Piano Tuition

Tuition is given in the necessary skills needed to become a competent pianist and to enjoy playing. Instruction is given in all aspects of technique and interpretation. Pianists work from established tutor books and other supplementary materials under tutorial guidance to provide a rich learning musical experience, working at a pace that is comfortable for them. Tuition in music theory is given, as this enables pianists to read and write music with fluency, accuracy, familiarity, and with understanding. Examinations are available in both practical and theoretical subjects for those who require them and these are creative goals. For pianists, these consist of eight graded exams (Grades 1 – 8) followed by the diplomas of the accredited examination boards of The Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music, Trinity College London and The London College of Music. All these examinations can be taken under Michael’s experienced tutelage with excellent results. Exams, however, are not compulsory and students are encouraged to flourish beyond the confines of an exam syllabus: learning simply for pleasure is always encouraged and supported, as any playing for pleasure can only come from playing with pleasure. Exam syllabi, while useful, are not a curriculum per se and exams will not be enjoyed or of benefit to every student.

  • Enjoyment of the lessons and learning to play are the most important aspects of piano tuition

In teaching the piano, all styles are acknowledged and other styles as well as classical are sometimes used. Training is a mixture of learning pieces, practising various aspects of technique, music interpretation, musicianship skills, and learning music theory. Pianists have their lessons using the piano in the tutor’s music room with, of course, the exception of online remote one-to-one tuition.

  • Interesting, varied and structured piano tuition tailored to the needs of individual students and where musical, creative and technical developments go hand in hand in equipping the student with the tools to enable and fulfil their musical potential and to nurture personality and perspective so a student can truly express themselves through their music

When learning the piano, or any instrument, regular practice to build and acquire musical skills – technical, emotional and interpretational is essential in order to make progress and gain musical and personal satisfaction. Helping learners to maintain motivation through challenge is part of the teaching task as is offering support and establishing mutual respect. A piece of piano music is more than a series of notes in a rhythmic framework or musical structure. As well as general note accuracy, learning to read and play music and the development of a musical ear allowing recognition of musical features is important. Learners should also aim for good tone and phrasing along with appropriate musicality, good posture and hand position, secure technique, and stylistic awareness in a wide range of music. Acquisition of technical skills and teaching musicality with correction of errors in learning enables a student to develop their own musical personality in studying music. When first learning a piece, it is good if expressive details can be included as early as possible as it is sometimes more difficult to add these expressive indications at a later stage. Whilst practising a piece of piano music, rather than a sole concern for accurate notes and rhythms, a small amount of time spent focusing on technique and the way the piano is played physically can produce enhanced results with the development of pianistic and musical skills, thus in turn increasing the pianist’s enjoyment and reward. Posture, height of the piano stool, hand and arm position, lateral and rotary movements, forearm rotary freedom, arm weight and flexibility, security, stamina, finger strength, pedalling, fingering and velocity, thumb placement for optimal playing but not to dominate with heaviness, musical structure is important and phrasing pianistically (which can be achieved by observing phrases rather than bars), resonance and development of finger strength helped through the resistance found on an acoustic piano, tone control and what should be practised between lessons and how, are all important including practising by repeating difficult bars/phrases/musical figurations over and over to achieve creative skill: technique is connected to the mind and is not simply physical. When learning a piece of music, there are many facets to focus and concentrate on such as tempo, timing, note accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tension/relaxation, balance, posture, phrasing, structure, musical meaning and direction, stylistic issues and fluency. Moreover, playing is for pleasure, practice is for progress. Practising is work, but it is interesting work; learning a musical instrument takes a lot of practice and dedication: it is about learning, developing, understanding and achieving skills that you do not already have. Making an effort daily generally produces some good results. There is not enough time in the lesson to do all the practice necessary to succeed; corners cannot be cut when learning and playing the piano.

  • Practice makes progress rather than perfection

Students learn both technical, musical, creative and notational concepts by playing, hearing and sometimes improvising with technique, rhythms, reading, note playing and artistry. It is important to take time to lay the groundwork of overall musicianship before moving students into the exam system if they so wish, as music performance exams are sat in real time – there is no going back to correct a mistake.

Technique is important and how to develop it on the piano. A student cannot play without technique. Essentially, technical work is preparation for playing pieces rather than an end in itself. Most students want to play tunes and it is important to provide the correct motivational environment by helping them to play musically at whatever level they are able to achieve that. An appropriate level of challenge is essential to maintain good motivation and also maintaining a sense of fun to sustain interest.

The holistic approach to learning in this teaching practice is where students become visually musically literate with their eyes and aurally musically literate with their ears. Musical learning comes from listening, understanding, manipulating, relating patterns to other pieces, and creating music – not just from learning to read notation but understanding music aurally and to express it artistically. A fusion of keyboard competence and musical understanding. Students are taught and encouraged how to read music accurately and in-depth as well as the development of aural awareness, thus fostering musical independence. Moreover, students can work out what they want to say with a piece of music, what emotion to express and technique to use and what kind of sound is fitted to the music.

  • The teaching practice is where students can explore musically, nurture and build their creative capacities and not fear being wrong and where an appreciation, enjoyment and understanding of music can be developed

Teaching the technique of the piano and teaching music through the piano

Dr Michael Spacie

Independent – Innovative – Individual – Inspired