Selecting the piano course for you: 5 top tips

My most recent article for Pianist Magazine’s newsletter focuses on piano courses. Hope you find it of interest.


Piano courses are becoming increasingly popular amongst adults and children learning to play the piano. And to keep abreast of this growing demand, there are significantly more opportunities for this student demographic, with courses for students of all levels, semi-professionals and piano teachers, popping up every year.

My first post offers a few tips for those considering a course, and my second (to be published in Pianist’s next newsletter) will offer suggestions for preparing for such an experience.

  1. When selecting your course, it may be prudent to decide what you would like to achieve. It might be that you want to study with a particular teacher, or perhaps you fancy playing more chamber music or duets with a fellow pianist of a similar standard, or it could be that you need more experience at performing in public. Look for courses with an emphasis on your chosen aspect. Each one will offer something different and unique.
  2. There are piano courses which pride themselves on a really luxurious experience with sumptuous food and beautiful accommodation (although you may pay a premium), whereas others might be held in a school, but offer excellent practice facilities with well-tuned instruments. Offsite B&B accommodation is a prerequisite for some residential courses, which in turn can provide much-needed relaxation and respite from a demanding schedule.
  3. Generally, the larger or longer the course, the more fellow students you will meet. Piano courses can be wonderfully social affairs with the same students returning year after year, forming close friendships. This is the primary reason why adult students stick to the same ones; camaraderie can fuel an optimal study experience.
  4. If you would prefer to be an observer, attending lessons, workshops and classes, but not participating, then this can be a great introduction. Many courses offer this option but always check with the course administrator. ‘Open class’ policies are most helpful for the less experienced student. I encourage my students to attend as many master classes and workshops as they can, because often more can be learnt this way, without nerves and stress intervening; it’s then easier to decide if this course of study is suitable for you.
  5. Some courses are ‘specialist’ with one expert teacher giving master classes for a select group of students (these are usually shorter or weekend courses), whilst others include multiple study options such as theory, aural, composition lessons and sight-reading classes, or the chance to study with more than one faculty member. You may like to take this into consideration, particularly if you are preparing for an examination, diploma or concert performance. For those less confident in their playing ability or skill, there are courses which focus on certain levels; intermediate courses or courses for beginners or elementary players, for example.

The following piano courses are held in the UK and all offer a different experience (they are placed in alphabetical order):

– Benslow Music Courses

– Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival for Pianists

– Finchcocks Music

– Hindhead Piano Course

– Jackdaws Residential Piano Course

– Piano Week

– Summer School for Pianists

Image: Finchcocks Piano Courses


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.


New Piano Courses at Finchcocks

I’m very fortunate to love my work, and one particularly enjoyable aspect is the opportunity to direct piano courses and workshops. I’m writing this post whilst relaxing  in my accommodation in Shropshire (just a few miles from the Welsh border), where I’m working for two weeks at PIANO WEEK, an international piano festival and Summer school (more about this wonderful venture in another post). It’s a demanding and packed schedule working with pianists of all ages, but already I have made some firm friends and we have had a lot of fun.

This work is most rewarding and I was delighted to be invited to direct several piano courses at Finchcocks.

Finchcocks is a stately manor house (pictured above) in Kent (UK) offering regular piano weekends for pianists of all levels, ages and abilities. The manor house, which has been recently renovated, has been hosting weekend courses throughout the past year (featuring popular tutors such as Graham Fitch, David Hall, and Dr. Mark Polishook). Designed as bespoke weekends, they feature luxurious accommodation, superb cuisine, plenty of friendly, encouraging piano tuition, and excellent practice facilities; in short, a marvellous ‘first piano course’ for those slightly intrepid pianists who fancy taking the plunge but are perhaps a little apprehensive.

My course will be held from December 7th – 9th 2018. It is intended for Intermediate pianists, or those of around Grade 4 – 7 level (ABRSM level). The course commences on Friday evening at 7.00pm, with some helpful tips for improving piano technique. Simple exercises for honing flexibility will be implemented and each course member will have the chance to try them out both at and away from the piano! This class will be followed by dinner.

Saturday will begin with a sight-reading workshop, offering some useful practice ideas, with lots of hands on participation. A master class will provide the opportunity to play your pieces and receive beneficial practice suggestions, and after lunch there will be time for private practice with some individual tuition with me. Before dinner, the group will reconvene for a listening seminar, which might provide food for thought and, hopefully, some interesting dinner conversation!

On Sunday, we’ll begin with a memorisation workshop, followed by a duet session (a highlight, for sure). The weekend closes with casual duet, trio and solo performances from course members. This could be the perfect course for those who want a gentle nudge back into the world of piano playing, but it may also be a useful, instructive performance platform for the more serious student preparing for a piano exam.

You can find out more about the course and book your place, here. Three further courses have been planned for 2019, for those unable to attend in December.

www.finchcocks.com



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.