the left hand. To play the blues well requires the ability to think in terms of phrases (musical sentences) and to have a feel for how to expand upon these phrases. This is something that can be learned in a very organic way. 

Younger learners tend to really enjoy learning jazz and particularly the blues as it can be a little quicker to learn the music once some simple fundamentals have been covered. Indeed, with the blues, once the minor blues scale (C-Eb-F-Gb-G-Bb-C) has been learned along with a simple left hand pattern, it is easy to start soloing and jamming with other musicians!

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. 

Learning to play and transcribe music by ear are two key skills for a pop musician to have. By working together we can figure out how to play pop songs together at increasing levels of difficulty. We would start off first of all with the melody then look at the chords and bass line. Once you’ve learned some of these techniques you will be able to apply them to other songs meaning that many songs can be learned in a shorter period of time. 

We will also learn about how to put songs in to different styles of music. Ever heard Radiohead’s “Creep” played in the style of Stevie Wonder? You could be the first to give it a try!