Teaching Methods and Philosophy

To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” – Ludwig van Beethoven.

I employ a structured approach incorporating several established piano methods into a well-rounded, fun and disciplined system that focuses on sight-reading, theory, improvisation, technique, interpretation, and ear training.

I assign A Dozen a Day to the youngest students and Hanon Junoir to students 7 and older for technique work. Technical exercises are the musician’s way of warming up and should be completed before each practice session. We will do a few minutes of them at the beginning of each lesson. For those familiar with Hanon’s long history and perhaps it’s tendency to be overused, I want to make clear that though I am a believer in the power of Hanon, I by no means endorse warming up with the whole book in all 12 keys. Warm ups should comprise a small and reasonable percentage of practice time, not take up 2 hours!

For lesson work and theory study I use Alfred’s Premier Piano Series for 1st and 2nd year students, switching to Faber and Faber’s Piano Adventures in 3rd year.  I supplement with songs and pieces coming from a multitude of resources.

Solo pieces can come from any number of sources and I do encourage students to find pieces on their own to bring into lessons: Orchestral reductions/transcriptions, easier arrangements of difficult works, show tunes, movie themes, jazz arrangements, blues and *some* pop music.

More advanced students will be expected to work on serious piano repertoire: Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Bach, Beethoven, et al.

Improvisation is also an important tool in any musician’s arsenal. I start improv work as soon as a student has mastered a C major scale and the primary chords. For the younger student, improv is more a chance to explore the entire instrument and have fun. Students who demonstrate a desire to work seriously on improv will be coached more extensively. 

Transfer students are a case-by-case scenario. I most often find that the transfer students who come my way have been playing using a finger number method. This can create some friction in the beginning and the longer the student has been studying using such lackluster methods, the longer it takes to correct their bad habits. It’s unfortunate that so many teachers rely on finger numbers to get a child to play as the child has now reached a level where it would humiliate them to backtrack to beginner pieces. I very carefully assign at-level pieces, and do intensive sight-reading at each lesson. It takes time and patience but bad habits can be corrected!  

An important note about sight-reading:

The ease with which a student learns to read music is entirely based on what kind of learner a student is.  The innate gifts of musical talent come in various forms and many students have a strong ear and natural sense of rhythm. These students often struggle with sight-reading.  I will drill, assign writing exercises and help “by ear” students with sight-reading in every lesson. Do not be disappointed if you or your child is not reading at the level you expect. Musical progress is measured on a personal level.

I believe that anyone who has a strong desire to learn will be capable of learning to play piano.   Strong fine motor control and a strong sense of time are certainly good indicators that one will be a “natural” but the most important quality a student can bring to any discipline is a positive attitude.

Professional Track
For students with more ambitious goals, such as studying piano at college and excelling at competitions, I can help you learn to budget your time so that fitting in several hours of practice a day, and making the absolute most of that time, isn’t so overwhelming.  If there are programs for which you wish to audition I will coach you in mental preparation, teach whatever music is required for acceptance, etc.

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