I hope you have enjoyed a relaxing festive holiday and I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.
2022 is an important year for this blog, because on January 28th, it will celebrate its tenth anniversary. When I started this ‘project’ back in 2012, I was in a very different place. Having endured an illness, I had taken time out from my work and, once recovered, needed to re-establish myself – but I had no idea how I was going to do it. My intention was to write, teach, and compose. Having already written a little book So You Want To Play The Piano?, which was, at first, published by a small independent publisher (not something I can recommend), I needed an outlet to continue writing and, more importantly, to attract the attention of major publishers and build an online audience.
Writing regularly on a website or ‘blogging’ was still in its relative infancy in 2012, and it seemed like a good idea. Once this site was set up (which is easy to do), I had the daunting task of posting articles. At first I updated the site two or three times a week, frequently publishing short, punchy, sometimes irreverent, posts, and these were mixed with longer, more in-depth articles which focused on some aspect of piano technique or piano playing. But after much experimentation, I eventually found it more effective to post just once a week.
YouTube and Social Media
As the site developed, so different facets were added. Given a video camera as a gift, I established a YouTube channel and decided to publish a series of ‘vlogs’, or short films, which were mostly just comments about practising the piano. These were published both on YouTube and on this website, therefore encouraging a larger audience; it can be useful to publish videos for this reason. Social Media was less popular in 2012, but it has proved to be another vital ‘tool’; posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, as well as in various Facebook groups, has been crucial. For those interested in ‘statistics’, Linkedin is, without doubt, the most useful site for me.
When the vlog series reached its conclusion, still keen to use my camera, I curated around fifty interviews with many celebrated musicians and teachers, known as The Classical Conversations Series and Music Talk Series. These filmed interviews were amongst the first of their type in terms of speaking to classical musicians informally on camera, and, in a short space of time, became extremely popular. Indeed, they helped build my reputation and, increasingly motivated, I felt able to move on and focus on different projects.
‘Moving on’ is a favourite expression. I firmly believe that if we keep doing the same activity for too long, we become stale and ineffective, therefore moving forward feels like a natural progression. It’s for this reason that I switched from my interview series to writing more detailed posts about practising and piano repertoire. By this time, publishers were knocking on my door; So You Want To Play The Piano? was re-written and republished by Alfred UK, and I also compiled a piano anthology for Faber Music; The Faber Music Piano Anthology.
I was eventually approached to write a column for Pianist Magazine, which I have now done since 2014. I’ve also written many feature articles for Piano Professional Magazine which is published by EPTA (European Piano Teachers’ Association), as well as for a large collection of online and print publications.
Play it Again: PIANO
Out of the blue, Schott Music wrote to ask if I would read and comment on their new method book series, Piano Junior. It turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable task, and those comments must have been appreciated, as I was invited to write their new series for adults returning to playing the piano. Play it Again: PIANO, a three-book series, was born, and after copious writing and editing, it was published in 2017 (Book 1 and 2) and 2019 (Book 3).
The series has gone from strength to strength, having now sold thousands of copies worldwide, and Schott and I have toured the Far East extensively promoting these books; we have countless future plans for 2022 and beyond – and, for those in China, watch out for the new Chinese edition to be published later this year. The blog has proved an efficient means of highlighting my workshops and presentations, alerting teachers, students and readers to where they can attend such an event. Whilst blogging helps establish an online ‘presence’ is doesn’t necessarily sell books in the volume that one might expect. In my experience, this is best achieved by touring and presenting workshops, and, luckily, I love these activities.
This is an area which I had always wanted to explore. I had done a little over the years, but I suddenly had the fortunate opportunity to publish a few educational piano pieces with a small publisher. Not long after, Schott Music offered to start working with me as a composer, and my work now features in their Edition Schott series; it’s an incredible honour to work with this fantastic publishing house. This blog has also proffered the chance for me to write piano pieces for readers, which they can download and play immediately. Many of you have kindly written over the years commenting on how much you’ve enjoyed the pieces, as well as the numerous competitions and giveaways that I have hosted here, too.
Last year I was delighted to compile and write three pre-Grade one syllabuses for the London College of Music Exams, and, again, this was partly due to this website; I had co-written the LCM’s previous syllabus ‘performance notes’, having been contacted by the former head of syllabus content, after he had read several of my blog articles.
Developing a successful piano teaching career is no easy task; qualifications, experience and commitment are essential, but results play a significant role, too. Over the years, I’ve tutored a multitude of piano courses, in the UK and abroad, which has not only introduced my books to a new audience, but it’s also enabled me to help students quickly and efficiently, and often over a period of just a few days (because courses are generally short). This is true of workshops, as well, and both facets have been recorded on my blog, which has resulted in more work.
They play an interesting role. One can’t help noticing how statistics go up and down depending on disparate factors. Anyone who writes online will (or should) have access to their ‘stats’. As websites are viewed across the globe, it’s interesting to note where most of the views or ‘hits’ originate. My audience is mainly based in the USA, UK and the Far East. I observe the stats daily, but have never been overly concerned by their numbers, however, this site has now accrued nearly 1.2 million hits.
Writing over a period of ten years, as any ‘blogger’ (not a word I like!) will attest to, is an inordinate amount of work, and not something to be undertaken lightly; I blog for free and I don’t monetise the site at all. It takes a while to yield results, but if you are determined and enjoy writing, then it can be most rewarding. Some will use a blog as a ‘marketing’ tool, whilst others blog to record their life’s events, or, perhaps, just because they love writing regularly. My blog has also become a personal website as I like to keep my online information housed under the same roof.
Looking to the Future
Will I keep writing? Yes! I’ve moved into yet another different phase; introducing more guest posts, which is something I have done for the last couple of years. It’s wonderful to be able to spotlight musicians and writers, and encourage them to tell their ‘story’, or write about a piano-related subject close to their hearts.
I couldn’t have kept such a blog alive for this period of time without you – the reader. I am sincerely grateful to you for subscribing and reading my work every week; if you haven’t subscribed as yet, you can do so on the home page, by just scrolling down to the footer and inserting your e mail address. If I haven’t covered a topic which interests you, just write and let me know. If you are an adult pianist, or you are returning to piano playing, do join my new Adult Piano Returners group on Facebook for some lively piano discussions. If you would like to read the posts and articles published on this blog (there are over 800), you can browse the archives, here.
As we move into 2022, I look forward to an exciting array of forthcoming trips and book tours (pandemic permitting!) where I will be presenting workshops and holding my piano teachers’ course. I’ll also be publishing five new books, and will be adjudicating at some wonderful online piano competitions as well.
Writing this blog has proffered so much more than I could have ever imagined. Here’s to the next decade!
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.