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How to Learn the Piano at a Public or Private Music School

By Yann, published on 05/09/2018 We Love Prof > Music > Piano > Learn to Play the Piano at a Music School

“Life is like a piano. White keys are happy moments and black keys are sad moments. Both keys are played together to give us the sweet music called Life.” -Suzy Kassem 

In the UK, 7 in every 10 children are learning to play a musical instrument. Of all the potential instruments to learn, the keyboard tops the chart of popularity with 30% choosing to learn. The keyboard is closely followed by the piano with 28% of people wanting to play.

The piano is a very popular instrument. It’s usually the one you learn first in music schools, private music lessons and associations.

It is a very soulful instrument that makes you dream and reminisce about the greatness of classical music. The piano is a very great stress reliever, soothing even the most tormented minds with its soft and harmonious sound. Learning to play the piano can reduce anxiety and stress. 

How are piano lessons in music schools conducted? 

Superprof is here to guide you through the whole experience and make you choose a music school that fits your musical needs.

Learning Piano at a Public Music School

Along with music Conservatoires, public music schools are the heart and soul of learning piano in the United Kingdom. They preserve the melodies of this beautiful instrument and provide the most qualified learning sessions.

There are many schools recognized by the government. In all of these music schools, the music teacher is most definitely a graduate of a Conservatoire or renowned music school possessing at least a bachelor’s degree from these institutions.

The structure of education is classical. Classes of music theory are taken first to assimilate the music language before launching behind the grand piano striking the black and white keys on the keyboard.

The instrument lessons take place using playful exercises to loosen up the fingers and to acquire dexterity between both hands.  

To learn at a Conservatoire you must be determined to have a career in music because while attending the school rigour, discipline and motivation is required. A selection usually takes place by way of an entrance audition or interview to determine the student’s level, objectives and skills.

Music schools can be quite prestigious and well-renowned. Teachers are highly qualified and instruct in a very professional way. The Birmingham Conservatoire and Leeds College of Music are examples of musical excellence.

Students are taught to play ancient and contemporary music from artists such as Beethoven or Mozart.

Playing the Piano at Private Music Schools and Academies

learning to play the piano There are many alternative music methods. The Suzuki method encourages instrument playing at a young and in a nurturing environment. (Source: Visual Hunt)

While learning the saxophone, clarinet, violin, flute or jazz piano, private schools and academies offer alternative ways to learn the more classical method.

The music courses offered are of equal quality but offer a different kind of pedagogy for musical awakening and learning music theory.

These schools put forward a new perspective of teaching music with a desire to make learning a new instrument accessible for all learning styles.

In opposition to Conservatoires, sometimes criticized for their musical elitism, private schools are open to everyone, from beginners to advanced students.

In these private schools, alternative teaching methods are introduced and practised:

  • The Yamaha Method: based on musical accompaniment and variations to encourage students to improvise and compose as they go along. The focus of this method is on the development of creativity and listening. Students acquire an ear for new piano notes and melodies without reading music from piano songs.
  • The Martenot Method: this technique is used to learn music theory, read sheet music and to reproduce pieces of music all while teaching proper posture in front of the piano (position of the body and movements of the right and left hand). Relaxation is emphasized to improve your experience while playing.
  • The Suzuki Method: inclusion in the musical community is encouraged for students who are learning at a young age. In the beginning, learning by ear is emphasized over written sheet music. Students memorize rhythms, attach themselves to the sensations and sing acapella to memorize pieces of music which is highly encouraged.
  • The Dalcroze Method: it is the learning of music by making movements. This way of teaching awakens and develops musicality through rhythmic movement, ear-training and improvisation. The body is the main instrument.

Steps to Sign Up at a Piano School

playing as a soloist Knowing your goals will help you keep your motivation while playing the piano. Do you want to play just for fun or do you want to perform on stage one day? (Source: Visual Hunt)

For each new student, registration at a music school takes place in September, while alumni re-registering occurs during the summer months to secure their place.

Some schools have many applicants and limited spaces available, therefore admission depends on the space available. If there is no space, potential students may be put on a waiting list. However, don’t despair, many new students who do not have the right motivation will lose interest and drop out within the first few weeks.

Of course, if you have a well renowned and prestigious piano school in mind, your admission will depend on your audition as well as your passion and motivation conveyed during the interview.

Your work and practice abilities will also be evaluated and you will be asked if you have a piano or keyboard at home to practice between piano lessons at the school.

So before embarking on piano lessons at a professional school, there are some essential questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What are my goals? Do you want to learn to play the piano just for fun or do you have aspirations to be part of an orchestra in the future? Do you want to perform alone on stage and one day become a soloist? 
  • How long can you dedicate to practice? The piano is not an easy instrument to master and it requires regular practice, even daily if your schedule allows. Only after a few months of regular practice will you begin to feel comfortable playing on the keys.
  • What is your motivation? You are the master of your own progress. It all depends on you. Your motivation will determine your ability to progress quickly or not. If you are determined to play by ear the piano music or your favourite musician or pianist practice is required.

Be ready to invest fully in your learning. You must find some time daily to practice in order to progress. It’s better to spend 15 minutes per day practising than two hours of lessons once a week.

How are Piano Lessons Taught at a Music School?

Depending on the age and level of the student, but as a beginner, a piano lesson can last between 20 and 45 minutes. They usually take place once a week at a music school.

Lessons can last at least an hour or longer for more advanced students.

An hour or two of musical theory can be given per week, as well as a music training course or collective practice in an orchestra.

The student-teacher relationship is very important during piano lessons. It is highly crucial for student motivation and progress. No one wants to go to piano classes if their teacher is a mean grouch!

If the student is having trouble connecting to the piano instructor, better to switch teachers or schools than to hinder progress and passion for playing the piano.

With a good teacher, the progression will be done naturally with a good understanding and a pedagogy that is adapted to the needs of the student. This contributes to a highly motivated and passionate pupil.

How Much do Classes Cost at a Music School?

money for piano classes Piano lessons at music schools depend on where you live and the prestige of the school. Some schools are budget friendly whereas others break the bank! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Although more difficult to integrate into, a public music school will be more financially accessible than a private school.

Tariffs usually depend on your area of residence. Some schools have fixed prices. In other European countries, music lessons are tax-deductible, however, that is not the case in the UK. Music classes with a private tutor or at a music school is seen as a luxury or extra.

This means that due to poverty, students from low-income households cannot take advantage of learning the piano at a professional school. Charities groups like the Sutton Trust believe that more government funding should be spent to ensure that poorer youngsters can benefit from cultural aspects such as learning a new instrument.

Rates sometimes depend on your place of residence in relation to the location of the music school. Do not hesitate to bring a proof of address when registering for the school. Affordable prices will ensue. However, if you do not live in the same town, piano lessons at that school can be much more expensive.

Better prices for residents is understandable because the school is aiming to heighten the culture and musical knowledge of its own citizens. 

Prices can vary from a few pounds a year to several hundred pounds. 

In private music schools, prices are less regulated and can easily become unaffordable…

Payments depend on each school. Some require monthly payments, while others expect quarterly or yearly instalments.

Who are Piano Classes for?

young pianist Piano students need to be at least 6 years of age to be able to read the sheet music and sit on the bench correctly. (Source: Visual Hunt)

The piano is often learnt during early childhood. Some music schools open their doors to students as young as 3 years of age. These musical awakening classes are geared to raise young children’s awareness of the different sounds, making them sing and dance to various tunes and rhythms.

Nevertheless, piano lessons begin at 6 years old. It is virtually impossible to find music schools offering classes for children younger than this age. If you want your child to learn as soon as possible, opt for trying a piano course with a professional piano player.

It is necessary for the child to stay focused for a certain time and be able to memorize piano notes, chords and rhythm. The child must be able to know how to read and write in order to start music theory and read sheet music.

In addition, the size of pianos is adapted for those who are 6 years old and beyond. It is obligatory for students to be able to sit on the piano bench correctly and to reach the keys. There is no small piano for children unlike other instruments such as the guitar or violin.

On the other hand, learning how to play the piano can also be for adults, although children are often given priority. Some schools are even specialized in adult piano lessons.

Just because we are now adults, that doesn’t mean we can no longer learn new things! 

Most of the time, however, public music schools are open to children beginners. It may be necessary to turn to private schools that are more open to adult beginners who wish to learn how to play piano. There are some, no need to worry!

Public music schools often require previous piano playing experience for adults in order to integrate into different courses. Be aware that these courses in public music schools are not to obtain a degree or diploma in music, instead, they are geared toward adults who wish to continue progressing and acquire new skills.

Do not be surprised if as an adult you face refusals and have to go find other alternatives such as private lessons or courses in an association.

Definitions for Piano Schools

The viola, cello, trumpet… many instruments are taught in a music school. Therefore, while learning your new instrument it is also recommended to include new words in your vocabulary.

What is musicology?

It is the science of the theory and history of music, often taught as an academic subject in university.

What is a symphony orchestra? 

Also referred to as a Philharmonic Orchestra, it is a musical ensemble composed of the 4 families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.

Want to become a professional pianist?

Find out how you can learn piano without a teacher.

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