Piano Lessons

Piano Lessons in the Southern Highlands

Thanks for your interest in Piano Lessons in the Southern Highlands. I teach from my home in Bundanoon CBD on a beautiful Steinway baby grand. If you like, I can also come to you, and teach you or your child at your home. Additional charges may apply for travel time (depending on your location). Lessons in Goulburn, NSW may shortly be available, email me!

Piano lessons for Children

Teaching children to play the piano, make progress, and experience the joy of playing great sounding pieces all by themselves on a musical instrument is a great joy to me. The way I teach a child definitely varies from child to child depending on their age, experience, musical ability, personality, level of self-confidence and tastes, and the parents’ desires for the child and ‘brief’ to me. The relationship I have with the child is important, too. I am friendly, upbeat and casual, so your child should feel comfortable with me, yet I uphold a respectful and professional tone in the lesson at the same time.

Parental Supervision

Generally parents or guardians drop the child and then leave, and arrive back for the last few minutes of the lesson to pick the child up. You are welcome to attend the lesson, either inside the room or outside it (the double doors are kept open). I have Working With Children check (number WWC0930355V). I have also completed the ‘Safe Ministry Training’ for working with children in a ministry position through the Anglican Church.

Inspiring the joy of music

I think most parents would be happy if their child learns to appreciate music through learning the piano, so this is one of my highest priorities. Often the piano is the child’s first instrument. It is a very good instrument to learn music and musicianship on. It ‘ports’ well to the keyboard, as well as arranging and producing using computer technology, if the child is interested down the line.

Unlike the guitar which needs larger hands or the purchase of a smaller instrument, it is possible to play the piano even if you have very small hands. Because the piano is a percussion instrument (you merely press the keys, and they sound) it does have quite a fast progress rate.

Technique is taught as the student is ready. For example, first we learn ‘the notes’ in the correct timing, with the correct fingering, with separate hands. Then, the child will play one hand while I play the other hand, getting to know how it will sound together. Next, the child will learn to put both hands together (slowly). When the child is confident, we can gradually increase the tempo to ‘performance’ tempo.

Along the way, I will also teach the child to put expression into their playing, such as ‘bringing out the tune’ in the right hand by playing it louder than the left hand, or emphasising certain passages by playing them louder, as well as creating dynamics in a piece by learning to play sections more softly (this requires more technique control than playing loudly!)

I will also teach the child, if appropriate to the piece, to incorporate subtle tempo changes in the piece, such as to slow down subtly before a key moment in the piece, and then return to tempo. The result is that the child sounds very competent, playing their piece not only with all the correct notes and timing, but with ‘expression’ – like a real musician!

I also tend to teach the child to use the sustain pedal, right from the beginning. The child will then learn to co-ordinate the feet and the hands from the get-go and also learn what the sustain pedal actually does, how to use it correctly and which notes to release and depress the pedal on, so it sounds musical and smooth and doesn’t ‘clunk’.

Scales and Arpeggios

I do teach scales, but I would generally teach a piece first for a few weeks to a new student before introducing scales. After scales have been introduced, I then introduce arpeggios. The scales and arpeggios I would teach a student would correspond to the AMEB Grades level that the child would be on, even if they are not doing grade exams yet/ever. I teach scales and arpeggios as part of piano lessons whether the student will progress to exams or not, simply in the interests of a well-rounded piano tuition and technique.

Theory

Although I don’t like to take up more than a few minutes of the lesson time each week teaching theory, I do give students a page or two of theory ‘homework’ to do now and then. This helps the student learn to decipher sheet music (learn to ‘read’ music). The pages I give them are self-explanatory and written in a fun way. They are also work-sheets that the child can fill in.

The worksheets go through the basics: the lines of the stave, the names of the notes, note lengths, and eventually key signatures, accidentals, ornaments and so on. If the child is struggling and doesn’t understand as we work through the pages, this is evident when the sheets come back to me filled in; but if the child is progressing nicely through the theory pages, I will just give them the next one and so on, until (if ever) they get stuck.

This way the child quickly progresses through the theory by themselves (with my help only if needed) as a side-benefit to the piano lessons, without taking up valuable time.

Like scales and arpeggios, I try to keep the student in pace with theory appropriate to their level of piano ability, in case they want to do exams one day, and also just to help ‘pull it all together’ in terms of what they are playing and their knowledge and understanding of music theory. Music theory tends to make sense to a student when they are experiencing it as a ‘real thing’ by actually playing music on an instrument.

AMEB Grade Exams

As a student who did exams as a child myself, I am aware of the range of repertoire required to sit Grade Exams (such as AMEB in Australia.) If you would like your child to sit exams on a regular basis (one a year is usually fine) please discuss it with me.

There is a syllabus we have to teach from, with the student choosing (or I can choose for them) a selection of pieces from the prescribed syllabus for that grade. There are two types of piano exams you can take, the ‘classical’ kind, and a more recently introduced kind called ‘Music for Leisure’. Both are good and valid and there is no reason why your child can’t do both or switch from one to the other.

There is a slight difference in style. For example, in the classical exams your child might be learning Mozart and Bach and one ‘contemporary classical’ piece, but in the Music for Leisure syllabus, your child might be playing ‘the Sting’ and a pop song.

Back in the day when I did exams, the pieces one had to learn for one’s Grade exams were hardly very exciting. Often they were designed to demonstrate technical ability rather than sounding like ‘nice music’ (in my opinion!). This is a factor to consider. Not every child wants or needs to take – or would suit – taking exams, for the sake of it. However, for able students that enjoy working towards a deadline and who are really into it, I would be happy to take them through the syllabus for sitting exams. Exams start with ‘Preliminary’ and then progress through Grades 1 – 8.

AMEB has actually introduced a second type of grading called ‘Music for Leisure’. This has a more contemporary (meaning pop, easy listening and jazz) kind of material.

Please note that extra charges apply for AMEB exams. There are fees to sit the exams, plus you have to purchase genuine copies of the Syllabus sheet music.

A final note is that – though tempting for parents to want their children to take exams so that they have a genuine record of progress, the exam process can be traumatic and stressful for some children, who may have enough stress as it is with school, sport and other committments. It is fine to wait a little while to do exams. I regularly ‘vibe’ the child on exams and if they seem interested, I would discuss it with the parents.

Often I bring it up like so: ‘Did you know, that you’ve just learned all the scales for Preliminary Grade? If you wanted to do that exam, in a year or so, you’d be more than ready to tackle the pieces we’d have to learn for it. Unfortunately they might not be as pretty as the pieces we’ve chosen together, but you might have fun working towards a goal. Have a think about it and discuss it with your parents and let me know if you’re interested!’

Videos

I often make videos (either on my phone, that I later send to the child or parent) or on the student’s phone for them to refer to later. The videos may show a section of the piece played by me, showing fingering and technique that the child can review at home. This stops them failing to practice because they can’t ‘remember how it goes’! This is especially important when starting out, and the child can’t necessarily refer to the sheet music and ‘read it’.

Skype Lessons

Although nothing beats ‘in the room’ instruction, if you would like a lesson via Skype, Facebook messenger video chat or similar, contact me. I am currently teaching my first international student via Skype. He is based in Big Sur, California using a combination of video lessons (for him to watch to learn ‘the next bit’ and Skype lessons (to view his progress and comment on it, plus know what video to prepare prior to his next lesson.) To participate in video lessons, particularly for children, you would generally need another person in the room to operate the camera while you play (or the child student plays.) Contact me if you are interested in this option!

Fingering

I will teach fingering that I think is appropriate and generally the child will learn it with ‘muscle memory’, but we do ‘write in’ fingering in pencil if necessary. Sometimes the music has fingering already written in.

I really enjoy watching a child make progress as the hand position on the keyboard begins to look more and more natural over time, and the child starts to assume ‘natural’ fingering intuitively ‘all by themselves’ as the new neural pathways get ‘written’ in the brain as the child learns new ‘moves’.

You probably already know how good music is for the development of a child’s brain, but if not, read this article!

Variety

If a child has just begun and has learned, say, a pop song they love; the next piece I might give them might be something different.

Progress

I think most children and parents would be impressed at how fast their child is progressing. I make sure we have some what I call ‘easy wins’ – pieces that sound good, fast – and aren’t too hard for the child. Often we will learn some of a piece and if it proves too hard, learn another one in between. Then, when we go back to the piece that seemed ‘too hard’ often the student is more than ready for it.

The child likes the material

It is important that the child likes the material they are learning and that it suits their level of ability. If the material is too hard, it takes too long to learn and the child gets ‘stale’. I endeavour to find pieces that the child can learn within approximately 6 weeks, and that will sound nice and rewarding even while practicing.

Although I do my best to choose material for the student that they will like and which also suits their level of
ability, I do like the child to have a say in the process. For example, if they would like to learn pop songs, I would get the child to suggest a few of their favourite songs. Often I create custom sheet music especially for the child to play their favourite songs.

Adult Students

Adult students are welcome. Either complete beginners, or resuming piano lessons after a break. The first lessons I’ll be vibing where you are at and I can then either help you learn pieces of your choice, or suggest some lovely pieces that you can learn fast for maximum satisfaction!

Singing Lessons

I also offer singing lessons, in the style of pop or jazz. Usually students will get to sing while I accompany, and after the song is sounding good, I’ll make a recording with you (no extra charge, just as part of the lessons.) You’ll really enjoy the recording process and get to have a permanent record of your work! I will make you sound amazing! (This can be also combined with piano lessons if you want to learn how to play and sing!)

Prices

Adults: 1 hour – $70
Adults: 3/4 hour – $60
Children: 1 hour – $60
Children: 3/4 hour – $50
Children: 1/2 an hour – $40

Contact me for info, times I have available, and to book in. 0438 16 18 15 or email me.