Preparing for your piano course: 5 top tips

This month’s five tips for Pianist magazine’s newsletter examines the benefits of piano courses. My first article on this topic was published in the previous newsletter, and you can read it here. This article focuses on how to prepare for your course, with the aim of developing confidence so that you are able to both enjoy it and learn effectively too. I hope you find it helpful.

  1. Select at least one piece from your repertoire that you have played for a while and that you are confident performing. It’s usually a good idea to play works which are slightly less advanced, so you can play them competently and with a feel for the style. Any genre is perfectly acceptable on a course, but pick one with which you feel you resonate, so you are able to show your technical grasp and musicianship with aplomb.
  2. Your second piece (and third, if you need three pieces), should ideally be a totally different style to the first, and one which you might not have learnt securely as yet. Bear in mind that your chosen repertoire doesn’t always need to be ‘ready to perform’. When learning with a different or new teacher, it can be helpful to be able to ‘change’ the way you are preparing, especially with regard to piano technique. You could decide to keep your pieces at a slower tempo, so it’s possible to think about various fingering, pedalling, dynamics, and so on.
  3. Decide what aspects of your playing you would prefer to work on. Perhaps you need to hone your flexibility and movement around the keyboard due to issues with tension, or you may need to think about phrasing and producing a fuller, richer tone. Don’t be afraid to ask your course director or teacher to help you with your particular needs, as that is what they are there to do.
  4. If you are able to book a practice room during the course, then this is the perfect time to work on the elements addressed in your class or private course lessons. If you can make substantial progress between lessons, then your tutor can guide you more productively, usually yielding some impressive results.
  5. Remember to get some rest. Courses are surprisingly demanding both mentally and physically; sleep is sacrosanct – for the students and teachers! Enjoy your course and good luck.

    With course participants on my Jackdaws Music Education Trust course in January 2019

    If you would like to take a piano course, consider joining me on one of my courses:

Finchcocks Music: luxurious weekend courses for intermediate level players mostly with one teacher, offering master classes, solo lessons and workshops.

My courses at Finchcocks Music: 14th – 16th June, 4th – 6th October, and 15th– 17th November 2019. For more information, click here.

PIANO WEEK: a week-long course, with multiple teachers, offering many aspects of musicianship and piano playing, plus copious performing opportunities on a Steinway model D piano. There are faculty recitals every evening and the opportunity to meet many other pianists.

My courses at PIANO WEEK:   22nd – 29th July at Moreton Hall School (Shropshire, UK), 29th July – 5th at Moreton Hall School (Shropshire, UK), August and 18th – 25th August 2019 at Rugby School (Birmingham, UK).  For more information, click here.

Montecatini Piano Festival: this new course and festival takes place in Italy, near Florence from August 16th – 20th 2019, and it focuses on the piano, chamber music, and composition. I will be offering a composition workshop this year. Find out more, here.

Jackdaws Piano Course: Polishing Your Piano Technique. This is the fifth year that I have held a course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust. I host one weekend per year for ten students which focuses on piano technique.

My course at Jackdaws: 17th – 19th January 2020. For more information, click here.

My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


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