Louise Woodcock Pianist

Weddings & Incidental Music - Home Piano Tutor



Can I Learn To Play Piano As An Adult?

Posted on June 20, 2019 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (658)

Can I Learn To Play Piano As An Adult?

Well, the answer is yes you can! Completely from scratch or brush up old skills.

How Long Will It Take Me?

Depends on your enthusiasm, aptitude, the time you set aside for regular practice and your end goal.

Having a huge desire to play piano for your own enjoyment or wanting to play at Muriel's wedding in six months - this is the end goal motivation that will fuel your aptitude for practice. A few minutes at the piano daily is better than an hour at the weekend, but as long as the input is regular then you will make solid progress. Give it a go and stick to it!

You should master basic scale, arpeggio and chord shapes to begin, which will enable you to read music and play with assurance and a flourish later on. Gain an early awareness of major and minor hand shapes and sound too. If you place your thumb on middle C your four fingers cover D-E-F-G so run up and down this half scale 1-2-3-4-5 and down 4-3-2-1 (thumb is 1, little finger is 5) and you will develop a solid hand shape and hear C major. Now move your whole hand up one note to thumb on D with fingers covering E-F-G-A. Still all white notes. Run up and back on this half scale 1-2-3-4-5 and down 4-3-2-1 several times. Same basic hand position as before but now you hear D minor scale.

Sing the five notes up your hand - point at your thumb and sing C, finger 2 sing D, long finger 3 sing E, finger 4 sing F, little finger 5 sing G. Sing the actual note names - do this daily and you will train your ear to recognise the degrees of the scale. Repeat over for DEFGA. Having a good ear for music and a solid functional flexible hand position is vital.

D is the one symmetrical note on the piano - it is the white note between the group of two black notes. To the left is C and to the right is E. The lowest note on a full piano is A (often C on a five octave keyboard) - count up the scale ABCDEFG then it starts again ABCDEFG for over seven octaves! Try playing all the D's rapidly one after another in any order with either hand, any finger. Exercises like this are easy and fun and quickly promote your keyboard sense. At first the layout of black and white keys looks daunting but picking out specific notes helps your sense of spacing.

Follow that by selecting all the C chords one after another - thumb plays C, finger 3 plays E, little finger 5 plays G in the right hand, reverse order in left hand. Put the right (damper) pedal down and enjoy the sound! Pedal off and try all the D minor chords - 1 on D, 3 on F, 5 on A - same hand shape as C major chord. Pedal on! Release the pedal after playing one chord before playing another chord. You can play six chords on the white keys - those starting on C, F, G are major chords and compliment each other, and thos starting on D, E, A are minor chords and compliment each other. The other pedal on the piano makes the music sound softer - two pedals - soft, loud - piano forte. Pianoforte.

You can have fun for hours playing randomly from one chord to another - we call this chord progression. A to D to E to A would be a classical progression in A minor where C to F to C to G to F to C is a blues progression used in pop, rock, blues music. Mix and match major and minor chords and see what pleases your ear. You may be sure the great piano composers spent endless hours playing like this in their early years - it trains your hand positions and sense of keyboard spacing, it trains your ear, and it develops your creativity for playing piano and making music!

Do I Need A Piano Teacher?

I am a piano teacher so of course I will say yes, you need a piano teacher! But there are books available to acquire some basic knowledge and you will most likely pick out a few songs and chords by ear over time. Online videos show you painstakingly which notes to pick out, both graphically and by watching someone's hands. George Gershwin taught himself to play by placing his fingers exactly where the keys fell on a pianola! But all these methods are incomplete in themselves and lead to hand position faults which will be hard to correct later on. So the quickest most effective way to learn is to find a good local teacher who inspires you and patiently work through their suggested exercises and guidance from one song to another, always gradually increasing the level of difficulty. You'll be surprised how little you achieve in one week, but many weeks together build confidence and skills.

So How Long Is It Going To Take Me To Learn To Play Piano?

Most adults who start from scratch, or start knowing a little about playing piano usually learn all they will in between two to three years. Most people haven't the time or the desire to go further than that. Most adults will learn to a standard between grade 3-5 and peak out. That means you can play most tunes you want to in simple form with both hands together - you'd be good enough to play at a party or down the pub for an hour if you've got the bottle! Which is pretty good!

You will have gained a skill for life - you can continue to buy or download songs forever and learn them yourself whenever you want. You will be able to write music for yourself and sing along to your own piano playing! You will be able to play along with musical friends and build your own band! It can be a very social skill, but most adults prefer to dabble by themselves to take the pressure off and relax after work.

Can I just say there is a huge variance in the hand skills required to play a Mozart or Beethoven sonata, and a cool simple blues pattern? But even boogie bass patterns need hours of repetitive practice to work well. There are plenty of classical pieces for beginners and many simplified classical themes to play. But essentially focus on the music you truly love to hear, sing, play! Never get bogged down with a piece because you think you ought to - you most definitely ought not to! If something is taking you too long, try other easier things first and lead back up to the challenging piece.

You should be able to play some songs recognisably in your first 3-6 months! If not, then change your teacher. It's like driving - some people like having lessons as a nowhere hobby, others actually intend to learn to drive, pass the test, go places. There is no test to pass in piano!

Can I Take Piano Tests Or Exams?

Yes, if you want to! But you don't need to. There is no piace of paper which qualifies you to play piano well. If you feel taking an exam will help your confidence or master some disciplines then go to it with the help of a piano teacher. Most adults I teach prefer not to take exams. There are pro's and cons of piano exams - they help you master a piece of music to a degree of depth but generally encourage you to take too long on too little music, always highlighting errors which does not lead to a free flowing musical approach.

I prefer to catch the essence of a melody by keeping in time with the pulse of the music, 3 to a bar, or 4 to a bar, and introduce a simple bass left hand gradually - I always encourage independence of hands - maybe get your left hand to play a bass pattern and try to make up something in the right hand. Keep to white notes in C major or D or A minor to begin. To play creatively using hand position knowledge and your ear as guide rather than reading the music too closely. Most arrangements are junk and you could do better yourself! There's no right or wrong. Even painfully wrong notes can be twiddled away from - use a tiny chromatic passage to reassert your original key, or just go off into a new key!

So Will I Ever Be The Next Fats Waller Or Jamie Cullum?

Yes, if you want to be! Recall I began by saying you need an end goal. Maybe you want to grace Muriel's wedding next July, or just relax after work, or maybe you've set your sights on the stage! You can start at any age - one pupil of mine began at 85 - and learn basic chords and progress quick as you want. Listen to music constantly, ask questions, learn the basics, get involved with band and stage music, be a roadie to begin. Just get on and do your thing and don't let anyone hold you back. If you get a teacher who laughs at you, get another. Find supportive encouraging people to hang around. And that goes for all of life!

No right or wrong - it's piano - it's music - it's creative - it's YOU!! Develop your own style of playing by trying new ideas daily.

Let me wish you all the best! Be patient, believe, be happy!

Louise Woodcock is a Piano Teacher in Kent, UK and teaches all ages 3-103, and all abilities. Success!


How Do I Know When A Pupil Is Ready To Take A Music Exam?

Posted on March 21, 2018 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (417)

When is a music pupil ready to take an exam?

Starting from scratch the key is to develop confidence on your instrument learning co-ordination, most of the basic range, simple major and minor scales and arpeggios, some songs in simple arrangements. Ideally be ready to perform a song or two to a parent or friend. Music is a performance art and finding a small appreciative audience helps you to develop poise and self confidence. Don't let all your practice run away!

First step is to acquire the frst grade scale book for your instrument or ask your teacher to print out the scale requirments for grade one. Can you play any of these? Don't be put off by the sight reading requirement - let the scales be your initial guide as to the suitable level for you. If the scales are too much as yet then I recommend starting with the Prep Test which is a pre grade one run up to whet your appetite!

The Prep Test is an assessment rather than a paas or fail situation so you gain much needed early confidence in preparing your material and presenting yourself and your performance to a friendly, supportive, and interested examiner who will simply assess your progrss so far. You will gain a prestigious certificate to reward your endeavour!

While preparing for your Prep Test, which may be some months away, you can make a start on your grade one scales and begin to approach the pieces, perhaps learning the main themes one hand at a time. You will have a worthy focus and enjoy learning the varied skills that make up the whole music exam experience.

My pupil is not a beginner: what grade should they enter for?

Again I use the scale requirements for each grade level to give me a strong indication as to the most suitable level. Other important factors are - when did the pupil last take an exam? What grade was it and how long ago? How much practice and playing experience have been gained since then? Did they pass or fail? What is their attitude to their result? What is their long term music goal and how might an immediate exam resond to that goal?

It is not ideal to always be preparing for one exam after another - take time out to develop your own musical personality, build a repetoire, learn to play accompaniments or descants your own way, learn to improvise, play in a group, prepare a small concert performance. Developing into an intelligent confident musician is the key. Exam preparation can help towards this, but may not always be appropriate, especially if there is pressure to accomplish other work such as summer GCSEs.

I don't want to take music exams at all!

Do you lack confidence or suffer excess nerves? Discuss alternative ways to progress with your tutor. Perhaps you thrive in a performance situation or perhaps you simply want to play your favourite songs at home. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy your music making!

But I do find teenage pupils especially can really develop self confidence in working over the exam elements, building up to the big day, and proudly receiving their well earned certificate. The whole process brings about a tremendous sense of self power and worthwhile achievement. You learn anything is possible when taken step by step. You can springboard off your own success!

You can do things you once never dreamed possible! Have a go yourself this year!

Louise Woodcock teaches Piano, Woowinds and Brass in South & Mid Kent. Ring or text 07989 370 624

Which Should I Learn How To Play Trombone Or Saxophone?

Posted on August 9, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (548)

Which should I learn how to play - Trombone or Saxophone?

Both trombone and saxophone are heavy instruments suited to adults, teens and older children from age eleven. Younger pupils should start on Clarinet or Trumpet initially.

The saxophone is heavy and can only be played wearing a neck strap or full body harness strap to support the weight of the sax as you play.

The trombone requires a long arm to reach the lower sixth and seventh positions and few people realise how fatiguing this instrument is to hold up with the left shoulder. Even ten minutes of playing will leave you aching!

Consider the style of music you enjoy listening to - do you like jazz? Watch videos of players on either instrument - with whom do you most identify?

I teach a person who played sax for years and has changed over to learning trumpet so think about the long term enthusiasm you have.

I want to learn how to play trombone!

Watch trombone players on video - do you identify with this sound?

A first trombone and book and music stand will cost you around £250. You could try the new plastic pbone in various bright colours!

The trombone is a brass instrument - you produce the sound through the brass mouthpiece by buzzing your lips and you use the slide to correct the pitch.

You need to allow daily practice time to develop the lip muscles we call the embouchure. The trombone uses a medium size brass mouthpiece you buzz into, so later you can also play euphonium, a valved tenor tuba.

Scales and arpeggios are essential to correctly find the 7 slide positions. You will cover a tenor voice sound down to a low bass.

The trombone plays harmony notes mid range supporting the higher pitched clarinets and trumpets and can play some nifty solos of its own too!

Trombones play in jazz band, dixie, swing big band, classical orchestra, chamber groups, trombone choir, brass quartet & quintet, circus bands, town bands, wind orchestras and concert bands, military bands, marching bands - pretty much every type of music except the string quartet!

Everybody loves a trombonist so you will be in demand the world over!

If you are an extrovert and wish t be a music personality then learn how to play trombone!

Louise Woodcock teaches trombone in Kent & East Sussex - ring today 07989 370 624

I want to learn how to play saxophone!

Watch videos of saxophonists - do you want to play soprano sax (like a clarinet, high pitch for tunes, John Coltrane), alto sax (mid range pitch, the most popular choice, Charlie Parker), tenor sax (heavier and lower pitch, most popular with guys, Lester Young) or Baritone sax (huge, lower notes)? The smaller saxes are easier to carry about!

Go to a sax shop to try out different sizes and makes - ask for free advise. There are many price ranges from £400 to thousands! A cheap one is fine to begin to learn how to play saxophone quickly! Buy a starter book and music stand too, and a neck strap.

The saxophone is a reed woodwind instrument. It is very popular, especially for jazz and military band music. You will easily find a group, a band or orchestra to play in. You can buy backing tracks to play along at home.

Go to concerts to watch trombonists and saxophonists whenever you can. Be inspired and dig the music!

Work towards exams, meet other players, book workshop days, and above all enjoy learning how to play trombone or saxophone!

Louise Woodcock teaches saxophone and trombone in Kent & East Sussex - ring today without delay!

Louise Woodcock Trombone Saxophone Tutor 07989 370 624


When is My Child Ready for Music Grade Exams?

Posted on March 20, 2016 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (627)

"My child has been learning music privately for some time now but our teacher has not mentioned music exams. Does this mean my child is not yet ready? When does a child normally take their first grade?"

Not all private tutors enter their pupils for music grade exams so first ask if this is the case?

In general pupils progress one grade level a year but not necessarily ready for grade 1 until one to four years depending on the age & ability of the pupil - once the first grade is taken, one yearly is likely progress, although it is possible to take three exams in one year! Don't rush the first one - let your child find their stride! If you wish to avoid a buildup of music theory enquire about Practical Musicianship or take Jazz grade 5. This allows you to the exclusive higher grade 6 - 8 which carry UCAS points!!

Your tutor may be nervous to offer the first exam in case of failure. Failure of a first exam could discourage the child from making future attempts. However, we all have to begin somewhere! ABRSM offer some instrments a Prep Test which is a very useful fun first attempt at grade exams. No pass or fail: your child will present prepared mterial for an expert assessment at a centre near you. Find out more:-  http://gb.abrsm.org/en/home

ABRSM also offer grades 1 - 5 as Jazz syllabus - you buy the sheet music along with a CD containing backing tracks & a full version for practice. My younger pupils love these & do well from grade 1.

Grade 5 is GCSE Music level so consider the first four grades as steps towards this. The higher grades lead on to professional qualifications such as diplomas. Any musician attaining grade 5 will have a fine array of musical skills to enjoy music making as a life long hobby so it is really worth the pursuit! Have you thought of joining a local band? They will be glad to hear from you!

Must we take every grade from 1 to 8?

It is not necessary to take every grade - sometimes waiting will halt a pupil's momentum - you can take grade exams in the spring, summer & autumn only. There will be a centre near you, usually no more than 20 miles. The exam certificates are very highly prized & preparation for an ABRSM exam will give your child confidence in taking academic exams. Kids love to pass well!

So if you have had lessons for a year or so then begin to think about grade exams, perhaps an early Prep Test to start. You can always retake a failed exam or go onto the next level. Plan ahead carefully with your music tutor to give your child adequate practice. Have a positive approach to long term success.

"Have a positive approach to long term success!"

The exam consists of 3 pieces from a list worth up to 30 marks each - Aural which is music ear tests worth 18 marks - Sight reading worth 21 marks shows how well your child thinks at this level - Scales & arpeggios worth 21 marks. Ask your teacher to help you prepare in depth for these as they are worth 60 marks & the pieces worth 90 marks - total 150 marks. You must get 100 to pass. Don't throw any marks away! Prepare lovingly & thoroughly as each level assumes you learnt the previous material well & gets harder!

Many parents do not understand the intensive study required at each level to achieve a good pass. Listen to what your teacher feels about the amount of time you need to prepare & set aside daily practice time. Input achieves output! Don't rush. It takes years to learn any musical instrument really well. A labour of love... and FUN!

It takes around three weeks after your exam to receive the result. Get yourself a beautiful A4 frame ready to proudly display your certificate!

I hope this has been helpful. If you live in Kent or East Sussex I am happy to travel to assess your child's ability & current study level. Contact Louise Woodcock on 07989 370 624

Should My Child Learn Trumpet or Clarinet? Kent Music Lessons

Posted on March 20, 2016 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (823)

You'd like to start music lessons but you don't have a piano or keyboard?

Trumpet or Clarinet Lessons?

Both these popular instruments can be learnt fom an early age, 5 years or even younger if you choose a special clarinet in C, designed for young children. Or even a plastic trumpet! Most children younger than 11 years will not have the arm reach for trombone so begin on trumpet. The sax is also best learnt from 11 years as it isa heavy instrument. So try the clarinet to begin!

Clarinet & Sax belong to the woodwinds - these create sound via a reed on the mouthpiece.

Trumpet & Trombone are brass instruments - you buzz through a circular metal mouthpiece & create the sound through your lips. Tighter lips produce higher notes.

Either trumpet or clarinet is suitable from 5 - 15 years. Both are straightforward although it will take a few months to easily centre the notes on either, as you have to develop your facial muscles. Both have uses in many styles of music, jazz, classical, band, pop. Watch some videos to see which your child prefers. A mute may be purchased for trumpet if noise is a consideration.

Just give it a go!

Your child need not be specially gifted - steady application of basic practice principles will develop a good player over ime.

You will benefit greatly from joining in a local band or orchestra if you can find one close enough. Here the player learns to keep time, play by sight, follow the conductor & harmonize with others - you can't do this at home alone!

Choose your trumpet or clarinet with confidence, treat it with respect, practice daily & join a band - you have a hobby which will last all life long & make you many friends!

I recommend Normans for their excellent choice & service:-  http://www.normans.co.uk/  they send by post with guarantee.

I hope this is useful & if you live in Kent or East Sussex please contact me on 07989 370 624