Category Archives: In the Studio

With a Little Help From My Friends – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Sometimes when we’re learning new things, we just need a little something extra to help us along. In the studio, we use games and iPad apps, as well as good old paper and pencil, but there have been some new additions that have the younger students buzzing.


Yes, these little animals have quickly become a firm favourite with most of the under-10s (although the older kids think they’re cute as well). As they fit nicely on a piano key, they have been a wonderful asset for keyboard recognition exercises and to help in games, but they have discovered other uses as well.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWOne little girl sometimes asks for them to watch as she plays and she arranges them either on the music stand, or on top of the piano, and then performs for them. They bring her confidence.

A little boy likes the animals, but prefers the transport vehicles that live in the same drawer, and he sometimes learns a song by giving each note a vehicle of its own.

So if your little ones arrive home from their lesson and tell you they have been playing with animals – or helicopters and motorbikes – for half an hour, never fear. It’s still all about the music, but learning with a little help from our new friends.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.


Stop and Listen – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Stop and smell the roses.

An old saying, but one that is as relevant when playing music as it is in everyday life. Pause for a moment and discover the beauty being offered, not only in life, but also in the music you are playing.

piano-teacher-in-wallsend-nsw-roseI have written before about the reasons why I love teaching adults. They are flexible and motivated, but they are also hard on themselves. I have learned through teaching them, that this pressure is often evidenced in rushing. Rushing through pieces to attain their accelerated goals. But rushing often means we don’t listen to what we are playing.

What do we want to hear most? Usually the melody. Where is that melody? Is it in the highest notes of the right hand? Is it in the left hand? What else are we playing that is supporting that melody? Can we hear the rhythm?

Playing an instrument is not just about reading the notes on the page. We need to think about the role of those notes and how we balance our hands to achieve the desired audible result. This is one of the reasons I like to incorporate singing into the lesson; if the students can sing the melody of their piece, they are more likely to hear what they need to make prominent when they play.

Check out this short example (please excuse my croaky voice):

So let’s take the time to smell our musical roses and see what magic can be created.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

Recital Wrap-Up – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

This piano teacher is very proud!

We had our first studio piano recital a few days ago and everybody did such a great job.

It was a day of celebration, showcasing a variety of students and levels. Being a relatively young studio, we had some performers who have been learning for a few years, and we also had some who have only been learning for a few months, with one as little as three weeks. I feel fortunate to teach such a special and diverse group of students.

For the majority of the students, it was their first time performing anywhere. For others, it was their first time performing outside of the exam environment. There was a great crowd of family and friends to support them and the atmosphere was very positive.

Where I needed to be for quick stage access meant I could only capture photos from behind, but it still gives us a nice record of the occasion. Here is a selection:

At the beginning of this year, school aged students undertook some motivation and goal setting activities, with the result being that many of them decided to take the 40 Piece Challenge. This is a global initiative and as the name suggests, the aim is to work through a large variety of repertoire exposing the students to a wide range of music. It’s a tough ask! The students who completed the 40 Piece Challenge and the modified 30 Piece Challenge were awarded with their certificates at the recital.

40: Amelia, Adi, Cooper and Ella

30: Charlotte and George

We also acknowledged Ashley, Georgia, Alan and Sungwon on the dedication and effort they put into their exams this year.

Congratulations to everybody on a great year!

Would you like to be a part of this next year? If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.



Preparing for a Recital – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

The first studio recital for merri bell music will be held in a few weeks, so this is a great time to talk about how you can help your child prepare for performances.

Piano kids don’t have too many opportunities to shine like – for example – sport kids. Practise is a solitary pastime and occasions to play for and show their skills to others don’t come up every week.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWHere are some ideas for ways you can help your child prepare for their big moment:

  1. Be your child’s pretend audience. Regularly sit down and listen to her play her pieces, complete with announcing what song is being played, and giving a little bow afterwards.
  2. Have your child play for any family or friends who visit. Sharing his prowess with others helps him see how much you value his performance (and the work that went into it). Even playing to Grandma over the ‘phone can be helpful.
  3. The best way to ensure a successful performance is adequate preparation; encourage your child to practise regularly. And often.
  4. Offer your child lots of encouragement and show how excited you are that she is sharing her music with you. Even leaving an unexpected little note of praise on the piano can be wonderful inspiration.
  5. Find a way to mark the recital as a special occasion; invite others along, buy a new outfit to wear, a bunch of flowers, or a special meal afterwards. Simple gestures that show his performance is meaningful and valued.

I’m looking forward to a great recital and I hope the students are as well.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

The Piano Lesson You Have When You Can’t Make Your Piano Lesson – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Sometimes, life gets in the way. With the best of intentions, we can’t always fulfil our commitments because something external stops us. It’s no different with the commitment of piano lessons.

But never fear! There is a solution… Internet lessons 🙂

As teachers, our preference is to be able to see our students in person so we can check their technique and posture and watch for areas of tension. But there are so many other factors that also need to be covered, occasionally conducting a lesson over the internet is far better than having no lesson at all.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWLessons are missed for a variety of reasons apart from being too unwell to attend. Sometimes the student feels well enough for a lesson, but doesn’t want to spread germs (which is appreciated). Or the teacher may be in that position. Transport also makes the list of reasons for absences; if the student can’t get to the studio, they can still be available at that time, from the comfort of their own home. Weather and traffic issues are other problem areas.

Conducting lessons over Skype, FaceTime or similar systems offers advantages to the student, who doesn’t have to cope with a two-week lesson gap, to the teacher, who can keep the student moving forward and maintain consistent studio hours, and also to the parent, who doesn’t lose time for which they have paid.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe student needs to be responsible for their own note-taking and marking their music. A good connection is required (wired is more reliable than wifi) and it helps if other household members can refrain from using the internet during the lesson. Larger screens are better (laptop, iPad for example), positioned high enough that the keyboard and hands can be clearly seen. A little ingenuity may be required, but that’s all part of the fun.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

Singing? But Isn’t This a Piano Lesson? – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

There has been some singing happening in the studio lately.

Music is a language. It contains phrases, just the same as the spoken – or sung – word. How we deliver these phrases, how we emphasise particular musical words and sentences, delivers a certain meaning to our audience. When we are trying to learn a piece, it can be difficult to look beyond the notes on the page. Singing the music allows us to feel it moving forward, with all its twists and turns and emotion, and to develop an understanding of what we are aiming to ultimately achieve when playing a piece.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSWThere are various benefits for singing during piano lessons:

  • When singing along with what we are playing, we learn to match the pitch of our voices with the piano, which is a great ear-training tool for ascertaining both pitch and intervals.
  • Being aware of where we need to breathe when singing helps to understand where our hands also need to take a little breath. Phrase lines are written into music to tell us when to take this minute break (an upward lift), but it can feel mechanical without understanding the feeling behind the phrasing.
  • Perhaps most importantly, singing is great for allowing us to feel the emotion of a piece (particularly if it has lyrics). We are able to tell the story with more musicality and expression, moving it forward with purpose.

“By exploring the voice, we teach important musical ideas and encourage piano students to achieve a higher level of musicianship”.

Jennifer Merry, Keyboard Companion, Spring 2005

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSWIt is certainly more difficult to encourage students to sing than it is to get them to play, as singing seems to involve displaying a little more of ourselves, but it is this inner emotion we are trying to release. This is what we need in our playing. Once the students open up and let go, understanding how the music feels, they can really put some energy and feeling into what they’re playing.

Sight singing is more formal and this is being introduced to the older kids. Used as a forerunner to playing the piece, it helps them to not only develop aural skills and sight reading skills, but learn to get a feel for a piece from sight. Being able to pitch the piece from sight and develop a good idea of how it will sound before starting to play is a great benefit.

So if your child arrives home from a lesson and says, “Today we sang,” then you’ll know they were learning to develop their musical expression.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.


Why I Love My Adult Students – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Around a third of the students in my Wallsend studio are adults, but they didn’t come here as beginners. They are students who have done it the hard way, being mainly self-taught or grasping on to knowledge remembered from brief childhood lessons. They come to me because they know something is holding them back from improving, but they either don’t know what that is, or they know what they need, but not how to achieve the improvement.

Because of this, they have a different journey to somebody fresh to the instrument, but it is usually more convoluted. Often, years of incorrect or insufficient technique needs to be addressed and we all know how difficult it can be to change habits we have employed for years.

Added to this, adult students have a myriad of other commitments and stresses in their lives with work, family and community, yet despite this, they are the students that practise most often, most consistently and most effectively.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSW

Lessons with adults are often much more Intense than kids’  lessons, as they are aware of the commitment (both financial and time) and want to draw the most value from every minute. I find they challenge me more, because I need to think on my feet and find alternate ways to explain things. Kids accept explanations, but adults look for deeper understanding, so it benefits me as well.

Adults learners can be fluid, flexible and adventurous and bring with them a strong motivation to learn. But they are also cautious, perfectionists and extremely hard on themselves. They are often very anxious to achieve their goals and it can be difficult to convince them they are doing well. Adult students are also better able to articulate their problems and understand practise suggestions, both benefits helping them to make consistent progress.

Being more mature and better equipped to understand the inherent emotion in the music they are playing, adult students can adeptly communicate a wide range of styles and emotions. Even for older adults who may experience some physical limitations, there will always be pieces suited to their physical level that can satisfy them emotionally and still challenge them technically. Expanding the repertoire of a self-taught adult to genres and styles outside their normal playing habits is fun for both of us and hopefully also their audience at home.

Sungwon is currently preparing for her Grade 4 Piano for Leisure exam in a few weeks and agreed to share this video. You can tell from her reaction at the end that she wasn’t happy with her performance; as I mentioned, adult students are their own worst critics!

The best thing about adults learning to play the piano is they are free to do as they please. Adults aren’t trying to please a parent, a teacher or an examiner. No one is forcing them to take lessons. It’s about them and the music. And that is a blessing:-)

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.