Originally published some years ago as What Are Piano Lessons For? this is my manifesto on the purpose of piano lessons. This is a manifesto that emerges from my experience, that reflects my values, and that frames everything about my piano teaching, about my writing for piano teachers, and about my composing for piano students. 1. Piano lessons are for learning how to do cool stuff on the piano. Cool stuff starts with things like playing familiar melodies, creating glissandi, using the sustain pedal, and moves on to more sophisticated cool stuff like creating a balance between the melody and accompaniment, voicing two parts within one hand, being able to control tonal variation, learning to recognise and perform any number of patterns (both by sight and by ear), knowing how to make different chords and chord sequences, being able to play a chromatic scale – fast, being able to play scales in contrary motion, or thirds apart, or sixths apart, creating different effects
This year I have had a handful of gorgeous beginners taking lessons with me. I’m trialling new material for beginners and I need a cohort of children of different ages, genders, interests and learning styles so I can really test a range of approaches I believe will be more effective than the approaches I’ve used in the past. I haven’t auditioned these new students prior to accepting them into my studio – inviting a diverse group of children to explore the piano and learn musicianship and performance skills with me gives me my best chance of testing my material (as well as keeping me on my toes!). Of all the diversities amongst these beginners the greatest is probably this: some children come from families of professional musicians while some come from families where no one has ever learned an instrument. What does this mean? On the surface it means that I can write “start on F sharp” in a notebook
This is a very personal manifesto about the purpose of piano lessons. You may not agree. You may disagree vehemently.